Let’s just put it out there: weed makes everything better. Food is tastier, experiences are enhanced and movies hit you on a deeper, on a more profound level.
Not all movies, mind you. Some films will reach people in the same way regardless of their substance intake, while others, like the gruesome, claustrophobic 127 Hours, become too real and too raw when watched soon after a session. Trust me when I suggest that the high-minded among you stay far, far away from Requiem for a Dream, which is actually a terrifying, tripped out effort to highlight the damaging impact of drugs.
Other films, though, offer a level of sensory enjoyment and satisfaction that is intensified while under the influence. Heck, certain producers, directors and actors have created a cottage industry out of high life-themed movies, designed to profit off of stoner culture. Take James Franco, for example – you know, except for the whole 127 Hours thing.
Movies that can be best enjoyed high aren’t typically the highest quality of Hollywood fare, but here we are in a year where the recently anointed Oscar winner for Best Picture, Birdman, has earned raves from cinephiles and potheads, alike. Of course, just as some movies are better than others, some are more stoner-suited than others. Without any further ado, here are the 15 best flicks to watch when you’re high:
15. This is the End (2013)
Here is the first of a number of films to crack this list involving Franco and Seth Rogen, the reigning kings of stoner comedy. Right off the bat, things get pretty meta with all characters adopting the names and (exaggerated) personalities of the actors who play them. If witnessing celebrities like Rihanna, Michael Cera and Channing Tatum go nuts at an outsized, coke-fuelled Hollywood bash isn’t ridiculous enough, things get truly mind-bending as these ‘characters’, along with a small army of Franco and Rogen’s star pals, are quickly left to try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
14. Reefer Madness (1936)
Ironically made as a public service announcement to warn against the horrors of marijuana use, this 1936 cult favorite was so over-the-top that it has lived on as an outrageous comedy flick. According to the film, young people who sample “reefer” are instantly transformed into psychotic monsters who kill and rape. It seems safe to suggest that neither writer Arthur Hoerl nor director Louis J. Gasnier had experienced the drug that they were offering their ‘expertise’ on.
13. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
This isn’t the only movie to blend the cartoon/graphic world into the live action real world, but man does this Richard Linklater-directed indy darling make it look cool. I mean, just look at this HD trailer. When you take the cutting edge, rotoscope-style animation, enabling life-like cartoon renderings of the film’s actors, and mix it with Linklater’s deep, thought-provoking dialogue, it becomes a film that easily belongs on this list. Really, all that keeps it this low is a disappointing box office return ($7.7 million, less than the $8.7 million budget) and a sobering end credits list of people damaged by drug use.
12. Starship Troopers (1997)
The stoner appeal of this poorly-written, badly-acted sci-fi action flick is multi-layered. You can laugh at bad dialogue expressed woodenly by actors like Casper Van Diem and Jake Busey, you can marvel at the sex appeal of an in-her-prime Denise Richards or you can revel in the surprisingly realistic CGI depictions of large, gruesome alien creatures. There’s also just enough humor and satire involved that you can even watch the film while thinking that you are witnessing some form of elevated comedy (spoiler alert: it’s not).
11. How High (2001)
Come on, it’s right there in the title! This ridiculous vehicle starring Method Man and Redman, two guys who know their way around a blunt, has the two rappers stumbling upon a new form of ganja that transforms them into geniuses ultimately entering Harvard. While the secret behind the bud – the crop is fertilized by the ashes of their dead friend – is a bit of a buzzkill, the film is still a fun, easy, thoughtless romp that is perfect for the high-minded among us. In the ‘WTF’ department, the two leads dig up the grave of John Quincy Adams and smoke his bones when their stash runs dry.
10. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Probably the iconic stoner film of its generation, Fast Times represented an edgier offering into the coming-of-age genre centered around a group of youngsters obsessed with sex and drugs. The movie’s staying power and continued relevance is embodied in Sean Penn‘s lovable burnout Jeff Spicoli, the laid back, cool guy pothead who drives his teacher nuts by ordering pizzas directly to the classroom. Spicoli might be the most memorable character from Fast Times, but the film’s lasting image remains that of an emerging-from-the-pool Phoebe Cates seductively removing her bikini top.
9. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
The Kal Penn/John Cho cult hit, which spawned 2008 sequel Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, shares quite a bit in common with the titular burger chain which served as the basis for the film. Just like White Castle, Harold & Kumar is pretty underwhelming when experienced sober, but becomes infinitely better when high. Craving a burger fix, the title characters encounter a crazed raccoon, an extreme sports gang, racist cops and an unstable Neil Patrick-Harris (as himself) along the way to White Castle in this inane comedy.
8. The Big Lebowski (1998)
This oft-quoted Coen brothers classic takes its place in weed culture from the central character of “The Dude” (Jeff Lebowski, played by Jeff Bridges), a do-nothing slacker with few passions in life beyond bowling and getting high. He and John Goodman‘s Walter Sobchak are commissioned to deliver a ransom to rescue the wife of a millionaire (Tara Reid), resulting in no shortage of madcap hijinks. The movie remains beloved for a quirky cast of Coen-esque characters, ethereal dream sequences, unconventional dialogue and a funky soundtrack.
7. Half Baked (1998)
As a random aside, apparently 1998 was a great year for drug culture in Hollywood. Vastly different from The Big Lebowski beyond its release year, this vehicle for SNL alum Jim Breuer, who was born to be a pothead icon, mainly serves as a silly platform for dumb stoner humor. Written by the co-creators of Chappelle’s Show (Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan), the movie does, however, deserve some credit for its nod to the history of weed-based comedy, featuring cameos by Tommy Chong (more on him later) and Willie Nelson, among others.
6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
2001: A Space Odyssey was one of the list’s toughest omissions, making this the only Stanley Kubrick entry included. Like many of Kubrick’s works, A Clockwork Orange has become a favorite of film students through its ultra-violence and dystopian themes. The fearful terror experienced during the “Singing in the Rain” rape scene is only intensified while under the influence (or so I’ve been told). While this list is primarily comprised of comedy flicks, horror and visceral, violent imagery also have a place in drug culture for those daring enough to expose themselves to it.
5. Pineapple Express (2008)
Another Franco/Rogen entry on this list, the pair (playing alliterative characters Saul Silver and Dale Denton) get unknowingly caught up in a dangerous drug war and become wanted by rival gangs for their rare strand of marijuana (the titular “Pineapple Express”). Regular Franco/Rogen collaborators (and Judd Apatow disciples) like Danny McBride and Craig Robinson tag along for a laughs-filled ride. After topping $100 million in worldwide box office earnings, there have been loud rumblings – albeit nothing confirmed – of a pending sequel on the way.
4. Cheech & Chong Movies (Late 1970s)
You can take your pick from a selection that includes Up in Smoke (1978), Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie (1980) and Nice Dreams (1981). While the trio of films isn’t a series per se, each one features the drug-induced mis-adventures of comedy partners Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, arguably the pioneers of ‘high’ comedy. The plot of each movie (to the extent that there is one) is a bit different each time, with the duo going from road-tripping to looking for love to starting a weed business. Each premise, though, quickly turns into a madcap, ludicrous pot-happy journey.
3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Johnny Depp is no stranger to cracked out characters (Willy Wonka, Edward Scissorhands, Capt. Jack Sparrow…), but his take on Raoul Duke in the film adaptation of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical novel might be his wackiest. The movie is essentially a two-hour hallucination-laden acid trip that takes Depp’s mumbling Duke and Benicio Del Toro‘s Dr. Gonzo through the Nevada desert and into Las Vegas. While most films on this list play wacky adventures for comedy, this one tones down the laughs and amps up the tripped out antics.
2. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Another Linklater entry, this cult classic took us to the last day of high school in 1976, with students partying hard by taking any substance in sight and hazing the incoming freshman. Among the many stoner characters introduced, none stands out more than pothead/washout David Wooderson, played with an uncanny mix of creepiness and charisma by a just-breaking-out Matthew McConaughey. Few actors could pull off lines like, “that’s what I like about these high school girls; I get older, they stay the same age.”
1. Jay and Silent Bob Movies (1990s)
Just as Cheech and Chong were the seminal figures for weed culture for a generation of kids growing up in the late 70s/early 80s, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) were the faces of my generation of weed culture. Whether it was Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy or Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, you knew that you were in for some profane dialogue, plenty of meta-references and some damn funny comedy. I mean, they brought to life comic book characters called Bluntman and Chronic! Smith’s star status as a writer and producer blossomed from the undeniably low budget feel of Clerks to movies that featured Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Rock.
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