You’ve been there. Pasted to the couch like some fifth grader’s art homework, covered in half-chewed bits of potato chips, mouth agape at the stupefying awesomeness of the film you’ve been watching, when suddenly it hits you: this movie you’re watching right now, it may be the greatest stoner movie of all time.
The excitement temporarily releases you from your cannabis-fueled haze and throws vegetative behavior to the wind. You’re instantly on your phone, texting your friends the news, when as suddenly as this wherewithal arrived it disappears. You’re left only with the shadow of something momentous; a shadow that covers your heart in a fuzzy blanket, bathing you in warmth from parts unknown as you reach again for your roach clip, and wonder absently what the hubbub was all about.
Then you turn back to the tried and true. These paragons of the weed-fix life stand far above the smoky clouds of any single 4:20 session, resting on the tasselled pillows of both stoner and non-stoner thrones alike. Time and again they prove their resiliency and excellence, improving subtly with each subsequent view, a tapestry that grows more complicated as it is examined more closely. These films are quoted word for word by your stoner cousins and friends. These films are the reason stoner films are even made. These films are the top stoner movies of all time.
As psychedelic road-trip capering goes, there is nothing comparable to Fear and Loathing. Johnny Depp’s Raoul Duke, and his partner in crime Dr. Gonzo cross all manner of drug-induced lines of depravity. The movie — based on a semi-autobiographical novel by the king of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson — was a failure at the traditional box office, but upon being released to the home viewing market became a cult classic. The film is filled with unbelievable shenanigans and poignant commentary on the outrageousness of the 60’s counterculture movement, all set against the backdrop of Sin City, seemingly deep in an acid trip all her own. Smoking a joint actually serves to dull the edgy drug-scape that inhabits this movie. If the film weren’t wild enough, in 2015 Roelof Pieters, a computer science PhD student (and possible stoner) ran a segment of the film through Google’s DeepDream program and posted it to YouTube. Now that, dear readers, is some madcap stuff.
Long before Chappelle’s Show, there was Half Baked. The subject matter leaves little to the imagination, as three friends begin selling copious amounts of chronic in order to get their pal out of jail after he accidentally kills a diabetic horse. The smoky hijinks are helped along in the form of perpetually high comic relief Jim Breuer, who nails the stoner role like nobody’s business, and would have won an Oscar for his puffy red-eyed acting, if that wasn’t how he looked all the time. The film was a huge jumpstart for the career of Dave Chappelle, and also reminded an entire generation of 90’s kids that before there was a Full House, Bob Saget was a filthy animal. His cameo role as a cocaine addict is the stuff classic is made from. Though a small commercial success, the film has developed a serious following, due to the fact that everyone who has ever watched it is high as hell. Highly relatable, man.
There is no substitute for his Dudeness. Generations from now, the world will look back on the Big Lebowski as the high watermark for film history of the 20th century. How many other movies have spawned an entire religion? Jeff Bridges plays Jeff Lebowski, a stoner-slacker with a penchant for bowling who becomes embroiled in a staggering series of events following a home invasion that involves his rug being pissed upon. The antics serve as the backdrop to the incredibly Dudeist actions and low key Zen that is the Dude, as he is faced with the most haphazard of circumstances and overcomes them with a storied ease that has been an inspiration for tokers to wear housecoats and drink white Russians for years. The film features a phenomenal ensemble cast, playing some of the most ridiculous characters ever put to film, all orbiting around the Dude in an epic of comedic genius that is as close to pure art as the medium allows. Regardless of whether one is stoned or not, this is easily one of the greatest films ever made.
This little gem comes with a caveat. Nothing says stoner quite like watching the original 1939 Wizard of Oz film with the album Darkside of the Moon by Pink Floyd playing over it. Light up, smoke yourself silly, and when the lion on the MGM logo begins his second roar, turn down the sound and begin the album. It lines up in a way that is nearly unbelievable. The tornado spins Dorothy to Oz through the dystopian dissonance of On the Run. The munchkins begin their introduction to the clattering cash registers of Money. When the album ends, play it again immediately, and relish in the audacious second act made more whimsical by the dumbfounding fluke that these two totally unrelated things still fit together. By the time the witch is melting, so are you. This one might take a bit more effort to get into than the other three, but it is definitely worth the price of admission.
Yeah, that’s them alright. These are the classics of the genre that stick with us time and time again, when others come and fall away like tomato sauce off a Teflon pan. So the next time you need to watch one of the greats, you’ll know what to do. And maybe by the time you get around to The Big Lebowski, you’ll be clear enough to recall that this was exactly what the hubbub was all about.
Until next time, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.