There are two kinds of stoners: the kind that likes to binge on TV shows and the kind that likes a movie marathon. We don’t all have the same attention span, right? Well, the canon of cannabis themed movies, along with binge-worthy TV shows is, quite frankly, enormous. We took the liberty of compiling the best ones of all time – yes! Of all time!
Wild imaginings of people gone mad; an 80-year drug war that has killed hundreds of thousands and imprisoned millions; smuggling, conspiracy, corruption, violence, and the unique relationship between dealers and their customers, these are just some of the explosive narratives that inspire the canon of cannabis themed movies. Let’s check out some of the best cannabis themed movies before moving on to TV shows.
Cannabis-themed movies for cannabis-minded watching
1. Reefer Madness (1936)
In the opening credits of Reefer Madness, the film makes its goal clear: to rid the world of “marihuana, a violent narcotic, an unspeakable scourge, the real public enemy number one,” and so began 80 years of cannabis prohibition – and the War on Drugs. Every cannabis user should watch this film, at least once, to see what birthed the madness of prohibition.
The film begins by showing a printing press and newspapers with headlines that scream “dope fight” and “drug war,”. In hindsight, it’s an early warning that the film is blatant propaganda. On top, the film claims to be based on “actual research into the result of Marihuana addiction,” which we now know is a lie. Here we are, eighty years later, still waiting on “actual research” into the results of cannabis addition.
It’s worth lighting up just to read the opening credits because they’re so fantastical. They claim the effects of cannabis include: “uncontrollable laughter … hallucinations … time slows down … monstrous extravagances … inability to direct thoughts … Shocking violence … incurable insanity.” Total balderdash, but audiences in the 1930s believed every word, as did their children, and their children’s children.
The first person to spark a joint is, of course, a musician who sucks on that smoke with wild eyes, a sharp contrast to the next scene where mother serves hot chocolate to Bill and Mary, the kind of kids that like to read Shakespeare for fun. This juxtaposition is a clumsy attempt to illustrate how far these kids are about to fall, and just to reinforce the point, Bill falls in a pond on his way out. The film’s only saving grace is that it’s so hammy it’s hilarious.
Funnily enough, the most realistic scene in the film is an exchange between some back room drug dealers. They are white men in suits who aren’t afraid to use violence to get what they want. In a later scene, an FBI agent and the school principal, Dr. Carroll, discuss how to handle the problem of marijuana.
“We educators can’t do anything until the public is sufficiently aroused,” warns Dr. Carroll, possibly one of the most telling lines in the whole script. It’s effectively stating both the purpose and the effect of the film, an effect that has shaped eighty years of misinformed global drug policy and put millions of innocent people behind bars.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: White Haze
It’s a mad world, baby, enjoy the ride.
2. Midnight Express (1978)
Based on a true story, Midnight Express is the film that depicts every cannabis user’s worst nightmare. In the opening scene, we watch as Billy Hayes, a young American man on holidays in Istanbul tapes 2 kilos of hash to his torso. A soundtrack of sinister music and his nervous heartbeat accompany the scene. Billy is about to get in trouble – big trouble.
Set in 1970, and released in 1978, Midnight Express is a cult classic, the story of a small-time smuggler, and how things can go terribly wrong when you take risks in foreign countries where the lawyers are as “bent as hairpins.” This is the movie that inspired the Banged Up Abroad genre, proving it did nothing to stop countless people from taking the same risks as Billy.
“What is crime? What is punishment? It seems to vary from time to time and place to place. What’s legal today is suddenly illegal tomorrow all because some society says it’s so. What’s illegal is suddenly legal because everybody’s doing it. You can’t put everybody in jail.”
These words are part of Billy’s desperate plea for freedom, words that’ll resonate with any cannabis user who’s had brushes with the legal system, or simply takes a moment to reflect on the plant’s history. Midnight Express is a film that proves sometimes the law gets it wrong, and justice means escaping it.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: White Widow
You’re in safe hands with this classic strain, the backbone of the Dutch coffee shop industry.
3. Pineapple Express (2008)
Nobody thinks of their weed dealer as a friend, right? That’s the question posed by Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) at the start of Pineapple Express. The film is a cannabis caper that turns out to be an epic bromance replete with car chases, gun-toting dads, self-conscious drug dealers, explosions, and a superstar strain.
When the going gets tough, turns out there’s only one person Dale can rely on. Yes, his weed dealer, Saul (James Franco). Released in 2008, the film shamelessly celebrates the lazy stoner stereotype in all his befuddled glory, and is a tribute to the unique relationship between the cannabis user and their dealer. It demonstrates a dynamic that may become a thing of the past in a future world where cannabis is legalized.
