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Film

The 10 greatest stoner comedies of all time

@Russellisation

Surely one of the strangest film subgenres, you can’t say there are many drugs around the world that carry the same cinematic prevalence as weed, with the stoner comedy becoming an integral part of the landscape of modern moviemaking. 

Thriving in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such movies can be characterised by featuring bumbling protagonists influenced by the surreal effects of smoking weed, stumbling through bizarre movies that regularly feature outlandish characters and absurdist humour. Fun and frivolous, such movies aren’t reaching for the stars of cinematic greatness, they’re simply swimming in the fun-filled delights of the medium. 

Emanating from the works of Richard Linklater, Terry Gilliam and the Coen brothers, such films are better known for the stars who appear on screen, with their on-screen personas often not drifting far from their real-life identities. Making a name of the likes of Seth Rogen, Kal Penn, John Cho, Jeff Bridges, Danny McBride, Kevin Smith and Chris Tucker, let’s roll up and indulge in the ten greatest stoner comedies of all time.

The 10 greatest stoner comedies of all time:

10. Dude, Where’s My Car? (Danny Leiner, 2000)

Entwining stoner comedy with a fantastical drama involving alien lifeforms, magical artefacts and a French ostrich farmer, Dude, Where’s My Car? from director Danny Leiner was released as a direct response to the fantastical technological revolution that was occurring at the very same time at the turn of the new millennium. Whacky, eccentric and lovingly nonsensical, the film remains a joy to watch to this very day. 

Helping to make a name of the likes of Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott and Jennifer Garner, Dude, Where’s My Car? takes its place in history as a totem of a type of cinema long gone. 

9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998)

Based on the book of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp stars as Raoul Duke, a strange journalist and his psychopathic lawyer who travel to Las Vegas for a psychedelic journey of debauchery and madness. The perfect story for Gilliam to take on, the film is carefully imbued with his own sense of surrealism and stoner comedy, being careful not to overshadow the terrific story and intricate characters of the novel itself. 

An iconic film of ‘90s popular culture, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas features Depp alongside such stars as Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz and Gary Busey in a film that would quickly become a counter-cultural classic. 

8. Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle (Danny Leiner, 2004)

A staple of teenage sleepovers throughout the 2000s, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle found a surprising amount of critical and commercial love when it was released in 2004, praised for its many progressive steps forward. Subverting racial stereotypes through the representation of its two male leads, played by John Cho and Kal Penn, the first Harold & Kumar movie delivers some solid laughs. 

Just as puerile and absurd as any other film on this list, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle strikes the perfect balance, creating a film that stands the test of time to this very day.

7. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)

If there’s one name who had the biggest effect on comedy in the 2000s, it’s undoubtedly Judd Apatow, the director and producer behind such films as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman and Knocked Up. A stoner comedy that appeased genre fans as well as Hollywood critics, Knocked Up was celebrated as a compelling drama as well as a frivolous farce, telling a story of a childish buffoon who mistakenly becomes a father. 

Crammed with comedy talent, Knocked Up became the pinnacle of a moment of great success for the comedy genre, with the likes of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, Ken Jeong and Bill Hader each gathering career traction.

6. Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994)

An incredibly important movie in the history of American independent cinema, Kevin Smith’s Clerks remains a compelling stoner comedy, telling the story of a day in the life of two convenience store clerks named Dante and Randal as they go about trying to get out of actually working. Featuring characters Jay and Silent Bob, played by Smith and Jason Mewes, for the very first time, Clerks quickly became a sensation. 

Sparking the release of a sequel in 2006, as well as a third film just around the corner, the legacy of this crucial monochrome comedy is self-evident. 

5. Friday (F. Gary Gray, 1995)

Beloved by many, the slacker/stoner movie Friday stars Ice Cube and Chris Tucker as Craig and Smokey, two friends who find themselves having to scrape $200 together to pay a local bully, or risk getting beaten up. A key film for debut director F. Gary Gray, who would go on to helm Straight Outta Compton and Fast and Furious 8, Friday was a platform for success for many stars of cinema. 

Remaining a hilarious film, largely thanks to the comedy timing of Chris Tucker, Friday is a fast and frenetic classic that would have a significant effect on ‘90s Hollywood comedy. 

4. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)

An iconic film in the realm of coming-of-age movies, Richard Linklater’s influential stoner comedy features the director’s trademark slacker philosophy. Embodying the spirit of the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Linklater’s movie starred several actors at the birth of their cinematic career, including Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Renée Zellweger and Parker Posey.

Embracing the stoner ideology, Linklater orchestrated a classic comedy featuring an iconic soundtrack and several moments of cult popularity. 

3. Pineapple Express (David Gordon Green, 2008)

If the pot-smoking teenagers of the ‘90s had Dazed and Confused and The Big Lebowski, a decade later it was David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express that would occupy the contemporary zeitgeist. Starring sub-genre icon Seth Rogen alongside James Franco, Danny McBride, Amber Heard and Craig Robinson, Pineapple Express became an immediate comedy favourite upon its release. 

Becoming one of the few stoner comedies that were popular across several different types of audiences, Pineapple Express is a Hollywood comedy with a stoner heart; after all, it’s literally named after a strain of weed. 

2. The Big Lebowski (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, 1998)

The most recognisable role of Jeff Bridges, ‘The Dude’ in The Big Lebowski became a figurehead of ‘90s pop culture thanks to his blasé, bohemian approach to everyday life. With the help of co-stars John Goodman and Julianne Moore as well as a hilarious script from the Coen brothers, Bridges was allowed to excel as the ultimate cinematic slacker who is mistaken for a millionaire in the classic crime comedy caper. 

Forever known as an iconic counter-culture classic, The Big Lebowski is undoubtedly one of the greatest comedy movies ever made, it just so happens Bridges ‘The Dude’ is also a massive stoner.

1. Reefer Madness (Louis J. Gasnier, 1936)

One of the most iconic cult movies of all time, the sheer lunacy of Reefer Madness has led the film to become a celebrated classic in the stoner comedy sub-genre, with pot-smoking lovers repossessing the American propaganda film for their own entertainment and mockery. Telling the melodramatic events that ensue after a group of characters try weed, including manslaughter, attempted murder and descents into madness, the film was originally financed by a church group with the intention of educating parents on the dangers of the drug. 

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the film was rediscovered, with the melodramatic and campy production coming across as unintentionally satirical. Embodying the spirit of a stoner comedy, the love for Reefer Madness reflects the counter-cultural ideology of the sub-genre, ridiculing authority whilst revelling in the hilarity and farce of modern life.