Cannabis culture wouldn’t be what it is without the stoner film. Regardless of whether you smoke or not, it’s a genre of film that is universally accessible and can be enjoyed by everyone, high or sober. Classified as a subgenre of comedy that revolves around the recreational use of weed, stoner films have become more and more popular over the years.
In the last two decades in particular, around 100 stoner films have been released, demonstrating its increasing popularity as it solidified itself as a subgenre worthy of attention. From enjoying volcano vaporizers to lighting up a joint, many will understand how fun the act of getting stoned is. What many of these films do so well is perfectly encapsulate that feeling of being high and all the intricate bits that make up stoner culture.
The stoner film has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But some might even say that the genre’s inception was actually decades before that, as a film that gained cult status in the 1970s for its unintentional satire was actually from in the 1930s.
Originally titled Tell Your Children, Reefer Madness (1936) was released as a morality tale to warn people against the use and dangers of cannabis. However, although the film was intending to position itself as anti-drug propaganda, its execution was so over-the-top that when it was rediscovered in the 70s, it was adopted as a midnight movie because of its perceived countercultural sensibility and the fact that people interpreted it as parody.
We’re going to kick off our journey through film history by taking a look at five films that defined the genre in the 70s.
Easy Rider (1969)
Just on the cusp of the 70s comes a contender for the one of the first intentioned stoner movies. Easy Rider was another popular midnight movie that emphasised with the outcasts of society. The plot follows two young Harley-riding hippies as they travel cross-country in search of spiritual discovery. The landmark counterculture film explores many societal issues in the US at the time, including the hippie movement and drug use, where real drugs were used in scenes that depicted the use of marijuana and other illicit substances.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
Director Russ Meyer’s satirical camp classic follows three girls – all-girl band The Carrie Nations – who move to Hollywood hoping to make it big, but instead get swept up into a chaotic night of sex, sleaze and of course, drugs. The film intentionally titillates viewers and even though it was made 50 years ago, still has the ability to shock its audience.
Fritz the Cat (1972)
Based on the comic strip by R. Crumb, Fritz the Cat is an animated black comedy film about a sex-obsessed, womanizing feline college student who, after smoking some strong Mary J in Harlem, enters a hallucinatory state, igniting a shoot-out with police which accidentally results in the death of his friend, Duke. We’re then taken on a journey with Fritz as he flees across the country. Join Fritz in The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974) as he embarks on different adventures in another life.
Cheech and Chongs up in Smoke (1978)
Although the infamous counterculture comedy duo had been a team for around a decade before this film came out, they reworked some of their earlier material to release this as their first feature-length film. Follow Cheech and Chong as they have a chance encounter with one another, leading them on a series of unusual adventures, one of which includes unknowingly smuggling marijuana in a van from Mexico to LA.
Initially conceived as a documentary, Rockers blossomed into a full-length feature film that artfully depicts the reggae culture at its peak, with a fantastic soundtrack to boot. Become fully immersed in the culture of reggae music in Jamaica in the 1970s with this exuberant tale of conflict, pride and triumph.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this list and feel inspired to seek out these films. We highly recommend giving them a watch! Keep an eye out for our next blog in the series on stoner films from the 80s.