Who doesn’t want to watch detective Joaquin Phoenix stumbling around Los Angeles trying to solve the disappearance of his former girlfriend while fried out of his mind? “Inherent Vice” has a stoner protagonist so funny and oddly charming that he could be the proud face of 4/20. But a lot of what makes the movie such a perfect stoner film is how Paul Thomas Anderson filters Thomas Pynchon’s novel through his own hazy, stoned-out filter. Watching “Inherent Vice” provides the actual sensation of being spaced out. You’ll be laughing nonstop one minute and then scratching your head the next. Long stretches seem to fade into each other. When it comes to stoner movies, “Inherent Vice” is a new classic.
The seminal marijuana movie for many Generation Xers, 1998’s “Half Baked” also marked the first lead role in a feature film for comedy legend Dave Chappelle, playing the pothead janitor — aka custodian — Thurgood Jenkins and the impotent, weed-obsessed rapper Sir Smoke-a-Lot. The story follows Jenkins and his stoner roommates Brian (Jim Breuer) and Scarface (Guillermo Díaz), who start selling marijuana in a scheme to bail their friend Kenny (Harland Williams) out of jail. (Of note, the judge set bail at $1 million after Kenny accidentally fed a diabetic police horse named Buttercup a combination of munchies including chips, beef jerky, peanut butter, ice cream bars, popcorn, Graham crackers, marshmallows and pizza.) Written by Chappelle and his “Chapelle Show” writing partner Neal Brennan, the film was directed by “Billy Madison” director Tamra Davis. “Half Baked” is required viewing for anyone who didn’t go to Weed College. RIP Killer.
Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s 2012 scary movie subversion is filled with twists and turns that are even more mind-blowing after a few blunts. Plus the film’s reluctant hero ends up being Marty Mikalski, an affable stoner who is introduced by folding his enormous bong into a cop-proof travel mug. Whatever reefer he’s smoking effectively turns him into a stand-in for the audience, urging his friends to use common sense that is typically avoided by horror bait. He can see the big picture because weed has given him insight, man.
“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”
The word “smoking” in the title of Guy Ritchie’s feature film debut doesn’t refer to marijuana, but there’s plenty of ganja in this crime comedy about a botched card game that sets off a hilarious but gruesome chain of events. There’s even an epic gun battle between a perpetually stoned woman and some of the most brutal London gangsters ever depicted on film. In his first acting role ever, Jason Statham stars as the small-time criminal and stolen goods salesman Bacon, who at one point finds himself with one joint in his mouth and one in each ear. While there’s plenty of laughs to be had, watching the movie in an altered state could also be confusing, as the fast-talking thugs have thick English accents and use so much British slang that some scenes come with subtitles.
There is not a stoner in the world who does aspire to live more like The Dude, the role that will never escape Jeff Bridges. He’s super chill, a loyal friend, he is committed to fighting for his principles, and he knows a good rug when he sees one. Though Joel and Ethan Coen’s comedy reached such epic success that one could filter potential Tinder dates by whether or not they list “Lebowski” as their favorite movie, it never gets old to revisit. Bonus: The central mystery has enough unexpected twists that it still fools on repeat viewing — even if you’re completely sober.
Combining the offbeat charms of director Gregg Araki with the prodigious comedic talents of Anna Faris is a bit of an indie comedy no brainer, but spicing it up with a generous — perhaps ill-advisedly so — amount of weed and wackiness pushed 2007’s “Smiley Face” to literal new highs. The Sundance premiere follows a relatively straightforward story, as Faris’ Jane eats way too many weed-laced cupcakes, then sets about completing a series of increasingly unachievable tasks as the effects take a major toll on her already addled brain. Combining a simple narrative structure (get from A to B and C, all with tasks to complete along the way) with Faris’ undeniable ability to portray drug intoxication in the most adorable, gut-busting manner imaginable made “Smiley Face” pretty much an instant classic the moment it arrived over a decade ago. That appeal hasn’t waned, and we’re still hungry for more.
“The Last Waltz”
Martin Scorsese’s 1978 rock doc is stuffed with stoner rock icons crushing a tribute to The Band during their farewell performance. Watch Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and many more shred so hard that you’ll take a big bong hit and air guitar along to this legendarily drug-fueled concert. There’s also plenty of great vibes and groovy fashion that’s catnip for old-school potheads who still wish it was the ’70s.
Indie favorite David Gordon Green has contributed two stoner movies to the pantheon of marijuana movie letters: “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness.” Better to forget the latter and bow down to the former, which became an instant stoner classic when it was released in August 2008. The pairing of Seth Rogen and James Franco (who is so charmingly spaced out he’s impossible to resist) was an inspired choice by Green and executive producer Judd Apatow, and putting Danny McBride in a neck brace is a one-way ticket to comedy gold. Throw in some shockingly blunt violence and you have a recipe for stoner success.
This endlessly quotable romp from the comedy group known as Broken Lizards has everything one could ask from a stoner comedy: A paranoid idiot eating way too many mushrooms, chortling cops pulling stupid pranks on each other, easily repurposed creepy catchphrases like, “Who’s ready for a mustache ride?”, and maniacal German caricatures touting the joys of driving on ze Autobahn. The fact that it is set in Vermont only further endears it to the Bernie bros who no doubt will be celebrating today.