By popular demand, here are three more films in which cannabis figures prominently. No introduction needed, so let’s “roll” right into it.
Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980): When I reached out to the readers for suggestions, the most popular submission was Up in Smoke, by the comedy duo that did more for stoner culture than probably everyone else in the world combined. All their films fit easily onto this list, but I picked this because of the amazing cameo by Pee-Wee Herman, long before his Saturday morning television show. (Most people forget that Pee-Wee began as a very adult gimmick, conceived by Paul Reubens and the late great Phil Hartman at The Groundlings in LA in the 1970s. Go find that!) By the way, I’ve always been adamant that, while there’s still time, there needs to be one last Cheech and Chong movie. The idea of them being elderly, and sneaking away from home for one final crazy road trip, augmented by all the great guest stars of past movies, is an easy gimmick. The script almost writes itself (and if not, I volunteer).
Kids (1995): In some ways, screenwriter Harmony Korrine’s debut effort is one of the most terrifying films I’ve ever seen. As a college freshman, I watched an afternoon matinee in an empty theater, and my life was never quite the same. Rarely is a movie able to be both contemporary and dystopian at the same time, but those marks were hit hard. In the back of the head. With a skateboard. The great Chloe Sevigny makes her film debut as a teenager who scours New York City in a failed effort to find Telly, the “virgin surgeon” who gave her HIV. Meanwhile, Telly and his friend Casper are basically wilding, skating and drinking and fighting, as the narrative builds toward an ending that leaves the viewer utterly gutted. One memorable scene finds Casper demonstrating how to roll a blunt. (God only knows how many kids learned how because of Kids, but I do know of one who didn’t: me. It’s been 24 years, and to this day I still cannot roll a blunt to save my life.) It’s a great film, and it features one of the greatest soundtracks I’ve ever heard, curated by Sebadoh founder Lou Barlow (beloved, incidentally, by music fans here in Northeast Florida). Two of the principals would later die tragically, which casts a literal pall over the proceedings, but the film is also notable for marking the debut of Rosario Dawson, which makes it a historical curiosity of considerable value.
Half Baked (1998): All things considered, Half Baked may be the most important stoner film of our time. It’s most notable for introducing the great Dave Chappelle to mainstream audiences, years before his eponymous Comedy Central show made him a household name. Half Baked is about a group of friends who start selling weed to raise bail money when one of them gets locked up, and it features a murderer’s row of celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Jon Stewart as the customers. It references then-novel themes that are common today, such as the superior quality of “medical grade” ganja, as well as the use of bike messengers to deliver the stuff, a gimmick pioneered in places like New York and San Francisco. Bonus points go to Steven Wright, one of my five favorite comics of all-time, as the roommate on the couch. [Editor’s note: That Bob Saget cameo though.]