As social outrage toward marijuana continues its descent (the drug has recently been legalized in two states), audiences continue to love watching on-screen characters get hiiiiiigh. Stoner flicks have been around for years, some are immediate mainstream successes, while others take a few years to garner a cult following. The release of the Nima Nourizadeh-directed American Ultra on August 21 has us thinking about our favourite stoners from movies past. With no shortage of characters to choose from – the genre is vast and bountiful and very excellent – it was tricky to pick only twelve. For the purposes of a more focused list, the entries are dedicated to those perfecting the art of puff, puff, pass.
Here is Screen Rant’s list of the 12 Most Chill Movie Stoners.
Cheech & Chong – Up in Smoke (1978)
The O.G.’s of on-screen blazing, Cheech (Cheech Marin) and Chong (Tommy Chong) teamed up for their first movie Up in Smoke in 1978. While hitchhiking, Chong is picked up by Cheech, they share a joint, and wacky adventures ensue, culminating in a battle of the bands where they inadvertently hotbox the venue and all the attendees get mega-baked. The duo performs “Earache My Eye” and wins, before swerving off into the sunset.
Because of the subject matter of the movie, “traditional” advertisers refused to promote it, prompting those involved with production to do some grassroots marketing by leaving comic strips about the dazed duo on bus benches. Those who did see the final product formed a cult following- one of those people being Mike Judge, who credits Cheech & Chong as inspiration for his own slacker duo, Beavis & Butt-head.
These red-eye jedis are so synonymous with marijuana culture that their live shows are still targets for drug raids to this very day. Tommy Chong even spent some time in jail recently for selling bongs from his online store. The Godfathers of Green, Cheech and Chong paved the way for the rest of the entries on this list.
The Dude – The Big Lebowski (1998)
“Did the Dude burn one on the way over?” is the question Jeff Bridges asked the Coen brothers every time he was unsure just how high he should act during the filming of 1998’s The Big Lebowski. Mistaken for someone much wealthier than he, the Dude (Bridges) gets caught up in a world of oddballs, each with a different agenda.
An eclectic burnout with a love for bowling and CCR, the Dude keeps mainly to himself- save for his rag-tag cronies from the bowling alley. If it feels like Bridges really becomes the Dude, it’s probably because the Coen brothers wrote the character with him in mind, despite being based on someone else entirely. In fact, Bridges was able to wear his own clothing for most of the shoot, including the jelly shoes.
Jay & Silent Bob – Mallrats (1995)
Hetero life-mates Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are up to mischief in 1995’s Mallrats. One of them can’t stop talking and the other is Silent Bob. Two bored guys hellbent on destroying the stage of a game show filming in their local mall, Jay and Silent Bob concoct a plan to dismantle the stage and take down their enemy, a mall security guard. Named for Sheriff LeFors from Butch Cassidy, head of mall security LaFours (Sven Ole-Thorsen) is the target of their wrath. Always ready to help a friend, these two multitasking, guitar-soloing potheads make both loyal buddies and awesome sidekicks.
The audience is told Silent Bob is an electrical genius who thinks he can master the Jedi Mind Trick, while Jay serves as his foul-mouthed, boot-footed, degenerate companion. Friends in real life, these two are a great team despite being very different from one another, their friendship easily translating to their performances in this stoner cult favorite.
Jay & Silent Bob made their first appearance as a couple of corner drug dealers in Smith’s ultra-low budget Clerks (1994), and made appearances in six of Smith’s slacker comedies, the latest one being Clerks II (2006). Though they got their own adventure in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), it’s Mallrats that resonates with fans the most, and perhaps that’s why it’ll be getting a sequel next year.
Jeff Spicoli – Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
While both his decisions and vocabulary may be questionable by today’s standards, the simmering drawl of Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) created it’s own stoner archetype, everyone knows someone who turns into Spicoli when they’re high. He dreams of winning surfing competitions and hanging out with babes, and he’s described as being “stoned since the third grade”.
Frequently lighting up before school, Spicoli is often late to class, which rubs his callous teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), the wrong way. With a salty attitude toward authority, he lives the dream life of a southern California surfer boy, complete with a VW hippie van (great for reefer-induced napping!) and sun-kissed hair. Spicoli uses words like “bogus” and “righteous”, calls people “bud”, and would happily share his stash with you at a party, or his pizza during class. Double cheese and sausage, anyone?
Thurgood Jenkins – Half Baked (1998)
Hoping to make enough money selling stolen weed to bail his friend out of jail, Thurgood Jenkins (Dave Chapelle) is a charismatic spliff-enthusiast janitor turned police informant in 1998’s Half Baked. In love with a stone-cold sober woman, Mary Jane Potman (Rachel True) he attempts to mask his proclivity for pot while maintaining a relationship with his stoner buddies. Thurgood has a better head on his shoulders than his friends do, able to keep perspective and make well-placed snide comments all in one.
Despite his self-proclaimed love for weed, there is only one thing more important to Jenkins: sex, and in the end he gives up smoking to be with his lady love. Considered by some to be the greatest comic of all time, Dave Chappelle co-wrote Half Baked with Neal Brennan, the two collaborating again on wildly-successful Chappelle’s Show.
