Random Ephemera

7 Stoner Comedies That Are Fun for Non-Stoners

Ah...stoner movies. Love them or hate them, films made to appeal to connoisseurs of chemically enhanced states of mind have come out of Hollywood for decades, billowing forth like the smoke from a teenager's bong. While films with drug use as a central theme cover nearly every genre, most of the movies with such content, that aren't also violent or depressing, tend to be comedies — and there are a LOT of them. A person would think the heyday for drug comedies would've been the late '60s or '70s, but there have been tons of them released over the past 20 years or so, eclipsing the cinematic output of the American drug culture's formative years.

But what if a potential viewer isn't a stoner? I don't partake in the types of recreational "party favors" that most stoner comedies celebrate, so are any of them worthwhile for someone like me to watch? Here are a few stoner films that are funny whether the viewer has an altered state of mind or not. (Note: Some of these videos are not for the easily offended.)

7. Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny (2006)

This epic tale of two down-on-their-luck dudes who bond over their shared desire to form the world's most awesome rock band pits real-life musical/comedy partners Jack Black and Kyle Gass against Satan himself, after they discover the secret to musical superstardom is a magical guitar pick made from the devil's tooth. It's also a musical, and the duo are potheads. This film is fun, but it probably is most entertaining for viewers who are already fans of Tenacious D, as some of the material may fall flat with others. Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny also has some pacing issues, with certain scenes feeling unnecessary and boring, but the musical interludes with appearances by Ronnie James Dio, Meatloaf and Dave Grohl (as Satan) are hysterical. This is a stoner film, but that's not the entire focus. It's really a rock fantasy with some drug humor. I feel it qualifies because, if for no other reason, the heroes make a bong from Satan's horn. Can't say I've ever seen that in any other film.

6. Get Crazy (1983)

Get Crazy is another film that's not specifically about drugs, but has so much drug humor throughout it that I feel like it qualifies as a stoner film. The plot involves a legendary rock venue modeled after the Fillmore East that's about to host its annual New Year's Eve concert, while a slimy guy played by Ed Begley Jr. is trying to launch a hostile takeover so he can bulldoze the club and build an enormous stadium at its location. The movie was directed by the same guy responsible for Rock 'n' Roll High School, and the films share a certain thread of insanity, as well as a few cast members. As for drug content, there is plenty, and it's treated with the casual attitude that seems to have been the norm in rock culture at the time. An almost supernatural drug dealer named "Electric Larry" appears with a briefcase full of every conceivable mind-altering substance known to man. Larry is equal parts ghostly specter, with glowing red eyes and a blacked-out face, and '70s pimp stereotype. He saves the day by supplying the club's exhausted staff with enough drugs to keep them moving at a comically sped-up pace. It's hard to describe a film like Get Crazy, because so many random plot elements get thrown into the mix, but it's got a great cast, including Malcolm McDowell playing a character lampooning Mick Jagger, and real musicians including Lou Reed, and Lee Ving showing up to add to the fun. Definitely interesting, and the film has some hilarious moments, regardless of whether the viewer is high.

5. Friday (1995)

This film is well loved, and for good reason. It's funny as hell. Starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, Friday tells the tale of a day in south central Los Angeles, involving newly jobless Craig Jones (Ice Cube) and his ne'er-do-well pot-dealing friend Smokey (Chris Tucker). The plot concerns a shortfall in the money Smokey owes his supplier, since he's been smoking the weed instead of selling it. Given until the end of the day to come up with $200, Smokey and Craig spend much of the movie trying to raise the cash while encountering the neighborhood's colorful residents. While there's some drama in Friday, most of the film is played for laughs, and a lot of those laughs are big ones. Tucker in particular turns in an amazing comedic performance, making Friday big fun for almost any viewer.

