On paper, in black and white, it may seem like there’s a lot wrong with the stoner comedy film genre. It’s a genre of fun movies that glorify and celebrate an illegal drug and the people who use it. But it’s more complex than that. Conservatives may be all for the banning of marijuana and agree with it being illegal, but real stoners don’t see the point. Alcohol and tobacco are legal, and they kill thousands of people every year. Cannabis is illegal, and it has never killed anybody ever. All it does is make you think about life and the world, and all right, it might make people lazy – but so what? It’s better than being stressed! It’s easy to see both sides of the argument, and that’s why it’s an ongoing debate. Chris Rock once said, “I’m all for the legalization of weed. I have two daughters, too, but we all know that alcohol is worse and legal. Seth Rogen is a productive member of society. Mel Gibson has a problem.” In the meantime, while weed is still illegal, they are making some really great comedies about it. So, sit back, relax, maybe blaze up, and stick these 10 hilarious stoner comedies in your pipe and smoke ‘em!
10. Dude, Where’s My Car?
This movie stars Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott in one of the zaniest pairings of comic actors in recent memory. Their casting and their chemistry are as strong as Chris Farley and David Spade in Tommy Boy, or Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour. Dude, Where’s My Car? also gave us one of the best baked quotes of any stoner movie ever written: “Wait a second, let’s recap. Last night, we lost my car, we accepted stolen money from a transsexual stripper, and now some space nerds want us to find something we can’t pronounce. I hate to say it, Chester, but maybe we need to cut back on the shibbying.” That brilliant quote captures the tone and the humor and the premise of the movie all in one line of dialogue. Dude, Where’s My Car? is a little like The Hangover, except instead of a bunch of guys getting drunk and losing their friend, a bunch of guys get high and lose their car. But other than that small difference, it was sort of a forerunner to what would become the highest grossing R-rated comedy movie of all time – except it’s also a stoner comedy, too.
Ice Cube was an unstoppable force of entertainment back in the ‘90s. He had risen from a low class upbringing in Compton with his buddies Dr. Dre and Eazy-E to revolutionize the hip hop world with their group N.W.A., and not only that, he’d become a movie star with roles in films like Boyz n the Hood. So, why not add a screenwriting credit and a starring role in a stoner comedy to his résumé? See, what Cube had noticed in hood movies likes Colors and his own Boyz n the Hood was that they all portrayed inner city life negatively, like black neighborhoods were violent, terrifying, crime-ridden places. But he didn’t see it like that. From his own experiences, it wasn’t all bad. “We had fun in the hood,” he explained. “We used to trip off the neighborhood.” That’s why he decided to write the screenplay for Friday, a zany stoner comedy movie set in the hood, in which two potheads have to drum up their debts for a drug dealer by the end of the day. Ice Cube and Chris Tucker make a hilarious screen duo in what Quentin Tarantino has ranked among his favorite movies of the past couple of decades.
8. Dazed and Confused
Named after the trippy Led Zeppelin classic that shares its title, Dazed and Confused was one of the first movies that introduced the world to the cool, slick, idiosyncratic filmmaker that is Richard Linklater. He had given us Slacker, the loosely structured comedy that inspired Kevin Smith to make his feature film debut with Clerks, but Dazed and Confused was the first Linklater movie that felt like it was crafted by someone truly special. Described by the director himself as a “teenage rock ‘n’ roll spree,” this stoner coming of age comedy is so chill and laid-back that you barely realize you’re watching a movie. It’s not the kind of tragic, exciting, heartbreaking emotional rollercoaster that directors like John Hughes use to depict the teenage experience. That’s not real. In Dazed and Confused, it’s about some kids who kick back, smoke a few joints, drink a few beers, and just go with the flow. That’s what being a teenager is really like, and that’s what makes this movie so cool and real. Plus, the movie featured early appearances by a lot of actors who are now very famous faces: Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, Renée Zellweger, Anthony Rapp – the list goes on!
When Seth MacFarlane made his feature film directorial debut, you just knew it would be something special. After years and captivating audiences of millions with his particular brand of humor in cartoons like Family Guy and American Dad!, he made the leap to both live action shooting and feature length movies when he made Ted. It’s the story of a couple who are struggling as the girl, played by Mila Kunis, is worried that the guy, played by Mark Wahlberg, is too immature to commit – this is because he still has a teddy bear. That teddy bear just happens to be able to talk and drinks a lot of beer and smokes a lot of weed. The funniest scenes in Ted involve Wahlberg and the titular toy hitting their bong and watching various obscure movies and TV shows, like Law and Order, whose theme song they give their own lyrics, and the special features on the Cheers DVD box set – oh, and Flash Gordon. With a worldwide box office gross of almost $550 million, Ted broke a ton of box office records. Those kind of numbers are unheard of for comedy movies, stoner movies, and movies with an R rating – and especially for R-rated stoner comedy movies! So, it’s quite an achievement.
6. Half Baked
Dave Chappelle is one of the funniest comics on the standup scene. Courtesy of Netflix, he’s been making a comeback over the past couple of years with some of his finest specials to date. This came after he had disappeared from show business for a few years, and that came after he made what is arguably the most hilarious and influential sketch show that’s ever been on television. But before all that, Chappelle was up on the big screen in this zany stoner comedy about three dopey potheads who are trying to get their friend out of jail. Half Baked is full of searing parodies of famous movies, from Jerry Maguire to Jaws. Aside from Chappelle, the cast is populated with comedy legends – Tracy Morgan, Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Saget, Steven Wright, stoner movie trailblazer Tommy Chong, notorious pothead Willie Nelson, and Laura Silverman, sister of Sarah. Oh, and Snoop Dogg also makes an appearance. The critics panned Half Baked, giving it a mere 29% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience loved it. In the years since the movie first came out, it has developed a kind of cult following (this happens a lot with stoner comedies), and it has a wonderful 81% audience approval rating on the movie review website.
5. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Kevin Smith has one of the most unique voices of any director working in film. His style of dialogue and his lackadaisical story structure and his idiosyncratic sense of humor are all entirely his own. They’re even set in their own shared cinematic universe. That’s right, Kevin Smith was doing that way before Marvel was. The two most recurring characters in this universe – dubbed the View Askewniverse – are Jay and Silent Bob, a pair of potheads played by Jason Mewes and Smith himself, respectively. These two were supporting characters in all of Smith’s movies and never got to star in their own until the stoner comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back came along, which is more or less a love letter to the characters and their dedicated cult following of fans. The movie contains absurdist moments, parodies of other movies and TV shows, and some hysterically funny cameos. Highlights include the duo’s detour onto the set of Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season and one extended sequence in which they smoke pot with Scooby Doo and the gang in the Mystery Machine, who use more explicit language than their cartoon counterparts. All in all, this movie is no masterpiece – but it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to be a wacky, zany, fun stoner comedy – and that’s just what it is!
4. Up in Smoke
It wouldn’t be much of a stoner comedy list without a mention of Cheech and Chong, now would it? Up in Smoke doesn’t have much of a plot. It’s about an aptly named pothead, Anthony Stoner, played by Tommy Chong, whose strict, uptight parents are driving him crazy, so he hits the road and meets Pedro de Pacas, played by Cheech Marin. They smoke weed, they have run-ins with the law, and they compete in a battle of the bands-type contest. It’s a meandering and relatively plotless film. But that’s what’s so great about it! It’s just Cheech and Chong’s comedy material that they’ve loosely strung together into a screenplay – and that’s why it works. A lot of great comedy movies are constructed this way – a series of hilarious sketches that are vaguely connected by a loose narrative. This is the same formula that Tenacious D would follow when they made their first movie, The Pick of Destiny. Cheech and Chong were trailblazers for this kind of comedy (and the trail wasn’t the only thing they were blazing) and paved the way for so many other stoner comedy teams and their stoner comedy movies. And it all started with Up in Smoke.
3. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
Neil Patrick Harris got the role of Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother thanks to his performance in this movie, in which he plays himself. Just like Barney, Harris plays himself as a rowdy, obnoxious, hard-partying sex addict, but the joke here is different. The joke here is that the guy known as the sweet, innocent kid doctor Doogie Howser is actually a wild party animal in real life. That’s just one example of the insane things that Harold and Kumar come across in their bid to get to White Castle and eat some burgers. That’s literally all they want to do. The goal of these characters and the motivation driving the whole narrative of the movie is literally that they’re high and they want to eat some burgers at White Castle. But that’s the genius of it. All they want is such a simple little thing, and they get really put through the ringer on their way to get it. It’s a riotously funny movie and such an entertaining ride. But it manages to even go above and beyond that and challenge racial stereotypes and tackle issues of racism head on. Not bad for a stone movie, huh?
2. Pineapple Express
When notorious stoner Seth Rogen was promoting Pineapple Express and he was being interviewed by the great Jon Stewart, he was asked where the idea of creating a stoner action movie came from, the actor/writer explained, “No one has done that. There’s stoner movies and there’s action movies. Action movies are generally enjoyed most by stoners in my opinion, so it just seemed like a natural union of sorts.” He’s exactly right. Pineapple Express works as both an action movie and a stoner movie. It’s about a pothead and his dealer who go on the run after the former witnesses a murder and the latter can be linked to him through a rare strand of weed. This stoned play on the buddy action comedy genre introduced the world to the pairing of Seth Rogen and James Franco, who have since gone on to make some awesome movies together. They riff off each other perfectly. I mean, you know you’ve got a great comedic pairing when Seth Rogen is technically the straight man. They would later go on to make This is the End and The Interview, but they’ve never played two characters alongside each other that were as entertaining as Dale Denton and Saul Silver. Pineapple Express is a stoner masterpiece.
1. The Big Lebowski
The Coen brothers’ darkly comic classic The Big Lebowski is definitely the greatest stoner comedy ever made. It has a cult following of potheads who identify with its lead character The Dude (“or, uh, His Dudeness, or, uh, Duder, or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing”), and aside from that, it’s also the only stoner comedy that also manages to succeed as a well crafted and spectacular film in its own right. That’s because the Coens drew on all kinds of influences. They looked at the stories of Raymond Chandler and the film noir movement of the early 20th century and the worldly writings of Mark Twain and concocted a complex, multifaceted, hard-boiled crime story – and then rolled it up (if you’ll pardon the pun) into a stoner comedy. That’s the genius of it. Jeff Bridges is fantastic as the lead character of The Dude and the immensely talented John Goodman makes you laugh out loud with every line as the aggressive, angry, shorts-wearing, gun-toting Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak – and together, they’re a terrific screen duo with great chemistry. It’s wacky, it’s well directed, it’s visually stunning, it’s mind-boggling in some scenes – The Big Lebowski is perfect, because it’s a movie that you can appreciate either with a love for stoner culture, or literally stoned!