Whatever your opinion on the use of cannabis for recreational or medicinal use, there’s no doubt that this plant has inspired some legendary movies over the years. Outside of its obvious influence in television, and beyond the many documentaries that have been filmed about the divisive herb, it’s also made a big impact on Hollywood.
Countless blockbuster films have been produced in celebration of the stereotypical ‘stoner’ character and their favourite pastime, often starring actors at the top of their game. So-called ‘stoner movies’ tend to revolve around lots of laughs, crime capers and sticky situations – we’ve gathered some of our favourites in the list below to give you a taste of what this mischievous genre is all about.
Luckily, many of the listed titles are now available to watch online. The development of TV and movie streaming services in recent years has led to an increase in counter-culture movies being commissioned, produced and enjoyed. Whereas once the subject of cannabis and ‘stoner culture’ was a risk, it is now a guaranteed hit for streaming platforms like Netflix, who can afford to host movies about topics which have traditionally been marked as ‘sensitive’. Entertainment in general is becoming more diverse, with audiences suddenly able to access their favourite recreation activities direct from their own homes. The success of gaming platforms like Poker stars casino and Steam, as well as music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, is testament to the fact that the ‘on demand’ model will be the gold standard moving forward.
This Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow-penned masterpiece burst onto screens in 2008, relaunching James Franco’s floundering career and showcasing the talents of other Apatow alumni like Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Bill Hader. The basic plot follows Rogen and Franco’s unlikely pairing as they go on the run, attempting to escape hired hitmen, a corrupt police officer and an angry crime boss who all want them dead. It’s the perfect escapist comedy which involves the two main characters remaining almost permanently under the influence of cannabis, leading to hilarious confusion and outrageous scenarios along the way. This movie perfectly showcases Rogen and Franco’s strengths and contains several laugh out loud funny moments.
Harking further back in time to 1995, we find Ice Cube in one of his earliest actor/writer roles playing the reluctant Craig Jones in his self-penned classic, Friday. Watching this movie, it’s not hard to see where Apatow and Rogen got their inspiration for Pineapple Express a decade later. In the film, Ice Cube is joined by the inimitable Chris Tucker playing his aptly named friend, Smokey, as the two of them try to evade the wrath of the ominous sounding Big Worm. Supporting roles from Nia Long, John Witherspoon and co-writer DJ Pooh make this a must watch, particularly if you’re already a fan of Rogen and Apatow’s homage. Cannabis-fuelled shenanigans abound before a resolution can be reached that lets Jones and Smokey off the hook.
This movie is equal parts ridiculous, heartfelt and genius, hitting you with all the best angles for a light-hearted comedy. Allen Covert’s overgrown gamer, Alex, gets into trouble when his irresponsible roommate spends all the rent money. He winds up staying at his grandma’s house whilst he completes a big project for work, much to the delight of her two elderly roommates, Grace and Bea. There are undeniably funny scenes involving the three elderly women and some cannabis-laced tea, as well as plenty of standard stoner jokes, but don’t expect anything profound from this movie – it’s simply offering you 90 minutes of unapologetic stoner humour.
If we had to name the perfect cast for a mid-noughties stoner movie, then this might just be it: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson. It doesn’t get much more on the nose than that! The plot sees McConaughey’s spot on surfer-stoner character experience an existential crisis as he is unexpectedly denied access to his beloved waves during a mysterious drought. Cue strange futuristic VR surfing developer, Eddie Zarno, who wants to record the ace surfer’s moves for his new video game – but will McConaughey sell his soul for a chance to surf again? Laudable performances from a pitch perfect cast make this an enjoyable watch from start to finish.
It seems that McConaughey’s surfer dude has all grown up and forged his own empire selling cannabis to the people of London. However, it all starts to go wrong once he tries to sell his business to the Americans, triggering a war between billionaires, gangsters and journalists in a typical Guy Ritchie comedy crime caper. Stand out performances from Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong and Colin Farrell make this a star studded future classic to add to Ritchie’s sterling roster of movies.