Slacks of life.
10 | Wayne’s World (1992) – Penelope Spheeris
“Hi. I’m in Delaware.”
The 90s were a quintessential decade for slacker films, and Wayne’s World is living proof of that. Every single aspect of this movie works in harmony to generate some of the chillest vibes in the history of film. Based on the SNL skit of the same name, this film stars one of the most lovable duos of all time: Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey). It’s on par with Heathers in terms of decade-defining slang: “wail”, “schwing”, and “get the net” are just a few examples of the excellent lingo that permeates almost every line the boys say. To top it all off, the film also stars some righteous babes like Twin Peaks’ Lara Flynn Boyle as Wayne’s “psycho hose beast” ex, Stacy, and the gorgeous Tia Carrere as the rock n’ roll queen, Cassandra.
9 | The Big Lebowski (1998) – dir. The Coen Bros
“Donny, you’re out of your element!”
An important element of being a slacker is, usually, youth. Adolescence is a time in which teenagers embrace the world of apathy, procrastination and idleness – and yet, nobody does it better than a middle aged man. The unwavering equanimity of Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), even when he accidentally gets involved in a dangerous case of kidnapping, ransom and mistaken identity, is so fascinating that it has caused the film to become a cult classic. Years after its release, hordes of bathrobe-clad Lebowski groupies are still going to conventions to celebrate this film and the relaxed ethos that is its trademark.
8 | Pineapple Express(2008) – dir. David Gordon Green
“But don’t call it that. Call it… Banana Boat.”
This film is a bit of a black sheep in the group, because it’s relatively new. This means that it doesn’t have the scruffy 90’s stylistic qualities that the others do (baggy t-shirts and ripped jeans are a staple of old slacker movies), but it’s still worthy of making the list. Much like the aforementioned Dude, Pineapple Express’s leading man is a hairy, passive stoner who accidentally gets involved in some risky business. Dale (Seth Rogen) spends the majority of the movie wearing a suit, and it’s fun to see the contrast between his professional appearance and his unprofessional behavior – which is beautifully complemented with that of his dealer Saul (James Franco). Franco captured the spirit of the lackadaisical, untroubled layabout so well in this movie that it got him nominated for a Golden Globe award. After Pineapple Express, the duo went on to collaborate on countless other films together – when they said “BFFF”, they meant it.
7 | Ghost World (2001) – dir Terry Zwigoff
“Oh! Oh, how punk!”
Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) just barely made this list. They do fit most of the criteria: they’re unemployed, they don’t care about school, they’re a little offbeat, they’ve got no goals or prospects… but one essential thing is missing – the good vibes. When they’re not playing pranks on poor unsuspecting Steve Buscemis, these two girls are almost always complaining about something. Every other line in this movie is a snide remark, and while that stays true to the Ghost World books on which the film is based, it gets a little bit draining. What’s with all the, like, negativity, man?
6 | Beavis and Butt-head Do America (1996) – dir. Mike Judge
“This is the coolest thing I have ever seen.”
Bless the MTV generation. Undeniably, they served as inspiration for nearly all of these films, but Beavis and Butt-head Do America stands out in particular. (Fun fact: this film had the third biggest December box-office opening in history, trumped only by Scream 2 and Titanic.) The great thing about this movie is the fact that, despite being involved in a matter of national security, Beavis and Butt-head act exactly as they would in any other situation. This film stays true to the show, despite it being on a grander scale: the pair may travel all across America, from their hometown to Vegas to trekking across the desert to Washington D.C., but their motivation is simple – to finally score. And maybe if they’re lucky, get a new T.V.
5 | Clerks (1994) – dir. Kevin Smith
“Do you have that one with that guy who was in that movie that came out last year?”
An unforgettable movie, Clerks is the Sundance hit that launched director Kevin Smith’s career. It’s a low-budget black-and-white film that takes you through an entire day on the job in the life of convenience store clerk Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and his friend Randal (Jeff Anderson), who works at a video store. The film also features the famous duo Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith himself!), who loiter around outside the store and are, allegedly, drug dealers. Being a movie focused on spending all day avoiding any proper work, Clerks is one of the best slacker films around.
4 | Reality Bites (1994) – dir. Ben Stiller
“I’m late for a jean-folding seminar. Let’s locomote!”
I’ve always respected Ben Stiller for directing this movie. Reality Bites is not really about the plot, but about its characters – and, on a broader scale, about Generation X in its entirety. Winona Ryder is brilliant as aspiring filmmaker Lelaina Pierce, as is Ethan Hawke as the mind-numbingly sarcastic Troy Dyer – but the group simply would not be the same without Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn. This film captures the aimless post-adolescent lifestyle of its generation in a beautiful, simple and very true-to-life manner.
3 | Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997) – dir. David Mirkin
“Would you excuse me? I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood.”
It’s so rare for slacker movies to be about women. In general, lack of ambition is a characteristic that is only deemed acceptable in men. Perhaps that’s why Romy and Michele is so loved – it unapologetically presents us with two grown women who have done nothing with their lives, and like it that way. Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) shamelessly sit around watching Pretty Woman, trying to pick up guys at clubs, and stuffing themselves with junk food – and it’s impossible not to fall in love with them.
2 | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – dir. John Hughes
“You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.”
Advertised with the slogan “LEISURE RULES”, this movie does an impeccable job of creating the ultimate slacker utopia, even if it only lasts a day. The eponymous Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) can charm his way in and out of anything – be it getting his girl, Sloane (Mia Sara) out of school, persuading Cameron (Alan Ruck) to get out of bed, or convincing a maître d’ that he is Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago. This film embraces the philosophy that life must be lived to the fullest every day. Take a day off.
1 | Slacker(1991) – dir. Richard Linklater
“Uh, I don’t do much really, I just read, and work here, and, uh, sleep and eat, and, uh, watch movies.”
Slacker takes you on a surreal, winding journey through the intertwined lives of the residents of Austin, Texas. Rather than ever following a plot, the film gives us a snippet of a conversation or moment between some unknown characters, and then, when they pass by someone else, the focus moves to that new subject, and so on. At no point does a story develop, and yet you simply can’t tear yourself away from the screen – there’s an odd familiarity in watching these unidentified slackers talking about nothing in particular. The film’s allure can be summed up in one quote from Slacker itself: “the obsessiveness of the utterly passive.”