When you think of a stoner movie, what is the first in your mind? Is it a few friends on a quest for food? Maybe some buddies lost in their own world while they search for their car. The stoner archetype leaves out the THC-soaked noirs and experimental films that are only enhanced by marijuana goggles.It is not as good as some post-Wes Anderson movies– which have very outdated morals and are often exploitative.
There is no set rule for what makes a film “stoner”. One thing you may expect to see may not actually be included. Pot has become an element in entertainment, and it’s becoming more common in shows with younger audiences.
Do you want to watch a film filled with stunning visuals and pulsing music, made for the audience to get lost in? There’s a stoner film for that. Maybe you want to experience a psycho head trip or watch something so silly it transcends to genius? If you enjoy a good stoner comedy, there are likely some available for your viewing pleasure. In addition to the rowdy and youthful Spun, you might also seek out recently released films like X-Men: Days of Future Past or 22 Jump Street (which is legally available on Netflix).
But because the stoner film spans multiple genres and eras, defying classification, it’s a bit of a fool’s errand to say one film is better than the other. Besides, ranking a list of stoner films sounds like a sure-fire way to harsh your buzz. So in the spirit of harmony and straight chillin’, we present to you twenty of our absolute favorite films.
The Trip (1967)
Stoned has always been a catch-all phrase for the effects of any number of illicit substances, so while marijuana is smoked during Roger Corman’s The Trip, the titular journey in question is thanks to some heavy tabs of acid that a younger-than-you’ve-ever-seen-him Peter Fonda drops with the help of a bearded Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper at his hippiest and dippiest. The plot is slim: Fonda is a movie director who, upon hearing his wife is having an affair, drops some acid to work through his feelings. And it takes place completely within Fonda’s trip, so don’t expect much of a narrative. Though it really doesn’t matter. The movie is an absolute spectacle. The truly striking imagery is said to be, in part, thanks to Corman and crew tripping out on their own before the shoot. If this is what Roger Corman sees while high, it’s no wonder that he’s made a career of producing and directing some of the most daring, and wacky, films to ever come out of Hollywood.
Cabin Boy (1994)
Marijuana makes your attention span spread, so if you don’t have a watchful eye, you may be wondering what time period Cabin Boy is set in. Sure it’s got a Manifest Destiny spirit, but then what’s with the limousines and the 40oz’s? One blink, you see a real seaside port; the next, you’re transported to a huge studio set with a beautifully colored cyclorama. It’s hard to keep track, but it doesn’t really matter when you get lost in this wacky world from the mind of Chris Elliott. Adhering to an Adult Swim sensibility that leans on the random humor of the early ’90s, Cabin Boy is a silly romp filled with rapid-fire jokes alongside visually striking cinematography and production design, including some really fun usage of miniatures. And while Tim Burton opted to direct Ed Wood instead of this, his thumbprint is still all over this movie. If you’ve always wanted to see Russ Tamblyn play a shark person or David Letterman selling sock puppets, then Cabin Boy is tailor-made for you.
Inherent Vice (2014)
Let’s be honest: getting high and watching Inherent Vice is one of the best ideas you’ve ever had. Sometimes, when you’re soaring, you just want to laugh with Seth Rogen or at Steve Martin. Other times, you want your head rocked. Inherent Vice is that transcendent cinematic sojourn, a pilgrimage of 21st-century cinephilia that bends your brain to the extent that you feel like you’re riding the waves of something stronger than weed, something on author Thomas Pynchon’s plane. At no point are you certain about what’s happening and at no point is the film anything less than fascinating. (It also helps to know that you’re meant to get spun in circles so violently by the narrative that it would be more concerning if you came out claiming you didn’t have any questions).
