Over the past 20-25 years, one formerly obscure genre of film has been biting off bigger and bigger pieces of the movie industry pie: the stoner flick. Sure, stoner humor goes back further than the customized bong, but it’s really only since the 90s that these movies have gained widespread acceptance, with a few even flirting with blockbuster status.
So what is the secret to the growing success of the stoner genre? Well, the legalization of marijuana in many parts of the country has something to do with it. So does the fact that some really talented writers have turned their attention to this once-obscure subject and made it entirely their own.
But mostly stoner flicks work because by now, just about everyone in America has gotten high at one time or another and we can all relate to the silliness, the spacing out, the occasional paranoia and, most of all, the munchies.
Below we’re going to take a look at what we consider the 5 best stoner movies of all time.
Ted 2 (2015)
Seth MacFarlane’s original Ted (2012) was a gut-busting buddy movie and instant comedy classic that gave us such memorable scenes as “white trash names” and “truth or dare”. But while weed played an important role in the dynamic between John and his sentient teddy bear in the original, it’s really in Ted 2 that the stoner narrative is fully developed.
The result is some of the most incredible spot-on stoner humor you'll hear outside of a wholesale head shop, including “Can you help me get home” and the timeless Jurassic Park parody “they do move in herds”. You don’t even have to be toasted to thoroughly enjoy the stoner humor here.
Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
Where MacFarlane took the gloves off when it came to what’s fair game for stoner humor, Danny Leiner took a kinder, gentler approach in this 2000 classic. Aston Kutcher and Seann William Scott are a pair of good-natured nobodys drifting through life on a custom bong cloud who wake up one day unable to remember anything from the night before, including where they left Kutcher’s car.
As they attempt to track it down they slowly begin to unravel the puzzle of the previous night which includes aliens, a suitcase full of cash that they used to finance their debauchery, and something called a "Continuum Transfunctioner". You might not think a harmlessly hilarious stoner movie like this could be influential. But if you’ve ever seen “The Hangover” it’s nearly impossible not to see the Dude Where’s My Car DNA running through it.
Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle (2004)
Weed and pizza. Weed and nachos. Hey, what about weed and White Castle?! This 2004 comedy from the director of Dude Where’s My Car features the same type of PG13 stoner humor as that earlier movie. Only this time the plot revolves around the quest of 2 stoners, played by John Cho and Kal Penn, to satisfy an Olympic case of the munchies by scoring a few dozen White Castle sliders.
Their quest leads them on an epic all-nighter that involves a run-in with the cops, the raccoon from hell, performing surgery on a gunshot victim, a hot chick and her freakshow husband who proposes a foursome and, of course, Neil Patrick Harris playing a hypersexed version of himself who steals their car and leaves “love stains” on the back seat. The final scene even includes the line “Dude, where’s my car?” Put that in your customized bong and smoke it.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
So begins Hunter S. Thompson’s magnum opus Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. That line sets the tone for the entire book and, in this case, film starring Johnny Depp and Benecio del Toro. This is no whimsical stoner fantasy. It is, in Thompson’s words “A savage journey to the heart of the American dream”.
Semi-autobiographical in nature and based around actual events Fear and Loathing is a stoner movie for those who close their eyes and step on the gas when they approach stop signs and railroad crossings. Park black comedy, part road movie, part stoner flick Fear and Loathing will either scare you straight or have you reaching for the custom bong.
The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski is a lot of things to a lot of different people. Mostly it's a black comedy by the Coen brothers, inspired by the crime novelist Raymond Chandler with a plot that, much like the life of the titular character, doesn’t really go anywhere. That titular character also goes by the nickname “the Dude” and is said to have inspired an actual religious movement. Go figure.
The dialogue here is an apt recreation of stoner conversations in general with lots of quasi-philosophical mumbo-jumbo, questionable historical references, and dead ends. While the action largely revolves around the goings-on at the bowling alley where the Dude hangs at night. Are the Coens trying to make some heavy deep and real connection between the quest for the perfect game and life in general? Prolly not. Just mark it zero and pass the customized bong.
Honorable Mention: Up in Smoke (1978)
Although incredibly dated, you can’t really talk about this genre of film without tipping your cap to the guys who got the whole thing started. Cheech and Chong were a 70s standup comedy duo who laid the foundation for the Coen’s and MacFarlane’s to build on. What’s the movie about? Getting and being high, of course.