Stoner movies run the gamut from outright ridiculous to smartly understated. But they’ve all got one thing in common, and that’s cannabis. Next time you light up, turn the house lights down and enjoy one of these iconic stoner movies.
Up in Smoke (1978)
Cast: Richard “Cheech” Marin, Tommy Chong, & Stacy Keach
Streaming Services: Amazon Prime, Google Play Movies, Vudu, & YouTube
Up in Smoke isn’t exactly a cinematic masterpiece. However, it is the father of the stoner movies genre.
Cheech (Pedro De Pacas) and Chong (Anthony “Man” Stoner) spend the movie toking on massive blunts, being deported, and driving a van made of weed. They’re also chased by incompetent cops (who unwittingly get stoned themselves), and participate in a battle of the bands in a group named Alice Bowie.
Fun fact: Up in Smoke was banned in Colombia, the drug production capital of the world.
Another stranger-than-fiction tidbit? When Chong served time in 2003, he shared a cell with Jordan Belfort—the man upon which The Wolf of Wall Street is based.
There’s a rumor that Chong, after hearing Belfort’s life story, convinced him the world needed a movie based on his exploits.
If true, every heterosexual male should thank Chong for those memorable clips of Margot Robbie.
Reefer Madness (1936)
Cast: Dorothy Short, Ken Craig, Thelma White & Dave O’Brien
Streaming Services: YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime
Rating: a qualified “it’s so good it’s bad” 2/10
In 1972, Ken Stroup stumbled across a copy of a little-known anti-pot movie in the Library of Congress called Reefer Madness.
Stroup quickly realized its potential to help overturn marijuana’s criminalization—the exact opposite of the film’s intent. He began screening it at college campuses all over the country.
Since its rediscovery, Reefer Madness has become a cult classic. Its ridiculous portrayal of marijuana’s effects is only topped by its Mystery Science Theater 3000 quality. In it, those who take a few hits go on to commit murder, hit-and-runs, attempted rape, and suicide.
It’s a classic example of a “so bad it’s good” movie. If you want a real treat, watch the 2004 colorized version that was released on 4/20…for some totally unknown reason.
Cast: Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Nia Long, Paula Jai Parker, Faizon Love, Tiny Lister Jr., John Witherspoon, & Bernie Mac
Streaming Services: Vudu, iTunes, Google Play Movies
Before Friday, inner-city movies such as Boyz n the Hood portrayed the hood as dangerous, violent places.
Cube and Pooh sought to alter that depiction. Their film still includes drug dealing, fights, a drive-by, and other scenes of violence—but in smaller, more comedic doses.
Friday portrays a typical day in South Central during Ice Cube’s youth. In it, Craig (Cube) and Smokey (Chris Tucker) spend their Friday trying to scare up $200 that Smokey owes a drug dealer, Big Worm, played by Faizon Love (both of which sound like dealer names).
Throughout the course of the day, Craig and Smokey watch the antics of their neighbors, witness a little person beat down Pastor Clever (Bernie Mac), attempt to steal the $200, fight off the neighborhood bully, and, of course, get baked.
The movie also features a young Regina King, and the debut of Michael Clarke Duncan of Green Mile and Talladega Nights.
Pineapple Express (2008)
Cast: Seth Rogan, James Franco, Danny McBride, Rosie Perez, Craig Robinson, Gary Cole, & Kevin Corrigan
Streaming Services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, & iTunes
The 1960s had the Rat Pack, the 1980s had the Brat Pack, and the 2000s had (still has?) a core group of pro-marijuana actors one might refer to as the Ganja Gang.
Included in this go-to pool of actors are Rogan, Franco, McBride, and Robinson, the four stars of Pineapple Express. The group also stars in apocalyptic stoner film This is the End, which received a larger budget due to the success of Pineapple Express. You could say it blazed a trail.
Pineapple Express, which is the actual name of a popular strain of kush, opens with a black-and-white scene set in 1937, in a nod to Reefer Madness.
Audiences then meet stoner Dave (Rogan) and his dealer, Saul (Franco), who—spoiler alert—blaze up together.
When Dave witnesses a murder, he tosses his blunt. This gets traced back to Saul and himself through another dealer named Red (McBride).
The trio then spends the rest of the movie running from drug hit men, avoiding the cops, being captured, escaping, getting captured again, and marveling at Red’s indestructibility.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2008)
Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Paula Gracés, Steve Braun, Dave Krumholtz, Eddie Kaye Thomas & Jordan Prentice
Streaming Services: Hulu, Vudu, Google Play Movies, iTunes
After getting the munchies, Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) and his uptight buddy, Harold Lee (John Cho), embark on an epic journey to find those mini bundles of goodness known as White Castle burgers.
During their search for White Castle in the wilds of New Jersey, Harold and Kumar must fight off racist sportsmen and cops, escape two hot Princeton chicks playing “Battleshits,” and a crazy tow-truck driver who loves the Lord…and sharing his absurdly hot wife.
They also encounter a strung-out Neil Patrick Harris (of Doogie Howser fame).
In the end, Harold and Kumar learn much about themselves, life, and the power of weed-induced munchies.
Perhaps the most underrated performance to come from this buddy/stoner tour de force is that of Jordan Prentice, who played the giant bag of weed Kumar imagines marrying.
As a rule, the best stoner movies can also be enjoyed sober. After all, getting high won’t magically erase bad writing or acting (although it certainly helps). For more blazingly brilliant recommendations, check out the best movies, rap, or rock to enjoy while stoned.