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The 20 Best Stoner Movies Ever

No matter which way you crush ’em, roll ’em, or smoke ’em, these are the greatest movies in the canon of cannabis cinema.
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By  · Published on April 12th, 2020

The Beach Bum (2019)

The Beach Bum

Harmony Korine’s spiritual follow-up to Spring Breakers is a 1st Team All-Stoner pick for a handful of reasons. First, Moondog is a writer, a poet, who, oddly enough, is wildly successful. He’s so good he wins a Pulitzer after everyone thinks he’s fizzled out. And he writes the Pulitzer-winning book on his unprecedented, Hunter S. Thompson-level binge-write schedule. What stoner-writer doesn’t fantasize about conjuring their masterpiece through high inspiration? Too many brilliant things have been born as a result of someone getting high not to think about it. Second, it’s absolutely fucking gorgeous. The Florida Keys technicolor odyssey aspect alone is enough to warrant spending a couple of hours with Matthew McConaughey in the role he was created to play.

Which brings me to my third point: it’s uproariously funny. McConaughey in his element means a constant influx of improvisational McConaughisms. If the movie had performed better, it might’ve become a quote-a-long classic. The majority of lines that come out of Moondog’s mouth are endlessly quotable. Last, and certainly not least, it contains the cherry on top that is Snoop Dogg as Lingerie. Culturally speaking, Snoop Dogg and the chronic are as inseparable as the Queen and her status. He sits among an elite pool of potheads, the likes of which include Willie Nelson and Cheech and Chong, all of whom would be strong candidates for the high holy trinity. And the movie is that much better for it. (Luke Hicks)


Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider

What makes Easy Rider such a stellar stoner movie is less in the ’60s counterculture DNA coursing through its veins, or even the freewheeling narrative featuring a pair of hippies driving motorcycles filled with drugs across the West. It’s the little moments of laughter or meditative stillness – more often than not provided by a young Dennis Hopper – that’s layered throughout that captures more truth about the cannabis user than any scripted moment could. Perhaps the best example is during the campfire scene after Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) pick up Jack Nicholson’s alcoholic ACLU lawyer, George Hanson. Rather than continuing his boozing, Wyatt recommends “doing this instead.” He hands the grass over, sending Hanson on a monologue about space aliens that’s so long-winded he completely forgets about the bottle. It’s an endlessly relatable moment, but it also slyly points to the medicinal effects of cannabis. Easy Rider understood that alcoholism will kill you, but maybe with the intervention of a little bit of cannabis, your life can still be saved.


Saving Grace (2000)

Saving Grace

This film from Nigel Cole and Craig Ferguson is the type of stoner comedy that you’ll feel more than okay watching with your grandmother. Cut from the same fabric as other late ’90s British Isle comedies like The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine, this film follows an older widower (Brenda Blethyn) who, upon discovering her dead husband made dozens of bad investments, takes to growing marijuana to keep her lavish estate. It’s a cutesy canna-com that is built on the strong dynamic between Blethyn and Ferguson, who plays her gardener, who introduces her to a THC-tinted world. For the stoned viewer looking for not-your-average comedy, Saving Grace is a welcome change of pace.


Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Haroldkumar

Nothing satisfies the munchies quite like fast food, and that’s the core idea behind Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. But they don’t want any old trash; they want the perfect burger. This movie is about their quest to find that burger and the predicaments they encounter on their way. The movie earns a spot on this list for the scene in which a drive-thru employee threatens to set fire to his place of employment, but at its core, the first Harold & Kumar movie tells an earnest story about friendship that’s utterly charming. (Kieran Fisher)


Reefer Madness: The Musical (2005)

Reefer Madness Musical

So you want to show someone Reefer Madness, but you forgot that the original public domain movie is kind of an abysmal watch. What are you to do? You watch Reefer Madness: The Musical. Originally developed as a stage show prior to becoming a Showtime original, the movie brings together a killer cast (Alan Cumming! Kristen Bell! Steven Weber! Ana Gasteyer!) to take a meta approach to lampooning the original notorious mari-huana movie. Like that shwag you smoked in college, retire the OG Reefer Madness and get hip to the hydroponic highs of Reefer Madness: The Musical.