Harold & Kumar – Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
Finally, a film that emphasizes how elusive the perfect morsel can be when hit with the munchies. Illustrative of just how scatterbrained weed-fueled adventures can be, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle follows the escapades of Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) as they scramble to find a White Castle location, so they can feed their slider craving. Sidetracked at every turn, the pair always loop back around to their original mission objective: snacks.
Whether stealing a truck from a racist skateboarder or questioning the logic of a cop handing out jaywalking tickets; Harold and Kumar are not afraid to stand up for what’s right, and that’s usually what lands them in trouble. Full of crass humor and guest cameos, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is embedded in cinematic stoner canon.
Doc Sportello – Inherent Vice (2014)
Five words become one man’s kryptonite: Doc, I need your help. Sporting the best mutton chops in the biz, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is the definition of a functional pothead in 2014’s Inherent Vice. As a private investigator in 1970, Sportello is working to figure out the location of his girlfriend, Shasta (Katherine Waterston), who has gone missing, while perpetually smoking joints.
His cannabis intake is astronomical, but Doc is a smart man comfortably operating in a legal grey-area (or a dumb man who keeps getting lucky). Sure, in a moment of desperation, Doc uses a ouija board to find out where to score, but even that decision turns into a beautiful evening of rain-soaked lovin’. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice is a visually stunning spectacle, and Sportello is endlessly watchable along every step of his investigation.
Saul Silver – Pineapple Express (2008)
Actor, student, poet, artist, Academy-award nominee, and pothead: James Franco is a man with many faces. He has so many awards, they have their own Wikipedia page. In addition to being named “Stoner of the Year” in 2008 by High Times Magazine, Franco starred alongside Seth Rogen in the stoner comedy Pineapple Express as Rogen’s dealer, Saul Silver. The duo would later come to be known for appearing in movies together, but Pineapple Express remains one of their most memorable.
Taking inspiration from Floyd (Brad Pitt) of True Romance (Floyd is a true honorable mention for this list, but didn’t qualify for the list as he only appears in a handful of scenes), Franco plays Saul as a big-hearted guy with childlike optimism, who is quick to forgive, and loves his Bubby. An amateur botanist and aspiring civil engineer, Silver knows Purple Urple from Maui Waui, and has a real passion for the product. Joint, cross joint, or bong; Saul loves them all.
Smokey – Friday (1995)
When it comes to developing stoner habits, everyone learns from someone. In this case, Craig (Ice Cube) takes lessons from his BFF, Smokey (Chris Tucker). A seasoned veteran, Smokey teaches Craig the rules and regulations of dope culture, mostly from a couple of seats in front of Craig’s house in South Central Los Angeles.
While audiences might associate Tucker’s quick-tongued ranting with his performance in The Fifth Element, it was during his time as Smokey that it was truly perfected. When not getting Craig out of a jam, Smokey is probably getting himself into one. As a pot dealer with a habit of smoking his own supply, he’s not exactly the most reliable guy in the hood. Tucker’s onscreen presence is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Friday. Also, his flawless impersonation of the king of pop? It’s in there too.
Ron Slater – Dazed and Confused (1993)
A quintessential high school movie, Dazed and Confused is about the last day of school. Set to an unbelievable soundtrack, the flick is a collection of firsts: first kegger, first joint, first time Matthew McConaughey went “alright, alright, alright” on camera. Director Richard Linklater pulled together an ensemble cast of kids including Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Renée Zellweger, and McConaughey, who would all rocket to stardom in the years to follow.
One of the more understated cast members is Rory Cochrane, who plays long-haired ganga junkie Ron Slater. Punctuating every couple of words with “man”, Slater is a charming hippie with more than a few theories about the world, usually involving aliens. Cochrane is right at home pontificating about life’s fine print, and would go on to do so again as Lucas in 1995’s Empire Records.
Dante – Grandmas Boy (2006)
A movie acknowledged by Tribunal of Tokers High Times Magazine as having 2006’s “Best Pot Scene in a Film”, Grandmas Boy is full of loveable stoners, but one stands out amongst the others. As an oft-topless purveyor of wacky terbacky, Dante (Peter Dante) has smoked enough to know his limits. If he says he’s too baked to drive to the Devil’s house, it’s not because he doesn’t want to, it’s because he can’t.
Between the lion guarding his stash and the monkey playing video games in the basement, Dante has a big heart for animals. Given fake weed for the shoot, Peter Dante swapped it out in favor of his own personal stash and spent a day taking massive, real bong hits. He later asked to go to the hospital because he couldn’t feel his legs.
Marty – The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Pot is what keeps Marty (Fran Kranz) safe in 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. Inadvertently being kept immune by his constant blazing, Marty saves the day. In classic horror movie fashion, his character is presented to the audience as an idiot burnout, full of ridiculous conspiracy theories. When those theories turn out to be true, Marty is revealed for the badass he truly is. His ingenious travel mug bong (cost: $5000 to make) saves Dana’s (Kristen Connolly) life, and without him the movie would have been infinitely less entertaining.
Clad in baggy clothing, Kranz was in remarkable shape at the time, a characteristic that would have ruined his character’s credibility. Serious about getting it right, he took joint rolling and bong lighting lessons from professionals. Despite being written in only three days, Marty has the best dialogue of anyone; a philosophical tidal wave versed in “ancient logics”.
Who are your favorite cinematic stoners? Tell us about them in the comments below!