From The Big Lebowski to the Cheech and Chong franchise, from Half Baked to How High, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to 9 to 5: There is a long and storied history of stoner classics when it comes to film. What makes a stoner classic isn't that it's good to watch when you're high—arguably, everything is good to watch when you're high—but how specifically tailor-made the film in question seems to be to stoner sensibilities. From giggly humor to scenes of people toking to long shots and trippy visuals, it doesn't take much intuition to identify a stoner movie when you see it—you don't even have to be high to do so.
Just as tons of movies see release every year, many of those movies inevitably and often explicitly fall into the stoner subcategorization. Seth Rogen's profane animated feature Sausage Party is a decent (if excessively sophomoric) example of this, and so is Richard Linklater's excellent and lovingly languid Everybody Wants Some!!; Enter the Void and Spring Breakers were solid art-house stoner entries, and even Paul Thomas Anderson got into the giggly game with 2014's lovely, melancholy, and flat-out hilarious Inherent Vice.
This is to say that there are plenty of obvious stoner movies that have come out this decade—but for every no-brainer entry, there's another overlooked future stoner classic drifting in the pot-haze mist. Next time you sit down in front of the TV with some weed and a few bucks for an HD rental, here are ten movies that you should watch:
Embrace of the Serpent
Ciro Guerra's black-and-white journey into madness from 2015 is actually a bit of a callback to another stoner classic: Werner Herzog's harrowing 1972 epic Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Whereas Herzog's masterwork focused on one narrative, though—specifically, the titular Spanish soldier and the gold-hunting conquistadores that accompany him on his South American journey— Embrace of the Serpent jumps between two separate timelines involving Amazonian shaman Karamakate and his assisting foreign scientists looking for a rare plant with hallucinogenic properties. Sounds crazy, right? The patient pacing and gorgeous cinematography make for a visual feast, and the psychedelic blowout near its conclusion more than delivers. Watch this one with the lights off.
Get Out might seem like a curious choice as a new stoner classic: Jordan Peele's instant-classic debut from earlier this year is a unnerving horror film on its surface as well as a deep, cutting critique on race relations and the black experience at large. It deserves your full attention, and some might argue that being under the influence could undercut your ability to give it just that. But Peele's sense of framing, as well as the visual spectacle that is the film's "Sunken Place" motif, is impossible to look away from even on repeated viewings. As long as you're not the easily distracted stoner type, it's the kind of film that gets even deeper than your typical bong.
French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villenueve's stellar career so far has been dotted with fascinating genre experiments—the somber crime drama Prisoners, Arrival's brainy alien-invasion vibes—and 2013's Enemy is his entry in the loopy, doppelgänger-loaded mind-fuck canon. Any film with not one but two Jake Gyllenhaals is worth the price of admission, but Nicolas Bolduc's gold-dappled cinematography and Javier Gullón's alluringly vague script make for an extremely heady 90 minutes. (Plus: spiders. Lots of them.)
Born behind the lens of a true stoner legend (The Fifth Element, anyone?), Luc Besson's bloody and high-voltage sci-fi thriller is literally mind-expanding, as the titular character (Scarlett Johansson) tears through the world around her (and beyond). She achieves humanity's quest for absolute power and knowledge, and then some. Lucy is also a composite of a few films that sadly didn't make this list: the faux-brainy Bradley Cooper vehicle Limitless and the Johannson-starring alien film Under the Skin. Limitless is a bit too arch for its own good sometimes—think of it as Bradley Cooper's own Risky Business and then think about how annoying that sounds. And Under the Skin has a few unfortunate lulls in terms of pacing. So consider Lucy the, well, Lucy-like intersection between the two: a fun, fast-paced, and fake-deep actioner that achieves total perfection in the time it takes most people to make dinner.
Gregg Araki has charted a fascinating career over the past 30 years—you never know what you're going to get from one of his films. Kaboom is certainly no exception. A funny, sexy, and cartoonishly over-the-top romp concerning a sexually fluid college student navigating his own horniness, murderous cults, and the end of the world, Kaboom is an 87-minute blast that blends silliness and real matters of the human heart like a kid mixing finger paint. In other words, it's the essence of creativity in all its messy glory. And it's the perfect thing to throw on when you're looking for something to throw you for a loop.
Speaking of loops! You'll get to know director Rian Johnson's name a lot more in the next 12 months—he's helmed the forthcoming installment in the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi—but before he hit brand-name pay dirt, he established himself as a maker of knotty, smart, and enthralling capers. His first feature, the high school noir Brick, makes for fine viewing under weed-colored lenses. And The Brothers Bloom is also a nice mix of fanciful wordplay and complicated heist maneuverings. But it's the blood-soaked Looper, with its futuristic trappings, high-concept plotting, and trippy special effects, that makes for Johnson's true stoner opus. Also, more doppelgänger. Doppelgängers are really effective when you're high!
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Look, I've written about this movie before, and I'll never stop never stopping to write about this movie, because it's amazing. If I'm being totally honest, it's the funniest movie the decade's offered up so far. If it wasn't for Step Brothers—a spiritual cousin, certainly, as well as the funniest movie of the past 30 years at least—I'd say that it's the funniest movie of the past 30 years at least. Does that seem like overselling to you? Well, then you've probably never seen Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. What are you waiting for?
The Wachowskis's high-profile bust from 2015 is better than you think. No, really. An ambitious world-building sci-fi epic that triggers heartsick swoons as much as it does awe-inducing gasps, Jupiter Ascending is perhaps the only film on this list in which Mila Kunis falls in love with a dog—and how! If the potential for bestiality doesn't rope you in, perhaps you'll consider the beautiful sequence in which Channing Tatum's Caine Wise (because he's a dog—get it?) literally rollerblades across the night sky, every step from his feet creating beautiful chemtrail-like streaks. Also, there's Eddie Redmayne's truly insane performance as the villainous Balem Abrasax (great name), which has been derided and praised by critics all over. Where will you land on it? Blaze one and find out.
Shane Carruth's ambitious debut feature, the 2004 time-traveling mind-bender Primer, was shot on the cheap and confusing as all hell. Upstream Color, his 2013 follow-up, ups the production value considerably—but good luck making sense out of it. This is a good thing: In his short career so far, Carruth has proved himself a master when it comes to complex narratives and tackling big themes—biology, human nature, the cycle of life as we know it—and breaking your brain while he does so. Without giving too much away, Upstream Color will spark trippy conversations in thoughtful stoners.
What We Do in the Shadows
If you've seen a single episode of Flight of the Conchords, you probably know what you're getting into when it comes to this surprisingly warm-hearted (and very funny) Jemaine Clement–starring vampire comedy. What We Do in the Shadows is as much a situational comedy about the fickle nature of friendship and community as it is a mockumentary about the undead just trying to get along (and steer clear of werewolves). In other words, it's the least explicitly heady pick on this list, but is that such a bad thing? Getting high and watching movies is ultimately about unwinding. Not everything has to be so intense, and What We Do in the Shadows still brings the belly laughs as it charms your pants off. (There's some decent jump scares too, so it's not all chill.)
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