Well it’s 4/20 day, even here in England, which is confusing because they write the dates the wrong way around over here. In any case, what better way to celebrate the ultimate stoner holiday than with a movie in the comfort of your own home? That way when the weed nap kicks in, you can just let it go, doze off, wake up and rewind. Here are the ten best films to watch while stoned. (Not necessarily the ten best films about being stoned). If you’re close enough to me that you want plausible deniability about the choices I’ve made in my past, then you may want to stop reading here.
- Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1980)
Damned if I know what this film, or the concept album behind it, really means. Isolation, loneliness, consumer culture leading to fascism. While generally understood to be the last gasp of the acid culture of the 1960s, Roger Water’s masterwork combined with disturbing visual images both real and imagined will no doubt take your altered state to a hellishly introspective state, if you want that sort of thing. Soon enough you’ll be asking, “Is there anybody out there?”
- Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke (1978)
Sober or stoned, I defy anyone to get through the first 15-20 minutes of this film without gasping for air from laughter. This first feature length film of the famously stoned duo is tightly written and full of social commentary that those of you in Colorado and the west coast will probably miss. There are other comedies about being stoned, good movies too, but this is the crown jewel.
- The Matrix (1999)
I watched this film sober in a theater in Berkeley when it came out and was not impressed. As someone from the famously snobby crowd of Berkeley movie goers remarked as we exited the theater, “Keanu Reeves as a kung fu fighting, computer wiz, messianic figure? I’m not buying it.” But watch this film stoned and whoa! The special effects really overtake you. The scene where Keanu is first brought to the truth, is mind blowing. The questions this film raises about the nature of reality are made for stoners and philosophers alike.
- Any Episode of any Sitcom
Ok, so, inevitably if you smoke marijuana you’re going to turn on the television, and you’ll likely want something lighthearted to watch, so you go for sitcom in syndication. Smart move right? Sort of. What is sort of funny sober becomes ridiculous and then creepy. See with a sitcom people are meant to be real. Friends, How I Met Your Mother, even Big Bang Theory, these are people who in theory, exist in our world but say clever things and have better adventures. Except, they’re not real at all. No one behaves like this. Once you start to see how absurd a sitcom is, you find yourself caught in a weird, “Wait, can this really happen?” kind of disaster that you would have thought was only suited to films like The Matrix. The sitcom that was both infinitely compelling to my younger stoner self, and also creepy as fuck: The Drew Carey Show. That show blew my mind. Of course, he did bill himself as The Human Cartoon once upon a time so…
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Dude has taken on a life of his own in the 20 years since its release. He’s become an almost cosmic, pseudo-religious figure. This is because despite all of the negative qualities he possesses (we’re told immediately that he’s the laziest man in L.A.) he is the stoner all stoners aspire to be. Easy going, mellow, unconcerned with the vagaries of life. Of course most of us have to worry about the rent, because as we know, tomorrow’s already the tenth, but we can dream a dream of bowling along the way, can’t we?
- Brazil (1985)
Of course the go to drug film from Terry Gilliam is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but I’m going with his earlier work, Brazil, for this list. It’s message of growing government control justified by terrorism and executed sloppily is timely for one. Of course it’s been timely since its release and it’s only getting timelier. More to the point of this list, however, like all Gilliam films, it’s visually stunning in such a way that it makes you question reality. And then of course, there’s the ending.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969)
So the lava lamp mostly exists because despite it’s non narrative flow, it is compelling as all hell to watch. The effects of THC on the brain enhance the ability to be captivated by such things. Add music and you get a typical Friday night for any stoner. Replace the lava lamp with visuals by genius filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and you get 2001. There is no film like it. Some films have tried to imitate it (Dune and The Black Hole come to mind) but have succeeded in simply being boring. Kubrick does more with a floating pen then most directors do with pages of dialogue. Honestly, this film is the visual equivalent of a Hendrix guitar solo. I didn’t understand it sober, but then I understood it.
- Fight Club (1999)
So hypothetically speaking if you were going to stay with a friend for the weekend, and he got into a fight with his girlfriend and she threw him out of their apartment, and you wandered over to another friend’s house at 2:00 in the morning, and he let you in because he was that kind of guy, and he tells you he’s just about to watch Fight Club, which you’ve never seen and know nothing about, and you’ve smoked yourself silly already and are entering that deeply introspective high that lies beyond the giggles, under those circumstances Fight Club might be the greatest movie of all time. Of course, it’s aged poorly thanks in large part to the douchebag community of MRA (Men’s Rights Activists) types. But as Derrida once said, “Douchebags may misinterpret a film, but douchebags cannot misinterpret just any film.” Or something. Still, hypothetically, this film earned a spot on my list.
- American Pop (1981)
This is a feature length cartoon for adults produced at a time when such things were in fashion. I first saw this film at about the age of 9, flipping the channels after sneaking out in the middle of the night and turning on the television. I thought “ooo, cartoon” but no, not for kids. The artistic style of this film makes it the sort of opposite of the Sit-Coms I described above. You’re watching a cartoon, but it feels real. Combined with a tragic story of the development of American pop music from the days of vaudeville to the verge of the post punk 1980s, this film is a series of successive tragedies that just tears you down. It’s fictional, but the music is well known pop and the story is compelling. I owned it later in life on VHS, and it became a go to favorite when I wanted something heavy.
- The Song Remains the Same (1973)
I’m not a huge Led Zeppelin fan, but I am a fan of this concert film which covers the seminal ’70s rock band at the height of their fame. The film is interspersed with concert footage, backstage action, and fantasy sequences the fit a band that wrote no less that two songs about Tolkien’s Middle Earth. All in all it’s a fantastic concert film made by a great band at the apex of their talent. Combined with the visuals, it’s should always be under consideration for what to pop into the Blu-Ray while packing a bowl.