Stoner movies have been lighting up the big screen for years, but few have had the staying power of “The Big Lebowski.” The Coen brothers 1998 comedy got off to a slow start, but went on to inspire Lebowski Fest and the documentary, “The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans.”
Fans love Jeff Bridges as The Dude, a guy who fancies himself a bowler, smoker and all-around middle-aged slacker. His laid-back lifestyle turns upside down when kidnappers mistake him for a millionaire with the same name. They’ve got a woman held hostage, but they are trying to get money out of the wrong guy.
“The Big Lebowski” is just one of the popular stoner movies in the genre. Here’s a look at drug movies, stoned-out performances or pot-icularly enjoyable scenes from films over the last 60 years. (Merrick Morton / Gramercy Pictures)
Seth Rogen -- who co-wrote the script with Evan Goldberg -- plays a slacker stoner named Dale Denton. James Franco is his trippy-dippy drug dealer Saul Silver who is holding a new strain of pot called “pineapple express.” But quicker than you can say “bing-bang-bong,” Dale witnesses a murder by a crooked cop ( Rosie Perez) and a drug kingpin (Gary Cole).
Grade: Three tokes(Dale Robinette / Columbia Pictures)
Slacker buddies Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) really get the munchies after smoking pot in this ribald, gross-out R-rated comedy and set out to a nearby White Castle in order to satisfy their cravings for those little 3-inch square mini burgers. But getting to White Castle isn’t quite as easy as they assume.
And in the low-rent sequel, “Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay,” the lovable losers fly to Amsterdam so Harold can follow his dream woman and the two can smoke all the pot their hearts desire. But their joy ride turns into a bad trip when Kumar pulls out his homemade bong on the plane and it’s mistaken for a bomb. Suddenly, they are being hauled off to Gitmo.
Grade: Four tokes for “White Castle”; two tokes for “Guantanamo Bay”(Sophie Giraud / New Line Productions)
Just prior to achieving superstar status in 1994 with “Interview With the Vampire” and “Legends of the Fall,” Brad Pitt did a cameo in Tony Scott‘s mega-violent film noir penned by Quentin Tarantino about two lovers (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) who flee Detroit with a suitcase full of cocaine and high-tail it to L.A. with the mob and the cops chasing them. Pitt steals the show -- and is a welcome comedic respite from the balance as the pot-head Floyd who tries to give directions to the mob.
Grade: Five tokes for Pitt(Eric Charbonneau)
Though this Judd Apatow-produced spoof of biopics in general and “Walk the Line” in particular tanked when released that Christmas, there are many wonderfully risque, infantile moments, including a riotously funny sequence in which singer Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) and the Beatles (uncredited Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman) drop acid while visiting a yogi in India. Their trip is a wonderfully inventive take-off of the 1968 Beatles animated classic “Yellow Submarine.”
Grade: Four tokes(Gemma La Mana / Columbia Pictures)
Terry Gilliam co-wrote and directed this insanely whacked out adaptation of the late Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 novel. Johnny Depp plays journalist Raoul Duke and Benecio Del Toro his friend, attorney Dr. Gonzo -- the character is actually based on Thompson’s friend Oscar Zeta Acosta who disappeared three years after the book was published. The psychedelic flick finds the two driving to Las Vegas in 1971 to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race for a sports magazine. Along the way, they indulge in a massive amount of drugs and make life crazy for the unsuspecting citizens of Vegas. Gilliam said in an interview that he wanted the film to feel like a drug trip: “We start out at full speed, and it’s WOOO! The drug kicks in and you’re on speed! ... But then, ever so slowly, the wall starts closing in and it’s like you’re never going to get out of this ... place. It’s an ugly nightmare and there’s no escape.” Maybe too ugly. The film bombed.
Grade: Three tokes(Peter Mountain)
The “Citizen Kane” of drug movies. This low-budget mainstream hit that changed the face of Hollywood stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper as hippie bikers Wyatt and Billy who are dealing cocaine. They take off on a cross-country road trip where they encounter a boozy civil rights lawyer named George Hanson ( Jack Nicholson in his first Oscar-nominated role) who joins the duo. There’s a bad LSD trip involving the guys and two prostitutes that was shot in a New Orleans cemetery. The three stars actually smoked marijuana on camera. Hopper directed.
Grade: Five tokes(Columbia Pictures)
Advertisements for this hippy-dippy delight read: “These are the PLEASURE LOVERS! They’ll ask for a dime with hungry eyes ... but they will give you love ... for nothing.”
Susan Strasberg plays a deaf runaway who shows up in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco looking for her brother Steve, who had sent her a postcard stating: “Jess Saes: God is alive and well and living in a sugar cube.” Along the way she comes across a hippie aptly named Stoney ( Jack Nicholson) and an artist played by director Henry Jaglom who is freaking out on STP and believes everyone is the walking dead. He even tries to cut off his own hand with a saw. Perhaps the saw was fueled by flower power.
Grade: Four tokes(American International Pictures)
Wow, groovy, baby. Roger Corman directed -- Jack Nicholson wrote the screenplay -- this low-budget American International flick starring Peter Fonda as a director who is in the throes from a divorce from his adulterous wife (Susan Strasberg). He takes his first dose of LSD -- Dennis Hopper, natch, is his dealer -- with a “guide” (Bruce Dern) to help him through the treacherous waters of his first trip. But the trip turns nasty baby as Fonda flees his guide and wanders around the Sunset Strip and other areas in LaLa Land. In one particularly drug-stoked scene, Fonda yells out “Bay of Pigs!” when he sees revolving pictures of Che Guevara, Sophia Loren and Kahlil Gibran in a room.
Grade: Five tokes(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
Also known as “Tell Your Children,” this low-budget unintentionally funny cautionary tale about the evils of marijuana has become a cult hit and midnight movie favorite. It even spawned “Reefer Madness: The Musical.”
Just the written foreword that opens the film is worth the price of admission: “The motion picture you are about to witness May startle you. It would have not been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace, which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasingly numbers ... It’s first effect is sudden, violent, uncontrollable laughter, then comes dangerous hallucinations ...” Well, you get the picture.
Grade: Five tokes()
Anna Faris won the Stonette of the Year award at High Times mag’s Stony Awards in Los Angelesfor her no-holds-barred performance as Jane, a struggling actress who begins one morning enjoying hits on her bong before devouring a plate of cupcakes baked by her roommate that unbeknownst to her is laced with marijuana. Faris is wonderfully tuned out and turned on, but the Gregg Araki farce would have worked better as a 15-minute sketch.
Grade: Four tokes for Faris; two tokes for the film(Lacey Terrell / Fist Look Pictures)
Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong had been touring the country -- especially playing at colleges -- performing their drug-addled humor when they teamed up with director Lou Adler for this pot-fueled cult comedy. Chong plays Anthony Stoner; Marin is Pedro. The film was banned by the South African Publications Control Board for fear “it might encourage the impressionable youth of South Africa to take up marijuana smoking.”