The 5 Best Stoner Movies of All Time
August 23, 2021
by Author Farrell
For decades now, the best stoner movies have had a solid, dedicated (if slightly niche) following of core fans. Whether or not viewers themselves dabble in cannabis from time to time or simply enjoy the good-natured bumbling escapades of the likes of Cheech and Chong, these films have a certain charm and appeal to them.
In recent years, as cannabis has become more socially acceptable, there’s been a boom in weed-centric media products being created and consumed. We figured now would be as good a time as any to look back fondly on some of the classics and contemporaries that made the stoner genre what it is today.
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Pretty much the modern standard for millennial stoner films, 2008’s Pineapple Express quickly catapulted itself into the mainstream (and our hearts) due, in no small part, to the infectious likeability and frenetic chemistry of its leads, Seth Rogen and James Franco. Titled after the eponymous (and at the time, fictional) strain of weed, Pineapple Express follows slacker Dale Denton (Rogen) and his well-meaning but naive drug dealer Saul as they find themselves hunted by a bloodthirsty drug kingpin after Dale inadvertently witnesses a murder.
Now, while it’s not reinventing the wheel in terms of plot or themes, the charm of this film (like many in the stoner genre) comes from the relatable and loveable characters and their friendship (however exaggerated) as well as the film’s playful approach to weed despite the stakes eventually getting ludicrously high (pun very much intended).
Packed with fantastic quotes that have since become immortalised, brilliant references, callbacks and other inside gags, not to mention some of the funniest side characters you will have seen in a long while (Craig Robinson’s Mathison is a particular favourite of mine), this film is a great watch any time but even more so with a nice joint to complement it.
Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies (AKA Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle)
Kal Penn and John Cho cemented themselves as the iconic duo originally back in 2004 with this classic stoner comedy about a couple of guys who just really, really fancied some burgers. The first film in what would eventually become a trilogy, this first installment has definitely held up the best and is often lauded as one of the better stoner films out there.
Mild-mannered office worker Harold and his perennially lazy roommate/best buddy Kumar lead fairly uneventful lives. Unlike something like Pineapple Express where the protagonists are being chased by drug kingpins, crooked cops and angry girlfriends, Harold and Kumar has fairly low stakes in comparison. It is the simple tale of a couple of guys kicking back after a long week and looking to relax with some good weed and greasy junk food. When their cravings send them on a journey to Whitecastle for burgers (because let’s be honest - sometimes the heart wants what it wants), they end up completely off the beaten path and having to contend with everything from their neighborhood bullies to a drug-addled Neil Patrick Harris stealing their car.
Related: Some Say the White Castle Strain Started With This Movie
Packed with easy laughs, memorable characters and with a surprisingly sweet side to it (Harold finding his courage, Kumar reconciling with his family), Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies is easy stoner watching at it’s very easiest.
One of the less eccentric stoner films out there in comparison (I’m looking at you Half Baked), Friday is a fairly simple story about a down-on-his-luck average joe and what takes place on a random Friday in his local neighbourhood. What this list proves is you don't need a mind-bending plot to be named among the best stoner movies.
An instant classic, rather than focussing too much on weed itself or the classic blunders and misunderstandings that are often the bread and butter of stoner comedies, F Gary Gray’s 1995 comedy relies instead on relatability, brilliant comedic chemistry (the whole cast are fantastic, but Chris Tucker as Smokey and Ice Cube’s Craig really steal the show) and sharply written dialogue to keep viewers engaged.
Since its release, Friday has developed 2 sequels as well as a cult following of stoners and non-stoners alike. Infinitely memeable, scenes and quotes from the film have permeated the cultural zeitgeist to such a degree that half the people that proudly exclaim “Bye Felicia!” or “You got knocked the f*** out!” often don’t even realise they’re quoting the film.
Related: This list isn't to be confused with the 5 Best Movies to Watch High
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
There aren’t many films that make you feel high before you’ve lit your first joint or even nibbled on an edible but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is definitely one of them. Another cult classic based on the book of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing follows Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo as they trip their way through Vegas under the influence of a veritable cornucopia of psychoactive substances.
As much as it isn’t a traditional stoner film wherein the main characters smoke copious amounts of ganja – the escapades of Raoul and the good Doctor are fueled primarily by the likes of mescaline and LSD – this film is filled to the brim with trippy visuals, an amazing soundtrack and some stellar cameos from celebrities including Verne Troyer (of Mini Me fame) and Penn Jillette. Bolstered by great performances from Johnny Depp and the always brilliant Benecio del Toro, this is the kind of movie is not soon forgotten but also never fully remembered, making it ideal for multiple viewings.
If you’ve yet to watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, be sure to put it on your list of must-sees because, weed-heavy or not, there aren’t many films where you’re unsure if you’re anywhere near as stoned watching it as the filmmakers were when they put the picture together.
The Big Lebowski
“Shut the f*** up, Donnie” - Walter Sobchak, 1998
How many other films can say that they inspired a real-life religion based off its lead character? ‘Dudeism’ (yep) is a religious philosophy that sprouted from The Big Lebowski fandom. If that isn’t cultural impact then nothing is! Written and directed by the Coen brothers in 1998, this film initially had a much more mixed reception in comparison to the dedicated following and critical praise it enjoys today, often ranked among best stoner movie picks as well as general top 10s.
Based mainly around a case of mistaken identity, wherein our laidback hero, Jeff ‘Dude’ Lebowski, is confused with his namesake, the eponymous ‘Big’ Lebowski. What the movie may lack in depth of plot it makes up for tenfold with its idiosyncratic cast of hilarious characters, razor-sharp dialogue and straight-up trippy dream sequences – Julianne Moore and the bowling alley immediately spring to mind – not to mention an absolutely killer soundtrack.
Since its release, Lebowski has gained greater and greater praise, solidifying its place as not just a great stoner film, but a superlative comedy in general. Similar to Friday, memes from Big Lebowski have been generated and quotes immortalised, bumping up the longevity and recognisability of this flick even further. I’d personally say this is essential viewing from any and all stoners but that’s just, like, my opinion, man...
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