Thomas Deehan celebrates the joy of staying in and (hopefully not) dropping out with 10 of the best slacker movies, from cult horrors to 20th century classics
Would you rather Netflix and chill than go out and party? Are you the type who prefers the company of a TV than of actual people? Rest assured, you are not alone. In fact, there are a wealth of films which showcase the slacker lifestyle in all its magnificence. To celebrate the wonders of eating ice cream out of the tub while slowly being engulfed by a sofa, here’s a list of the 10 best slacker films ever made, and if you disagree… well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
- Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (2004)
Be honest, if you live outside the United States, would you even know that White Castle existed if it weren’t for this film? (For those of you not in the know, it’s a chain of burger restaurants). Product placement aside, there’s something admirable about two stoners who decide on the spur of the moment that there is nothing they want more than copious amounts of fast food. The film is surprisingly philosophical about not giving up on your dreams, even when the odds are stacked against you. When you couple that with one of the greatest cameo appearances of all time which arguably relaunched the actor’s career, you’re in for one hell of ride.
- School of Rock (2003)
I do believe that my secondary school music teacher took a page out of Dewey Finn’s book: instead of doing anything constructive, he’d just make us watch School of Rock to the point where we could recite the lines backwards. I can’t complain too much though, because this might be Jack Black’s best performance to date. Dewey’s a unique slacker in that he is absolutely passionate about one thing: making music. Aside from that he’s perfectly content with sleeping through the day and remaining ignorant to the world. As he so eloquently asks, “would you tell Picasso to sell his guitars?”
- Slacker (1991)
The film that popularised the term ‘slacker’ and showed the world what it meant to be part of Generation X. As one of Richard Linklater’s earlier films, its narrative is quite experimental, latching on to a character as we glimpse a few minutes of their life before moving on to someone else. While this may sound rather disjointed, these stories are thematically consistent – no one appears to be doing anything productive. They’re living life in the backseat, viewing but not interacting, and if we’re watching them then are we really that different?
- Idle Hands (1999)
If this list were about ranking the slackers themselves, then I doubt that anyone could really top Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa). He’s so self-absorbed in a world of getting high and watching TV that it takes him several days to realise that his parents have been killed! In this criminally underrated film, Anton’s right hand becomes possessed by an evil force (the masturbatory symbolism is not lost on anyone) and he engages in a lustful pursuit of the hot girl next door. It’s a horror film meant for Generation X, and anyone whose worst fear is being forced to leave the house.
- Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The first and most critically acclaimed film in the Cornetto trilogy may be labelled as a zom-rom-com, but it would be a crime not to acknowledge its slacker sensibility. The film asks the all-important question: how would two slackers who have no ambition in life and spend most of their time at the pub react to a zombie apocalypse? Well – they’d go the pub of course! Seeing the determination of Shaun (Simon Pegg) and his best friend Ed (Nick Frost) as they make their way through hordes of zombies to get to the Winchester is, if not anything else, fairly admirable. It’s the only thing they know, and not even societal collapse will stop them from getting that ever so wonderful pint of lager.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
When a film’s tagline is “one man’s struggle to take it easy”, how can you not love the plight of our titular hero? One of the many John Hughes films of the 1980s that reinvented the teen film genre, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has become a modern classic. Ferris (Matthew Broderick) certainly is a hero to many. Taking the extra step that so many of us wanted to during our school days but didn’t have the guts go through with, he decides to feign illness and embark on an adventure. You might even say he’s one righteous dude.
- The Graduate (1967)
The oldest film on this list is by no means any less relatable. The Graduate encapsulates that feeling of uncertainty after you graduate and the worry that comes with not knowing what you want to do with your life. Benjamin Braddock decides to lounge around the pool, ignoring opportunities to further his education, and, in a strange turn of events, becomes complicit in an affair with a married woman. Benjamin’s world is turned upside down by the seductive Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), in a timeless film that launched the career of a very young Dustin Hoffman.
- Dazed and Confused (1993)
I’m well aware that this is the third Richard Linklater film that I’ve put on here, but credit where credit is due – the man revels in all things slacker. Much like Slacker, Dazed and Confused features an ensemble cast but is far more grounded in the story it wants to tell, depicting the last day of high school in 1976 from multiple viewpoints. Anyone who’s tuned into pop culture will at least be aware of Matthew McConaughey’s performance as a creepy high school graduate who has returned to drink, stand against a wall, and leer at every girl that walks on by. His intentions may be dubious, but his logic is often quoted by many, including numerous episodes of Family Guy.
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
As far as I’m aware, no slacker has ever been able to inspire the birth of a religion – that is, until The Dude came along. Jeffrey Lebowski’s (Jeff Bridges) sage-like advice of just going with the flow has been adopted and moulded into the religion of Dudeism, which even has its own Wikipedia page so it must be true. Pretty impressive for a man whose cinematic adventure revolves around a severed toe, hallucinations, and bowling. It is for all its quirks however that The Big Lebowski has become a cult classic, spawning many late night screenings where the audience are inspired to show up in the laziest of attire, and insist that the rug really ties the room together.
- Clerks (1994)
Truth be told, I only got around to seeing Clerks about a month ago, but its place at number one should indicate just how much it spoke to me. If you’ve ever worked in retail then the plight of Dante (Brian O’Halloran), and to a lesser extent Randal (Jeff Anderson), will be immediately understandable. Working in a small corner shop, Dante shows such a lack of enthusiasm that you have to wonder how he got the job to begin with, and yet his slacker mentality prevents him from moving on to pastures new. Becoming too attached to one’s surroundings in the hope of avoiding failure is something that we can all relate to in some way or another, and the film’s final scene, despite being a culmination of blowjob humour, necrophilia and a rooftop game of hockey, is so poignant in its social commentary that it still rings true today.
Featured image credit: Poster for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, owned by Paramount Pictures