La Bamba movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was La Bamba filmed?

1987

About La Bamba

The initial La Bamba filming location (spoiler alert!) introduces 16-year-old Richie Valenzuela (Diamond Phillips) working alongside his family on a farm after school. His one true love is music, and he hopes to one day find success as a musician.

Richie’s fear of flying leads to nightmares about a collision that took place directly above his school and that claimed the life of his best friend. After a move to Southern California, Richie meets and falls in love with Donna Ludwig at his high school. He is invited to join his friend’s band The Silhouettes. Richie’s brother Bob, newly home from prison, struggles with alcohol problems and is abusive to his girlfriend Rosie. He rapes her, and she becomes pregnant.

Richie is appointed The Silhouettes’ new leader. Bob attends the party drunk and starts a fight. Bob Keane, the president of Del-Fi Records, asks Richie to audition after spotting him at the party. He does, and Keane offers him a record contract.

Against her father’s wishes, Richie and Donna begin dating. Richie starts making hit songs at Gold Star Studios, and Keane changes his name to “Ritchie Valens.” Richie is angry about the name change but later comes to terms with it.

Donna’s father insists she not see Ritchie any longer. Ritchie writes the song “Donna” to express his love for her. Bob and Ritchie go to Tijuana where Ritchie first hears the Mexican song “La Bamba.” The following morning, he wakes up in a small town and is given the gift of a talisman that is to provide protection for him.

Rosie gives birth to a baby girl while Bob and Ritchie are away. Ritchie records his own rendition of “La Bamba” and also records “Donna.”

Ritchie faces his fear of flying by performing “Donna” on American Bandstand in Philadelphia. During the flight, Keane provides him with a shot of vodka to steady his nerves.

Ritchie purchases a new house for his family and then travels to New York to perform at a concert. When the opening chords start for “La Bamba,” the crowd goes wild. Ritchie travels home for the holidays and is surprised by a welcome home party. Jealous, Bob gets into a fight with Ritchie, deliberately breaking his talisman.

Ritchie begins a grueling concert schedule with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. The heating system fails on the bus, and Holly finds a plane to take them to their next concert. Prior to the flight, Ritchie calls Bob, and the two make amends. He asks Bob to come to tour with him, and Bob agrees to meet him in Chicago.

In one of the best scenes in La Bamba, Bob is outside working on his mother’s car when the radio reports that Ritchie’s airplane crashed, and there were no survivors. Bob runs to his mother, hoping to spare her from hearing the news on the radio but arrives too late.

City Locations

Hollister, San Benito County, California

Location Types

Bars, restaurants, desert, country, concert halls

Location Styles

Country, desert, recording studios, concert halls

La Bamba Locations

La Bamba is a biographical movie about the Mexican-American musician Richie Valens. Filmed in 1987, La Bamba was both written and produced by filmmaker Luis Valdez. A movie with an all-star cast, the talented actors found in La Bamba include Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Elizabeth Pena, and Joe Pantoliano. In addition to following the trajectory of Valens’ music career, the movie sheds light on the relationship he shared with his brother, his girlfriend Donna, and his family members.

The La Bamba filming locations are primarily centered in Hollister, California, and the surrounding areas. Great efforts were taken to shoot footage in as many of the places where the real-life action occurred in the lives of the Valenzuela family. Though not always possible, the landscape in this film is as true to Ritchie Valens’ life and career as could be.

Consider yourself a fan of classic rock music? Moved by the heartbreakingly short life of Ritchie Valens? If you consider this epic biographical film to be one of your faves, why not plan a trip to visit the filming locations for La Bamba! It’ll take you on an incredible journey you’ll not soon forget!

Fun Fact:

La Bamba made the list of films preserved by the National Film Registry of the US Library of Congress for its historical and cultural significance.

Richie has flashbacks of the airplane crash scene in La Bamba

Pacoima Junior High School, 9919 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Pacoima, California

A recurring theme throughout this movie, Richie has nightmares about a crash that occurred at this school, killing many people including his best friend. Though Richie was not present when the plane crash occurred, his dreams are very vivid and instilled in him a lifelong fear of flying.

In this La Bamba production scene, kids are scene playing basketball and other games on the playground on the school premises. Two planes collide in the sky above, causing an explosion and parts of the planes to rain down on the children beneath. Richie wakes up in a cold sweat.

To access this La Bamba location from Bakersfield, follow CA-99 S, merging onto I-5S.

Take exit 154, making a left hand turn onto Osborne Street. Take the left leading to Laurel Canyon Road. This former La Bamba film set is found on the left-hand side.

Richie meets Donna at the high school in La Bamba

San Fernando High School, 11133 O’Melveny Avenue, San Fernando, California

This La Bamba scene opens with a shot of the exterior of San Fernando High School then quickly moves indoors where the bell is ringing, and students are assembling in the classroom for their first class of the day. Donna enters the room and is directed to a seat by the teacher. Richie takes notice of the blonde beauty right away and cannot take his eyes off her. History class begins. Richie’s friend says to him, “Who is the blonde?” Richie responds with, “I don’t know. But I think I’m in love.”

Just a three-minute drive from the heart of San Fernando, you can visit this La Bamba location by travelling along Truman Street then making a right hand turn onto Fox Street.

