Each April 20, weed aficionados everywhere celebrate the elevated state of being high. (In my hometown, an entire 4/20 festival — called Extravaganga — draws thousands of visitors.) And now that weed is being decriminalized and legalised around the country, we celebrate 4/20 more freely — some of us, anyway. But amid the pandemic, enjoying 4/20 in the comfort of your home is key. Which is fine, since blazing up and sitting down with a stoner-friendly movie is at the pinnacle of 4/20 enjoyment.
Though each person’s ideal high movie varies, you can’t go wrong with one that makes the weed subtext text; films like Cheech and Chong and Pineapple Express are hand-rolled with stoners in mind, and can give you a contact high just by watching them. Here are 16 movies will keep you in the 4/20 mood.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
The Harold & Kumar films are a stoner’s anthem for the younger generation. Extremely high best friends Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) get stoned and seek to quench their craving for White Castle burgers. That’s it. That’s the plot.
The two go on a ridiculous journey (which somehow involves riding a cheetah) to get to White Castle or bust, and the movie resonated with the stoner community so well that it became a trilogy, spawning Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. Why not get high and order White Castle to honour 4/20 and celebrate their legendary journeys?
The title makes this an obvious choice for a 4/20 screening, pineapple express being a strain of weed known for its potency and long-lasting effects. While blazed, James Franco and Seth Rogen’s protagonists witness a drug dealer murder his competitor in front of their faces. When a roach is dropped that could be traced back to the two stoners, they go on the run to avoid getting killed or thrown in jail for murder. The life-or-death decisions these two must make while high are outrageous, and great fuel for some long-lasting laughs.
Half Baked is comedy gold for weed lovers. You can watch it sober or watch it high, and it never loses its entertainment value. Thurgood Jenkins (Dave Chappelle) is a “master of the custodial arts” who loves smoking weed with his friends. When one of his buddies kills a cop’s horse while high, they have to come up with a quick plan to free him from jail. After discovering that the facility Thurgood works in tests the benefits of medicinal weed, they decide to take advantage of the situation and sell super potent weed to make their friend’s bail, and soon get in trouble with drug kingpin Samson Simpson (Clarence Williams III).
Dude, Where’s My Car?
This film is a silent killer. The premise sounds ridiculous and paper thin, but it’s just a framework on which to hang one weird detour after another. Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott) are best friends who love to get high and party together. After one night of (maybe too much) partying, Chester can’t remember where he parked the car. The two follow clues from the night to find out: dude, where’s his car? Finding the answer will take them to some incredibly strange places.
Although The Hangover deals with a night of heavy drinking, watching this sort of movie inebriated or high is a joyous occasion. As in Dude, Where’s My Car? This one follows a group of friends who wake up the morning after a wild bachelor party to discover they have lost… the groom. They must retrace their steps based on what small clues they can find — like, what’s with that live tiger in the bathroom? Why is someone missing a tooth? Also, there’s a baby? In any other circumstance, all of those things sound like they would do nothing but boost my anxiety, but watching it all unfold while high is somehow both hilarious and intoxicating by itself.
Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man and Redman spoke about smoking in life and in their music, so making a film about getting high was the next logical step. Best friends Silas (Redman) and Jamal (Method Man) develop a special strain of weed so potent, it somehow gets them into Harvard University. They must then learn to succeed in a very different environment, but they stay unapologetically themselves. The film is filled with jokes that haven’t aged so well, but you can still enjoy smoking up and watching Method Man and Redman mess with a bunch of uppity college students.
Cheech and Chong: Up in Smoke
The original cinematic stoner duo, Cheech and Chong paved the way for the weed comedy in Hollywood. Starting as a stand-up comedy routine, the two performers made their first film in 1978 playing stoner musicians who travel to Mexico to get a van made entirely out of weed. Along the way, they smoke joints the size of toilet paper rolls, get a beat cop high from the tailpipe of a van, and party like rockstars.
The Friday series is what passes for a well-written, story-based stoner film. Craig (Ice Cube) is a “deadbeat” whose family wants him to do something with his life. He’s just lost his job, needs rent money, and is tired of the grind. His friend Smokey (Chris Tucker) gets him caught up in a situation with his drug dealer, where he can’t pay what he owes. So much drama ensues, you can see why Craig just wants to smoke weed and chill on a Friday. The story is entertaining, but it’s the characters — from dangerous bully neighbour Debo (Tom Lister Jr.) to comedy legend John Witherspoon as Craig’s dad — who gave this one the juice to stretch into a trilogy worth enjoying every 4/20.
