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20 great movies to watch when you’re high

From ‘Half Baked’ to ‘The Big Lebowski’: the finest smoked-out cinema for stoners

Written by
Matthew Singer
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Sure, you’ve watched movies before. But have you ever watched a movie… on weeeeeed? Okay, you’ve probably done that, too. Honestly, if you partake in the devil’s lettuce at all, plopping down in front of the television with a bottomless bag of M&Ms and a side of gummy worms is basically the main leisure activity. As longtime puffers will tell you, though, not every movie is made to be watched high. Rolling the dice on whatever Netflix recommends is not advised, lest you encounter something that will make you think, feel and see things you absolutely should not be thinking, feeling and seeing in your ‘heightened’ state of mind.   

Picking the right film for a stoned night in is a precarious science. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a stoner comedy, or even necessarily a so-called ‘dumb comedy’. But if you’re looking to giggle, you probably don’t want to have to think too much about a joke. And if you’re in the mood to simply trip out on some wild imagery, you don’t want to go down a hole of darkness - 2001 may have courted acid freaks by billing itself as ‘The Ultimate Trip’, but in our opinion, that’s not really a trip you want to be taking from your sofa at 1am. These 20 films, however, will hit the sweet spot… for as long as you manage to stay awake, anyway.

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Best movies to watch high

  • Film
  • Drama

There is no greater movie dopehead than Jeff Bridges’ Jeff ‘the Dude’ Lebowski. (Tommy Chong isn’t exactly a cinematic creation, after all.) A slacker philosopher wrapped in a bathrobe and flip flops, Bridges seems to float through the film, unshaken by the criminals, nihilists and scummy tycoons who stumble into his life – about the only thing that can rattle his chill is the Eagles. Coming from the Coen brothers, the whole affair is a bit more mystical and highfalutin than the average stoner comedy, but The Big Lebowski transcends them all. Most weed movies are about weed. The Big Lebowski is weed.  

  • Film
  • Comedy

In the early ’90s, the fascination with gangsta rap spun off into several truly great movies focused on the pain and struggle of life in the inner city. But it wasn’t until Friday that someone thought to show what’s funny about it, too. That someone was Ice Cube, who wrote the movie and stars as Craig, an underachieving twentysomething, who, after somehow getting fired from his job on his day off, spends the day trying to help his motormouth buddy Smokey (Chris Tucker, in the role that jumpstarted his career) get out of a jam with a local weed dealer. There exists an entire generation who probably couldn’t tell you what they had for breakfast this morning but can recite every line from memory. 

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Cheech & Chong’s Nice Dreams (1981)
Columbia Pictures

3. Cheech & Chong’s Nice Dreams (1981)

Up in Smoke, the first movie from the Mexican-American comedy duo of Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin, is the original stoner comedy and a truly wild countercultural artefact. But their third movie is where shit starts to get really weird. Having made a fortune selling pot out of an ice cream truck, the pair are ready to retire to their own island, but not before attracting the attention of an overzealous cop (Stacy Keach). Cue odd non-sequiturs involving characters named ‘Howie Hamburger’ and ‘Weird Jimmy’, an acid trip in a mental asylum, cameos from Paul Reubens and LSD pioneer Timothy Leary, and a weed strain that slowly turns consumers into lizards… 

Fantastic Planet (1973)
Image: New World Cinema

4. Fantastic Planet (1973)

In terms of bugged-out psychedelic animation, this severely trippy sci-fi allegory makes The Yellow Submarine look like Paw Patrol. The French-Czech co-production uses its literally otherworldly imagery to impart a message about interspecies subjugation and man’s inhumanity to man, but you’ll probably just spend the whole movie staring into the blood-red eyes of those blue-skinned alien beings and going ‘whoaaa…’

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Half Baked (1998)
Mubi

5. Half Baked (1998)

Before he reinvented sketch comedy in the 2000s – and long before he started antagonising the trans community – Dave Chappelle had a much more humble goal: revive the stoner comedy. It had been a good while since there’d been a movie made explicitly for potheads, by potheads, and while critics hated it, it was adopted by red-eyed ’90s kids as the Up in Smoke of their generation. It’s at once knowingly dumb and smarter than it looks, and boasts some, let’s say, ‘lived in’ performances from Jim Breuer, Harland Williams and Chappelle himself. 

  • Film
  • Comedy

You’d be forgiven for misremembering this beloved time-travelling adventure as a ‘stoner comedy’. Bill S Preston, esq. and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) sure seem like they’ve smoked themselves stupid, but there’s nary a bong nor even a veiled reference to weed anywhere in the movie. (It’s rated PG, after all.) Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t smoke yourself stupid before watching.

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Pineapple Express (2008)
  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Named after a potent weed strain, the logline for this David Gordon Green action-comedy is effectively: ‘What if the most perma-stoned dudes you know were dropped into the middle of a Michael Bay movie?’ Critics mostly hated the results, but the camaraderie between Seth Rogen, James Franco and Danny McBride is palpable as they bumble their way through a criminal conspiracy involving a drug lord, a corrupt cop and a large pot-growing operation.

  • Film

Opinion on Mallrats, Kevin Smith’s followup to his beloved low-budget debut Clerks, hasn’t changed much over time. Consensus says it was a profound disappointment, if not a betrayal of the indie values Smith supposedly embodied. That is to say, a lot of people have been wrong about Mallrats for close to 30 years now. For one thing, Clerks doesn’t have Jason Lee, the only actor who’s ever been able to deliver Smith’s dialogue and sound at all like a real human. And while the humour is broader and more slapsticky, it’s executed with mad glee. Of course, a little cannabinoidal influence can only help with your personal reappraisal.

