It’s summer y’all, which means it’s time to cozy up with some sungrown bud and indulge in the great tradition of summer movie watching. Whether you’re hitting the vape and venturing into a cool, dark theater to escape the heat, catching a cult classic at a retro summer evening drive-in, or just throwing a classic summer comedy on your TV at home while nursing an indica from your favorite bong, there’s no summer-movie experience you can’t successfully augment with a little cannabis.
Now, the “summer movie” is sort of a nebulous idea, encompassing movies that have big summer releases, movies that are actually about summer, and movies that simply take hold as “summer movies” in the zeitgeist because they capture summer vibes in some way or another.
Last year during quarantine, my best summer-movie experience was doing fat dabs on 7/10 and letting Stanley Kubrick’s ultra-slow-burn costume dramedy Barry Lyndon melt into my eyeballs. But listen, I’m also self-aware enough to know that’s not the optimal summer movie experience for everyone — minus the fat dabs part. So for the purposes of drafting the best movies to watch when you’re baked, we’re gonna cast as wide a net as possible, though the chill summer vibes will undoubtedly reign supreme.
Here’s an eclectic set of 10 great, hazy movies to vibe on when you’re stoned this hot, hot summer.
We’re starting off with a classic stoner comedy that’s aged relatively well, though it probably kickstarted the tradition of cocaine-fueled summer blockbuster productions in the ’80s.
Caddyshack oozes with the hazy counterculture vibes from which the National Lampoon-born cast and crew emerged. Stars Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield set an anarchic sativa-leaning tone that bleeds through every corner of every antic frame. Pair with a generously rolled fatty and let the chill summer vibes and cool laughs roll over you.
Do the Right Thing
I was mad late to the game on this one, but finally got around to watching Spike Lee’s classic joint of American racism and class struggle during a brutal Brooklyn heatwave. And it couldn’t have been more appropriate and felt more tragically evergreen during the summer of COVID and George Floyd.
Like most of Spike’s films, Do the Right Thing operates on a hazy, cinematic dream logic that will open itself up to you and just hit right, both emotionally and intellectually, if you’re watching it under the influence. It booms with perpetual life and a type of understated, human psychedelia that only Spike Lee can pull off.
Michael Mann’s movies are dank as fuck. Thief, Manhunter, Heat … take your pick, any of ’em will make a hyper-sensory feast after a fat dab or edible high. By the mid-2000s, Mann was the premiere champion of making early “standard-def” digital look immaculate, and Miami Vice — a feature-length update of Mann’s style-defining series from the ’80s — is almost all vibes.
A clean head high and mild body buzz from a reliable edible is just the thing to experience the deep ocean blues and icy-cool cyberpunk cityscapes for all their worth.
As director Allan Arkush puts it in the clip above, “What movie could be bad if it has a 360° shot that starts with Dennis Hopper passing a joint?”
Released near the end of the Summer of Love, Roger Corman’s The Trip captures the psychedelic vibes of Los Angeles circa 1967 and still makes for a great high watch today. Written by Jack Nicholson when he was still in Corman’s early-indie repertory company, the film stars Peter Fonda as a commercial director whose dissolution with his life leads him to take LSD for the first time. Director Corman famously took acid before the shoot so he could better adapt Nicholson’s experimental script. The charmingly low-budget results on the screen, while certainly of their time, evoke a visual palette that’s sure to please the modern, stoned summer viewer.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino is in the generation of filmmakers whose films were deeply influenced by the weed culture of the ’90s, borrowing heavily from the stoner-flick tradition and infusing their own genre-mixing, pop-culture-obsessed joints with stoned hangout vibes at every turn.
Tarantino’s latest — and the movie that owned the summer of 2019 — Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, uses the psychedelic late ’60s as a springboard for a hazy, emotional journey through time, space, and LA mythology, which really cooks when you’re nursing a joint all the way on through to the other side.
No summer movie playlist is complete without a little horror, especially for those of us who are well versed in the art of smoking weed and watching horror films.
The Burning is one of the absolute best summer-camp horror romps to come out of the post-Halloween/Friday the 13th slasher boom of the early ’80s. It’s got dank cinematography, an effective masked killer, a bunch of teen assholes who meet a series of satisfyingly gruesome ends, and an early cameo from a pre-famous star (George Costanza himself, Jason Alexander, which I suppose makes this film the first “Summer of George”). Next time you’re looking for a campy late show as you wind down with your final tokes of the night, take The Burning for a spin.
The Nice Guys
A welcome addition to the canon of summer movies that take place at Christmastime (Gremlins, Die Hard, Batman Returns, Iron Man 3), The Nice Guys is another retro-LA hangout movie with a hazy noir plot and killer comedic performances from co-stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. I’ve toked up and watched this one several times now, and the laid-back, heartfelt, stoner-logic charm of it becomes more apparent to me every time. It’s a funny, low-stakes buddy comedy with a loose, prismatic sense of time and place that goes down smooth with a couple of evening bong rips.
From the hazy mind of Robert Altman, the patron saint of stoned cinephiles, Nashville is an experimental time-capsule epic that follows the interweaving lives of musicians, politicians, socialites, movie stars, and regular folks over a few days in Nashville, Tennessee during the 1976 presidential election.
All of Altman’s films have a kind of delayed effect that mimics the headspace of a cannabis high. There’s a sort of indescribable communication of images, ideas, and satirical humor that’s quite rewarding to pick up on when you’re high, even if you can’t describe or translate it to someone else.
Mad Max: Fury Road (Black & Chrome Edition)
Is Mad Max: Fury Road the greatest action movie of all time? I won’t make a definitive statement on that here, but I will say you can’t do much better than the clear, frenetic visual pleasures of this immaculate post-apocalyptic crystalline joint, especially if you’ve got a weed product around that offers up a clean, powerful head high.
And if you really wanna crank this shit up to an 11, I highly recommend the Black & Chrome edition, which is somehow an even danker strain of cinema than the Fury Road OG.
Everybody Wants Some!!
A spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater’s 2016 sports comedy/college-hangout movie offers up the same vibes as its predecessor, drawn from ’80s stoner comedy classics like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, infused with a hazy Gen-X sensibility, and made sharper by the more mature eye of a more mature Linklater.
Set over the course of the last weekend before a freshman pitcher’s first day of college, Everybody Wants Some!! captures the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vibes of the end of summer and the beginning of an exciting new chapter in a young person’s life — all with a stoney, half-lighthearted, half-melancholy ambiance of a time and place both long gone and frozen in the amber of vivid memory. Pair this one with your favorite vintage strain on a Saturday afternoon in August.
Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps