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A terrific film about the importance of family and realizing your dreams.
bunkerforever9 April 2002
La Bamba which stars Lou Diamond Phillips as tragic 50's rocker Ritchie Valens(real name Richard Valenzuela) is my favorite rock bio film. The film covers the Mexican American Valens' rise from poverty in California to becoming a rock n roll superstar at the young age of 17 only to lose it all within 8 months on the "Day the Music Died".

In addition to focusing on Valens' music career, writer/director Luis Valdez spends time showing the tense relationship between Ritchie and his older brother Bob who is played excellently by Esai Morales. As Ritchie becomes famous Bob begins to resent him and that provides the film with some of its most powerful and heartbreaking scenes.

The film's other effective moments come between Ritchie and his girlfriend Donna. During their scenes together I felt that Valdez did a good job in showing what teenage romances must've been like back in the more innocent 1950's and how parents prejudices could interfere.

Last but not least is the film's great soundtrack. Ritchie Valens songs were redone for the film by the group Los Lobos. All of the instrumental music was provided by Carlos Santana and Miles Goodman. Also included are many other classic songs from the 50's.

The only small criticism I have of the film is that Valdez spends too much time in foreshadowing Valens' fate through dream sequences and references to his fear of flying. While it is documented that Ritchie did have a fear of flying I would imagine that he didn't talk about it as frequently as he does in the film.

Overall I think that La Bamba is a film about sticking to your dreams and the importance of family. I give this film a pretty strong recommendation. You don't even necessarily have to be a fan of 50's music to enjoy it. This is for those who enjoy small films that deal with the triumphs and struggles of everyday people.
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Oh,what could have been
SmileysWorld16 April 2002
Ritchie Valens was a young,vibrant rock and roll star.At 17,he could already write songs,sing,and was an absolute wizard with a guitar.I'm too young to remember the real Valens,but when I think of him,as well as other stars who died tragically young,I can't help but wonder what might have been.This young man was only getting started in his stardom when he was cut down all too soon in the same plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.This film did a great job of bringing the legend of Valens back to life if only for a couple of hours.Lou Diamond Phillips gave the performance of his career here,as Valens,even though he didn't really look much like the real man in my opinion.Being the role he is best known for,I'm sure it is also one he has tried to escape from in the 15 years since its' release.As far as historical accuracy,I have heard discrepancies as to how the story really went,but you know Hollywood,things always have to be spiced up just a little.Overall,this movie is great fun,especially for old rock and roll enthusiasts such as myself.Thumbs up!
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A movie very dear to me
Therod31 July 2001
I must say I am very disappointed in the people slamming this movie. While they are certainly entitled to their opinion, I think if they watched the movie again without an open mind, they would come to love it as I have.

I can't even begin to describe the pure quality of this movie. Absorbing story, believable, sympathetic characters, pathos, bathos, all the makings of a thought-provoking movie. Personally, there are two quintessential rock and roll movies: "The Doors," and "La Bamba."

For a good cry and a good time, check out this movie. You don't even have to be a fan of Valens or a fan of 50's music to fall in love with it.
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A Fairy Tale With a Tragic End
Claudio Carvalho24 February 2004
Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) is a very poor Mexican-American living with his family in a slum in Paicoma, California. When he is sixteen years old, his half-brother Bob Morales (Esai Morales) is released from the jail and comes back home, bringing money enough for the family to move from the slums to a humble house in a better place. Ritchie goes to the nearby high-school, where he falls in love for Donna (Danielle von Zerneck). Donna, together with his mother Connie Valenzuela (Rosanna DeSoto), his family and his guitar, are the passions of Ritchie. Bob Keene (Joe Pantoliano), president of Del-Fi Records in Hollywood, invites Ritchie to record a single and offers him a recording contract. His first single (`Come On Let's Go') is a great success, and Bob Keene becomes Ritchie's manager. The next songs (`Donna' and `La Bamba') are also very successful and Ritchie Valens becomes famous, earning lots of money. While traveling making shows along USA, he decides to accept an invitation of Buddy Holly to fly back home. A tragic plane crash on 03 Feb 1959 ends the life of this promising seventeen years old singer, along with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. The dramatization of Ritchie Valens' life is presented like a soap-opera, full of beautiful songs, and it is very pleasant to watch this film. Lou Diamond Phillips has (maybe) his best performance as actor, but Esai Morales is wonderful as his big brother. The touching story looks like a fairy tale, having a tragic end. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): `La Bamba'
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Bio of young 50's rocker Ritchie Valens
dslacker9 April 1999
Under-rated melodrama with excellent music by Los Lobos and others. Young Lou Diamond Phillips gives an excellent energetic performance and Esi Morles is at his very best as the sometimes neglected hoodlum brother. A great cast from top to bottom saves what could have been an all too sudsy script.
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Great biopic of a musical legend
Agent1024 June 2002
The life and times of Richie Valens, and well made to say the least. Lou Diamond Phillips really showed a lot of promise in this film, but poor choices later in his career hurt his rep in Hollywood. Nonetheless, this film is quite an achievement in regards to portraying a rock idol (which was far better than the dull Buddy Holly Story). What really made this film was the relationship between Phillips and Esai Morales. Never has a brotherly dynamic been portrayed so fluidly, displaying the sweet and sour sides of the two growing up. With the help of a great soundtrack, I really felt this film has a spirit which isn't displayed in biographies anymore. Nowadays, most films try too hard to show the downside, which is what this tried not to do. 7.5/10
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"La Bamba" is an excellent star vehicle for revealing late Ritchie Valens' musical genius
FilmCriticLalitRao8 January 2009
In the history of Hollywood cinema,musicals have always played an important role."La Bamba" is one of those rare,well made musicals which depict the cause of the rising popularity of Latino music.All credit for this film's success must go to its creators such as director Luis Valdez,famous musicians Carlos Santana and Los Lobos and amazing actors Esai Morales and Lou Diamond Philips who plays "once in a lifetime role" of a talented rock musician named Ritchie Valens who left for heavenly abode at a young age.This film provides for an interesting viewing experience as we get mesmerized by its diverse themes which range from family drama,gentle romance,sibling rivalry and soothing music.La Bamba has enough material in the form of social message too.We learn from this film that true brothers are always made for each other as they understand each other's joys and pains.It is said that talent never goes undetected.This is shown candidly as young Ritchie Valens succeeds only due to his natural ability to perform beautiful songs."La Bamba" is a film for all those admirers of good cinema who would like to see a musical film.
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Esai Morales steals the show
Riff986 July 2002
Esai Morales gives the best performance of his career in this 1987 movie about Hall of Fame rock and roller Ritchie Valens, who was tragically killed in a plane crash at the age of 17 with the big bopper and Buddy Holly on February 3, 1959. Morales plays Bob Morales, the half brother of Ritchie. Bob is a drunk who feels as if he is in the shadow of Ritchie due to Ritchie's musical talent and success. In fact if I didn't know better you might think the movie is about Bob. He was in the movie a ton. Lou Diamond Phillips does a good job of portraying Ritchie. I would definitely suggest that you watch this movie. It has a ton of great music and like I said before Morales is awesome in this movie.
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Good movie
DunnDeeDaGreat25 October 2002
La Bamba is one of the movies that makes you feel good,cry and think about how life really is short. Lou Diamond Phillps was in top form as Richie Valens who never got the chance to show us what he could do. I'm not really a Rock & Roll fan but this is a good movie and one hat brings a tear every time I watch it.
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a great movie for rock & roll fans
cbsolson13 April 1999
This movie is a must see if you are a rock and roll fan. There is great acting and great music. If you grew up with early rock & roll, this movie will give you memories. If not, it will help you learn about one of the most influential rock stars ever. This is a must see as it is a lot more accurate than The Buddy Holly Story although not 100% accurate.
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I was surprised by the "generation gap" in the audience.
Baxter-522 April 2000
I was a Junior in High School the "day the music died" so I knew how this movie would end going in. I saw the movie in theatrical release in 1987. In the row in front of me was a group of 14-year-old girls. It was apparent that they did not begin to guess the ending until the Beechcraft was rolling down the runway at Mason City.

There may have been some "Hollywood" to this version of Valen's life, but overall it was a very well done Bio. Lou Daimond Phillips is actually better looking than Valens, but he was convincing in the role. Joe Pantoliano is often overlooked, but I think his "Bob Keene" was also strong.
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"The Way I Play It, It's Rock And Roll"
bkoganbing22 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
When I was 12 years old news came over the morning radio about the deaths of three young rock and roll performers in a plane crash in a desolate stretch of Iowa. One of them was only 17 years old, five years older than me.

