The history of memorable stoner characters in cinema is as deep as the following characters are high, and narrowing it down to ten is difficult to say the least, especially because many of film’s greatest stoners worked in pairs. So how did we determine our ten favorites? Through pure arbitrary choice! Check out our top ten below and be sure to include your favorites that we omitted in the comments below.
10. Jay – Clerks, Mallrats, etc…
While his buddy Silent Bob gets more of the notoriety based on the fact that he rarely speaks, it is Jay (played by Jason Mewes) that serves the purpose of comic relief in many of Kevin Smith’s films. From selling weed in front of the Quick Stop convenience store to inspiring a comic book called Bluntman and Chronic, Jay’s love of marijuana is deeply ingrained in every action he takes, notable in his rap song in which he seems to describe what life is all about: “Smoking weed, smoking weed/Doing coke, drinking beers/Drinking beers, beers, beers/Rolling fatties, smoking blunts/Who smokes the blunts?/We smoke the blunts/Rolling blunts and smoking…” Turning a humble nickel bag slanger into a reoccurring star across a franchise of films (and even an animated series) is not an easy task, but Jay’s irreverent and confrontational nature make him a classic.
9. Steve Zissou – The Life Aquatic
Is there anything more respectable than the aging stoner? Bill Murray’s turn as Jacques Cousteau-esque Steve Zissou is a man who has probably been smoking medical pot for several decades. And, can you blame him? His job is to travel the sea, identify new fish, and generally be amazed by the ocean. Anyone who has even smoked a bowl and gone to the aquarium can relate. And, Zissou has one of the best weed-related scenes in motion picture history when he encounters his long lost son and promptly takes a break from the conversation to smoke a joint by himself while staring at the sea, all while David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” plays in the background. Well played, Zissou.
8. Ron Slater – Dazed And Confused
It’s hard to stick out as the most stoned in a film so full of stoners, but Ron Slater (played by Rory Cochrane) manages to do just that in Dazed And Confused. Slater is the friend that is always rolling the next joint, always complaining about sitting in the back seat, and always willing to spout off his crazy conspiracy theories. His crowning achievement? “George Washington was in a cult, and that cult was into aliens, man.” We’re with ya, Slater.
While we love the whole gang of stoners from Half Baked, Jim Breuer’s Brian ended up being the high point of his acting career, partly because you just couldn’t imagine him in any other roll after that. Among Brian’s highlights: buying a pouch of Jerry Garcia’s ashes, quitting his job in Jerry Maguire-style, and listing off the most epic request of munchies, ever. It was always hard to tell if Jim Breuer was acting or if this is just kind of what he is like, stoned off some dank OG-Kush.
6. Kumar Patel – Harold and Kumar films
Along with his best friend Harold Lee, Kumar Patel (played by Kal Penn) manages to get involved in just about the craziest adventures possible, all way being blazed out of his mind. Everyday smokers may be jealous of the fact that Kumar can balance a regular regiment of getting high with getting perfect MCAT scores, but that is all the more reason to admire the man. Plus, his commitment to satisfying his craving for White Castle in the first film is something we can all relate to. The character of Kumar helped turn a humble stoner movie into a genuine franchise while providing subtle commentary about racial stereotypes in the United States. Or, maybe it’s just about weed and the munchies. Who knows?
5. Smokey – Friday
I mean, first of all, the dude is named Smokey. In a role that made Chris Tucker a star (a star too big to appear in the Friday sequels), Smokey is relatable as the wanna-be weed dealer who likes smoking too much to actually make a living at it. Still, you can’t help but love the guy, especially when he is getting on Craig for “fuckin’ up the rotation.”
While Slater gets a lot of the love amongst the Dazed And Confused stoners, it’s Matthew McConaughey’s David Wooderson that just might be the film’s most epic pothead creation. I mean, what’s better than a bunch of high school kids getting high than the dude that is well out of high school but still likes to hang out with them. Wooderson also has what might be the movies best line, when he asks the young protagonist for if he has a joint and is denied, Wooderson’s smooth response is “it would be a lot cooler if you did.” Classic. Also classic is his speech near the end of the film, in which he closes with the philosophical mantra to “just keep livin’. L-I-V-I-N.”
It’s still weird to think that the same Sean Penn of today is the guy who plays the stoned surfer in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but I’m pretty sure Penn would still be proud of the love that his Jeff Spicoli has received over the past several decades. The guy has “been stoned since the third grade,” has a pizza delivered to his classroom, and finishes the film by blowing the money he made by saving Brooke Shields’ life by hiring Van Halen to play his birthday party. More than just that, Spicoli became a cultural icon, reminiscent of someone that all of us had know, and possibly a little reminiscent of ourselves.
Although it pains me to leave out Tommy Chong, it is Cheech Marin’s Cheech that generally carries the duo as the (sort of) brains of the outfit. Already an established comedy team before 1978’s Up In Smoke, the success of which warranted a number of sequels and nearly a decade of success, Cheech & Chong became cultural icons, but Cheech was actually able to turn his comedy success into a full-fledged acting career. But, seriously, If I have to explain who Cheech is or why he is a classic movie stoner, I’m surprised that you have read this far. Still, maybe this ode to Mexican Americans will sway you.
1. Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski – The Big Lebowski
The bath-robe wearing, joint-toking protagonist of The Big Lebowski gets our vote for cinema’s most memorable stoner character. Though he is involved in a series of misadventures, The Dude never loses his cool, aided by his joints that he repeatedly enjoys, which fuel his lucid psychedelic fantasy sequences. Jeff Bridges’ character has inspired costume parties, Halloween costumes, midnight screenings, and a legion of adoring fans. And, if you have seen the film, it is not hard to understand why.