La Bamba (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes

La Bamba1987

La Bamba (1987)



Critic Consensus: Elevated by a perceptive performance by a perfectly cast Lou Diamond Phillips, La Bamba distills its subject's creative energy -- and reflects his music's enduring appeal.

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Movie Info

La Bamba is the story of 1950s rock 'n' roll rage Ritchie Valens (born Ricardo Valenzuela), played herein with gusto and credibility by Lou Diamond Phillips. The film follows 17-year-old Ritchie as he strolls from one end of his California barrio to the other, guitar in hand. We meet Ritchie's colorful Mexican/American family, who react to his fame with varying degrees of pride and envy. And we meet the ladies in his life: his ambitious mother Connie Valenzuela (Rosana De Soto), his half-sister Rosie Morales (Elizabeth Pena), and blonde classmate Donna Ludwig (Danielle von Zerneck), who inspired Ritchie's first hit "Donna." Both this song and "La Bamba" are given con brio interpretations by Lou Diamond Philips and by the contemporary group Los Lobos, who appear in the film as the Tijuana band. Also making cameo appearances are the real-life Mrs. Connie Valenzuela and Bob Morales, Richie's half- brother (played in the film by Esai Morales). Those familiar with The Buddy Holly Story (1978) don't need to be reminded what happens after Ritchie, Holly (Marshall Crenshaw) and The Big Bopper board that plane on February 3, 1959. The tragic coda of La Bamba is not unduly emphasized; this is a celebration of Ritchie Valens' life, not a eulogy.

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Lou Diamond Phillips
as Ritchie Valens
Esai Morales
as Bob Morales
Rosanna DeSoto
as Connie Valezuela
Elizabeth Peña
as Rosie Morales
Joe Pantoliano
as Bob Keane
Marshall Crenshaw
as Buddy Holly
Brian Setzer
as Eddie Cochran
Howard Huntsberry
as Jackie WIlson
Rick Dees
as Ted Quillin
Sam Anderson
as Mr. Ludwig
Maggie Gwinn
as Mrs. Ludwig
Mrs. Connie Valenzuela
as Elderly lady at party
Mike Moroff
as Mexican Ed
Stephen Lee
as Big Bopper
John Quade
as Bartender
Diane Rodriguez
as Ernestine
Ernesto Hernandez
as Garbage Man
Kim Sebastian
as Donna's Girlfriend
Dyana Ortelli
as Donna's Girlfriend
Connie Alvarez
as Farm Worker
Tony Genaro
as Mr. Caballero
Irma Valcorta
as Farm Worker
Allison Robinson
as Girl at Party
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News & Interviews for La Bamba

Critic Reviews for La Bamba

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (12)

You can have a perfectly pleasant time at "La Bamba" but you come out still hungry to understand the forces that shaped [Ritchie Valens].

March 24, 2020 | Full Review…

As Valens, Lou Diamond Phillips has a sweetness and sincerity that in no way diminish the toughness of his onstage persona. The role is blandly written, but Mr. Phillips gives Valens backbone.

March 24, 2020 | Full Review…

The movie works surprisingly for reasons that have nothing to do with Valens` small list of hits. La Bamba is really just a very good family story about a pushy mother proud of one son, derisive of another.

March 24, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

How many films can be squeezed out of this formula?

March 24, 2020 | Full Review…

Melodrama is inherently a broad genre -- one that projects inner psychological conflicts onto towering outside forces -- and in the overall thrust of his film, Valdez excels in conveying a world dominated by a gigantic, impersonal power.

March 24, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

La Bamba has a lot going for it besides its compelling teen myth. As might have been predicted, the music is terrific.

March 24, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for La Bamba


A refreshing biopic about a short-lived star who met with a tragic death (tragic and also ironic considering his fear of flying and how his fate was decided by the flip of a coin), and it is so engaging that it breaks our hearts even if we know from the get-go how everything ends.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Siblings and I loved this movie when we were kids... I distinctly remember us rocking around the room playing air guitar and belting out his songs :)

Letitia Lew
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer


Lou Diamond Philips effectively portrays the late Ritchie Valens. Esai Morales is also a gem as the conflicted drunkard brother.

Wildaly M
Wildaly M

Super Reviewer

La Bamba Quotes

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