La Bamba, the title of his biggest hit in his all too brief career tells the life story of Ritchie Valens, shortened from Valenzuela so he could appeal to a wider audience. Today that would never happen, he'd tell them to get it on the theater marquee somehow. It sticks pretty close to the facts.

I saw a picture of Ritchie Valens when I actually bought a vinyl record when La Bamba came out. It contained all the known recordings for Ritchie Valens, including a few instrumental tracks he hadn't time to do the vocals for. A lot of those songs are heard in this film.

The real Ritchie Valens looked more like a high school football player than a musician. He was a big bull of a kid and Lou Diamond Phillips doesn't look a bit like him. Yet Lou captures the spirit of a kid who lived for his music and his family in reverse order.

The key to this film is the triangular relationship between Phillips, his mother Roseanne DeSoto, and his older half brother Esai Morales. There were two younger sisters, but no doubt Roseanne favored the younger son.

Morales is an outlaw biker rebel who later does find salvation and a good career as an illustrator and we do see the beginning of that. But he's supporting the family with a few illegal activities so Ritchie the good kid can work on his music.

In my family, not my immediate family, we had a situation where the mother favored the younger over the older son. It was a sad situation because I knew both and the older man was a nice man and a good citizen. I could really understand where Morales was coming from.

La Bamba is a good look at Chicano culture in America during the Eisenhower years before Cesar Chavez organized the farm workers. That's where Ritchie Valens came from, but it was some drug money that got Roseanne DeSoto out of the migrant worker camps and into a house. Money that Morales got.

Ritchie's three hits in his all too brief career Come On Let's Go, Donna, and the title song are all included and performed by Los Lobos. La Bamba is a Mexican folk song that Ritchie adapted and made a rock and roll hit, a reconnection to his roots for the world to see.

Everyone in this wonderful film is perfectly cast and makes you feel like you are inside the heart and soul of the Ricardo Valenzuela, 1942-1959.
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Oh Ritchie, Oh Ritchie.........
crookedstar822 August 2000
I probably saw this film for the first time when I was about 6. I remember the Los Lobos soundtrack to the film being played quite a bit at my house. The film has always stuck with me. It tells Ritchie Valens life story in an entertaining and moving way. Focusing on the relationship of Valens and his brother(both played with amazing tenderness and intensity by Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales) is what makes the film so memorable. Probably the most affecting sequence is towards the end of the film, when Ritchie's Mother is hanging wet clothes on a laundry line to dry; it's just a normal day, the sun shines bright. She's listening to the radio when the news comes of her son being killed in a plane crash. I have not seen many films that can strike such a chord without being exploitive.

If you are at the video store and are in the mood for some real fun and emotion check "La Bama" out.
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Also my favorite movie.
robshows31 July 2007
La Bamba is a great movie, basically my favorite movie all times. i first started watching la Bamba when i was about 5 years old on my birthday "june 2nd". the movie was playing on TV. One year later on my birthday again la Bamba was on TV again on the same channel. I watched again and I loved it. one more year later on my birthday again "7th birthday" the movie was playing again but in a different channel, and i am not making this up. I even told my mom about and she was amazed with that too. so after that i watched la Bamba every time when was on TV. years later when DVD players came out, I bought my first and favorite movie called; "la Bamba".
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A movie which needed making
alicespiral21 February 2007
The story of Ritchie Valens who died a few months before his 18th birthday is one of rock'n'roll's greatest tragedies especially when Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper perished in the same plane crash. Its a much better film than the fictionalised account of Holly in that virtually everything happened as it was portrayed. Valens had a pretty low profile in the UK and suffered from cover versions and a terrible Welsh singer who more or less took his name in 1960. His music was mainly high school pop but when he tapped into the Mexican folk song which gives its name to the movie he could be seen as the catalyst for Twist & Shout. This film is thus the only real development in the story of Ritchie Valens.As he was basically a Chicano musician his legacy led through the years to Chan Romero,Chris Montez,the Sir Douglas Quintet,Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs and finally Freddy Fender who began his career at the same time as Valens but who had to wait over 25 years before his first hit single. Its the story of a brother and half brother and a family who lived in a settlement in conditions close to poverty.The half brother was a wastrel who took drugs and drank heavily-Ritchie was the opposite and had ambition. Its as much about the times than anything-Eddie Cochran was seen played by a Stray Cat and within a year he too would have been killed in a car crash. The film goes a long way to show just how precarious the music business is.In real life Valens had a hit single followed by a couple of flops before hitting paydirt with a double sider in 1959 just at the time of his death.Barely in the music business long enough to make an album there nevertheless was one,issued posthumously and since then his name has been kept alive by no more than this album,one of demos and another recorded more by accident on a tape recorder at his school
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Interesting subject, but execution is often quite flat or hammy
grantss5 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting subject, but execution is often quite flat or hammy.