4. Idle Hands (1999)

While this late-'90s horror comedy initially met with a chilly reception and was a huge box-office flop, Idle Hands is a funny stoner movie that has found a cult following over the ensuing years. The film tells the story of a lazy teenage stoner named Anton whose hand becomes possessed and goes on a murder spree, killing his friends and family. After chopping off the satanic appendage, Anton hunts for it with a group that includes his dead (but reanimated) pothead friends, a Druidic priestess, his girlfriend, and oafish neighbor Randy. After wreaking havoc at a high school dance, the group manages to destroy the possessed hand by blowing smoke from a bong at it until it is incapacitated. Idle Hands is a fun and gory ride, but it's more comedy than horror show. The pothead humor is mixed in nicely with funny satanic references, and it works. Idle Hands also benefits from a strong cast, including Vivica A. Fox, Jessica Alba and Seth Green, and balances a clever plot with copious amounts of pot humor.

3. Cheech and Chong — Up In Smoke, Next Movie, and Nice Dreams (1978, 1980, 1981)

Cheech and Chong are widely credited with creating the "stoner comedy" movie genre with the release of Up in Smoke in 1978, and it's hard to argue against that. The counterculture comedy duo seem to have set the tone for many of the films that explored similar themes years later, creating a world of over-the-top characters and drug-driven plots that are always played for laughs. Their first three films are definitely the best, creating a weird trilogy of sorts, although I favor the first one the most. Nothing in Cheech and Chong's universe is serious, and the plots don't always really gel, but they're fun and funny enough to kill a few hours with. Looking back at the strange late-'70s and early-'80s version of California in which their films take place is almost as interesting as the humor itself, some of which is very funny, and some of which is not. The films have a kind of jumbled appeal to them, and feel like they were created by stringing together pieces of Cheech and Chong's old comedy routines, while adding characters and material created by other comedians like Paul Reubens, whom the duo found somewhere along the way. When it works, the results are hilarious; when it doesn't, Cheech and Chong still tend to have enough charisma to remain entertaining. The two stoner heroes are pursued relentlessly by Sgt. Stedenko (Stacy Keach), an overzealous narcotics cop, who seems like a copy of Norbert the Narc, lifted from the old Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics. Why no one ever made a film version of those, I'll never know. In any case, the first three Cheech and Chong films aren't for everyone, but you don't have to be a pothead to enjoy their lowbrow antics.

2. Half Baked (1998)

Half Baked was critically slammed when it was released, and reviews of it still don't tend to show much love for the film, but it's achieved a cult status among many viewers and I don't know too many people who don't think this film is funny. Half Baked tells the story of a group of loyal friends who've known each other since childhood, who end up as pot dealers after one of them is thrown in jail and needs bail money. The group encounters trouble when a local drug kingpin demands they pay him in order to be allowed to continue, and their situation continues to spiral out of control. Half Baked would probably be a throwaway stoner film except for some clever writing that keeps the film consistently funny, and a talented cast led by Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer. It's hard to hate on a film with cameos by Willie Nelson, John Stewart, Bob Saget, Stephen Baldwin, Snoop Dogg and Tommy Chong anyway.

1. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

After a disappointing start to their weekend, pothead pals Harold Lee and Kumar Patel smoke some weed and are inspired to travel to a White Castle restaurant to satisfy their munchies. They encounter many misadventures along the way, including a scary mechanic named "Freakshow" who wants them to participate in a foursome with him and his wife, and an ecstasy-gobbling, out-of-control Neil Patrick Harris. Without spoiling too much of the plot, it'll suffice to say that Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is extremely funny throughout, and one doesn't need to be high to enjoy the insane situations the pair find themselves thrust into while they're simply trying to score weed and hamburgers. This film is definitely worth repeated viewings.

This list isn't intended as a complete compendium of every funny stoner comedy that's ever been released, because there are a ton of them. Some films, like The Stoned Age (1994), are worth digging up, and would make the list if it were longer, and there are lots of films that could be included, except they're not explicitly about drug use. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) are good examples of films with stoner characters in them, but are different in overall tone.

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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.