The Stoner Canon: Essential Weed Movies, Books, Music, and TV Shows

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Pot-smoking and pop culture consumption go hand in hand: do the former, and you run the risk of only wanting to partake in the latter — especially if you’re smoking an Indica strain.

In turn, pop culture has taken advantage of the laughing fits that often accompany bong hits. Watch a sub-par stoner comedy — instead of one by Richard Linklater, the Coen Brothers, Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe, or, dare I even say it, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson — and you’ll see what I mean. Cheap laughs and stoner stereotypes prevail; the potheads themselves start to feel like the butt of the joke. It’s especially unfunny when you’re in the midst of one of those cerebral highs where you just wanna talk about the meaning of life, man. But would that perception of smoking pot be as prevalent in the mainstream without pop culture?

It’s through these Beats, hippies, burnout philosophers, and the subsequent generational knock-offs that we learned the upside of marijuana: the opening of the mind. Much of the art created or consumed by stoners takes on a vaguely hallucinogenic, even psychedelic quality, especially when it comes to music and books. The reason for this, of course, is tied to its golden era: pot’s first whiff of mainstream acceptance during the late ’60s and early ’70s. From The Beatles to Dylan, Fear and Loathing to Inherent Vice, art created and set during this iconic era often contains the implicit encouragement: this is meant to be trippy, so go ‘head and trip.

Of course, there’s also the case of the inadvertent stoner favorite. The creator likely had not factored in marijuana, but the final product resonated with pot smokers anyway (see: Adventure Time, David Lynch’s Eraserhead). These works sit exactly opposite of the party-stoner creations — the ones that suggest that the best place to be when you’re high is not necessarily stuck to the couch, but rather, raging with your stoner friends. From The Chronic to Missy Elliott and The Beastie Boys, those picks are also represented in Flavorwire’s Stoner Canon, which we’re proud to present in celebration of 4/20. — Jillian Mapes

Broad City

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson instantly won a cult following for finally depicting 20-something New York galhood with some measure of accuracy (looking at you, Sex and the City)! Part of that accuracy? Unabashed stonerdom. Pax vaporizers, blended firecrackers, the title substance of “Pussy Weed”: from dead-on realism to absurdist gags, weed is just part of Broad City’s incredibly specific world. The show makes a point of not making a point of Abbi and Ilana being women who also happen to smoke pot; in the process, the show quietly but effectively debunks the sexist stereotype of stoners as exclusively dudes. — Alison Herman

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas

Peter Sellers is the best reason to see any movie that stars Peter Sellers, although there’s plenty of other things to love about Hy Averback’s ode to the famously weed-laced baked goods pioneered by Gertrude Stein’s companion. Released in 1968, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas is the story of Sellers’ Harold Fine, a lawyer who falls down the rabbit hole of hippiedom after his brother brings a hot, hip girl to a funeral. Though the plot isn’t exactly novel, Sellers’ hilarious performance makes it one of the most watchable of the period’s counterculture-sploitation films. — Judy Berman

Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”

This song can take on various meanings depending on how much you’ve smoked while listening. The opening track on Dylan’s 1966 classic album Blonde on Blonde, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” is known to casual listeners as the “everybody must get stoned” song. Certainly that interpretation is correct, but Dylan does more than just craft a stoner anthem that sounds as if he got a honky-tonk band totally baked before they recorded (that’s sort of the rumor about how it was made, actually). The verses comment on the cultural perception of beatniks, liberal activists, and artists as stoner screw-ups — and the subsequent prejudice against them — during the mid-’60s. But, you know, 12 times 35 equals 420, so maybe I’m just overthinking the politics, man. — Jillian Mapes

Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem’s surreal portrait of late-aughts New York holds plenty of surprises. The prominent role of a certain herb, however, is given away by the title: the adventures of Chase Insteadman, narrator and former child star, and Perkus Tooth, his critic friend, are fueled by a steady supply of marijuana. As with Inherent Vice, the smoking pairs well with an atmosphere of constant confusion as Chase and Perkus get swept up in the mysteries of a tiger on the loose, a ghostwriter love interest, and a sinister mayor with a suspicious resemblance to Michael Bloomberg. — Alison Herman

That ’70s Show

A product of America’s first wave of 1970s nostalgia, That ’70s Show introduced us to a pithy crew of era-appropriate high schoolers, providing breakthrough roles for A-list actress Mila Kunis and A-list venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher. (Now, of course, they have a child together.) Along with power pop, Star Wars, and platform shoes, the kids indulged in frequent basement smoking sessions. Cleverly shot to avoid showing any actual drug use, these scenes panned around the sacred, smoky “circle,” following the fully baked conversation. So strong was the show’s affinity for stoner culture that, in Season 2, it cast weed-comedy icon Tommy Chong as Hyde’s (Danny Masterson) hippie boss. Unfortunately, Chong disappeared in Season 5, while serving time on charges related to his bong business. But That ’70s Show welcomed him back with open arms when his sentence ended, in Season 7. — Judy Berman

