Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
In 1971, five San Rafael High School students devised a secret code which they used to indicate that they would meet later in the day to smoke weed. After saying "420" to each other in passing in their school hallways, they would then meet at 4.20PM in order to spark up. Today, 4/20 has become a global counter-cultural holiday. Since getting high and watching films is one of life’s greatest pleasures, we've handpicked the best stoner movies that aren’t your garden variety Harold and Kumar go-tos. Enjoy.
Every list has to include Cheech and Chong, who created the template for all future stoner (and slacker) comedies with their first film. An unemployed pot-smoking slacker and amateur drummer, Stoner ditches his strict parents and hits the road. The buds travel from Mexico to Los Angeles, unaware that the van they are driving is made entirely of marijuana (don’t ask us to explain).
‘Up In Smoke’ (1978), dir. Lou Adler
OK, hear me out – this is not strictly a stoner movie, BUT the scene in the park where the kid rolls a blunt literally taught a generation how to cut open a cigar, empty the tobacco, pack it with pure weed and seal it. Looking back now, it's pretty much a YouTube tutorial. Warning: These blunts are strong as fuck. I did this once when I was 18 and literally have never been more stoned in my life.
‘Kids’ (1995), dir. Larry Clark
Maybe the most beloved stoner movie of all time. Written by Chappelle’s Show masterminds Neal Brennan and Dave Chappelle, Half Baked is the classic story of a fight for justice: When a member of their crew gets arrested for killing a New York City police horse by feeding it junk food, three stoner buds are forced to get off their butts and raise bail by selling weed stolen from a pharmaceutical lab.
‘Half Baked’ (1998), dir. Tamra Davis
This is New Queer Cinema icon Gregg Araki’s first and only foray into slapstick stoner cinema. It follows an underemployed actor named Jane F. (Anna Faris) who accidentally gets very stoned after eating a whole batch of cupcakes that her roommate baked. The rest of the film follows Jane as she attempts to complete a short to-do list, which includes buying more weed to bake replacement cupcakes, meeting a casting agent (Jane Lynch) for an audition, and paying her way-overdue electric bill.
‘Smiley Face’ (2007), dir. Gregg Araki
A modern classic. Pitched as a stoner action-comedy, the mix of genres almost seems impossible to meld together. Somehow, it works brilliantly and only gets better with repeat viewings. Stoner process server Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) and his best friend/bud dealer Saul Silver (James Franco) find themselves in the middle of a drug war when they accidentally witness the execution of a dealer by corrupt police officers, finding themselves on the run from hitmen, cops, gangsters and even the government.
‘Pineapple Express’ (2008), dir. David Gordon Green
We had to include a dark, weird trippy stoner movie… This 1972 film, adapted from underground comic's most beloved and infamous illustrators, R. Crumb, was brought to the big screen by maverick animator and director Ralph Bakshi. Fritz the Cat, the first “adult content cartoon” became a surprising box office smash, taking in $90 million on a $850,000 budget. The film focuses on Fritz, a cynical, womanising feline hustler in an anthropomorphic animal version of New York City during the mid-to-late 60s.
‘Fritz The Cat’ (1972), dir. Ralph Bakshi
Embarking on a fantastic journey of self-discovery, Fritz indulges in everything from multiple hook-ups, wanders through the sketchier parts of the city and joins a group of radically aggressive hippies. For all the controversy for its graphic depictions of sex and drug use, this is also a surprisingly biting socioeconomic critique of 60s counterculture.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, this experimental movie is philosophical and surreal, dancing from one scene to the next; one character to the next. Most characters don't even have names, and the places are random and melt from one to another. The film explores a wide range of philosophical issues, including the nature of reality, lucid dreams, consciousness and the meaning of life. Waking Life was hailed as a cinematic wonder when it was released back in 2001, with actors filmed in the traditional way on digital cameras and artists brought in to animate the footage.
‘Waking Life’ (2001), dir. Richard Linklater
Paul Thomas Anderson’s drug-hazed noir features Los Angeles at the turn of the 70s. Drug-fuelled detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend and navigates a dark psychedelic world of surfers, stoners and cops to solve the case. This makes for a rich stoner movie as nothing is clean-cut, with strange dialogue, surreal and often-WTF encounters and slapstick comedy. A journey into the guts of 70s LA: Experience it – don't understand it.