Silver Screen, Sweet Green: The Best Marijuana-Friendly Movies of 2019
MERRY JANE picks the most pot-worthy films of the year, including “The Beach Bum” starring Uncle Snoop, some classic Keanu action, and (naturally) “Detective Pikachu.”
Published on December 20, 2019

Few popular art forms pair as potently with marijuana as big-screen movies. Just consider the way-larger-than-life presentations, the overwhelmingly vibrant visuals, the pounding surround-sound, and all those nearby candy counters overflowing with expensive (but worth it) munchies. 

In the past, getting high and going out to a movie meant two distinct activities, typically in the form of puffing on something outside the theater and then hoping your buzz endures long enough to get to the “good parts.” Now with edibles, vapes, and other low-key, high-impact, easy-to-sneak cannabis swag, getting lit can (and does) last the whole runtime! 

Fortunately, filmmakers seem to have been keeping pace with this positive leap forward in simultaneous pot-and-film consumption. It can be seen (and smoked to) in this year’s stoner comedies, surrealistic fright flicks, and indie productions with enlightened sensibilities, but also in mega-bucks superhero blockbusters that bombard the senses with eye-popping, brain-rattling stimuli for hours on end. 

With all this in mind, 2019 proved to be an outstanding 12 months for eminently weed-worthy motion pictures. What follows are our picks for the year’s most enjoyable movies to watch while stoned. 

“The Beach Bum”
Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg

The very premise of The Beach Bum seems like a blissed-out bud smoker’s dream film: Harmony Korine directs Matthew McConaughey as Moondog, the supreme 24-7 party animal of the Florida Keys. His partners in nonstop ecstatic intoxication are played by Snoop Dogg as Lingerie, a billionaire R&B superstar, and Jimmy Buffett as, well, Jimmy Buffett! 

There’s substance to The Beach Bum beyond just the gleeful documentation of ingesting substances. The movie raises questions regarding the reality of living every moment like the party’s just getting started, but it never passes judgment and it never lets any somber moments get in the way of it uproarious celebration of all things hedonistic. 

Director: Olivia Wilde
Cast: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jason Sudeikis

The raucous, raunchy teenage party movie has been a bong-passing rite of passage from at least the ’80s peak of Porky’s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High onward, with the likes of Superbad and Blockers keeping the tradition alive and smoking in the 21st century. 

Booksmart puts a welcome spin on the formula by focusing on Beanie Feldstein as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy, the two brainiest overachievers in their high school who realize, just before graduating, they never took the time to properly get wasted and go wild. 

From there, Booksmart chronicles the besties’ gut-busting quest to pack in an entire adolescence’s worth of wanton indulgence into a single night and makes an admirable case for the liberation of finally saying no to the restrictive concept of “Just say no.”

Director: Alexandre Aja
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Morfydd Clark, Barry Pepper

The packs of alligators in Crawl sometimes do crawl, but mostly they run, swim, and chomp all over flooded Florida, and the result is the loopiest, looniest, most scary-fun horror flick of the year.  

French fright filmmaker Alexandre Aja has long been a master of high horror, even jumping between stoner-ready subgenres from extreme paranoid terror (2003’s High Tension) to mutant torture gore (2006’s The Hills Have Eyes) to wacky camp (2010’s Piranha 3D). 

With Crawl, Aja creates a perfect contemporary creature feature, unleashing nature’s wrath on victims we care about — while also allowing us to cheerfully await the next seat-jumping gator attack. In every sense, Crawl is a powerful call to go green! 

“The Dead Don’t Die”
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Bill Murray

After decades of defining downtown cool in heady arthouse favorites such Down by Law (1986), Mystery Train (1989), Dead Man (1995), and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), indie flick overlord Jim Jarmusch has been experimenting with other genres — often in the mighty company of Bill Murray — ultimately leading him to The Dead Don’t Die, a deliriously deadpan zombie comedy. 

Murray stars as a small town police chief who, along with deputies played by Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny, investigates claims of corpses coming back to life and snacking on the locals. 

As if that trio of talents pitted against reanimated cannibals isn’t enough to get you immediately rolling a doob in anticipation of The Dead Don’t Die, the movie also features savage political satire and crackpot appearances by Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, RZA, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, and Danny Glover. 

