The pot flick has practically become a genre unto itself. Stoner movies, expressly designed for enjoyment under herbally enhanced conditions, should have their own aisle at Blockbuster.
While we’re waiting for that to happen, though, let’s take a moment to bask in the euphoric glow of accomplishment. Cannabis cinema has established a track record of success and marketability much like the herb itself.
Given the passionate loyalty potheads feel towards their very favorite stoner movies, I’d have to be ape-shit crazy to put myself in the line of fire, subjecting myself to the ire, the scorn and the second-guessing of my blunted but opinionated brethren.
So if you think I’m high enough to even try that… OK, OK. Good point.
Here are my Top 10.
(Got any suggestions/additions? Put them in the comments below. Who says we aren’t crazy enough to make another list?!)
10. Reefer Madness 
This overwrought, horribly written, atrociously acted cautionary tale from 1936 did a lot of harm in its day.
Some even blame it for the passage, the following year, of the Marihuana Tax Act, the first national anti-cannabis law in the United States.
It’s as if the sensationalistic William Randolph Hearst-style “yellow journalism” has been lifted right off the page and brought to life on the screen, where it’s awesomely awful stupidity is only magnified.
Don’t forget to indulge in a generous helping of “drug-crazed abandon” before you subject yourself to this steaming pile of trash, so you can have your giggles at the hackneyed “youthful marijuana victims.”
Yes, the main thing it’s good for these days — and hell, for at least the past 40 years — is unintentional comedy.
How on Earth did they ever manage to get it this wrong?
A disillusioned and frustrated medical student (played by Jeremy Strong) finds himself stranded in the Emerald Triangle for the summer in a rural community of Northern California pot farmers.
Not unpredictably, a voyage of self-discovery ensues — punctuated, of course, by inter-farmer rivalries, law enforcement raids on the fields, and bountiful Northern California hippie weirdness.
Humboldt County got mixed reviews, but the picture gets major bonus points for casting crazy-eyed smokin’ hot pot hottie Fairuza Balk as “Bogart,” (get it?) the female lead.
For Fairuza, all shortcomings are forgiven.
Not only is she sexy, beautiful, and talented, but Miss Balk is also a bonafide, real-life cannabis activist, appearing at (and even hosting) benefits for the Marijuana Policy Project and other good organizations.
8. The Big Lebowski 
This Coen Brothers classic features the immortal performance of Jeff Bridges as Dude, whose essential Dudeness has become the stuff of stoner legend — in other words, something towards wh
ich we all can aspire, man.
You may be of a quibbling, analytical bent and are thus thinking, “But I’m not sure Lebowski is really a pot movie at all.”
To that, my intellectual friend, I respond: “The Dude Abides.”
The Big Lebowski is so shot through with Dude-ism, stoned existentialism and high humor, it’s practically a consciousness altering drug even without the weed scenes — and yeah, there are definitely some of those.
For those fortunate cinemaphiles who have figured out that Steve Buscemi may well be God, yes, he’s in Lebowski, and yes, he’s up to his usual standards.
Be advised that watching this movie may instill within you the sudden and irrational desire to put on your very sloppiest clothes and go bowling.
7. Half Baked 
Stoner stereotypes shouldn’t still be this funny — but it’s almost impossible not to laugh at the clueless potheads who populate Half Baked.
Dave Chappelle’s comedy breakthrough grabbed that brass ring of stoner movies: Creating a whole new term for smoking pot.
Chappelle’s quote from the film, “I wanna talk to Samson!” created a popular slang term for getting high, appearing (among other places) on J Dilla’s bumpin’ track “Crushin’ (Yeeeeah!)“.
Thurgood (Chappelle) and his friends Brian (Jim Breuer) and Scarface (Guillermo Diaz) sell marijuana stolen from the lab where Thurgood works as a janitor in order to bail their friend Kenny (Harland Williams) out of jail, after he accidentally kills a horse by feeding it junk food.
Soon, all of their lives are in danger when local drug lord Samson Simpson finds out our heroes are costing him business, including his former client, rapper Sir Smokes Alot.
Just fast forward through the wimp-ass ending where Thurgood gives up smoking pot in order to win back his girlfriend Mary Jane. (Chappelle reportedly complained after the movie was completed, saying that studio re-writes had turned what was originally a much better movie into “a pot movie for kids.”)
There are plenty of cameos not to miss including Jon Stewart, Steven Wright, weed-hating Stephen Baldwin, Bob Saget, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, and the immortal Tommy Chong.
6. Dazed and Confused 
Dazed and Confused is writer/director Richard Linklater’s quintessential movie about coming of age high in the 1970s.
The film was a career-maker for Matthew McConaughey as David Wooderson, the has-been-at-20 ex-football star who likes high school girls “because I get older, but they stay the same age.”
Also unforgettable was Rory Cochrane in his convincing (method acting?) portrayal of uber-stoner Ron Slater, whose (I’m guessing) ad-libbed weed-induced insights on such subjects as the hipness of Martha Washington were “high” points of the film.
