When we think of classic ‘80s teen comedies, various scenes of chaos likely come to mind that involve boobs, beer blasts, and epic pranks pulled off by anarchic adolescents out to score.
With the exception of Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High — who reigns as cinema’s ultimate stoner archetype that’s not named Cheech or Chong — we don’t really think of drugs when with think of vintage campus comedies. Though, we certainly should.
Not only are drugs ingested on-camera in Caddyshack, Valley Girl, and Weird Science, but getting high just to watch these films was — and still is — a typical prerequisite among audiences.
Porky’s, Joysticks, and Risky Business were certainly cosmic hits on the big screen. But they didn’t become classics until teens caught them on cable and/or VHS — over and over again — while puffing bowls around crowded couches and hoping the host’s parents would stay asleep upstairs.
But now there’s no need to stay quiet. That’s why we’re celebrating these ten scenes of drug-centric debauchery from nostalgic high school and college comedies: because the connection between getting high and all-out hilarity is eternal.
“Revenge of the Cheerleaders” (1976)
Director: Richard Lerner
Cast: David Hasselhoff, Rainbeaux Smith, Patrice Rohmer
David Hasselhoff co-stars in Revenge of the Cheerleaders as a jock named “Boner.” That revelation alone might make you feel like you've been dosed, but this low-budget pom-pom blowout is a riot from frame one.
Revenge hits peak raucousness when the pep squad spikes the school cafeteria’s spaghetti sauce with weed, speed, acid, and mystery pills just to make the afternoon’s classes more interesting. After the entire student body and faculty get apocalyptically wasted, topless disco dancing erupts in the locker room and a soapsud orgy breaks out in the football team’s shower.
“Animal House” (1978)
Director: John Landis
Cast: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Donald Sutherland
Set in 1962, Animal House takes place a few years before drugs positively transformed both college campuses and society itself, back when marijuana still seemed like a terrifying zombie narcotic to mainstream America.
That’s why it’s such a bold leap when clean-cut sorority lads Boone (Peter Riegert) and Pinto (Tom Hulce), along with curious coed Katie (Karen Allen), take up the offer when English teacher Dave Jennings (Donald Sutherland) asks, “Do you want to smoke some pot?”
The puffing professor proceeds to blow Pinto's mind by telling him to contemplate the possibility that an entire micro-universe might exist inside one atom on his fingernail. We’ve all been there, and every pothead can relate to Pinto's reaction when he inquires, “Can I buy some pot from you?”
“King Frat” (1979)
Director: Ken Wiederhorn
Cast: John DiSanti, Charles Pitt, Dan Chandler
King Frat is an explosive Animal House rip-off that aims to outdo all other college comedies in terms of berserk behavior. And, in many ways, it does just that. Case in point: the plot hinges on — not one, but two — “big fart contests” that the movie’s hero, J.J. “Grossout” Gromboski (John DiSanti), trains for like the Rocky Balboa of gas-blasting.
The mayhem takes flight immediately in King Frat, with Grossout and his Pi Kappa Delta bros tooling around the campus of Yellowstream University in their broken-down hearse. These beasts howl, belch, toss empty beer cans out of windows, and repeatedly drop their drawers to moon all passersby — including the school’s dean while he’s out for his afternoon jog.
Once the dean catches site of these goons aiming their bare butts at them, he has a heart attack and drops dead on the spot. At the dean’s funeral service, the Pi Kappa Deltas sneak into church and pump weed smoke through the ventilation system, getting the mourners so loaded that all they can do is crack up when the dean’s body tumbles out of the casket.
“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
Director: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh
When it comes to perma-zonked, party-hearty, surf-dude ganja-lords, all contenders — both on-screen and off — must answer to Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. From the moment somebody describes him as being “stoned since the third grade” Spicoli is pure marijuana movie magic.
Spicoli’s peak puffery occurs while he’s on the phone with Eric Stoltz, whose character is simply called “Stoner Bud.” To prove the potency of a bong-load he inhaled, Spicoli slams himself repeatedly in the head with a brand new Vans slip-on and happily declares, “That was my skull!”
“The Last American Virgin” (1982)
Director: Boaz Davidson
Cast: Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Joe Rubbo
Before it’s a shock, The Last American Virgin uproariously chronicles an endless quest for kicks pursued by three high school horndogs: studly Rick (Steve Antin), plus-size party animal David (Joe Rubbo), and the unsexed protagonist, Gary (Lawrence Monoson).
