The top 10 weed flicks from the past two decades

On screen, the Dude (Jeff Bridges) favors White Russians, but there seems to be a 420 attitude at work, too.

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

The move towards the legalization of weed owes a debt of sorts to its pop cultural presence at the movies. We’ve come a long way from the somewhat underground subversiveness of the Cheech & Chong classics of the late 1970s; although we can’t escape the reality that every single movie on the following list wouldn’t be possible without Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. I think it’s high time to track the onscreen trail on new joints blazed in the last two decades.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

If you’re looking for an icon to replace Cheech & Chong as the avatar of the weed game onscreen, you would be hard-pressed to find one better than The Dude (Jeff Bridges), the laid-back hero of the Coen Brothers movie that has achieved instant-classic status. This is a crime caper for the hazed and infused set. Pretty much every performer in the mix – Julianne Moore, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and John Turturro – deserves a spot in the High Times hall of fame.

Half Baked (1998)

Most audiences that settle in for a viewing of this Tamra Davis movie would never even try to separate the idea of Dave Chappelle’s character (Thurgood Jenkins / Sir Smoke-a-Lot) from his persona as a stand-up comic/former Comedy Central star. He is the celebrity you would want to hang (and share a joint) with and “Half Baked” is what that wild time might feel like. The plot, about a trio of friends trying to spring a buddy from jail, is what it’s like to brainstorm while high.

This Is the End (2013)

In a recent celebrity interview, when asked what Seth Rogen smells like, his “Neighbors” co-star Zac Efron, could barely contain his laughter before spitting out, “weed,” while mentioning that his “Greatest Showman” co-star Hugh Jackman smelled like “magic.” Rogen and Evan Goldberg have made a modern-day cottage industry out of their great appreciation for cannabis and this movie lets their cadre of midnight tokers play versions of themselves as the world ends, doing, what else…

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Random mis-adventures while in pursuit of that Holy Grail snack capable of satisfying the munchies is the heart and soul of Danny Leiner’s beautifully meandering flick, but along the way the more time we spend with Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn), the more we realize that even in a stoner comedy, character and story matters. And the two sequels (“Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”) that followed continued to playfully skewer social and
cultural stereotypes.

The Wackness (2008)

Who knew that you could make a compelling romantic dramedy about a hip-hop loving high school grad (Josh Peck) who trades weed for therapy, while jonesing for his therapist’s stepdaughter (Olivia Thirlby)? Writer-director Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) gets Method Man, Ben Kingsley, and Mary-Kate Olsen to help bring the bittersweet noise in this surprisingly gentle cult hit.

We’re the Millers (2008)

Heading for the border with an RV full of weed, low-level pot dealer David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) solicits a ragtag fake family—a stripper mom (Jennifer Aniston), a homeless runaway daughter (Emma Roberts), and a geeky son (Will Poulter)—in order to move a huge shipment for his double-dealing boss (Ed Helms). Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Easy A”) knows how to blend the indie-inspired raunch with mainstream action-comedy beats for a lively homegrown vibe.

Grandma’s Boy (2006)

I have to admit that I had zero expectations for “Grandma’s Boy” when I caught its advance screening. The movie arrives courtesy of Happy Madison Productions (Adam Sandler’s vanity production house) and features a somewhat suspect collection of folks—Linda Cardellini, Shirley Jones, Doris Roberts, and Nick Swardson—but star Allen Covert brings a shaggy charm to his role as a 35-year old video game tester forced to move in with his grandmother and her two roommates that cuts through the heavy smoke.

Ted (2012)

The story of the ultimate friendship is one that involves a stuffed animal that comes to life. In what world would that be possible? A beautifully hazy cloud, which is likely where the premise was conceived. Imagine Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan laced with Superbad (in particular the two cops played by Seth Rogen and Bill Hader who drag Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s McLovin around like their favorite rag doll) and you still haven’t quite gotten to the absurd level Seth McFarland achieves in this raunchy joint.

Knocked Up (2007)

You have to be high to believe that you can have a random hook-up with someone way out of your league (a television producer played by Katherine Heigl) and then wind up raising the kid you conceive with her, which seems like the kind of story only Seth Rogen or writer-director Judd Apatow could make up. The lazy vibe gets the perfect splash of reality from Apatow’s significant other (Leslie Mann) who plays Heigl’s grounded sister who is married with kids, but dreams of having some fun of her own.

Savages (2012)

It’s not all fun and games in the wonderful world of weed, as this Oliver Stone film makes clear. “Savages,” adapted from a novel by Don Winslow, captures the exploits of a pair of pot growers (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) who go to war with a Mexican drug cartel after their shared girlfriend (Blake Lively) gets kidnapped and used as a pawn. Peace, love, and high times takes a backseat to an escalating war that kills the major buzz, but with Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta in the mix, the contact high lingers.