It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the release of Pineapple Express back in 2008. But there it is – and the world’s perception and acceptance of marijuana has changed a massive amount during that time. Only recently medical marijuana was made legal in the UK (that said, it will only be prescribed under extreme circumstances). This is a perfect example of the increasing cultural acceptance of the drug, especially in a country that has always been relatively slow on the uptake in terms of narcotics classification. People’s attitudes to weed are changing, and the way that it’s been portrayed in the media is starting to change as well.
In this respect, the influence of Seth Rogen and James Franco’s noughties stoner comedies cannot be ignored – namely, Pineapple Express. Their inherent accuracy in stoner-etiquette and the deep-seated knowledge that – in all likelihood – Rogen, Franco and Danny McBride were just playing themselves means that films such as Pineapple Express and This is the End (2013) have nestled themselves safely into our hearts as contemporary flagships of the genre.
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the film that actually spurred the creation of its own strain of weed (yes, you can now actually buy a type of marijuana called Pineapple Express – something that definitely did not exist before its release), we’ve pulled together our top ten favourite stoner comedies. Let’s light this thing up!
**Spoiler warning for all of the below**
10. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
Although not obviously a ‘stoner comedy,’ the ever-presence of weed throughout the films runtime, as well as the fact that some of the funniest throwaway moments of the film are born of pot-smoking, means that Lonely Island’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping firmly deserves a place on this list.
Drawn up in a mockumentary style, Popstar brings a comedic casualness to the characters brazen drug use. From Conner4Real’s (Andy Samberg) entourage of weed holders and joint rollers (those are actual job titles), to his insane tour-mate, Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd), who’s so crazy that “he wasn’t smoking a blunt, he was just eating it,” these character’s stoner status are what spurs some of the funniest moments of the movie.
Plus, it’s hard not to enjoy a film littered with songs that carry titles such as, “I’m So Humble,” “Legalize It,” “Ibitha” and “Turn Up the Beef.”
9. This is the End (2013)
It’ll come as no surprise that there’s more than one offering from the Rogen clan on this list. And This is the End manages to create the perfect balance between obscene drug-related escapades, and the huge volume of inspired cameos from pretty much anyone that has ever set foot in the Hollywood Hills. Even better than that, most of the humour is in the interest of self-deprecation, leaving most of the actors and singers running for their lives as they’re killed off in quick and brutal succession.
But fair warning, you probably won’t be able to look at Michael Cera in the same way again after watching him snort obscene amounts of cocaine and drunkenly accuse a crowd of people of stealing his phone. In fact, as soon as Rogen utters the immortal words, “let’s do all the drugs,” you know that the disco lights, dancing and disarray is sure to provide one of the best drug-fuelled movie montages in recent memory.
8. Dazed and Confused (1993)
It would be impossible to talk about stoner movies without mentioned Richard Linklater’s 70s-set high-school homage, Dazed and Confused. Not only does the film capture the very essence of high school – a nostalgic mixture of excitement, shenanigans and inherent adolescent insecurities – but it’s also shot through a cloud of smoke, making it the perfect addition to this top 10.
True to its subject matter, Dazed and Confused’s loose structure promotes a general haziness as you watch the film. Nothing much is happening here, and certainly nothing of much consequence, which means that the plot is largely driven forward by the charisma of its cast and Linklater’s light comic touch.
And if we learnt nothing else, it’s that a spliff at sunrise is the perfect way to start graduate life. And that Matthew McConaughey’s character in Magic Mike is for sure a follow-up to his blazed performance in Dazed… “Alright, alright, alright!”
7. True Romance (1993)
Penned by Quentin Tarantino, clearly True Romance isn’t a stoner comedy in the strictest definition of the term. But it is a fantastic film in its own right, and it seems prudent to mention Brad Pitt’s notable performance as Floyd, the ever-bonging, sofa-dwelling comic relief.
Offering up his spliff to any criminal that might walk through the door, it’ll hardly be surprising to learn that Floyd was actually the inspiration for James Franco’s Saul in Pineapple Express. Both constantly baked and similarly inept, it’s not difficult to see the parallels between the two, both bringing an inherent likeability to their roles.
But the real question is: would Floyd be able to roll a smokable cross joint? It remains to be seen.
6. Clerks (1994)
Although Jay and Silent Bob have cropped up consistently in Kevin Smith’s films since 1994, Clerks is the first film appearance of the pot-dealing pair, one that sees them wheeling, dealing and chatting utter nonsense for the entirety of their screen time.
