The term “stoner movie” itself could only have come out of the 1970s. Indeed, that most culturally cannabis-inflamed decade (prior to now) first ignited the phenomenon.
Marijuana movies played out on '70s theater screens in the form of campy revivals such as "Reefer Madness" (1936), the continually popular "Easy Rider" (1969), and music flicks on the order of "The Harder They Come" (1972).
Hits created specifically for the high, like "Fritz the Cat" (1972), eventually led to Cheech and Chong in 1978 dropping stoner filmdom's atomic bong, "Up in Smoke."
The '80s delivered kilos of Cheech and Chong follow-up films, as well as "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982), and the joint bonding moments of "The Breakfast Club" (1985). Still, the “Just Say No” era markedly slowed the big screen buzz.
Today, new stoner comedies pop up in DVD rental boxes and on streaming video services with the ubiquity of medical dispensaries in just-legalized shopping districts. It's an onslaught that's been going on since at least "How High" (2001) and the 2004 coming of "Harold and Kumar."
What of that middle period, then? The 1990s.
In retrospect, the ten years when alternative rock reigned and hip-hop soared—each fueled by weed fumes—also produced the stoner movie classics we talk about most when we talk about stoner movie classics.
Put these Clinton-era THCinema greats in your viewing queue and smoke 'em.
"Dazed and Confused" (1993)
Director Richard Linklatter guides a soon-to-be all-star cast (Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Rory Cochrane) through the last day of high school in 1976. Doobs blaze in the Austin heat while a killer stoner rock soundtrack intoxicates all involved, end-to-end.
Ice-T and Chris Tucker's Craig and Smokey proved to be the Cheech and Chong of the '90s just by kicking back in this uproarious, dizzying day-in-the-life comedy. As outrageous as the situations around our high heroes get, they never lose their hip-hop cool.
"Half Baked" (1998)
Broad, over-the-top, and perfectly calculated to make you accidentally cough up bong water, "Half Baked" stars Dave Chappelle and Jim Breuer as best buds. Their slapstick marijuana misadventures prove riotously funny, as do cameos by Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Tommy Chong, Tracy Morgan, and Bob Saget.
"The Big Lebowski" (1998)
Jeff Bridges as The Dude may stand as stoner cinema's single most towering toke-it-up icon. The Coen brothers' brilliantly pot-bent take on LA film noir also makes clear how marijuana makes even the most crackpot capers come off as plausible—and hilarious.
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998)
Director Terry Gilliam sticks close to the text of Hunter S. Thompson's required-reading 1971 masterpiece of drugs, mayhem, and delirious merriment. As a result, his "Fear and Loathing" adaptation splatters forth like a glorious X-ray of Thompson's brain. Whether you go in wasted or not, you will be by the film's end.
"Clerks" kicked off the highly cannabis-influenced canon of New Jersey filmmaker and nonstop marijuana advocate Kevin Smith. The director debuts himself as Silent Bob opposite Jason Mewes as his perma-stoned best bud, Jay, in the first of many big-screen crack-ups.
"True Romance" (1993)
Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, True Romance is a killer crime flick. What makes it stoner gold is Brad Pitt as Floyd, a high AF laid-back charmer forever clutching (and utilizing) the sweet bong he crafted from a bear-shaped honey jar.
"The Stoned Age" (1994)
Inevitably compared to the higher-profile "Dazed and Confused," "The Stoned Age" never hit big in the mainstream, but its gut-busting take on mid-'70s heshers en route to a blazing Blue Öyster Cult concert endures as a very funny cult favorite.
The now unlikely comedy team of Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin as super-stoners Bud “Squirrel” Macintosh and Doyle “Stubs” Johnson turned "Bio-Dome" into the one film in each one's careers that fans have kept alive through sheer affection. Well, that and just how ludicrously loud everybody laughs at "Bio-Dome" when they smoke to it.
The prescient college farce "PCU"—as in “Politically Correct University”—showcases weed as the great unifier among otherwise disparate college factions. It also lays out a lot of funny, high-flying jokes about hacky-sack hippies and hairy-armpit activists.
Billy Bob Thornton is a blast as a Northern California weed harvester whose simple operation explodes into comedic chaos after his big boss gets knocked off by the mob. In addition to high wit, "Homegrown" also serves up a tasty late-'90s indie-rock soundtrack.
Familiar faces populate this low-key indie pot comedy (Luke Wilson, Alicia Witt, Andy Dick, Brittany Murphy). For many, "Bongwater" served as the first look at Jack Black in full-blown weed-wacked mode. From here, a stoned star was born.
"Far Out Man" (1990)
Chong, sans Cheech (although he does cameo), wrote, directed, and starred in this trippy road romp. The movie's tagline exhales volumes: “No brain, no pain.”