I think most people in my age group remember this interesting time through the mid-late 90s in which the styles and music of the 70s made a huge comeback. A lot of it was from 'That 70's Show' making a good impression, but before that, there was 'Dazed and Confused' - a film that would almost become a right of passage for us in our teenage years. I can't speak for everyone, but I do recall this movie being a huge deal in high school.
By the time I eventually got around to seeing it, I was just about the perfect age. I can't recall exactly how old, but I was absolutely in high school, and that's pretty much what mattered. This is quite often seen as a stoner movie (and it totally is), but it's also a coming-of-age high school film that covers some deep moments in teenage youth - even if it is a conversation about President Washington and his love for weed. Details like that aside, in one way or another, this seemed to be a film that was able to speak to everyone in some way shape or form.
I've always considered this one to have two main characters to focus on, each for very different reasons. The front-runner is Randall "Pink" Floyd, who finds himself caught between responsibility to his high school football team and being himself, embracing his youth instead of being some kind of high school robot everyone expects something from. In the meantime, the character I tend to follow through the film is freshman geek Mitch Kramer, whose night starts out rough but by the end of things becomes what could be the best night of his life. It's an interesting mix of what it means to be the popular head of the high school and what it means to be a vulnerable and frightened freshman - and how to handle both.
These leads aside, there's also a great cast of mostly likable characters here and, as I mentioned before, it feels like the kind of movie in which anyone can find themselves relating to at least one of these characters. However, I think we'd all be agreed that without the great stoner Slater, this would not quite be what it is. Now, full admission, I am a pot smoker - it's 100% legal where I am, and it is lovely. With that said, I can probably add that when I have someone visit for a good "puff, puff, pass" and I suggest we watch a movie, 'Dazed and Confused' will come up just about every time. And oh yes, I'm always more than happy to watch it!
More than just likable characters, this is an intriguing portrait of 70s youth and how it was. On the surface, really, this movie is just about a bunch of kids hanging out one night, driving around, partying, drinking, getting high, and all this stuff that you really shouldn't be doing. The thing is, this painted that culture in a nice, bright light as if to say "teens will be teens", and I think there's definitely something to that. To a degree, this trouble-making is all a part of being a teenager (at least for, I would argue, most). I mean, how many kids at your high school smoked pot, drank, drove dangerously, etc.? That's what's so connective about this movie - there's certain realism to it. Nothing that happens here is far-fetched or played for some big production - it's just a chill flick.
To top everything off with this one, it has an incredible soundtrack, loaded with 70s rock anthems - enough that there are actually two separate albums for it, both of which I can highly recommend. Upon seeing this, it didn't take me long to grab the first part of the soundtrack and keep it in my Discman (these existed before MP3 players) to bring to school. You had songs on this like "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith, "Slow Ride" by Foghat, "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent, "School's Out" by Alice Cooper, "Tush" by ZZ Top and so much more. Eventually, I grabbed the second one as well just for something new, but similar. Really, the soundtrack is the star of this film, and it's quite possibly my all-time favourite movie soundtrack. Why? Well, there are two of them, and I never actually skip any songs on either.
It's always interesting to me to think of the time comparison thing at my current age of 40. Released in '94, this takes place in '76, so 18 years prior to its release. This would be like releasing a movie now that takes place in 2004. I can't speak for everyone in my age group who adores this movie, but for yours truly, that feels incredibly recent. Mathematics aside, however, I think it's safe to say that while this is a "stoner movie" (possibly the best one in existence) you don't have to be baked to watch and enjoy it. If I was to compare it to anything, it would probably be 'American Graffiti', but even with that, there's nothing quite like this look at the youth culture of the 70s that we can somehow all seem to relate to on some level.