Critics Consensus

Just because Fame is a well-acted musical doesn't mean it flinches against its surprisingly heavy topics.



Total Count: 31


Audience Score

User Ratings: 40,421
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Movie Info

Fame is set at New York's High School of Performing Arts, where talented teens train for show-business careers. The film concentrates on five of the most gifted students: singer Irene Cara, actors Paul McCrane and Barry Miller, dancer Gene Anthony Ray, and musician Lee Currieri. More so than the subsequent TV series Fame, the film emphasizes the importance of keeping up one's academic achievements in this specialized school. The faculty includes no-nonsense English teacher Ann Meara, erudite musical instructor Albert Hague, and martinet dance teacher Debbie Allen. Of the film's cast, Ray, Currieri, Allen and Hague were carried over to the TV version of Fame, which premiered in 1981. The score for the film version of Fame was honored with an Academy Award. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Albert Hague
as Shorofsky
Anne Meara
as Mrs. Sherwood
Tresa Hughes
as Mrs. Finsecker
Paul McCrane
as Montgomery
Boyd Gaines
as Michael
Steve Inwood
as Francois Lafete
Joanna Merlin
as Miss Berg
Teresa Hughes
as Mrs. Finsecker
Jim Moody
as Farrell
Frank Bongiorno
as Truck driver
Bill Britten
as Mr. England
Eric Brockington
as Plump Eric
Nora Cotrone
as Topless Ballet Student
Mbewe Escobar
as Phenicia
Victor Fischbarg
as Harvey Finsecker
Frank Penny
as Dance Teacher
Willie Henry Jr.
as Bathroom Student
Steve Hollander
as Drama Student
Sang Kim
as Oriental Violinist
Darrell Kirkman
as Richard III
Meg Tilly
as Dancer
Ted Lambert
as Drama Student
Anthony Evans
as Musician
Nancy Lee
as Oriental Student
Sarah Malament
as Dance Accompanist
James Manis
as Bruno's Uncle
Isaac Mizrahi
as Touchstone
Raquel Mondin
as Ralph's Sister
Alba Oms
as Ralph's Mother
Frank Oteri
as Schlepstein
Traci Parnell
as Hawaiian Dancer
Sal Piro
as Rocky Horror M.C.
Leslie Quickley
as Towering Inferno Student
Ray Ramirez
as Father Morales
Loris Sallahian
as Drama Student
Ilse Sass
as Mrs. Tossoff
Dawn Steinberg
as Monitor on Stairs
Jonathan Strasser
as Orchestra Conductor
Yvette Torres
as Ralph's Little Sister
F.X. Vitolo
as Frankie
Stefanie Zimmerman
as Dance Teacher
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Critic Reviews for Fame

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (26) | Rotten (5)

  • Numerous performance scenes are expertly woven into Christopher Gore's screenplay following the audition-to-graduation fortunes of a handful of students, and the result is a joyful celebration of youth, hope and talent.

    Jul 17, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Fame isn't only the best musical of the summer, it's one of the best films of any genre -- a fresh and funky, sassy and brassy, gutty and gritty, slick and smart piece of work.

    Apr 28, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Every once in a while what appears to be the entire student body pours out into the street to do song-and-dance numbers, some of which are cheerful enough, but all of which break faith with the film's realistic premise.

    Sep 8, 2010 | Full Review…
  • The film is cut at such a frenzied pitch that it's often possible to believe (mistakenly) that something significant is going on.

    Sep 8, 2010 | Full Review…
  • Alan Parker has come up with an exposure for some of the most talented youngsters seen on screen in years. There isn't a bad performance in the lot.

    Jun 9, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • It's a crack at the American Dream which carries all the exhilaration and depth of a 133-minute commercial break.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Fame