Warning! A grow op gets blown up at the end of the film, which no doubt many will agree was an act of gratuitous violence. The promoters used an actual smoking billboard on Sunset Boulevard to promote the film, but it had to be removed because people kept calling the fire department.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Early Skunk
Melt into mindless entertainment with this Cannabis Cup Winner.
4. The Culture High (2014)
Featuring celebs Snoop Dogg and Joe Rogan, The Culture High is a documentary that discusses the big questions: should marijuana be legalized and what does prohibition say about our culture? It examines the arguments against cannabis legalization: that cannabis has a negative impact on mental health, and that it’s an addictive (and therefore dangerous) drug (Reefer Madness claimed the same thing – see a pattern?).
Dr Lester Grinspoon, professor Emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard, dismisses the first argument because levels of global schizophrenia have remained stable at 1% for the last sixty years though cannabis use has increased tenfold. The second issue is a little trickier. New insight from expert Dr Gabor Mate is slowly changing our understanding of addiction.
The documentary then examines the legal, medical, pharmaceutical and political factors affecting the legalization of cannabis. The info is a little out of date now, but the facts revealed are no less disturbing. For example, did you know that one American dies every 19 minutes from prescription drugs or that 270 cannabis dispensaries were raided during the first four years of Obama’s administration?
Did you know that the pharmaceutical industry earned $85 billion in revenue in 2012 or that the global market for cannabis is estimated to be worth around $400 billion? Did you know that for every $1 pharmaceutical companies spend on R&D, they spend $19 on promotion, and that the American government took out a patent on cannabis in the 1990s?
The thrust of the documentary is to demonstrate the injustice of prohibition, and it does that very effectively by illustrating how the system was set up to generate money for authorities with no regard for the people it punishes. This is a documentary every cannabis user should watch to understand what we’re fighting for, and why.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: White Diesel Haze
Get your thinking cap on with this much-loved sativa.
5. Who Shot the Sheriff? (2018)
Some would argue that no other musician represents the soul of cannabis more than Bob Marley, but that’s not all the reggae king of Jamaica represented. Though Bob spent his career trying to remain neutral – to focus on the music, the thing that mattered most – the political instability of his native country dragged him into the conflict.
Who Shot the Sheriff? is a documentary about the assassination attempt on Bob, and how he was betrayed by Jamaica’s ruling political parties. After the attempt on his life, Bob left Jamaica, went on tour, and produced the album Exodus, voted one of the most important records of all time.
Eventually, he was lured home, and upon his return in 1978, staged a peace concert that sparked a short-lived truce between the politicians and warring gangs. However, his message of One Love did not unite the people of Jamaica. In the end, it was another kind of enemy that killed him: cancer.
He died in 1981, a moment this documentary flashes over, while managing to never answer the question its title poses: Who shot the sheriff? This documentary is an important piece of cannabis history but one that prompts more questions than it answers.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Jamaican Pearl
Legendary Jamaican genetics for a film inspired by a legend.
Best of binge-worthy TV shows
If you’re not in the mood for 120 minutes of a cannabis-themed movie, it might be time to watch a TV show. For every good cannabis movie out there, there’s an even better TV show. Plus, with one hour (or less) episodes, there’s always an appropriate time to spark up again in preparation for the next one.
1. High Maintenance
High Maintenance is to cannabis TV what Roseanne was to sitcoms: a game changer that taps into the everyday lives of familiar people to reveal the humanity in our insanity. It follows the life of a weed dealer we know only as “the guy,” and his exchanges with a huge cast of weird and wonderful customers in New York City.
Each episode is a self-contained short story with new characters, loosely tied together by “the guy” in his attempt to navigate life as a peace-loving, bike-riding, sandal-wearing, weed dealing outlaw. The show started out as a series of shorts on Vimeo before getting picked up by HBO, and is now in its third season. Highly recommended is season 1 episode 3: Grandpa, but there’s something in this smart and sassy show for everyone.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Skunk #1
A great strain for a great show.
2. Sensi Seeds TV
For a unique glimpse into the mind and spirit of legendary cannabis activist Jack Herer, check out the Sensi Seeds TV interview series with him on Vimeo. He explains his efforts to use hemp to save the world because as far as he was concerned it’s not possible “to get high on a planet that’s dead.”
He shares his shock at the government’s corruption and his conversation with various officials in his efforts to encourage using hemp as a substitute for paper and fossil fuel. When they reject his suggestions, he says he felt like he was “in the middle of Alice in Wonderland.” Herer passed in 2010, but it was his goal to raise the “green consciousness” of every cannabis user in the world, seeing it as the responsibility of every one of us to rid the world of the lie and injustice of prohibition.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Jack Herer
The one and only.
