They’re not lazy, they’re just motivationally challenged. Films about underachievers have been popular for decades, and have given us some of the most entertaining and celebrated characters in cinema history. After all, slackers are pretty funny, and sometimes oddly inspiring. They don’t care about school, or work, or anything we’re supposed to care about. But they always seem to end up having some kind of deeper understanding of the world to share.
Over the past few years, slackers have been all the rage in Hollywood. From indie favorites like Superbad and Pineapple Express to surprise smash hits like Knocked Up, audiences have proven that they love to watch stories about unmotivated guys trying to sort their lives out. More recently, film fans had another chance to watch underachievers in action with American Ultra. But if you’d rather stick to classic fare, here are 5 of the best slacker films ever made.
1. Office Space
Most slacker movies feature young men and women who have next to no responsibilities. But that’s definitely not the case in Office Space, which takes place in the middle of corporate America. That’s not only what sets the movie apart from other films in the genre — it’s what makes it a true classic.
Office Space follows Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), an ambitionless office drone who’s just going through the motions. Day after day, he deals with issues that are familiar to most of us — clueless bosses, frustrated coworkers, and a job he couldn’t care less about. He openly voices his annoyance at the responsibilities he holds to anyone who will listen — and once he’s placed under hypnosis, he’s left in a state where he just doesn’t care at all, to hilarious results.
Many of us dream of achieving the slacker status of Peter. But since it’s not really feasible for us to throw caution to the wind, tell our boss off, and just stop going to work, well, we’ll just need to live vicariously through him.
2. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
High school is a time where you’re not supposed to care about the world or big responsibilities. But in this 1980s classic, we follow a group of teens who are immensely caught up in the daily drama of their lives, from part-time jobs to teen pregnancy. One character, Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), acts as an antidote to the drama. He’s a surfer and a stoner, a young man who cares so little about his high school curriculum, he has pizza ordered straight to the classroom. Though he’s a constant source of problems for his teachers, his devil-may-care attitude is a refreshing reminder of how blissfully simple life could be if we stopped making it so complicated.
3. Dazed and Confused
The last day of high school, 1976. If there was ever a time for carefree living and zero responsibility, that was most certainly it. In Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, we follow several groups of high school cliques as they navigate around their small Texas town in search of fun. And in the middle of it all, we meet some of the most committed slackers in film history — including the iconic too-old-to-be-hanging-out-with-high-school-kids Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey). Whether they’re getting high or watching girls walk by, the young men in Dazed and Confused can’t be bothered to care about much — but they seem to be enjoying themselves nonetheless.
This indie classic from Kevin Smith could be subtitled “A day in the life of slackers.” Clerks follows a small group of friends who hang out at a convenience store and generally wish they were anywhere else. Because the film takes place largely in real time, it allows a glimpse into the lives of twenty-somethings who truly don’t seem to care about much other than the snacks their eating and the movies they’d rather be watching. Clerks never ventures into the absurd like some of the other films on this list, but it’s amusing anyway — especially because it often feels like you’re right in the middle of the conversation, and thus a part of the laziness.
5. The Big Lebowski
The protagonist of this Coen Brothers classic is so chill, he’s known as The Dude. But what makes The Big Lebowski so great isn’t just its legendary characters, but the crazy situations they find themselves in. Jeff Bridges stars as Jeff Lebowski, who finds himself in the midst of an unbelievable adventure after a case of mistaken identity. Soon, he finds himself embroiled in a kidnapping plot, hijacking ransom, and running for his life. But through it all, the Dude abides, and his lackadaisical reaction to much of the insanity around him makes the film’s most ridiculous sequences all the more enjoyable.