The Big Lebowski (1998)

Lebowski

The genesis of The Big Lebowski’s easy goin’ pace and chill tone can be directly connected back to the OG stoner noir, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. But whereas the humor of Elliot Gould’s Philip Marlowe feeding his cat is more often than not superseded by explosive moments of harrowing violence, Lebowski takes a kinder approach with Jeff Bridges‘ the Dude, your perennial stoner uncle who is just fine wearing Bermuda shorts and slippers as he unravels a mystery he does not want to be at the center of. One of the most popular cult classics of the last three decades, Lebowski has legs thanks to sharp writing from the Coen Brothers, a keen eye from cinematographer Roger Deakins, and some of the most memorable performances from the best actors the late ’90s had to offer. To put it plainly: The Big Lebowski is as good as everyone says it is.


Dazed & Confused (1993)

Dazed

The original marketing campaign for Richard Linklater’s classic coming-of-age picture featured a stoned caricature of Harvey Ball’s classic smiley face and the tagline “See it with a bud.” But instead of using cannabis as a crux to hang the picture on, the drug is just one of those things that Pink, Dawson, and their friends do to pass the time while waiting to become seniors in high school and move onto bigger and better things. For them it’s almost ritualistic, going to the same places and seeing the same people, and getting drunk and getting high.

Linklater balances the inclusion of the drug deftly, first with a more comedic side centered around Rory Cochrane’s iconic stoner, Slater — note the scene in which he theorizes George Washington founded the United States with crops of mary jane, something everyone who regularly smoked weed at one time or another will relate to — before focusing on Jason London’s star quarterback, Pink, who chooses his friends (including Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson, the ghost of stoner past) over agreeing to his coach’s demand that he won’t partake in certain substances. The bond they all share is like Slater’s alternate America: partially founded on the classic pastime of smoking a bowl. (Charlie Brigden)


Pineapple Express

Pexpress

David Gordon Green’s merging of action movie tropes and classic archetypes of canna-comedy isn’t a mere stoner film, it’s an action-comedy that’s just been made with the pothead in mind. Endlessly quotable, with characters you can see in your own friends, Pineapple Express is pure joy for the cannabis consumer. Why? Because it never talks down or panders to its target audience. It also holds a special place for me because it hit just at the right time: college, the breeding ground for the classic stereotypes of cannabis culture. But Pineapple Express isn’t interested in that. It’s interested in the friendship that develops between Dale (Seth Rogen), Saul (James Franco), and Red (Danny McBride), a recurring theme that courses through almost every other stoner film. A friendly reminder, though, if you do watch Pineapple Express this holiday season, resist the urge of rolling Saul’s cross joint. College-age Jacob promises you: it’s just not worth the effort.


Up In Smoke (1978)

Upinsmoke Lead

What people always forget between Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong’s hazy clouds and oversized joints is that Up In Smoke captures the beauty of the late ‘70s Pacific coastline, stunningly photographed by Gene Polito, best known for shooting the movie Westworld. But beyond its cinematography, what gives Cheech and Chong’s first film legs is its balance of naive charm in its central stoners and a sense of whimsy that we see in so many stoner films to come. It may not be the first stoner film, but Up in Smoke helped develop the formula that other stoner comedies would emulate for years to come.


Half Baked (1998)

Halfbaked

When you think of the ’90s stoner comedy, it’s hard not to picture a jump-suited Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer decked out in tie-dye with his typical not-completely-there grin staring back at you. But Half Baked is remembered for good reason, from exemplifying the innocence at the heart of the stoner comedy, to being a showcase for stellar cameos (Snoop! Willie! Jon Stewart!) to also being a time machine to look back at a beautiful pre-9/11 New York City on the brink of changing thanks to the Disneyfication of Times Square. But the movie also seemed to forecast some marijuana trends we’d see over the next 20 years. Medicinal cannabis and marijuana delivery services may have been a novel concept in 1994, but both are vital parts of the economic ecosystem of over 1/5th of the country. I see Half Baked as a benchmark that shows how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time in changing the perception of cannabis.

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Jacob Trussell is a writer based in New York City. His editorial work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Rue Morgue Magazine, Film School Rejects, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the author of 'The Binge Watcher's Guide to The Twilight Zone' (Riverdale Avenue Books). He is available to host your next spooky public access show. Find him on Twitter here: @JE_TRUSSELL (He/Him)