An aspiring actress named Jane (Anna Faris) accidentally ate a half-dozen weed cupcakes that didn’t belong to her and is now paying the price. She’s beyond high and has to answer for the weed cupcakes her friend meant to sell. She arranges to meet him at Venice beach to rectify the situation. Along the way, she finds herself talking to glitter smiley faces in the sky and going to auditions high off her arse. Straight-laced pal Brevin (John Krasinski) tries to help her along the way and gets roped into her antics. Anna Faris is one of the great unsung comedic actors, and watching her play high is contagious (or maybe she wasn’t playing at all). You’ll feel like you are high, and perhaps equally incapable of understanding what’s going on.
Dazed and Confused
Dazed and Confused is the ultimate teen summer stoner film, following Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) and his friends on the last day of school. The concept is simple: They get high and discuss conspiracy theories and drive around town, looking to get into trouble. It’s a look at suburban life in Texas, where there’s nothing else to do but party in the middle of nowhere. Witness a young Matthew McConaughey and Milla Jovovich, high and hilarious. If you miss summer days getting lit with friends this is the perfect nostalgic trip.
Neighbours is a comedy about getting older, and generational differences, and also weed. When Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) move to a neighbourhood with a fraternity next door, they find it hard to be hip neighbours and ignore all the noise of non-stop partying while they try to manage life with a new baby. Their request that the party animals quiet down quickly spirals into a war between the two houses. One house evokes their right to party, and the other tries creative ways to stop the madness. It’s a fun ride to see Seth Rogen’s seasoned stoner character pass the torch, as it were, to frat president/younger stoner Teddy (Zac Efron), teaching him things like how to boil eggs while high.
Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood
From the minds of the Wayan brothers, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood is a slapstick comedy and satire of hood films. Ashtray (Shawn Wayans) wants to get out of the hood and make something of himself, but it’s not as easy as it looks. He has to navigate life with a gangsta weed-smoking grandma and trigger-happy cousin. The jokes are outlandish with huge blunts and bazookas drive-bys. High or not, this film will always make you laugh.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
From the creator of Clerks comes an adventure story you have to watch while high (maybe because it’s not very funny otherwise). Iconic weed-smoking characters Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) realise the fictional characters Bluntman and Chronic are based on their likeness and yet they haven’t seen a dime of profit from the films. They go on a cross-country adventure to stop the movie, or bust. Both characters are on a perpetual high and get into crazy adventures featuring cameos from the likes of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Mark Hamill. You might need to be a fan of Smith’s earlier movies to appreciate a lot of the jokes — but let’s be honest, this isn’t exactly an art film.
The Big Lebowski
Jeff “The Dude’’ Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) spends his time smoking weed and bowling with his buddies. One night, hooligans break into his home, mistaking him for a different Lebowski. They threaten him, and worse, they pee on his oriental rug, which really ties the room together. Seeking retribution for his soiled decor, The Dude sets out to confront the other Lebowski, embarking on that journey he doesn’t realise will come to involve kidnapping, ransom money, and high-level crime bosses. The whole movie is a trip. I suggest making yourself a large white Russian and readying a spliff before pressing play.
This Is the End
This Is the End is a 2013 movie about what would happen if you were stuck in a house full of stoners at the end of the world. Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the cast is a who’s who of comedians known for weed and dick jokes, including James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Seth Rogen himself as they’re all stuck in Franco’s Hollywood mansion when the rapture begins. Expect things like the classic roundtable weed toking scene, but with the added twist of a fire pit to hell.
Broad City (an honorable mention)
Though Broad City is a TV show, the lack of women in this list compels me to mention these two ladies with a particular affinity for weed. In their web series turned Comedy Central hit, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer play exaggerated versions of themselves as they survive in the big city with the help of friendship and weed. Their awkward, big personalities lead them to endless shenanigans, from falling down manholes to trying drugs they found on Craigslist. My favourite seasons are one and four, but all five seasons of Broad City are a bunch of fun and any random episode will put you in good company.