In a similar fashion to Dazed and Confused, Clerks doesn’t go anywhere fast, and is perhaps most notable for its easy-going and realistic tone, one that often feels unscripted in its realistic portrayal of normal, everyday conversation.
OK, so maybe “normal” is a strong word for some of these exchanges. But the weed-induced, if not one-sided, conversations between Jay and Silent Bob (and all of the other characters, for that matter) help to create a bleak but authentic tapestry of the lives of Generation Xers, and is a main reason for its rise to cult status in the decades since its release.
5. Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (2004)
Although many state Cheech and Chong as the flagship pairing in terms of stoner comedies, Harold and Kumar are undoubtedly the poster children of all the pot smoking partnerships. Despite the over-the-top moments and slightly childish humour littered throughout most of the Harold and Kumar movies, their names have become synonymous with the stoner flick.
But Harold and Kumar have to be celebrated for more than just that – similarly to Dale in Pineapple Express, who smokes joint after joint as he goes about his daily business, Harold is a smart and productive member of society, who happens to enjoy getting high on occasion (given, Harold is considerably more productive than Dale). In this respect, White Castle has to be celebrated for more than just the fact that it’s a fantastic comedy – it’s a film that is trying to change the way that stoners are perceived in our society.
4. Bad Neighbours (2014)
It only seems fair to include both Bad Neighbours (2014) and Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising (2016) on this list – because while the first was by far the better film, Sorority Rising undoubtedly boasts the best weed-related moments.
In fact, barely a scene goes by where Shelby (Chloe Moretz) doesn’t mention a burning desire to get high – and, honestly, it’s actually pretty rare to come across a female that has the ability to roll her own joints in films, making Sorority Rising a refreshing change from the standardised male stoner trope.
3. Ali G in da House (2002)
There’s one scene, and one scene alone that has earned Ali G in da House’s place, not only on this list, but in stoner history. And that’s the moment where MP Ali decides that it’s time to “Make Education Relevant.”
Needless to say, his solution is for children to be taught how much they would have to sell Jamaican Sensimilla for by the gram in order to pay back their dealer (Fat Tony), while still turning enough of a profit so that they have enough money to pay their child support.
You’ve got to hand it to him, it is relevant, and enough to make it one of the most memorable weed-related moments on film. In fact, there is a similar moment in Sorority Rising, whereby Teddy shows he is able to calculate complex sums when it relates to weed, but not when it relates to anything else (“why would I be selling grams of steak?”). Perhaps there’s an intellectual anomaly that only applies to weed smokers which makes them amazing at maths? If two films are referring to it, then there has to be some truth in there somewhere…
2. The Big Lebowski (1998)
Charismatic and eccentric, Jeff Bridges easily wins his audience’s immediate support with his performance as the Dude in the Coen brothers’ late-’90s cult classic, The Big Lebowski.
A White Russian-drinking, joint-smoking hippie that spends his evenings down the local bowling alley with his equally hapless teammates, the Dude quickly finds himself in a dangerous situation he is clearly ill-equipped to deal with – potentially because he’s blazed for pretty much the entirety of the film’s run-time.
Bear in mind that it’s better to leave any sense of reality at the door when you sit to watch Lebowski, as there really isn’t too much reality to be found. But, much like any other Coen brothers offering, what you’ll fall in love with is the intrinsic calmness of the Dude as he’s dragged carelessly along from pillar to post, making no effort to extricate himself from the chaos – even as he holds a severed toe in his hand.
1. Pineapple Express (2008)
Clearly, Pineapple Express was going to be number one based on premise alone. The story follows Dale (Rogen), a process server, and his dealer, Saul (Franco) as they end up on the run from Saul’s supplier, Red (Danny McBride) after witnessing the murder of a competitor while trying to serve papers to him. It’s a set up that promises at least a few hours of confused, chaotic fun – and that’s exactly what it gives us.
Pineapple Express really has to be considered the benchmark in terms of the stoner comedy, and its central cast members have been nothing other than influential on the genre. From Paul (2011) to Sausage Party (2016), the stoner crowd have had increasing respect for Rogen’s merry band of actors. This is in part down to their lack of shame about their blatant, everyday use of the drug, but also largely down to their continuously accurate portrayal of weed-smoking etiquette.
But it’s also the friendships at the centre of Rogen’s movies (especially Pineapple Express) that fans of the genre relate to so strongly. Saul, despite his line of work, is almost vulnerable in his need to make Dale his friend. His undying loyalty is an endearing quality, and helps us to remember the fact that their friendship is most certainly not just on screen. This ultimately just adds to the overall authenticity of the film, bringing a level of comfort to what is already a high quality comedy offering.