  • Nov 11, 2018
    The movie is way too overstuffed to be an effective examination of these kids (on top of covering four years, the movie has so many characters you barely get a chance to learn all their names) and whenever the movie tries to be realistic in one scene it often swings wildly to an after-school special plot in the next. Also, I know this came out in 1980 but I refuse to believe that at this school there would only be one gay kid.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 12, 2018
    I love so many aspects of this film that I'm surprised it doesn't have a higher average rating. From its very beginning, with a brilliant audition sequence that has director Alan Parker switching between a number of characters and scenes, the film had me. Soon afterwards he hits it with the first of the musical numbers, an impromptu song and dance that breaks out in the lunch room, which captures the power of creative people feeding off one another. How that leads to the quieter girl (Maureen Teefy) escaping the noise to sit with a sensitive young man (Paul McCrane) and start up a friendship is also very nice. 'Fame' was ahead of its time in giving us a diverse cast, and that's in a lot of ways - race, language, body shape, sexual orientation, and economic background. It really captures the spirit of New York, and this is heightened by shots on the streets and in the subway. There are so many items it touches on - homophobia, abuse, violence, sexual harassment, and abortion. It celebrates the beauty of the arts, while at the same time cautioning just how difficult it is to make a career out of them. Its spirit is infectious, and it's filled with poignant moments. Parker effectively uses an ensemble cast, each of whom contributes, but Barry Miller stands out as Ralph Garci, with a number of fine scenes: his impromptu acting during the audition ("I'm God, see?"), his recounting the pain of finding out Freddie Prinze had died, his telling his friends the real truth about his father, his lashing out a priest after his 5-year-old sister is assaulted ("Since when are you in the thinking business?"), and in bombing at a standup comedy club. It's a brilliant, powerful performance. Irene Cara sings on a number of the tracks, including the wonderful title song, and also provides a heartbreaking moment when she's lured into posing topless in the apartment of a man posing as an indie film director. There are so many dangers that surround these kids, and the honesty of this predatory scene is a forerunner to the #metoo movement. It's too bad it's offset somewhat by Parker himself giving us two immature voyeuristic scenes of the boys peering into the girls changing room. McCrane's descriptions of his growing sexual awareness, and the reaction he relates from his therapist ("He said it was probably a life choice"), is also touching. I liked the simple earnestness with which he portrayed this character, and his scene consoling Ralph Garci at the end (where Garci says "How do you know if you're good? Maybe you never know"). Without going through the rest of the big cast, I'll just add that I loved Jim Moody as the drama teacher, and wished his role hadn't tailed off after the sophomore year. That is one of the film's weaknesses - stories are unfinished and characters either disappear or certainly aren't all wrapped up with a big bow as in other movies - but this is also a strength in some ways. It gives the film the sense of how memories from the past are, and the ambiguity leaves it to us to imagine how the characters' lives played out. I think of 'Fame' as a collection of great moments, highlighting the arts, the human spirit, and growing up in a tough world which has so much danger and disappointment. Heartfelt and captivating, it's a great film.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 15, 2011
    "I celebrate the me yet to come." Recognizing all its flaws, I unabashedly love <i>Fame</i>. I understand that the characters fall into stereotypes, and I think many of their stories never reach a cathartic or dramatic conclusion; this is especially true of Ralph and Leroy. Also, these are oh-so-clearly adults playing teens; it even seems written that way most of the time. However, <i>Fame</i> achieves a complexity found in few films and almost no musicals. How is it that - for me - this film worked as both a cautionary tale and an inspiration? How is it that I recognized so many people from the acting world in these loosely drawn characters? Parker's direction and the rather spontaneous musical numbers embody the passion, ambition, dedication, triumphs, disappointments, and blindnesses that afflict these people. More to the point, I've known some artists whose talent amazed me, but yet you don't know them. You know talentless hacks, many of whom can't act dead. Each of these people recognizes that what most likely awaits them is a boulevard of broken dreams, spoiled ambitions, and a life counting their tips, hoping enough is there for rent, but each is also driven by an indomitable spirit. <i>Fame's</i> achievement is capturing all that on film, even to some degree into one fantastic scene toward the end (Irene Cara's nude scene - you'll know what I mean if you see the film). Additionally, I enjoyed the peripherals: the stage mother, the broken home, the absent but financially generous parents. All of these exist in varying forms. Overall, it takes some effort to see past this film's flaws, but once you do, you won't be disappointed with what lies at its core.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Sep 26, 2010
    When I was was growing up in the 80s, I wanted to go to the NYC High School for the Performing Arts that is depicted in this movie. Fame is all about New York City. It is grimy and bittersweet and big-city. It is a thousand miles away from the quiet traditions of my high school in the Midwest.
    Juli R Super Reviewer

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