Amoral teen Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) has made it his goal to sleep with as many virgin girls as possible — but he doesn’t tell them that he’s HIV positive. While on the hunt for his latest conquest, Telly and his best friend, Casper (Justin Pierce), smoke pot and steal from shops around New York. Meanwhile, Jenny (Chloë Sevigny), one of Telly’s early victims, makes it her mission to save other girls from him. But before she has a chance to confront him at a party, everything goes horribly wrong.
Lovely teen Julie Richman (Deborah Foreman) is steeped in the excessive, pink-clad culture of the San Fernando Valley, complete with her narcissistic boyfriend, Tommy (Michael Bowen). At a party, however, Julie falls for an edgy Hollywood punk named Randy (Nicolas Cage), and the two begin an unlikely romance. Torn between fitting in with her superficial friends and embracing a more non-conformist lifestyle, Julie ultimately has to decide to stay with Tommy or take a risk with Randy.
In the San Fernando Valley in 1977, teenage busboy Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) gets discovered by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), who transforms him into adult-film sensation Dirk Diggler. Brought into a supportive circle of friends, including fellow actors Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), Rollergirl (Heather Graham), and Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Dirk fulfills all his ambitions, but a toxic combination of drugs and egotism threatens to take him back down.
Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a pretty, but inexperienced, teen interested in dating. Given advice by her uninhibited friend, Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates), Stacy gets trapped in a love triangle with nice guy Mark Ratner (Brian Backer) and his more assured buddy Mike Damone (Robert Romanus). Meanwhile, Stacy’s classmate Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), who lives for surfing and being stoned, faces off against Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), a strict teacher who has no time for the slacker’s antics.