“Behind every good man there is a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and everyday George would come home, she would have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he come in the door, man, she was a hip, hip, hip lady, man.” ~ Ron Slater
Keep your eyes open for the delectable Milla Jovovich and also for future gossip rag fave Ben Affleck, who at the time had never boinked Jennifer Aniston, and wasn’t yet the boffo box office megastar he is today. (Click on the link below to see the Top 5.)
5. Pineapple Express 
Combine lots of on-screen toking, snappy comedy writing and an ultra-violent action adventure film, and it adds up to a winning formula for Pineapple Express.
The talented Seth Rogen co-wrote (with Evan Goldberg) and co-starred (with James Franco) in this likable buddy comedy.
Dale Denton (Rogen) is a high-all-the-time process server who witnesses a drug-related execution. The roach of Pineapple Express weed he leaves behind at the scene of the crime leads murderous drug lord Ted Jones (Gary Cole) straight to Dale’s pot dealer, Saul Silver (Franco).
Look for cameo appearances by Ed Begley Jr. and James Remar, and don’t miss Rosie Perez as a delightfully detestable, hilariously horny crooked cop.
According to producer Judd Apatow, the inspiration for Pineapple Express was Brad Pitt’s stoner character, Floyd, in True Romance. “I thought it would be funny to make a movie in which you follow that character out of his apartment and watch him get chased by bad guys,” Apatow told Entertainment Weekly.
4. How High 
Method Man and Redman prove their musical chemistry extends to the screen as well in this giddy, light-hearted “street kids go to Harvard” romp.
OK, so maybe the plot is a little threadbare in spots, but who cares.
There are plenty of stoned laughs and a plethora of “fish out of water” jokes.
After Silas and his friend Jamal lose their best friend to a disquieting pot-related dreadlock fire, they grow a pot plant in his ashes, and the resulting herb gives them all the knowledge they need to make it in the high-stakes academic world.
With a storyline featuring magical weed that makes you smart and helps you study, you certainly don’t have to spend any time straining your brain by figuring out heavy social statements.
While the guys are enjoying their new Ivy League lifestyle, their supernatural smoke eventually and inevitably runs out, leaving them on their own with only each other to survive.
Added bonus: How High features a cameo by Monk‘s psychiatrist (the new one, not the guy who died), the always-great Hector Elizondo.
3. Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle 
A stoner comedy about getting the munchies? Yeah, and it’s about 1,000 times funnier than you think, if you’ve never seen it.
The two pothead title characters, investment banker John Cho (Harold) and prospective doctor Kal Penn (Kumar), decide to munch out at White Castle after getting high, but when they can’t find the restaurant, they have a series of drawn-out comical misadventures.
The film is directed by Danny “I must love potheads” Leiner, who also gifted us with the stoner classic Dude, Where’s My Car back in 2000.
Among the high points is when Harold and Kumar pick up Neil Patrick Harris, playing a high-on-ecstasy, hitchhiking Neil Patrick Harris. (Dude, he steals their car. But later he shows back up, apologizes, gives them $200 for “love stains in the back seat” and gives the car back. Sweet.)
Also watch for a cameo by comedy great Fred Willard.
2. Friday 
Friday is a hypnotic, funny, expertly done look at one particular day in the lives of friends Craig Jones (Ice Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker) in Los Angeles.
Craig, who doesn’t smoke weed when the film begins, has recently been fired from his job and his parents are consequently threatening to throw him out. His best bud Smokey is a devoted stoner who’s smoking his way through a batch of indo he was supposed to be selling.
In an attempt to explain to the dealer why the weed is gone yet there’s still no money, Smokey accidentally incriminates Craig. The dealer, Big Worm (Faizon Love) gets tired of Smokey “playing with his emotions” and gives the guys an ultimatum: Pay up by 10 p.m. Friday, or be killed.
At the end of the movie, just when you think it’s becoming another dumb-assed, pre-packaged sellout — Smokey announces he’s going into rehab — Smokey looks up, lights a joint and ends the film by shouting, “I was just bullshittin’! And you know this… man!”
1. Up In Smoke 
Cheech & Chong’s first feature film was a real trail blazer in many ways.
Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong had already been a comedy team for a decade before they reworked some of their best material for Up In Smoke.
Tommy Chong plays Man, an unemployed pothead drummer (bit of trivia: his character’s “real” name in the movie is Anthony Stoner, but that’s only mentioned once). Cheech plays Pedro de Pacas, who picks up the hitchhiking Man, starting their adventures.
While many stoner films don’t hold up very well if you aren’t high when you see ’em, Up In Smoke is a definite exception. The movie is genuinely hilarious, stoned or not, and features a strong supporting cast including Stacy Keach’s iconic Sgt. Stedenko and Tom Skerritt’s PTSD-ridden Vietnam veteran, Strawberry.
Director Lou Adler’s low-budget movie surprised critics, earned millions, spawned a series of follow-up films (all worth watching, stoner-wise), and forever etched the names of Cheech & Chong in hemp history.
Paramount’s market research team determined that for obscure reasons, the greatest hotbeds of Cheech & Chong fandom were in Texas and Canada. Since Up In Smoke was the duo’s first film, Paramount wanted the first screenings to be filled with their most ardent fans — so the film opened first in Texas, to huge business, then in Canada, boosted by strong word of mouth among the pothead contingent.