Arbitrary holidays that offer an excuse to do something you already planned on doing that day are one of life’s great joys. In the same way that St. Patrick’s Day has been stripped of its historical context and rebranded as an international justification for day drinking, some true legends have decided that 4/20 should forever be seen as a reason to indulge in more marijuana than usual. And you won’t hear a single complaint out of us.
With the possible exception of food purchased in jam band parking lots, nothing pairs better with weed than a good film. It’s a substance that can make bad movies seem good and good movies seem downright incredible. Anyone who has attended a midnight screening of a cult classic knows that the thick haze of marijuana smoke is all part of the experience. And smoking a joint from the comfort of your own home while watching your favorite movie for the umpteenth time remains one of the most elite forms of relaxation known to man.
The best stoner movies keep the vibes good, the colors bright, and the paranoia to a minimum. Whether you’re looking for ridiculous comedies or trippy psychedelic fare that hits different when you’re under the influence, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for our 20 favorite stoner movies to enjoy on this high holiday, listed in no particular order.
With editorial contributions by Tom Brueggemann, Zack Sharf, and Sarah Shachat.
[Editor’s note: The follow was first published in April 2017, and has been updated multiple times since.]
The producers behind “Reefer Madness” probably roll in their graves every time the film gets put on a list of stoner movies, but the unintentional hilarity of their piece of propaganda has enshrined it within cannabis culture forever. Originally shot under the title “Tell Your Children” before getting bought and recut into an exploitation film, “Reefer Madness” tells the story of a group of innocent teenagers who are manipulated into smoking marijuana by sociopathic drug dealers; in this film, smoking pot causes addictions so strong that they go insane and get roped into situations like murder, rape, and even suicide. The film’s melodrama is so utterly divorced from reality that it’s hard not to laugh: especially if you’re smoking a joint while watching. —WC
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. —ZS
Middle Earth has always had an imaginative weight and a majesty to it that approaches an actual altered reality and has appealed to lovers of the halflings’ leaf, shall we say, since the books came out. It’s not called high fantasy for nothing: arguably the best, most evocative sequence in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy is just a bunch of stuff catching on fire. But the kaleidoscopic wonder of Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 “The Lord of the Rings” is something to behold. The animation is a thing of beauty, with tie-dye sunsets and dank forests, and the Nazgul have maybe never been more thrilling than when Bakshi reduces them to shadows with glowing red eyes. The entire adaptation is a trip, and one that’s truly worth going there and back again. —SS
Before “Up in Smoke,” stoners found movies. This 1978 comedy with Cheech and Chong found them. The first studio film made for tokers, this sleeper smash’s domestic theatrical gross alone — at current ticket prices, $300 million — was 40 times its cost.} Midnight-appeal movies went mainstream. Direct veteran music producer Lou Adler (Carole King’s “Tapestry” won him a best album Grammy) knew his audience better than Paramount’s Michael Eisner, who nearly walked away from the film after an initial screening. Then a pre-release in Texas scored big. “Up in Smoke” ranks with “Easy Rider” as a low-budget counter-culture appeal film whose success few saw coming but made a huge impact. Like “Easy Rider,” it also was showcased at Cannes, where it had midnight screenings in 1979. —TB
“I smoked a mary-juana cigarette at a party once, and I could never figure out what the big deal was,” chirps Jane Fonda’s buttoned-up Judy Bernly, before “9 to 5” smash-cuts to her flushed face, cackling and baked as a cake. Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and the Dolly share a joint and wistfully ponder the dangers of womanhood in the scene that follows. The “old-fashioned ladies’ pot party,” as Tomlin’s Violet Newstead calls it, includes some unforgettable lines (“I shot a hole clean through my purse!”) and an explicit nod to sativa strain Maui Waui. There aren’t enough movies with funny ladies getting toasted; not to mention, the revenge comedy features some delightful fantasy sequences sure to leave you giggling. —AF
Any cinephile who feels compelled to order a pizza at an inopportune time this 4/20 should feel liberated to do so — and thank “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” for representing them on screen. Amy Heckerling’s landmark high school comedy remains one of the most compulsively rewatchable teen movies ever made, even if many of the cultural reference points it relies on are rapidly losing relevance. Like most great Cameron Crowe movies, it’s based on an extremely implausible experience from his wild life — in this case, the year that he spent undercover at a high school as a grown man to write a book. And per usual, his script crackles with the wit that would make him a superstar director in the decades that followed. Marijuana enthusiasts should all be able to rally around Sean Penn’s performance as charming slacker Jeff Spicoli, which remains one of best stoner characters ever captured on the big screen. —CZ