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  • Film
  • Documentaries

If you’re simply looking to trip out, this wordless, non-narrative documentary from the crew behind 1992’s Baraka should do the trick. A kaleidoscopic collage of humanity, it’s shot in pristine 70mm and travels across 25 countries, from strip clubs in Bangkok to pyramid-adjacent apartment complexes in Egypt. It gives off a faint New Age-y scent, but it’s also indisputably beautiful and full of images – including drone footage of hundreds of dancers in China practising a routine and a procession of pallbearers carrying a gun-shaped coffin – that will make you feel like you’ve crossed through the doors of perception.

Pootie Tang (2001)
Mubi

10. Pootie Tang (2001)

Originating on HBO’s The Chris Rock Show, this grandly silly blaxploitation send-up went way over critics’ heads, but the utter randomness of its humour – the titular hero’s nonsense dialogue, his use of a belt as a weapon, Chris Rock’s cameo as a talking corn cob – eventually made it a cult favourite… and you can just imagine who is among its strongest adherents. Smoke enough of the good shit, and Pootie’s confidently-delivered gibberish might even start making sense. Sa da tay my damie.

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  • Film
  • Comedy

A movie about two guys getting high and going to get hamburgers should not succeed to the level this absurdist buddy comedy does – at least, not to the point of launching a franchise. Chalk it up to the natural camaraderie of stars Kal Penn and John Cho, and the energetic script from director Danny Leiner (Dude, Where’s My Car?, another candidate for this list), who turns a simple misadventure into a stoner After Hours.

Hausu (1977)
Mubi

12. Hausu (1977)

Even by the insane standards of Japanese horror, this ’70s haunted house flick is absolutely, certifiably, 100 percent batshit. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi takes a cookie-cutter premise – a schoolgirl takes her friends on a trip to her mysterious aunt’s house in the country, where they encounter bizarre paranormal phenomena – and turns it into something like Dario Argento directing an episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Quickly forgotten upon release, a remastered version went on a revival tour in North America in 2010, where it was quickly embraced by the midnight movie crowd. If you’re not high when it starts, you’ll feel like you are by the time it’s over.

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  • Film
  • Family and kids

A movie about a munchie factory where chocolate flows like water and snozberries grow on trees? Sign us up, dude! Of course, there’s always been something vaguely sinister about Gene Wilder’s iconic performance, but you’ll be too busy housing multiple bags of jelly beans and fun-size Munch bars to notice. Make sure to brace yourself for ‘The Magic Boat Ride’, though – it’s a bad trip in every sense.

The Holy Mountain (1973)
  • Film

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s cult mindfuck is both of its time and of another planet completely. Ostensibly, it tells the story of a thief seeking spiritual redemption. But you ain’t in this for plot; you’re here to be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of its themes and the audaciousness of its symbolism. It’s meant to be watched under the use of some consciousness-altering substance – and weed may not be strong enough, to be honest – not because it will help the thing make any more literal sense, but because it will allow you to let go of any possible understanding and simply enjoy the ride.

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MacGruber (2010)
  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Like most Saturday Night Live creations, the sketch that inspired this action spoof has only one joke: that Will Forte’s MacGyver-esque bomb-defusing expert is actually really bad at defusing bombs. But the bit always worked because Forte really commits to that single joke. Similarly, the movie version revels in its stupidity to such a degree that it becomes a form of genius. Warning: watching the scene in which Forte has sex with the ghost of his dead wife (Maya Rudolph) while high may be hazardous to your health.

  • Film
  • Comedy

An utterly bonkers satire from first-time director (and longtime underground rapper) Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You isn’t exactly a ‘light a J, turn off your brain’ kind of affair. In its story of a struggling artist (LaKeith Stanfield), who takes a job to as a telemarketer and find himself almost too good at the job, it touches on themes of racism, corporate drudgery and the way Black people are forced contort themselves to get by in America. But the off-the-wall twist near the end will truly mess with your head – and it owes a bit to Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams, truth be told.

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Inherent Vice (2014)
  • Film
  • Drama

Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s psychedelic detective novel isn’t what you might call ‘coherent’, but it’s got a great performance from Joaquin Phoenix as Doc Sportello, a private investigator who’s something like a cross between the Dude and Hunter S Thompson. The whole movie operates on a kind of weed logic, so get your head right before throwing it on and maybe you can explain it to your sober friends afterward.

Enter the Void (2009)
  • Film
  • Thrillers

Warning: provocateur Gaspar Noé’s first-person voyage to another plane of consciousness should be watched under the influence by experienced stoners only. Otherwise, you might actually start to think you’ve died and gone to heaven… or more accurately, the Tokyo club scene, where a drug dealer named Oscar is killed by police, subsequently allowing viewers to immerse themselves in his neon-lit journey into oblivion. Honestly, there are probably worse fates.  

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  • Film
  • Comedy

This piece of anti-copaganda, about incompetent state troopers in Vermont aiming to take down a pot-smuggling ring near the Canadian border, did modest box office but became a talisman for millennial burnouts. As with everything else from the New York comedy crew Broken Lizard, the humour is gleefully silly, but it absolutely smashes its low-hanging fruit with such gusto it almost dares you not to laugh. 

Smiley Face (2007)
First Look International

20. Smiley Face (2007)

One of the few female-fronted stoner comedies, this indie from Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation) is carried by the perpetually underrated Anna Faris, who accidentally eats a highly potent weed-infused cupcake on a day where she can’t just stay inside and ignore her responsibilities. Relatable, right? It’s a softball conceit, and Faris slams it out of the park. 

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