The story of Ritchie Valens, the teenager who rose to fame in the late-1950s with hits like "Donna", "Come On, Let's Go" and "La Bamba".

Interesting subject, as Valens was one of the pioneers of rock 'n roll. His story is also a tragic one, and well-known as such, due to the plane crash that took the lives of him, Buddy Holly (surely one of rock 'n roll's greatest losses) and The Big Bopper. The day the music died... (to quote Don McLean).

The musical side largely lives up to expectations - good tracks, well-performed and with some great nostalgic moments.

However, the personal side is quite uneven. Particularly bad is the brother angle. This seems overblown and over-dramatic, and is certainly not helped by an over-the-top, hammy performance from Esai Morales.

Too many scenes which are dull or cringingly hammy.

Overall: worth watching from a music history perspective, but you'll have to get through some dull/hammy scenes and acting to get to the end.
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Heartfelt biopic
Leofwine_draca24 November 2012
A heartfelt biopic of Ritchie Valens, the '50s rock and roll singer whose career was cut tragically short when he was killed in a plane crash just after reaching the heights of fame.

The film itself follows a traditional format, showing Valens's humble working background and the gradual successes before he hits the big time. Along the way, many scenes are given over to Ritchie's relationship with his brother Bob, a tempestuous character who adds plenty of drama to the proceedings, and there's also time for romance.

Although Lou Diamond Phillips didn't do the actual singing, I think he makes a good fist of portraying Valens. He certainly brings a youthful energy to the part. Inevitably, the music scenes are the highlight of the film and a good job is done of making them as accurate as possible. The inevitable outcome adds a tragic twist to the film as a whole, which is really a celebratory outing of one man's outstanding talent.
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competent but not much else
Michael Neumann6 November 2010
At his untimely death in a plane crash at age 17 singer Richie Valens left little behind to musical posterity besides three hit songs and a sadly unfulfilled promise of more to come. With so short a life it's no surprise that his screen biography should concentrate more on the enduring fantasy of teenage rock 'n' roll stardom, in essence becoming the ultimate daydream of every young boy who fancies himself a guitar hero. The film captures some of the spirit of rock music's embryonic years, taking much of its energy from the dynamic performance of the title song by the group Los Lobos. But the screenplay stumbles somewhat during the sentimental domestic scenes, all too often settling for soap opera triteness ("…someday I'm going to buy that house for you, Mama…") or romantic flights of fancy ("…my dreams are pure rock and roll…"). Nostalgia value alone helps make it a pleasant if unsurprising diversion.
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Great Hit
Jobe#121 May 1999
This movie is one of my favorites. The acting was great. They knew how to act and was very good. The movie was dramatic, too. It made me cry once are twice. It was a great show to watch and I really enjoyed it. Phillips was the best actor, but the person that played Bob was pretty good to. It taught me a lot of stuff that I didn't realise. It was very educational. I'm sure glad you don't have to find out that your son died on the radio. I recommend this show for anyone. It's a great show to watch with your kids (if you have any). This show is worth the money to rent or own.
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If Heaven exists, then this movie will upset Ritchie Valens
barts10 April 1999
When I saw this movie in 1987, I thought everything in this movie about Ritchie Valens was 100% true. But a couple of years ago I bought a book and a CD that talked about Ritchie Valens's life. It is a complete lie that he and his family worked picking peaches, that his producer Bob Keane was nervous about Ritchie singing La Bamba, or that he constantly obsessed about the nightmares associated about a friend of his getting killed by a falling airplane. He did have a friend that got killed by a falling airplane, but he didn't obsess about it all the time. Contrary to popular belief ganied from this movie, Ritchie had many girlfriends, not just Donna. If you don't believe me then buy a CD called, "The Ritchie Valens Story". In it will contain pictures of Ritchie' childhood and various girls he met on tours. I think it's stupid how the movie acts as if Ritchie Valens knew he was going to die for sure in a plane crash. I lost somebody in my family due to an accident, and trust me neither anyone in my family, his friends or even himself knew he would die young. The movie called, "The Buddy Holly Story" with Gary Busey is a little far fetched like La Bamba, but at least that movie didn't have scenes with obsessions of Buddy dying young! I honestly think someone needs to make another biography movie about Ritchie Valens. Even a TV special would be good! While you're at it, pick ACCURATE facts about Buddy Holly and make another biography movie on him.
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The music is great, atmosphere realistic. Dialogue is a bit stilted at times.
abtal27 June 2005
If you like the music, you'll like the movie.

