Confession: I’ve never been stoned in my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with it – not at all – but it’s just not for me (plus, I just can’t stand the smell of it).
However, that’s never stopped me from laughing my ass off at my friends who have been stoned. I once almost fell down my college dorm’s steps laughing as I saw one of my roommates very deliberately eat an entire bag of Cheetos dipped in chocolate cake frosting – until I realized that they were my Cheetos. Then I was angry.
The same principle applies to movie stoners, too. I can’t really relate to stoners; but then again, I can’t really relate to jedi, either, and I still watch Star Wars once a month. Pot-laced misadventures still make me laugh stupid hard. And with the release of the Jesse Eisenberg – Kristen Stewart weed-hazy action film American Ultra coming out this week, I thought it might be fun to examine the Top 5 Stoner Movies of all time. Here they are, dudes.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
Kicking off what is assuredly the least-likely franchise in history, the very first installment in the Harold and Kumar trilogy is full of late Friday-night lazy watching delights, as the very high titular duo embark on a crazed mission to satiate their hunger at a New Jersey White Castle (for those of us like me who attended college in New Jersey in the middle of the 2000s, this was practically an instructional video).
Along with the breath-of-fresh air pairing of an Indian-American actor (Kal Penn) and an Asian-American actor (John Cho) as the leads, there are hilarious turns by Christopher Meloni (as the deformed Freakshow) and Neil Patrick Harris, shedding his Doogie Howser persona in a self-parodying blizzard of sex and drugs.
There’s really not too much of a movie here as far as plot, editing, or … well, direction goes, but the smoke-drenched, Dave Chappelle / Neal Brennan-penned Half Baked has enough laugh-out-loud lines to earn it a permanent spot in the stoner-movie canon. It’s a lightweight romp that follows three stoners (Chappelle, Jim Breuer, Guillermo Diaz) who sell stolen, potent weed in order to bail another friend (Harland Williams) out of the slammer.
The highlight of the movie is the brilliant cameos – particularly from Bob Saget (delivering a very non-Danny Tanner line), a pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart and a perpetually charming Willie Nelson.
One of the best and most enduring of all the Apatow-factory movies that dominated the late 2000s, this hysterical stoner-action flick starred Seth Rogen and James Franco, both playing against type as an uptight process server and goofy pot dealer on the run from a murderous drug lord (a delightful Gary Cole).
There are skillful riffs on the action-movie genre throughout (see below: Franco’s aborted attempt to kick out a front windshield, most notably) and Pineapple Express made a star out of Danny McBride, who had a brilliantly funny role as a cat-loving dealer. The entire movie was supposedly spawned from Brad Pitt’s couch-bound stoner character in True Romance – Apatow thought it would be funny to see him get into the action.
Up in Smoke
The Cheech and Chong movies don’t age particularly well – this one just drips with seventies vibe – but there’s some nostalgic pleasures to be found in the misadventures of the Cheech Martin / Tommy Chong duo in their first movie.
A staple of the Comedy Central lineup in its nascent years (seriously, it was this and the Dana Carvey HBO special for a long, long time), this is a lazy, entertaining diversion of a film filled with Those Guys (Strother Martin, Stacy Keach, Tom Skerritt) best enjoyed on a hungover Saturday morning.
The Big Lebowski
You can ask twenty people to name their favorite Coen brothers movie and you might get twenty different answers. However, if there is a repeat or two, the odds are that this eminently quotable and astonishingly engaging riff on L.A. / Raymond Chandler-esque film noir would be the Coen feature named.
Brought to scruffy, indelible life by Jeff Bridges, the constantly-stoned, White Russian-chugging Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski – caught up in a twisty murder mystery – has grown into one of the most memorable characters in the history of film. The rest of the cast (a bombastic Jeff Goodman and a meek Steve Buscemi, most notably) are absolute aces.