Hands up if you love a good stoner movie?! Where once weed in the movies hinted at rebellion or delivered a much needed sense of comedy to a scene, cannabis has increasingly found a more leading role in movies in recent years. But like any art form that tries to illustrate a culture based on altered perception, it’s a tough task to get it right.
Original Stoner Movies
For many years the only movie to define cannabis culture was a one sided propaganda production which has aged as badly as a bud of fine weed left in the bottom of a jacket pocket and run through the washing machine… The 1936 movie Reefer Madness (check out the buds in the trailer!) now ranks as a top stoner comedy, but for all the wrong reasons.
We had to wait until the 1970s for Hollywood to put marijuana on the map, when Cheech and Chong brought the counter culture and weed onto the main screen with Up in Smoke, which invented the Stoner comedy genre. It was a surprise hit, planting a cannabis movie seed which rewrote the way cannabis was perceived – stoner heroes that audiences could laugh with (as well as at).
Good Stoner Movies
Good stoner movies will often mature with their audience. Films that cannabis culture fans watch as young adults, initially attracted by the face value of the content alone, take on different meaning as they (and their cannabis habits) age. Good examples are The Big Lebowski, How High and Knocked Up, a stoner movie wrapped up in a romantic/life story.
Knocked Up is an example of a film which is very different seen through the eyes of a teenager – laughing at its scenes of debauched highness – to the eyes of an adult facing real life issues. This is illustrated perfectly by the scene in which Seth Rogen discusses parenthood with his father, played by Harold Ramis, which nails the dilemma faced by many weed smoking parents:
“I guess you told me not to smoke pot all those years and then I found out you were smoking pot that whole time.”
“Not the whole time. Just in the evenings… and all day at the weekend.”
The Seth Rogen gang reinvented the stoner comedy genre in the Twenty First century and while some scenes in movies like Superbad haven’t aged well in the #metoo era it – along with movies such as This Is The End and The Night Before – project a certain cannabis gummy inspired charm. Harold and Kumar are from the same generation while across the ocean, the German movie Lammbok, gives a European spin on the theme.
Bad Stoner Movies
Some just try too hard. A classic example is a film like Half Baked, which is painful in its pushing of stereotypes. Your Highness is another, which had all the right cast ingredients but ultimately failed to be the cooler, cannabis twist on The Princess Bride, prompting headlines such as “Is Your Highness the worst film ever made.”
Into this category let’s also highlight those marijuana scenes that seem to come from the keyboard of writers with no cannabis experience. Take a bow all those scenes depicting buds being picked off the plant and smoked straight away (Half Baked and Ted 2), and strange effects – cue Emilio Estevez losing his shit in the Breakfast Club.
Surprise Stoner movies
When is a stoner movie not a stoner movie? The sci-fi and fantasy genre is rich with movies that appeal to stoner senses and obvious candidates are Tolkein book based films and the Star Wars series. However, there are some films which have that stoner quality without actually conforming to weed growing or smoking culture. It’s a certain indefinable quality – a mixed bag of fun, rebelliousness and irreverence. These include The Princess Bride, Starship Troopers, Super Troopers, The Beach (taking inspiration from the Hippie Trail) and The Pick of Destiny.
Some of the best marijuana movie scenes manage to slip weed in right under the nose of censors. A classic example is the Romancing the Stone, a 1980s family movie in which the romantic duo find themselves hiding out in the wreck of a ganja smuggler’s plane where kilos of weed provide perfect campfire material. And who can remember the weed scene in the hit kids movie, Back to the Future…. Yes, you did hear that right – go check it out!