After taking home a trio of girls with the promise of drugs they don’t have, the would-be Romeos improvise by passing around a plate of Sweet'N Low chopped into lines. Everybody snorts up the fake sugar and pretends to be really, really into it.
Director: Robert J. Rosenthal
Cast: Scott Baio, Willie Aames, Scatman Crothers
When people ask if teen movies from the ’80s could be made in the woke atmosphere of 2019 — the answer is fuck no. Just consider Zapped!, a spoof of the telekinetic teen horror classic Carrie (1976), wherein Scott Baio plays a high school science nerd who accidentally develops a power to pop the tops off of passing females with his mind.
Willie Aames co-stars as Baio’s best friend, an enterprising weed dealer who grows hyper-potent pot in the campus chemistry lab. At one point, the entire crop gets tossed into the school furnace. That’s when Scatman Crothers, as a lovabe crusty gym teacher, inadvertently inhales the inferno's smoke and hallucinates about riding bikes with Albert Einstein and his angry wife bombarding him with salamis.
“The Party Animal” (1984)
Director: David Beaird
Cast: Matthew Causey, Timothy Carhart, Suzanne Ashley
The Party Animal may be the most full-blown teen comedy of the ’80s—which, yes, is saying something. Look no further than the sequence in which local yokel Pondo Sinatra (Matthew Causey) attempts to impress pogo-dancing punks at a campus party with his ability to ingest drugs in quantities that could supply entire cartels.
Pondo wanders into the proceedings with a six-foot bong and a duffel bag packed with treats. He dumps about five pounds of pot on a table, rolls a joint the size of a hoagie, and inhales hard. He then swallows an industrial-sized tub of pills and consumes a foot-long sheet of acid before whiffing up massive heaps of cocaine that would give even Tony Montana a nosebleed. When Pondo’s crash comes — oh, yes — it comes hard.
“Better Off Dead” (1985)
Director: Savage Steve Holland
Cast: John Cusack, Diane Franklin, Curtis Armstrong
The cleverly cartoonish Better Off Dead stars John Cusack as Lane Meyer, a lovelorn high school skier, and Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) as Charles De Mar, his perpetually scheming, coke-happy best pal.
Charles De Mar, in fact, joneses so severely for nose candy that at one point he snorts Jello in the school cafeteria and then later loses his mind attempting to inhale all the literal snow on a mountain at the local ski lodge.
“The Breakfast Club” (1985)
Director: John Hughes
Cast: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson
As the defining milestone by quintessential ’80s teen filmmaker John Hughes, The Breakfast Club is beloved by multiple generations for its heartfelt comedy, dramatic candor, and enjoyably silly moments.
This character study of five high school “types” trapped in all-day detention also represents a revolutionary moment in Hollywood’s depiction of cannabis consumption on screen.
After tormenting one another for hours, the Breakfast Club teens spark up a joint and pass it around. In short order, they let loose, open up, laugh, cry, and connect with one another in ways that were previously impossible. It’s a powerful cinematic salute to how getting high can bring humanity together.
“Teen Wolf” (1985)
Director: Rod Daniel
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Jerry Levine, Lorie Griffin
Before it was an angsty horror MTV series, Teen Wolf began as one of the ’80s great goofball comedies. Michael J. Fox stars as Scott Howard, a high school basketball star who occasionally sprouts fur and goes howling.
One afternoon, while his friend Stiles (Jerry Levine) is searching for a weed stash buried somewhere in his garage, Scott transforms into his teenage werewolf persona and uses his heightened canine sense of smell to sniff out where the pot’s been placed.
“Dazed and Confused” (1993)
Director: Richard Linklatter
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Rory Cochrane, Parker Posey
Set on the last day of high school in 1976, Dazed and Confused is like a long, strange dope high, loaded with characters who start the movie by getting buzzed and only up-the-ante from there.
Eventually, stoner supreme Rod Slater (Rory Cochrane) enthralls his puffing-and-passing pals with an amazing marijuana monologue about how America’s founding fathers belonged to a UFO cult, George Washington farmed (and smoked) massive fields of marijuana all over the 13 colonies, and Martha Washington (that “real hip lady”) always had a “fat bowl” ready for her husband upon his arrival home every night.