Ritchie first hears “La Bamba” in Tijuana scene in La Bamba

Hotel de Anza, E 5th St, Calexico, California

Bob finds Ritchie in a phone booth singing his ballad “Donna” to Donna herself. Bob sneaks up behind him and starts mocking Ritchie. Donna loves the song, and Ritchie is angry at Bob for making fun of him. The two brothers travel to Tijuana together where they proceed to get drunk in a local brothel. Bob is determined to find Ritchie a girl to spend the night with, but Ritchie is uninterested. A group of girls gather and make eyes at Ritchie. In one of several funny scenes in La Bamba, the brothers walk past a lineup of seated and available girls and this conversation follows:

Bob: Look at those bongos {referring to the girls!} Get in there.

Ritchie: I can see fine.

Bob: Well, pick one you like. Guy like you, it’s guaranteed. Mmmm…well?

Ritchie: I don’t know. You know…it’s really hard to choose.

Bob: Sh*t, take two, man. It’s on me. {Bob laughs.}

Suddenly, a band strikes up “La Bamba,” drawing Ritchie’s attention. Ritchie is so enamored of the Mexican folk tune that he decides to record a rock rendition of it upon his return home. In one dance shoot, Ritchie plays along with the band on his guitar while the people in the brothel dance.

Travel to the Hotel de Anza is quite simple since this La Bamba film location is easily accessible from the heart of Calexico. Travel along W Birch Street, making a right turn onto Imperial Avenue. Turn left onto Temple Court, followed by a right onto Rockwood Avenue. A final left hand turn onto Fourth Street takes you to your final destination.

Ritchie buys his family a new home scene in La Bamba

727 Fine Street, Fillmore, California

In one of the most poignant scenes in La Bamba, Ritchie takes his mother for a ride in his new car. Telling her to cover her eyes, he helps her out of the vehicle and points her in the direction of his big surprise: he has purchased her a new house. He tells her she can remove her hands, and she sees a beautiful house with a SOLD sign on the front lawn. Bob Keane sits in his car across the street beaming and giving the “okay” sign when he sees Ritchie’s mother’s joy. Connie tears up, and this conversation takes place between her and her son:

Ritchie: It’s yours, Mom.

Connie: It’s mine, Ritchie?

Ritchie: Yes.

Mother and son embrace with great joy.

You can visit this La Bamba filming location by following A Street towards Sespe Avenue. Make a right-hand turn at the third cross street onto 3rd street and make a left onto Fine Street. You will find this home on the left-hand side.

Ritchie boards a plane with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper scene in La Bamba

12653 Osborne Street, Pacoima, California

Ritchie and The Big Bopper are backstage at their concert, and The Big Bopper tells them that Buddy Holly has lined up a plane to take the headlining musical acts to their next concert venue. Ritchie is visibly shaken at the thought of having to fly. He calls Bob, making amends with his brother and asking him to meet him in Chicago to join him on tour.

Ritchie: Listen, Bob, why don’t you fly out to Chicago and meet me, man? We can finish out the tour together. You know, I’ve really gotta have some family around me.

Bob: You sure you want me around? After all…that happened…all the sh*t I said?

Ritchie: Hey, those were your real feelings, man. I mean, we’re still brothers, aren’t we?

Bob: {Sniffs}

Ritchie: Bob? You still there?

Bob: Ya, cabron, I’m still here, and I’m still your brother.

Following the concert, Ritchie, The Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly head to the airport taking a small plane to their next concert stop in Minnesota. The plane successfully takes off then later crashes due to poor weather and potential pilot errors, leading to the death of all four men.

The site of this tragic La Bamba film scene is at a local airport in Pacoima. To find the precise hangar where the men board the plane, travel just outside Airpark Way until you almost reach Orbital Way. The hangar can be found here.

Bob gets the news of Ritchie’s death on the radio in La Bamba

727 Fine Street, Fillmore, California

In this La Bamba film scene, Bob is outside working underneath his mother’s car while she is hanging out the laundry on a clothesline in the backyard. The radio is playing, and suddenly, there is an announcement that the plane carrying Ritchie, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper has crashed, leaving behind no survivors. Bob slides out from the car as Rosie and the baby exit the house and she asks Bob if he heard the news on the radio.

He races to the backyard, jumping the fence, to try to get to his mother before she hears of Ritchie’s death but arrives too late. She stands in front of a clothes ringer, holding clothing in her hand. She turns to look at Bob and starts crying, saying, “No, no, not Ritchie. Not my Ritchie. Bob, not my Ritchie! Ritchie…not Ritchie, Bob.” He runs to hold his mother, and the two sink to their knees, consoling one another.

This scene takes place in the yard adjacent to the home that Ritchie buys for his mom. To find this place, follow the directions to reach the house on 727 Fine Street in Fillmore. The driveway and home to the left of this location is where Bob was working on his mother’s car, and the yard where Connie is hanging the laundry is directly next to it.

Conclusion

A movie that has become a classic amongst people of all generations, La Bamba takes you through many different filming locations with the vast majority found withing Southern California and the surrounding areas. Although it is a tearjerker, the majority of the movie shows a young man rising to fame with his illustrious musical career. If you’re thinking you might like to visit La Bamba locations, you’re sure to find our guide to the best scenes in this movie a great place to start.