The Holy Mountain

Maestro of the psychedelic midnight movie Alejandro Jodorowsky has always been adamant in interviews that he was not under the influence of drugs when filming 1973’s The Holy Mountain. The director certainly possesses a surrealist imagination, but according to various interviews, a few real-life mind-altering substances did play into the making of The Holy Mountain. Referring to his cast and crew, Jodorowsky explained:

I locked them in my house for two months and we slept only four hours a day, from midnight till four am. I hired a guru who did Arica training. I found the actors in Max’s Kansas City in New York. I took two transvestites from there, and a guy who was ejected from Wall Street, and I found an extreme right-wing guy to play the Nazi. So they were playing roles close to themselves. They were very neurotic – normal people are neurotic but even more so in New York. I had this great idea to get them mystical enlightenment – I thought when I finished the picture, they could prepare to become monks. But they brought boxes of drugs with them and we were told the police were coming to raid us, when we were in the pyramids in Mexico, so I put the drugs down the drain. Then the actors became terrible, hated everything, because they didn’t have their drugs.

It seems impossible to hate anything about the hallucinogenic film when sober, but you never know what visions may appear if you choose to ascend the mountain with Jodorowsky and company. — Alison Nastasi

Missy Elliott’s “Pass That Dutch”

With Missy Elliott’s “Pass That Dutch,” you can skip the “life-changing study-abroad trip” to Amsterdam and enjoy weed culture (if not actual Dutch culture) right in your sad cinder-block dorm room or, less depressingly, on the dance floor. Outside of its usage of a nationality as slang for spliff (the only context in which the word would be, and was, censored by MTV), the song is dangerously sexy. It’s a rare stoner anthem that makes you want to “pop that, pop that, jiggle that fat,” and “shake ya ass till it stink (that’s right!),” rather than curl up and contemplate everything and nothing in particular. — Moze Halperin

High Maintenance

One could argue that this web series isn’t really about weed; it just uses marijuana to explore the neuroses of a diverse, interconnected bunch of Brooklynites. But High Maintenance is, at the end of the day, the story of a nameless pot dealer and the service he provides, however diverse people’s reasons for needing it. The creation of husband-wife duo Ben Sinclair, who also stars, and Emmy-winning casting director Katja Blichfeld, High Maintenance may be the most emotionally intelligent stoner comedy the world’s ever seen — and you can watch all of it on Vimeo, which hand-picked the series for its first-ever original show. — Alison Herman

Up in Smoke

“Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong were a nightclub and recording duo with a niche audience — not exactly the kind of act that seemed destined for movie stardom. But their debut picture Up in Smoke was the right movie at the right time, its grubby charm and outlaw spirit connecting it to teens and stoners, then and thereafter. And it made a mint, with its $44 million box office take (a very healthy return on its low budget) prompting four more smoke-heavy film collaborations and launching one of the most durable subgenres of funny movies: the stoner comedy. — Jason Bailey

Dr. Dre’s The Chronic

The greatest drug-driven rap album of all time may not be, lyrically speaking, the druggiest. But production-wise it is maybe the druggiest. Consider that G-Funk was invented here. Wonder what being high even sounded like before “Nuthin’ But a G Thang.” Remind yourself that Kendrick Lamar is always better when he veers toward “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” and away from “The Seed 2.0.” — Jonathon Sturgeon

The Big Lebowski

After the Coen Brothers found both commercial and award success with Fargo, it seemed safe to bet that they’d leverage their newfound prestige into some kind of serious message movie, or at least an ambitious period piece along the lines of Miller’s Crossingor Barton Fink. Instead, they made one of their goofiest and most endearing pictures to date, a pot-hazed riff on classic California detective yarns, where the perpetually altered state of protagonist “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges, never better) seemed as much an explanation for the convoluted storytelling as the Raymond Chandler influence. Or, as he puts it, there’s “a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous, and, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man.” — Jason Bailey

Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump”

The Beastie Boys’ 1989 sophomore LP, Paul’s Boutique, is routinely named one of the greatest rap albums of all time, but short of Dre and Snoop, it’s also one of the most pot-referencing hip-hop releases to date. On “3-Minute Rule,” MCA dishes out lines like, “I smoke cheeba, it helps me with my brain/ I might be a little dusted, but I’m not insane.” In a meta move, the trio samples stoner-adjacent rock and funk throughout the album. But it’s “Shake Your Rump” — with its bong hit committed to tape — that takes the title of Beasties’ best stoner party anthem. — Jillian Mapes

Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums

Jack Kerouac’s lesser-known autobiographical novel treads several stoner-friendly paths at once: accessible Buddhist spiritualism, drink and drug-addled partying, and search for transcendence through traversing the rugged peaks of the American West. This kind of mind-expanding dude-writing was a major influence on the “tune in, turn on, drop out” crowd who came after Kerouac, and leaves the reader with a case of the karmic munchies. — Sarah Seltzer

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

This film’s entire premise is: we got high, and now we will go to ridiculous lengths to get disgusting hamburgers and fill ourselves with them. And what kind of stoner has never had that urge — or, Christ, that quest? From the jungle cat chase to a career-reviving appearance by the coke-snorting, stripper-loving Neil Patrick Harris, the Danny Leiner-directed Harold & Kumar is utter insanity. I will always remember watching, with my mother, the scene in which Kumar imagines his life as if he were married to a giant bag of delicious dope. My mother laughed… she may have also nodded a little too strongly. — Shane Barnes

The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

While The Flaming Lips might now make a better score to an ayahuasca-induced visit to the toilet, their back catalog — and most notably Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots — makes for some of the most blissful, shallow-depthy stoner music imaginable. Lyrics like those of the iconic “Do You Realize??” were so grandiose that they could only be experienced from within an awesome high — the kind where you confront ephemerality and actually rejoice in the notion that everything has an end because it makes it all so dear! so present!… so stoned. (That, and the song worked beautifully in a Land Rover commercial). Whereas the sloth-like pace of “All We Have Is Now,” which further slows when Coyne pronounces these very immediate words, is perfectly reflective of the thirsty-for-life-and-creativity-but-too-comatose-to-seek-much-besides-couch state good weed can leave you in. — Moze Halperin

Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice

With apologies to Lethem’s Chronic City, a novel that gunned hard — too hard — for the title of Best American Weed Novel of the Early 21st Century, the award actually goes to Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, which takes the opposite tack. What other novelist could stir us to recognize the eternal return of racist American state power, as ostentatious and pigheaded now as it was in the 1970s, with so much paranoiac levity? And it is through weed that this power is considered. And it is through weed, too, that the vista of redemption is briefly glimpsed. — Jonathon Sturgeon

The Films of Richard Linklater

Dazed and Confused may be the obvious pick, with its youthful weed awakenings and Rory Cochrane’s epic Martha Washington monologue, but a true stoner cinephile will find something to love in just about every entry in director Richard Linklater’s filmography. There’s the plotless philosophizing of Slacker and Waking Life; the mind-blowing, time-traversing concept behind Boyhood; and the Before trilogy, which melds elements of both into a love story that spans nearly two decades. Oh, and don’t forget School of Rock. Stoners love Jack Black, god help them. — Judy Berman

Adventure Time

There are plenty of “kids” shows that have crossover appeal to adults, and a healthy portion of those especially appeal to stoners. Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time is a prime example: It’s smart and entertaining enough to work for all ages, and it’s colorful and weird enough to be a perfect series to get lost in for hours while high. The beautifully enthralling Land of Ooo just gets more fantastical the more bong hits you do. — Pilot Viruet

Tacocat’s Take Me to Your Dealer EP

The full-on weed anthem doesn’t come till the final track, “Volcano,” a spirited song of longing for the titular high-end vaporizer. But really, as its title suggests, the whole EP is a perfect summer soundtrack for those living the stoner-feminist pop-punk lifestyle. “F U #8” and “Spring Breakup” are a pair of sunny kiss-offs; the latter offers the chilled-out advice, “It’s only good if you let it be.” And then there’s opener “Cat Fancy,” which really is about the magazine. Enough said. — Judy Berman

Freaks and Geeks episode “Chokin’ and Tokin'”

Freaks and Geeks gets so much right about teen life that of course it has the best first-time-getting-high episode ever on television — even though it’s also basically a low-key anti-drug episode. But Lindsay’s awkward, funny attempt at rolling her first joint (and putting far too much weed in it) and her subsequent freak-out that — surprise! — doesn’t result in some overt lesson-of-the-week tragedy. Instead, she just stares at a dog and munches on cereal. — Pilot Viruet

Friday

Believe it or not, there was a time when Ice Cube doing a comedy was a big, unexpected deal. Even more surprising was his screenplay credit for this 1995 comedy, whose one-day-in-the-hood structure positioned it as a kind of cross between Clerks and Boyz n the Hood. But to his credit, Cube’s always known what his strengths are; as he does today in pictures like Ride Along, he plays the gruff straight man to a wild comic co-star, in this case the helium-voiced Chris Tucker, whose character isn’t nicknamed “Smokey” for his affinity to the durable bear. And with Cube playing a working stiff who’s never partaken of the chronic, F. Gary Gray’s Friday turns that most relatable of stoner culture tropes — the first time — into comic gold. — Jason Bailey