Stoner cinema can be a surprisingly sweet genre of films; many of them are, when you boil it down, stories about friendship. And maybe no stoner film is sweeter than “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” the inaugural adventure of the titular dim-witted slackers. Played by the appealing combo of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, Bill and Ted are ordinary high schoolers about to fail their history class before a time traveler named Rufus (the great George Carlin) — tasked with making sure the pair’s music that inspired his future utopia gets released — takes them on a journey through history for research into their final report. The laid-back, wacky comedy makes for a perfect film to smoke to, and after watching, the lovable and kind Bill and Ted are the exact type of people you’ll want to smoke with. —WC
A lot of stoner films tend to have a bit of a lowbrow reputation, but one of the ‘90s most acclaimed films is Richard Linklater’s take on the genre. Set in Austin, Texas during 1976, the film follows a large ensemble of teens as they hook up, party, and smoke (a lot) the night after the last day of school. A truly absurd number of soon-to-be-famous stars — Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Matthew McConaughey, to name just a few — are some of the faces in the pitch perfect ensemble of jocks, mean girls, nerds, and stoners, and Linklater’s writing and direction pulls of the balancing act of being sharp and tight while still feeling extraordinarily loose. Sober or stoned, this film’s a knockout. —WC
Travis Birkenstock is more than the brilliantly named loadie scene stealer of “Clueless.” He’s an everyman: a Nine Inch Nails fan, a lover of Egg McMuffins, a connoisseur of glass “kitchenware,” and a locally elected official of lateness, SoCal’s most beloved past time. Breckin Meyer unequivocally smokes the competition for best comedic performance in Amy Heckerling’s 1995 coming-of-age classic about rich kids in Beverly Hills; no easy feat in a film that also boasts Paul Rudd and Donald Faison.
But the amateur philosopher, skateboarder, and eventual heartthrob is just the tip of the joint on a film too often overlooked in stoner canon. Whether it’s Cher pontificating on marijuana in moderation (“It is one thing to spark up a doobie and get laced at parties, but it is quite another to be fried all day!”) or the slow-mo entrance of the baggy pants boys arriving to school, “Clueless” positions ’90s stoner culture as the perfect accent to a perfect film that otherwise might have felt ungrounded and stuffy. —AF
There is not a stoner in the world who doesn’t 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. —ZS
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. —ZS
The seminal marijuana movie for many Generation Xers, 1998’s “Half Baked” also marked the first lead role in a feature film for 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. —ZS
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. —ZS
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. —ZS
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 even now) 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. —ZS
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. —ZS
Much of Seth MacFarlane’s non-“Family Guy” work can be summarized in seven words: “That worked better than it should have.” From his unexpected music career as a Sinatra-covering crooner to his shockingly decent “Star Trek” tribute “The Orville,” the multi-hyphenate constantly takes projects that sound strange on paper and pulls delightful rabbits out of his hat to make them work. So in hindsight, it’s not particularly surprising that his movie about Mark Wahlberg smoking weed with an anthropomorphic teddy bear became a modern stoner classic. MacFarlane’s feature directorial debut put a clever spin on the classic “romance vs. bromance” setup by placing a foul-mouthed teddy bear as the wedge between a man-child and his increasingly impatient girlfriend (Mila Kunis). Bolstered by MacFarlane’s consistently excellent voice acting chops and a surprising amount of heart, “Ted” is the kind of fun R-rated comedy that we’re always wishing studios would make more of. —CZ
Meta comedies have always been a hit-or-miss endeavor, but “This Is the End” remains the blueprint for executing them well. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s brilliant satire stars an A-list coterie of Hollywood actors as themselves as their attempt to wait out an apocalypse in James Franco’s house goes horribly awry. Everyone from Jonah Hill and Danny McBride to Emma Watson and Channing Tatum is able to get big laughs by going against type and playing utterly deranged fictional versions of themselves. It’s the kind of idea that could have gone so badly in the wrong hands, but it turns into a perfect comedic symphony because everyone understood the assignment. We can think of worse ways to spend 4/20 than getting stoned and watching your favorite stars from 2013 be utterly ridiculous. —CZ
You’d be forgiven for sleeping on director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s “We’re the Millers”: a road trip comedy starring Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and a pre-“Midsommar” Will Poulter at his most unabashedly funny.
There was a sort of cheapness to the marketing for this movie in 2013. That’s in part because of an extended (legitimately impressive!) stripping sequence with Aniston that’s featured in the trailer, which doesn’t quite capture the no-holds-barred goofiness the rest of the whip-smart film does so well. But you could also point to the movie’s premise — an inexperienced drug smuggler recruits a pole dancer, a girl living on the streets, and his weird neighbor to pose as a family and get shit ton of weed out of Mexico — which almost seems like it’s trying too hard.
But “We’re the Millers” delivers on every outrageous element it teased to audiences then, and more than holds up now. From testicles bitten by tarantulas to Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn as a sexed-up DEA agent and his wife, cue this baby up and you’ll have, wait for it, NO RAGRETS. —AF
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 among the newest classics. —ZS