The art of the hangout film defies genre. It’s a work of immersion and close study of a character ensemble where you get the feeling of familiarity. As if you and the people on-screen are friends, enjoying the journey no matter where it takes you. Not all hangout movies need a plot, the best of which certainly don’t have one outside their relationships. The conflict isn’t the driving force, but rather the knowledge of one another on an intimate level.
Quentin Tarantino has many films that emulate the hangout vibe as he credits Rio Bravo as the first hangout movie. While they’ve been around for some time, in recent memory, directors like Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater have dedicated a good portion of their filmography to perfecting the art of the hangout. The directors let their cameras near disappear as they transport their audience into aimlessness. Here are the best hangout movies, ranked.
10 Everybody Wants Some!!
In the vein of his 90s cult classic Dazed and Confused, indie auteur Richard Linklater gives us another masterclass in the act of the hangout. Featuring a long line of guys just being dudes, hanging out playing baseball, hoping to make the team at a local Texas college Everybody Wants Some!! gets to the essence of the brotherly bond that brings a team to greatness and why it’s pivotal to have fun. Linklater lets his cast of young actors field the diamond. Everyone, from Glenn Powell to Blake Jenner, knows how to play America’s pastime.
9 Ocean’s 12
While still ultimately about an end-of-film heist, Ocean’s 12 feels like a radical departure from the original reboot. Instead of being a hard-lined, tightly-wound heist film about getting the gang together, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and the boys instead end up hanging back, not attached to anything but the immaculate vibes of cool European cities. The film has a stoner, hazy quality to its gorgeous photography, as the crew finds ease in their friendship. They kick back, look beautiful, and have a great time while becoming intertwined with a master French thief (Vincent Cassell). Steven Soderbergh proved once again that he is one of the smartest and most transgressive filmmakers working in the studio system.
Ice Cube’s stoner classic Friday relishes its characters’ lack of ambition and indulges their capacity to get high to comedic effect. Two friends — Craig (Ice Cube) and Smokey (the hilarious Chris Tucker) — smoke weed from their porches all day. The film hilariously depicts black neighborhoods on the West Coast in the 1990s. Even as the gags get exaggerated the heart of the hood remains. Although the comedy gets sidelined for its social messaging towards the end, Friday gives us Deebo and Smokey, two characters that will remain comedy icons as Ice Cube created a franchise.
7 Night On Earth
Jim Jarmusch was part of a renaissance of independent filmmakers borne out of the NYU school of artists. His films had a unique blend of comedy, Zen realism, and aimlessness with a cast of cool characters that immediately left his blueprint as an indelible piece of American cinema. Night On Earth is a series of vignettes that gets to the heart of the taxi driver and passenger relationship. How that one short ride could be as intimate, epic, and tragic as any relationship you have, but in such a short time. The conversations range from the cool of Winona Ryder smoking a cigarette in the West Coast Hills to the manic energy of Giancarlo Esposotio in the New York streets. Jarmusch’s film and filmography are quintessential to understanding the hangout movie.
If there’s one independent filmmaking success story to tell from the 90s, Kevin Smith should be near the top of that list. With no backing from a major studio — Smith maxed out several of his credit cards to finance his script and shot the film in black-and-white, with no one other than his friends — Clerks somehow found its audience. A cult-hit with a non-story that moves from one slacker conversation to the next, fueled by pot smoke and cigarettes, the film laid the blueprint for conversational comedy in independent cinema. Also birthing two iconic characters in Jay and Silent Bob, Kevin Smith built his cinematic universe before Marvel ever did.
5 Breakfast Club
John Hughes created high school archetypes that would set the blueprint for so many high school films that came after. Taking the jock, freak, nerd, burnout, and it-girl, putting them in a room together for one day’s detention became a classic. As the group hangs out, gets to know each other in a large school library, and slowly dismantles one another, their expectations, and the audience, The Breakfast Club is full of great character moments. Even when their at odds, the great diffuser becomes weed and the 5 create bonds that you can’t help but think will live long after the credits roll.
4 Lost in Translation
The existential milieu and isolation of being in a country whose language you don’t speak become an acutely studied character portrait in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Stuck between the phase of fame and fading, Bill Murray shines as he goes from press events to the karaoke bars, longing for some human connection. When finally, he finds love in a just as lonely Scarlett Johansson, who feels sidelined and ignored by her aloof boyfriend (Giovanni Ribisi). The film glides through a series of hangouts as the two begin to connect and find love in those quiet moments together. The loose and seemingly unconstructed nature gives Lost In Translation all its power.
3 Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino’s films have long been imbued with hangout, character-driven sensibilities. Tarantino values getting to know the ins and outs of what the characters like to think or converse about while the plot takes a back seat. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood leaned into this more than most of his films. Tarantino puts front seta in the cars of buddies Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they freewheel around Los Angeles. The two drink beers, margaritas, and rip cigs as they buddy around watching Rick on TV. While also altering history as Tarantino loves to do.
2 Dazed and Confused
Linklater’s best films can be seen as a thesis statement on how to use film to make the slow passage of time seem tangible and concrete. With comedic effect, Linklater perfected the art of the hangout film by suspending time to its haziest degree. Dazed and Confused is a perfect hangout film because of that slow, tangible quality where you’re part of the ensemble and the characters feel like your friends. With the now iconic Matthew McConaughey line reading, Dazed and Confused will live forever.
1 The Big Lebowski
The depth of the Coen Brothers’ films across genres is a credit to their long line of referential material and metaphor in subtext. The Big Lebowski, on its face, is a stoner comedy about the laid-back life of “The Dude” caught in the cross-hairs of a kidnapping scheme. But, the cult status of The Big Lebowski suggests more. Equal parts philosophical jests with how to live life, a noir mystery, and also a commentary on America’s involvement in the Middle East. Lebowski is more than just a comedy of endlessly quotable dialogue and that is why it has the legs of one of their finest works. However, it’s the tao of The Dude that equates to an all-around hangout.