“Detective Pikachu”
Director: Rob Letterman
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton

Ryan Reynolds voices the title character of Detective Pikachu, an adorable Pokemon critter out to help young Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) locate his missing dad, Harry, somewhere in Ryme City. It proves to be quite the trip.  

Dazzlingly drenched in neon candy colors and exploding with fantasy creatures come to crazy life in what looks to be an upbeat Blade Runner dreamscape, Detective Pikachu comes across like a fully-loaded raver’s happiest molly rush filtered through a charming and unexpectedly-heartfelt kid flick. 

“Dolemite Is My Name”
Director: Craig Brewer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Wesley Snipes

Eddie Murphy makes his big comeback in Dolemite Is My Name, and he joyfully brings the righteous blaxploitation prince Rudy Ray Moore with him. Give thanks and pass the pipe!

Dolemite Is My Name is not just a dynamic biopic, it’s a fascinating lesson in underappreciated black entertainment culture. The movie recounts Moore’s rise from jazz-joint comic to proto-rapper “party record” star to B-movie phenomenon to beloved cult icon. 

Murphy brilliantly channels Moore and busts out the best of himself at the same time. As a result, you’ll be itching to explore the enlightened grindhouse classic Dolemite (1975) and Rudy Ray’s other work, while also eagerly anticipating what Eddie’s got in store for us next.  

“Good Boys”
Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon

Stoner comedy kingpins Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg transfer their mirthful mayhem to sixth grade with Good Boys. The plot follows a trio of 12-year-olds who attempt to spy on an older girl and end up with a sack full of stolen ecstasy. It doesn’t take long for their situation to explode hilariously out of control from there.  

Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon are charming as the good boys of the title, and we should not only thank Rogen and Goldberg for nervily putting actual children in a movie loaded with dope, decadence, and profanity — we should thank the kids’ parents for being cool enough to let them star in it. 

“John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum”
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne

It’s slick, it’s sick, and its epic ballets of operatic violence are, at once, mesmerizing, thrilling, and frightening. It also balances chaos and control with exquisite beauty, storming off the screen and straight into your consciousness with whirlwinds of action and intrigue. 

That might seem like a lot to claim about a Hollywood blockbuster, but we’re addressing John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum. If you’ve smoked through the first two John Wick brain-blasts, you know such praise is no exaggeration. You also know that to reveal any more about the hero’s progress in round three would be a betrayal of trust. So get high, embrace a THC-induced tabula rasa, and go into Parabellum blind. Just trust on that one.

“The Lighthouse”
Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman

Workplace doldrums have never taken on such apocalyptic, trippy flair as they do in The Lighthouse, a one-of-a-kind, two-man tour-de-force starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as crusty keepers of the titular structure in the 1890s. 

Shot in breathtaking black-and-white and paced to approximate the stop-and-start madness of the lead characters, The Lighthouse is a surreal art-horror mind-fuck of the highest order. Arrange your own cortex accordingly before even attempting to wade into it. Plus, pack some extra in your stash for when the terrifyingly sexual mermaid shows up. 

Director: Ari Aster
Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Isabelle Grill

Writer-director Ari Aster follows up his brutal 2018 family horror hit Hereditary with Midsommar, a sweeping scare saga of Scandinavian pagans, clueless American students, endless onslaughts of hallucinogens, and gloriously gory human sacrifice practices.  

Boasting sumptuous cinematography, impossibly detailed art direction, and a heartrending lead performance by Florence Pugh, Midsommar is hypnagogic, disorienting, and absolutely unforgettable — no matter what drugs you add to go along with all the ones they take on-screen.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is moviemaking madman Quentin Tarantino’s ultimate trip. It’s his full-power psychedelic plunge into drug-soaked 1969 Tinseltown, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing an aging cowboy actor, Brad Pitt shining as his affable stunt double, and Margot Robbie as real-life starlet Sharon Tate, who was doomed to die via the acid-laced bloodlust of the homicidal hippies in the Manson Family cult — or, wait, was she?

Tarantino packs every frame with fascinating details, the performances are career bests for all involved, the soundtrack scorches, and no other movie so electrifyingly combines Bruce Lee, Squeaky Fromme, Dean Martin, and a recreation of the first-ever Taco Bell into such a perfect smoke-along movie experience. 

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Mike McPadden
Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo
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