Great music performances by Los Lobos, Brian Setzer and Howard Huntsberry (absolutely loved Huntsberry's cover of Jackie Wilson). Would have been nice if the DVD contained the Valens' versions of some songs to compare with Los Lobos. Even better would have been some original footage of Valens. Luis Valdez (writer/director) worked closely with Valens' family and it shows in the realistic atmosphere of several scenes. That said, the dialog has some real fingernails-on-chalkboard moments:

Bob: "You're such a dreamer." Ritchie: "My dreams are pure rock and roll."

Ritchie to Donna: "I'm going to be a star. Stars don't fall from the sky, do they?" (alluding to Ritchie's fear of flying and his tragic death).

I agree with many others that Esai Morales shines as Ritchie's brother Bob. The movie would be sorely lacking without Bob's story.
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Classic Americana
Desperado51925 March 2001
I am a sixteen year old fan of Ritchie Valens. I think the movie was great. It made me want to pick up a guitar and learn how to play some of the classic songs that were sung on the movie. Which I did and now I know how to play the song La Bamba and Come on Lets Ago. The acting was excellent. The movie gave me lot's of information on Ritchie Valens that I did not know.
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The Life of Ritchie Valens
tfrizzell25 November 2000
Moving and emotional film which deals with the last few months of Ritchie Valens' life. Lou Diamond Phillips is super as the doomed youth who became a national super-star at the age of 17 because of his rock music. However, his life was cut short as he died in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper in the late-1950s. The direction is strong and the screenplay is smart and insightful. Joe Pantoliano is good in a supporting role. Esai Morales is excellent as Phillips' older brother. 4 stars out of 5.
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La Bob-a!
catesa14 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'm only giving this movie a 5 because it's all about Ritchie and his stupid music career when the whole story really ought to be about his super-cool big bro Bob Morales. I have no idea how true any of it is to Valens's actual life, but honestly it's probably better than the real story. You've got Bob, making his way through life, trying to get ahead, making his peace with a crappy family life, you're cheering for him all the way. But all the while you have to suffer through his loser lil' brother Ritchie, whining all about Donna and rock n' roll and whatnot. Who cares - what's Bob up to?

Oh that's right - constantly getting a hard time from everybody because he doesn't live up to their "precious Ritchie". WHY?! Just 'cause Bob likes to party and make some extra money selling nose clams?! A kid Ritchie's age needs an authority figure around, and Bob knew it; that's why he took Ritchie down to Tijuana for some T&A and booze so he could shed that puritan schoolboy BS and become a real rock n' roller. Get over it, Connie! He was trying to do Ritchie a favor! And that fight he started at Ritchie's gig at the VA hall only upped Ritchie's street cred (which he desperately needed, wearing cardigans and referring to his girlfriend as "kitten" and such).

Anyway, Ritchie gets an okay record deal, blows up, and leaves Bob back home hanging out to dry, as if his big brother never did anything good for him. Way to remember the little people, ya twerp! Then he and Tubby McWhite Lightnin get on a plane with Buddy Holly, an actually legit songwriter and musician, and they all die. The thing that never made sense to me was how much Ritchie's death screwed Bob up. Why, man? He was the source of all your problems, sucking up to mom, never having a good time so it made you look bad for hittin' the hard stuff - all your problems are solved, dude! Get out there and live! Bob Morales is one of the greatest characters in all of cinema if you ask me.

Not to mention, he utters one of my favorite lines in all of moviedom:

"Bob, I'm pregnant...aren't you gonna say anything?"

"What's there to say? It's not my first...or my last."

Yeah, Bob is awesome. Screw Ritchie, though. He takes up too much screen time.
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