Classifying something as a stoner flick is a tall order. Mostly because pretty much every movie is funnier and more engaging when you’re high. (Have you watched Star Wars on weed, maaaaan?) That said, to qualify as a great stoner flick, a movie has to contain several essential elements. First, there must be at least a little pot being smoked. Second, there must be jokes, preferably of the simple and/or bizarre variety, to capture a muffled attention span. Third, it must include captivating imagery or absurd circumstances—when you’re high, no idea is too farfetched. Last, it must have a happy ending, because who wants a buzzkill?
Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (2004)
To be fair, most stoner movies require a prerequisite smoke in order to actually enjoy them to their fullest, and Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle is the perfect example. The ridiculous quest for the perfect food, which in this case is a White Castle burger, starts as a response to meek Harold being saddled with his boss’ work. From there, the charismatic pair ride a cheetah, get their car stolen by Neil Patrick Harris and fantasize a tumultuous relationship with an enormous bag of weed. Will Harold tell off his boss? Will he get the girl? Will he finally get some freaking White Castles?
Half Baked (1998)
Half Baked may very well be the quintessential stoner movie, as well as the film that brought Dave Chappelle to the limelight. The plot follows three friends who put their (pot) heads together to spring their roommate from jail. After some careful (read: ridiculous) deliberation, they decide to sell weed to earn the bail. As expected, their drug-dealing journey leads them into a pickle or two and introduces them to some fascinating characters, including Tommy Chong, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Janeane Garofalo and Bob Saget. Instead of one-liners, Half Baked has more developed dialogue, but there are a few that still get tossed out almost 20 years later: “Abba Zaba, you my only friend.”
How High (2001)
Anytime you put rappers Redman and Method Man together, it’s a party worth attending. Here, the pair behind the two Blackout! albums embark on an Ivy League journey, aided by the ghost of their deceased friend Ivory, whose cremated remains are used to fertilize a weed plant. Again, following the tried-and-true stoner movie formula of outlandish antics and memorable one-liners—and with a little help from Benjamin Franklin’s bong—the pair make Harvard a happening place. One of the most beloved hip-hop stoner flicks, its nonexistent predecessor, How High 2, has been speculated on for years.
Pineapple Express (2008)
What happens when a pot-smoking process server witnesses a murder? In Pineapple Express, we find out. After dropping a joint of an uber-rare strain at the crime scene, Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) starts a paranoid journey with his weed dealer, Saul (James Franco). More than the unorthodox plot, it’s the reluctant camaraderie and obvious improvisation between the two protagonists, alongside drug distributor Red (Danny McBride), that makes it a stoner win.
This movie not only started the Rogen/Franco dynamic, but it also birthed a real pot strain named after the movie—although if it’s actually “like killing a unicorn … with, like, a bomb” is left up to individual interpretation.
There are three movies in the Friday series (soon to be four, come 2018), so it’s tough to single out one as the best. Then, of course, there is the team Chris Tucker versus team Mike Epps debate. Although weed is not the predominant theme of the plot on any of the series, it is interwoven into each. In the original, it’s what got both Craig (Ice Cube) and Smokey (Tucker) into the situation with Big Worm. In Next Friday, Craig and his Uncle Elroy smoke in his suburban living room. And in Friday After Next, it’s peppered throughout, starting with the cops confiscating their pretty little bud plant. Friday offers solid soundtracks for all three installments, but only the first has the most-quoted one-liner of all stoner movies: Everybody say “Bye, Felicia!”
Up In Smoke (1978)
Is it possible to list the subgenre of stoner flicks without mentioning the pair that basically invented it? Cheech and Chong embody the stereotypical stoner, and their first film together, Up In Smoke, has it all. Although the film was made in 1978, despite several dated references and wardrobe choices (think crop top and suspenders), it still rides well today. The plot is appropriately ridiculous, but doesn’t hold an absurdist candle to the numerous sequels—seriously, the pair “pass” as Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton in Still Smokin.
If you still have some more free time (and weed), why not get high with Mark Wahlberg and his crude stuffed bear in Ted, or prepare yourself for the funniest opening sequence ever made, with Sooper Troopers? Adam Sandler’s Grandma’s Boy portrays being stoned in an accurate (albeit embellished) fashion: When he grabs a hot pan of delicious homemade munchies from the oven in his hungry haste, every stoner can relate. And what smoker can’t identify with the Dude of The Big Lebowski, eternally digging out that last roach, always dropping it in his lap?