Much like wine and I guess steak, attention must be paid to what we pair with weed. A munchie of choice has to balance texture and taste, time spent in public after edible consumption must offer some type of reprieve, and on 4/20 a personal favorite pastime is finding the perfect movie to get glossy-eyed and taken by. This can sometimes go hideously wrong, like the time I got stoned, watched Grey Gardens, and could not for the life of me decipher that northeastern Kennedy drawl. I rewound the opening ten minutes so many times that eventually I allowed myself to just accept it as gibberish.
I don’t want the same thing to happen to you, dear reader. Finding a film to properly pair with the day in which He Has Resin is crucial. Below, we’ve compiled some of the best things to watch this 4/20, and they really run the gamut. These are not necessarily films to add to the stoner canon per sé — you won’t find The Big Lebowski haunting this list, and there’s no sign of a Cheech or a Chong — but they’re all screenings worthy of working their way into high rotation.
Godfrey Reggio’s experimental film still holds up after over thirty years, thanks in no small part to the pulsing, circular score by Philip Glass. Glass’s iconic soundtrack serves as the harmony for a movie that’s more tone poem than narrative. Koyaanisqatsi is entirely dialogue-free, and consists of slow-motion or time-lapsed footage of then-contemporary culture, juxtaposing the vibrancy of urban cities with the gravity of the natural world. The movie is Planet Earth for the era of globalization, and if it sounds pretentious, it’s not: the film is haunting, moving, and exactly the kind of kaleidoscopic imagery you want soundtracking your body high.
Aside from giving us “Bye Felicia,” Friday is crucial for establishing a powerful trope in the canon of stoner cinema. Films like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Pineapple Express are latter-day examples of movies where beloved stoners find themselves in over their heads, but Friday takes the DNA of the stoner-crime film and sets it within the specific context of inner-city Los Angeles. If Seth Rogan and his white-dude-of-the-moment are the Laurel and Hardy of stoner cinema, Chris Tucker and Ice Cube are literally, I don’t know, the Abbot and Costello?
Smiley Face (2007)
It may sound a bit like hyperbole, but Smiley Face is perhaps the single most underrated stoner comedy of all time (and my colleagues at MERRY JANE apparently agree). This little-seen film stars Anna Faris as Jane, who unknowingly consumes an entire plate of her roommate’s weed-infused cupcakes shortly before embarking on a string of mundane tasks she must complete before the day’s end. Faris delivers a performance that puts her squarely in the Goldie Hawn school of comedy, carrying the entire movie like Lucy by way of Cheech Marin. Her commitment to juvenile absurdity, combined with the sincerity that remains Farris’s stock and trade (those eyes!), make this Gregg Araki-helmed feature a quiet masterpiece.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2017)
Seeing this movie on 4/20 requires a light finesse, considering it was just released in theaters on a small number of screens (and therefore requires you to evacuate your couch, which I am morally and politically against on this high holiday). But if you can manage to get baked and find a way to see Dash Shaw’s animated comedy, do it in double time. The movie features trippy animation that fuses illustration with a kind of décollage, and turns absurd tragedy (the high school mentioned does indeed sink into the sea) into joyful farce.
Are you over 18?
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Though it may seem like an objectively insane choice on paper, Sophia Coppola’s dreamy moodboarding of teen angst and ‘70s prom aesthetics make for extremely cozy viewing, even if the titular violence hangs over the film like a florescent light. I find the calm, borderly-ASMR levels of the movie’s tone to be exactly the kind of cerebral massage I need after smoking two hits too many.
Space Jam (1996)
The onslaught of obsessive nostalgia for this movie makes it already a bit played out, but the second you really take in the concept — Michael Jordan plays basketball with the Looney Toons — you’re kind of sold all over again. Plus, with cameos by Bill Murray and Newman from Seinfeld, it's an guaranteed winner on 420. Bonus treat: the film’s website is an anachronistic, web 1.0 gem that will engross any pothead as if it were yarn dangling in front of a sleepy-eyed kitten.
Desperate Living (1977)
This isn’t quite John Waters’s greatest work, but it’s one of his unsung masterpieces, and what’s 4/20 without a moment of minor grotesquerie. Desperate Living stars Mink Stole as a neurotic and delusional housewife who goes on the run with her overweight maid, Grizelda, after she sits on Stole’s husband’s face and smothers him to death. It features arguably one of the best opening ten minutes in cinema history, and ends with a shotgun shoved up someone’s anus. A true moment.
There isn’t much pitching I should have to do here. Beyond being an animated masterpiece, Fantasia is also a stoner’s delight, giving you as much sensation and as little narrative as possible. Fundamentally, it’s the ideal movie to watch high: the color palate is so warm and the visuals hold you, while most animated things I watch today feel like a violent assault on the senses even when I’m sober (I could not get through The Lego Movie to save my life, for starters). Also a note: I once tried syncing The Beatles’ Love album with Fantasia, and it worked fucking perfectly. A+ would recommend.
Are you over 18?
Batman & Robin (1997)
Batman & Robin is a perfect 4/20 movie because you could lowkey make a smoking game anytime Mr. Freeze makes an ice-pun (which, babe, he will). It also helps to have Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy constantly extol the virtues of plants and bud, because honestly same. But above all else, 4/20 requires that a bad movie must be thrown into the mix at some point, and Batman & Robin is a delightful and absolutely infamous piece of trash fire. Come for the bat nipples, stay for the bat nipples.
Patti LaBelle's Performance at the 1996 National Tree Lighting Ceremony
The disastrous clip is not a movie, but it speaks for itself. Happy 420!!!
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