La Bamba

Release Date: 1987

PG-13 |1 hr 48 min

Plot Summary

Los Angeles teenager Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) becomes an overnight rock 'n' roll success in 1958, thanks to a love ballad called "Donna" that he wrote for his girlfriend (Danielle von Zerneck) whose parents didn't want her to date a Latino boy. But as his star rises, Valens has conflicts with his jealous brother, Bob (Esai Morales), and becomes haunted by a recurring nightmare of a plane crash just as he begins his first national tour alongside Buddy Holly (Marshall Crenshaw).

Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Elizabeth Peña, Danielle von Zerneck, Joe Pantoliano, Rick Dees, Marshall Crenshaw

Director: Luis Valdez

Genres: Biography , Drama

Production Co: Columbia Pictures Corporation, New Visions Pictures

Keywords: Growing up , 1950s , Girlfriend , Transformation , Brother , Forbidden love , Los Angeles , Emotional , Mother ,

Ratings & Reviews

  • 75
    Jay ScottThe Globe and Mail (Toronto)

    La Bamba may in many ways be a catalogue of cliches, but they are cliches that Valens was able to live for his people for the first time, and they are cliches that Luis Valdez has been able to film for his people (for all people) for the first time.

  • 75
    Dave KehrChicago Tribune

    As played by the smooth-faced, cheerful Lou Diamond Phillips, there seems to be something almost supernatural about the young man of La Bamba. He's a chosen one, and his rise to the top will be swift and smooth. If only he could shake those nightmares about a crashing plane . . . . [24 July 1987, p.A]

  • 75
    Roger EbertChicago Sun-Times

    This is a good small movie, sweet and sentimental, about a kid who never really got a chance to show his stuff. The best things in it are the most unexpected things: the portraits of everyday life, of a loving mother, of a brother who loves and resents him, of a kid growing up and tasting fame and leaving everyone standing around at his funeral shocked that his life ended just as it seemed to be beginning. show more

See all critic reviews on


Nominated Best Motion Picture - Drama