3. Murder Mountain
Murder Mountain caused quite a stir when it first aired in late 2018, as it exposes the danger and conflict of America’s most prolific cannabis region: the Emerald Triangle in California, and more specifically, Alderpoint in Humboldt County. The sleepy town earned the name “Murder Mountain” in the 1980s when a serial killer couple was arrested there. Because so many people “disappear” in the area, the name stuck.
A reported 717 per 100,000 people go missing every year in Humboldt County. The documentary investigates the 2013 disappearance of Garret Rodriguez, demonstrates how hard it is to define justice when the law is the enemy, and highlights the many flaws of prohibition. Despite the legal obstacles and ever-present dangers, the brave growers of Humboldt grow on. For a compelling insight into cannabis history, don’t miss Murder Mountain.
RECOMMENDED STAIN: California Indica
Ideal for discreet backyard growers.
4. Trailer Park Boys
Ricky, Julian and Bubbles have been with us for a long time now, since 2001 when Trailer Park Boys first premiered on Showcase. Since that time, they’ve been in and out of jail more times than Mr. Nice, destroyed a lot of trailers, smoked kilos of weed, and corrupted many kids.
Though the original show ended in 2008, the boys teamed up with Netflix in 2014 to produce additional seasons, creating Seasons 9 through 12, available on the online channel. Guaranteed giggles. I mean, who doesn’t love Bubbles? Trailer Park Boys Forever. One Love.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Big Bud
Because hey, aren’t they the biggest buds?
5. Cooking On High
Granted, we’re all interested in new and exciting ways to cook with cannabis, which is the premise of Cooking on High. However, as a game show of sorts, this show is more of a cringe-fest than a ganja-inspired feast. The chefs cook up some seriously good dishes, and the guests are charming but the host shouts a lot, and well, there’s not much substance.
If you want some out-of-the-box canna-cuisine ideas though, this is the show for you, as the chefs are challenged each week to conjure up a dank delicacy using unusual ingredients. Warning: This show will give you the munchies.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Snow Ryder
A citrus strain for a lively night.
Sterling Archer is the world’s most dangerous spy, also a semi-delinquent born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and a penchant for hell-raising. He works for his domineering mother Malory who runs a spy agency called ISIS, and never tires of insulting her reckless son or passing comments that stoke his major Oedipal complex. Anytime there’s mention of Malory and sex, Archer throws up.
The staff at the agency is a motley crew of outliers, but the wry observations of weed-smoking HR manager Pam are an example of the kind of role reversal this show does so well. Because it’s animated, Archer can go anywhere including outer space, under the sea, on ski slopes, and aboard airships. Wherever there’s danger, Archer’s there. This animated satire not only crosses the line of good taste but spits and then stamps on it, making it perfect entertainment for a late-night smoke session.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: X Haze
Sativa strain for a heady show.
7. Gone to Pot American Road Trip
Gone to Pot American Road Trip is a show for seniors who are curious about cannabis, have a variety of health conditions, and wonder if the herb can help. It features a cast of five elderly English celebs including Pam St. Clement AKA Pat Butcher of Eastenders, the darts champion Bobby George, and former professional footballer John Fashanu AKA Fash.
They’re a weird bunch with little in common, which makes the show even more interesting as they contemplate the question of cannabis legalization and experiment with various modes of consumption for the first time.
In the beginning, George is the most enthusiastic until he over does it on some canna-ice-cream, and while St. Clement is one of the most open-minded of the group, she goes through an unexpected change of mind. But it’s the journey of Fash that turns out to be the most challenging and compelling.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Northern Lights
An old reliable for the oldies.
8. The Joe Rogan Experience
Love or loathe it, The Joe Rogan Experience, technically a podcast, is one of YouTube’s most loved chat shows with millions of viewers worldwide. Featured on the cannabis documentary The Culture High (2014), Joe is a well-known advocate, making him an icon for some in the cannabis community. The show’s popularity has skyrocketed since 2012, and continues as the legalization movement grows.
Rogan is famous for the breadth of topics he covers, mostly driven by his interests including history, hunting, martial arts, politics, philosophy, psychology, pharmacology, nutrition, comedy, activism, culture, and controversy. Plus, a long list of other topics that relate to how we got here, how we live, why we do what we do, and how we can do it better. With more than 1,000 podcasts to date, there are hundreds of hours of wake and bake weekend viewing time, and so many interviews worthy of your time. Check out Johann Hari’s unique insight into addiction, the inimitable Jordan Peterson on battling life challenges, and Paul Stamets on fungus.
RECOMMENDED STRAIN: Master Kush
Get in the zone with this Cannabis Cup winner.
- Disclaimer:Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.