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5 best stoner comedies, ranked

DannyMcBried and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express.
Sony

Stoner comedies make up a unique subgenre that references and represents cannabis culture. In these stoner films, plots and storylines are often centered on the recreational use of marijuana, with characters getting themselves into hilarious situations. Beyond just being about puffing the magic dragon, these movies show the importance of celebrating life, friendship, and absurdity, with the help of a little herb.

From the iconic antics of Cheech and Chong to the modern-day misadventures of Harold and Kumar, these are the ultimate stoner comedies for viewers just looking to kick back and enjoy a chill night with friends. With side-splitting comedic antics that escalate to bizarre levels, these movies only get better as the night goes on.

5. Half Baked (1998)

Guillermo Diaz, Dave Chappelle, and Jim Breuer in Half Baked.
Universal Pictures

Half Baked is a Dave Chappelle-led stoner comedy that follows four friends who find themselves in hot water after one of them accidentally kills a diabetic police horse by feeding it junk food. Thurgood (Chappelle), Scarface (Guillermo Díaz), Brian (Jim Breuer), and Kenny (Harland Williams) now have to raise money for bail, so they plan to steal and sell marijuana from a pharmaceutical lab. While they do make enough for bail, they soon raise the ire of a local drug lord who demands his portion.

Despite initial negative reviews, time has been kind to director Tamra Davis’s comedy  from the late 1990s, which has earned a reputation as a cult classic. It’s worth seeing for fans of the genre, granted that they know they’re about to watch a film that’s aware of its stupid comedy and fully embraces this dim-witted humor. For some viewers, that’s likely exactly what they’re looking for in a great stoner movie.

4. Pineapple Express (2008)

James Franco and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express.
Sony Pictures Releasing

An action-packed buddy stoner comedy from director David Gordon Green (Halloween Ends), Pineapple Express chronicles the misadventures of process server Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) and his marijuana dealer Saul Silver (James Franco). After Dale witnesses a murder committed by a drug lord (Gary Cole) and a corrupt police officer (Rosie Perez), he carelessly flicks his roach onto the scene before running. When he and Dale realize this roach could be traced back to them, they flee.

Pineapple Express is full of laugh-out-loud moments during its first half, with the action and violence taking center stage toward the end. This change in tone and pace has been divisive among fans and critics, as it’s easy to spot the movie’s unevenness. Despite this polarizing point, most would agree that Rogen delivers one of his best performances here as the hilarious Dale. His chemistry and comedic riffs with Franco are among the highlights of the film.

3. Up In Smoke (1978)

Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin in Up in Smoke (1978)
Paramount Pictures

The film credited with starting and popularizing the stoner comedy genre, Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke follows two laid-back hippies, Pedro De Pacas (Cheech Marin) and Anthony “Man” Stoner (Tommy Chong). The duo meet on the road and are caught smoking marijuana, but get released thanks to a technicality. They embrace this freedom by continuing to smoke and, eventually, competing in a rock band competition.

Directed by Lou Adler, Up in Smoke is a pioneering film that not only captured the spirit of the 1970s counterculture, but also paved the way for future stoner comedies. Its unapologetic celebration of cannabis was groundbreaking for its time. Even now, it’s still worth revisiting the iconic film, if only to see that weed van again.

2. Dazed and Confused (1993)

Matthew McConaughey, Sasha Jenson, and Jason London in Dazed and Confused (1993)
Gramercy Pictures

Dazed and Confused is an essential stoner movie, despite director Richard Linklater famously contesting that type of marketing for the cult film. A coming-of-age comedic teen movie at its core, the 1993 movie doesn’t exactly have a clear plot and is centered on a group of teens on their last day of high school in 1976. They deal with the ups and downs that teens experience, including hazing from seniors, keg parties, drugs, and rock and roll.

The nostalgic movie perfectly captures teen life in the ’70s, with its killer soundtrack only adding to its authenticity. It greatly benefitted from Linklater’s direction, as his approach allowed the actors to improvise and even write some of their parts. These led to memorable performances from an ensemble cast full of future stars, including Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Milla Jovovich, among others. While it was marketed as a stoner movie to capitalize on the growing culture war around weed during the ’90s, Dazed and Confused can be appreciated both for that aspect and for being a well-made low-stakes teen movie today.

1. The Big Lebowski (1998)

(L-R) Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, and John Goodman in "The Big Lebowski."
Gramercy Pictures

The Coen Brothers’s The Big Lebowski is a comedic masterpiece and undoubtedly the best stoner comedy to date. Starring Jeff Bridges in his most iconic role, the 1998 crime comedy tells the story of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a laid-back and perpetually stoned slacker who is mistaken for a millionaire with the same name. This millionaire’s wife owes money to a group of thugs, so they urinate on The Dude’s rug, setting off a chain of events that soon has the protagonist entangled in a complicated kidnapping plot.

Like many stoner comedies, The Big Lebowski was met with criticism, but has since become a cult favorite. It’s often the premier example of the genre, thanks to its quirky characters, off-beat humor, drug-induced sequences, bizarre dialogue, and flawless soundtrack. It’s full of quotable lines and gut-busting conversations that underscore the absurdity of each new situation. As The Dude would say, it’s a film that abides, man.

Editors' Recommendations

Hannah Saab
Saab whips up SEO-optimized articles as a writer for Digital Trends and updates top-performing articles on Collider.
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