We had to do this article. Some call them “stoner flicks”, others “films – usually comedies – with a distinct ‘weed’ theme, usually marketed towards and appealing almost exclusively to cannabis enthusiasts”. However, labeling some of these comedies simply as “stoner comedies” often does them a disservice. In some cases, they have changed the way we look at cannabis users, and in others, these “marijuana films” could be considered cinematic classics.
We’ll give you ten of the greatest cannabis-themed flicks of all time, in no particular order…
1. Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke (1978)
Well, we had to mention it. We’ve had the legend Tommy Chong on Elevate the Conversation. A man who, alongside partner Cheech Marin, pretty much invented the term “stoner comedy”. Though the two were already a successful stage act, Up in Smoke showed the world that two talented counter-culturally-minded Hispanic dudes could become massive move stars. Like Pryor, Carlin and Bruce, Cheech and Chong set the template; others followed.
2. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
As characters, Harold and Kumar clearly follow in the footsteps of Cheech and Chong, but also veered off to their own path. These guys clearly weren’t burnt-out, long-haired hippies, but two “weekend smokers” who were trying to do their best straddling and respecting their Asian upbringing while at the same time enjoying the freedom the US offers them.
The intent for Harold and Kumar was to break – and mock – stereotypes, as well as break away from the “those two “MILF” dudes from American Pie” effect. The crew and cast clearly wanted to make a “smart dumb” movie, and it works! The message is simple-yet-poignant, the leads likeable, and the film is, most importantly, fun.
3. Dazed and Confused (1993)
With an ensemble cast that could be considered the “who’s who” of Hollywood stars-before-they-were-stars, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused has been much-imitated but never beaten. A fantastic portrait of life as a teen in the 70s on that most special of days: the last day of the school year.
4. & 4.5 Friday (1995) & Half Baked (1998)
After Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society, the world needed a film that showed the “hood” in a different light. Sure, it might seem a little dated in some aspects nowadays, but on the whole the film still holds up as a shining example of character comedy, as well as being one of Chris Tucker’s breakthrough roles. Friday captured a moment in time, much in the same way Wayne’s World or Clerks did.
I’m cheating by adding Half Baked to this list, but double-bills are rarely a feature today, and this would be a perfect one. There’s also the fact that Dave Chappelle’s great, and you should watch and/or listen to him. If you want to keep it consistent and do a “1995 special”, might we suggest Kevin Smith’s Mallrats as well? Yes, we shall!
5. The Big Lebowski (1998)
All that really needs to be said is: “Steve. Fucking. Buscemi.” But then, we’d have to say that about the rest of the cast and crew as well, i.e. “John. Fucking. Goodman.”, “Coen. Fucking. Brothers” etc. Quite possibly one of the greatest films of the 90s and beyond, easily on par with Pulp Fiction and Unforgiven. A landmark movie, no matter what genre you’re into.
6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Before there was Dazed and Confused, there was Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Amy Heckerling did an awesome job here, and essentially made her generation’s American Graffiti. Plus, Sean Penn’s ultra-lovable surfer dude Jeff Spicoli being the center of the film makes it extra special. He saves a person’s life and gets Van Halen to play his birthday party, which makes him one ultra-righteous dude!
7. Super Troopers (2001)
Though Jay Chandrasekhar’s film had mixed reviews when released, Super Troopers became a huge cult hit, in the same way many “stoner” films do. Though more of a crime-comedy, this film is still a classic in the genre, mostly as it depicts a bunch of Vermont state troopers playing pranks on cannabis users.
8. Easy Rider (1969)
If you get the chance to watch this in the cinema, do so. The music and imagery are sure to captivate. Plus, it’s got the immortal Jack Nicholson in it, in what is one of the greatest character introductions in cinema history. (Also: “How’s the joint, George?”, after Nicholson freaks out Hopper’s Billy talking about the “Venusians”.) A brilliant and groundbreaking – if sad – film.
9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Though Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo do more than use a bit of parsley, this film (and book) has a wider focus than just “drug use”. Political corruption, hypocrisy and a fiercely critical look at the American Dream are Hunter S. Thompson’s focus – the War on Drugs is just a part of the background.
10. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
You might be surprised by the inclusion of this one on the list. Yet, when you think about it, it’s essentially about a very awesome kick-ass lady and a very nice, gentle cannabis-user seeing that the world’s being controlled by supernatural beings – partly thanks to cannabis. Like Idle Hands before it, a bit of a diamond in the rough, but genuinely good, original horror films are a hard find sometimes.
Is your favorite missing from the list above? Tell us about it!