Adult Swim

How do you pick just one show on Adult Swim to watch when stoned? No, this network is practically designed for stoners to stare at mindlessly for hours and hours, all of the eccentric shows blending into each other after a while. Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Venture Bros. are popular picks, but special mention must go to Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, a show whose weirdness practically demands that you experience it in an altered state — provided you can handle all of the jarring close-ups. — Pilot Viruet

Smiley Face

Ladies who toke finally got the movie they deserved — and Anna Faris finally got the role she deserved — in this 2007 comedy from American cinema’s #1 chronicler of fucked-up youth, Gregg Araki. Smiley Face doesn’t have an ambitious plot; it simply follows Faris’ Jane F. after she devours a full plate of her roommate’s cupcakes, unaware that they are “special” cupcakes. What happens from there will make you laugh until you sob, even if you happen to be entirely substance-free. Connoisseurs of stoner comedy take note: the film is packed with appearances by 21st-century icons of the genre, from That ’70s Show’s Danny Masterson (as the aforementioned, completely terrifying roommate) to John Cho, of Harold & Kumar fame. — Judy Berman

William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

I recall once after an overdose of Majoun (this is Cannabis dried and finely powdered to consistency of green powdered sugar and mixed with some confection or other usually tasting like gritty plum pudding, but the choice of confection is arbitrary… ). I am returning from The Lulu or Johnny or Little Boy’s Room (stink of atrophied infancy and toilet training) look across the living room of that villa outside Tangier and suddenly don’t know where I am. Perhaps I have opened the wrong door and at any moment The Man In Possession, The Owner Who Got There First will rush in and scream: “What Are Yon Doing Here? Who Are You?” — Jonathon Sturgeon

Eraserhead

Eraserhead didn’t open to rave reviews, but it found its audience on the midnight movie circuit during the ’70s and ‘80s. Stoners, cult film weirdos, and artists were drawn to David Lynch’s dreamlike visual language. The film became a test for the adventurous trip fanatic who wasn’t afraid to face those inner demons (and a creepy deformed baby) or risk feeling trapped inside the director’s strange world with the Lady in the Radiator. — Alison Nastasi

The Beatles’ Rubber Soul

A few years after The Beatles broke up, John Lennon famously noted that Rubber Soul was the pot album and Revolver was the acid album. This is sort of the perfect metaphor for how pot can alter your creative perspective just a little: the 1965 album saw The Beatles teetering on the edge of who they once were and who they would become. Songs like “Norwegian Wood,” “Nowhere Man,” and “Think For Yourself” marked a more philosophical approach to lyrics, while the music nodded to the era’s psychedelic rock sounds. Rubber Soul is often thought of as The Beatles’ turning point; if you want to play up marijuana’s role here, perhaps Dylan — who shepherded the Fab Four’s first pot-smoking experience in 1964 — is responsible for it.

Reefer Madness

From the golden age of midnight movies comes Reefer Madness, Louis J. Gasnier’s quintessential stoner flick. The 1936 propaganda classic brought the funnies to high-as-a-kite audiences years later, who valued its camp aesthetic and roared at its cheap scaremongering. According to Reefer Madness, smoking marijuana leads to a downward spiral of murder, madness, and (gasp!) jazz music. The church group that originally commissioned this morality tale aimed to warn parents about the dangers of cannabis.They probably never imagined that a group of potheads scarfing Hot Pockets and Slim Jims would watch the movie while gawking at the narrator’s claims that weed is more harmful than cocaine and heroine. — Alison Nastasi

Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth — “I Love You Mary Jane”

Judgment Night is remembered as a fairly terrible movie, but at least it came with an intriguing soundtrack. Comprised of collaborations (of varying quality) between rock and hip-hop artists, it facilitated the union of Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill, who recorded a love song for the kind of friend you set on fire and inhale. Of course, the Cypress Hill discography contains no shortage of such odes. But what gives “I Love You Mary Jane” the edge is Kim Gordon’s breathy refrain, which makes the track sound just a little more stoned. — Judy Berman

Half Baked

Five years before making modern TV history with Chappelle’s Show, Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan teamed up to write this cult classic about a crew of brothers-in-smoke and their pot-soiled misadventures. In spirit and style, it’s a pretty direct throwback to the Cheech and Chong movies, and while its initial theatrical run was a little underwhelming, it found its audience (unsurprisingly enough) on home video, where it became a favorite for bong-hitters and couch-surfers the world over. — Jason Bailey

Sleep’s Dopesmoker

Stoner metal’s magnum opus, Dopesmoker is a single-track, hour-long odyssey into a chemically enhanced Jerusalem (the album’s original title) of the mind. As in all genres of metal, riffs reign supreme — but for Sleep, the guitar heroics can’t be described as shredding so much as the aural equivalent of a long, slow bong rip. This is music for traveling across deserts and oceans without leaving your bed. — Judy Berman