The look of every image is sublime. Paul Thomas Anderson weighs different tones and textures against each other with measured brilliance while screen testing for his films. As his career has progressed, he’s mastered his ability to choose an image as lush and rich as possible, to make the right choices in that screen testing process and then later down the road with cinematographer Robert Elswit (or himself). Traces of it exist as early as Hard Eight, but by the time we get to 2014, P.T.A. has 16 years of ever-evolving screen testing brilliance under his belt, and as a result, Inherent Vice is a visual feast of 35mm film grain that captures the rotting free love spirit of 1970 Los Angeles with adoration for its strangest corners and most eclectic characters. And there’s an added feeling like you’re lighting up with the lead, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix in his highest, but also…greatest role?), for a dense two and a half hours that somehow never end up being long enough. (Luke Hicks).
An experimental film from Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi (meaning “Life Out of Balance” in Hopi) is mesmerizing even when you are stone-cold sober, so imagine for a moment what its blend of sights and sounds would look like juuuuuust as that edible you ate kicks in. This film and its marriage of music, cinematography, and the human condition is perfectly suited for the stoned viewer looking for meaning in everything. And luckily, there’s plenty of real meaning in each of Reggio’s carefully curated moving images. Like Alice through the looking glass, Koyaanisqatsi is a stoner film you fall into, allowing your senses to overload through a pulsating soundscape scored by acclaimed composer Philip Glass. If you watch one new-to-you stoner movie this year, make it this one. You will not be disappointed.
Prior to Friday, everyone thought of Ice Cube as a socially conscious gangsta rapper and villainous actor. However, this movie showed that he could also write and star in comedies. Including one of the most entertaining of its era, mostly due to the performances of Cube and Chris Tucker as two unemployed stoners who spend their day getting high and preparing for a fight. Friday’s humor is crass, but the film doesn’t rely on drug gags for its laughs by any means. It’s a well-rounded comedy that boasts an abundance of heart, and while the sequels aren’t as good, I still hope this franchise returns to our screens someday (Kieran Fisher).
The Night Before (2015)
If you’re looking for a stoner movie to watch during the holidays, the only option you should consider is Jonathan Levine’s The Night Before. About three friends celebrating one final night of holiday shenanigans before submitting themselves to adulthood, the movie was overlooked during its initial run, but I’m going to blame that on our collective Joseph Gordon Levitt exhaustion. It’s definitely not because of the excellent relationship dynamic between the three leads, specifically Anthony Mackie at his comic best since Pain and Gain and Seth Rogen doing what he does better than ever. Factor in a scene-stealing Michael Shannon as the trio’s high school weed dealer, Mr. Green (who may or may not be filthy rich or bequeathed with mystical powers), and you’ve got a winter stoner movie that hangs its warm and fuzzy heart on its sleeve.
Cheech And Chong’s Next Movie (1980)
Director: Tommy Chong
Starring: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Evelyn Guerrero, Edie McClurg, Paul Reubens
Stonedest Line: “Responsibility is a heavy responsibility!”
Stereotypical Mexican-American stoner + stereotypical American stoner x weed jokes, ball jokes, non sequiturs, and a couple songs = FTW.
Super High Me (2007)
Director: Michael Blieden
Starring: Doug Benson
Stonedest Line: “I’m gonna smoke pot everyday for 30 days—try to remember to film it—and my movie is going to be called Super High Me or Business As Usual; I haven’t decided yet.”
Super High Me follows one stoner, comedian Doug Benson, on his journey of 30 days of sobriety followed by 30 days of smoking all day, everyday. He undergoes “before and after” tests that range from SATs to psychic ability. Pfft! All that Super Size Me guy did was make us feel bad for eating junk food at an American institution, GTFOH!
True Romance (1993)
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Directed by: Tony Scott
What it’s about: Alabama, an ex-call girl (Patricia Arquette), finds love at first sight with Clarence (Christian Slater) and they get married. However, they find themselves running from the mafia after stealing a shipment of drugs from Alabama’s former pimp. Brad Pitt is a supporting character in the movie, but watching him play such an unexpected character is a delight in itself.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Alex Cox, and Tod Davies
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
What it’s about: Calling Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a “stoner movie” is something of an understatement. The film, based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Hunter S. Thompson, is really about drug use in general. As in, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro) take them and trip out.