Penn launched his film career with the 1981 action-drama Taps, where he played a key role, as a military high school cadet, opposite protagonist Timothy Hutton. Tom Cruise also made one of his first film appearances, as another cadet. A year later, Penn appeared in the hit comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, in the role of surfer-stoner Jeff Spicoli, with his character helping popularize the word "dude" in popular culture. In 1983, Penn appeared as Mick O'Brien, a troubled youth, in the drama Bad Boys. The role earned Penn favorable reviews and jump-started his career as a serious actor.