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Movies That Changed Genre When We Were High

It was a hot summer night in the Valley and my friend David and I were fresh out of high school. We were at his mom’s house, and he asked me if I wanted to smoke. But before I could even utter a “Duh,” David grabbed his torch and skillet and prepared what would become my first dab, a concentrated hit of weed oil. Essentially, he fried up some hash for me and I inhaled it.

But more important is what we did afterward. David put on Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and it became another first for me — the first and only movie I’ve ever been too high to understand. I was stunned by Nicolas Cage’s performance as a coke-snorting cop, but I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I also was scared. And I definitely didn’t know who the fuck Werner Herzog was. (He was, I would find out later, the film’s director and successful documentarian.)

All I really knew was that I couldn’t move.

Even blinking induced my paranoia.

After this particular evening, I became obsessed with people’s conversations about movies and shows they “couldn’t watch high” or “only watched high” and the notion that some things feel like they change genre when we’re stoned. Case in point: Like when Seth Rogen ate an edible before seeing Rouge One and experienced it as the most tragic war movie of all time:

It’s an obsession that continues today, and so, upon my recent return to MEL, it was one of the first things I asked my fellow staffers. Here’s what they told me…

Miles Klee, Contributing Writer: I got way stoned once and watched Super Troopers alone. I could only view it as a heartbreaking tragedy about Farva’s desire to be liked and respected. I even noticed that he’s going “Woooo!” when he barfs in the toilet after chugging beer at the state-police function. He’s actually having a great time. On the flip side, I saw Superbad in the theater on mushrooms and freaked out every time there was a car accident because I was worried someone would get really hurt.

Sam Dworkin, Assistant Art Director: In college, I saw Source Code in theaters. That’s the Jake G movie where he’s a dead soldier hooked up to a computer that can go in the past and prevent a terrorist attack. Beforehand, my friends and I ate a bunch of Sky High Pie, a very strong edible we bought from a local pot grower. In very serious parts of the movie, I couldn’t stop laughing. At the end of the movie, they pull the plug on Jake and reveal that he was a man, not a computer simulation. I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen and had the leave the movie because I was laughing so hard.

Jeff Gross, Social Media Editor: I have a tendency to watch comedies stoned that transform into entirely different movies. For example, I watched Groundhog Day high, and I realized that it wasn’t a comedy—it was a movie about dukkha, samsara and nirvana. Tommy Boy went from a Chris Farley knee-slapper to a serious anti-union film. And in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Romy and Michele transformed from two incredibly dense valley girls to two of the most incredibly self-aware characters ever put to film.

C. Brian Smith, Staff Writer: I probably watched The Big Lebowski 50 times during my senior year of college — always stoned. The Dude spoke to me on a cellular level, but only if I first asked, to no one in particular, “Mind if I do a J?” while lighting one up. And then another — and another and another… I underwent a bit of a character transformation that year and subconsciously began adding a lilt to random vowels: “Eeeasy man, there’s a BEVerage here,” etc. People started stopping me mid-conversation to ask if I was related to Jeff Bridges. “It’s uncanny,” they’d say. “It’s just me,” I’d shrug. The Dude abides.

Nick Leftley, Senior Editor: I watched the Mel Gibson movie Payback while bombed on hash cakes and mushrooms in Amsterdam, and I laughed hysterically all the way through. That, however, mostly had to do with the fact that I was wearing a suit of armor and nobody else knew. (I was not actually wearing a suit of armor.)

Michelle Badillo, Contributing Writer: I got really high before Magic Mike XXL and thought it was multilayered genius. I left thinking it was one of the most well-written movies of all time, but I’m now positive it most certainly was not.

Josh Schollmeyer, Editor in Chief: If I’m being honest, I only remember three things about Waking Life: 1) I got super stoned beforehand; 2) getting super stoned for the movie — a cartoon kaleidoscope that wove together all of director Richard Linklater’s films and characters — seemed essential to understanding what the fuck was happening, sort of like 3D glasses for Avatar; and 3) the joke was on me. Maybe I was too stoned, or maybe I’m too stupid, but the whole thing was completely incomprehensible. Or you know, the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen — this grand understanding of Linklater, the cinema and the universe. Instead, the squiggly lines that were the hallmark of the movie’s style of animation made it impossible to concentrate and mostly freaked me out.