Cheech Marin has one simple metric to determine his favorite films: "Every time they're on TV, I watch them," he explains. "If I see them in the guide — no matter where in the movie — I watch them, because I know these movies encyclopedically. That's my standard for the best movie."
There's a chance Marin is in a favorite film of your own, given the comedian and actor's prolific career. He made his film debut in the 1978 stoner comedy Up In Smoke, alongside comedy partner Tommy Chong. Cheech & Chong would star in six more movies together before parting ways for a time to pursue other projects. For Marin, that included writing, starring in, and making his directorial debut with 1987's Born in East L.A. He's also appeared in films like Tin Cup and From Dusk Till Dawn, and lent his voice to animated classics like Oliver & Company (as Tito the Chihuahua), The Lion King ( as the hyena Banzai), and the Cars movies (as the lowrider Ramone).
"If it's a good story and a good cast and you're getting paid well — I don't know where I can make this money doing anything else!" he laughs. "And when it stops being fun, I do something else, because I have a lot of different interests. But it is fun."
In the new comedy, Shotgun Wedding, Marin plays the father of Jennifer Lopez's bride-to-be, whose destination wedding is taken hostage by pirates. The all-star cast includes Josh Duhamel, Sônia Braga, Lenny Kravitz, and a scene-stealing Jennifer Coolidge. "It's like being a musician," Marin says of the ensemble. "When you're playing with other musicians, it's a lot of fun. It's not fun to do solo work."
Below, Marin shares with A.frame his five favorite films, including Up In Smoke. And why not? It meets his criteria. "It's one of my favorite movies of all time," he grins. "I could watch it every day."
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola | Written by: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo
I consider them as one movie. It's just incredible period storytelling of a part of America that you thought you knew a little bit about but didn't know anything about. Goodfellas is another. I don't know why I like gangster movies; I guess they were the best movies made at that period. The Godfather is such a great part of Americana. And the way it's told, and the romance, and the violence, and the forces that are playing there. And the acting, of course. The great actors and the greatest director, Coppola.
Directed by: Robert Altman | Written by: Robert Altman and Brian McKay
Robert Altman, who was really a favorite of mine as a director, made this movie about a gold mining camp. And you got to really see what a gold mining camp would have looked like in the day. It was a bunch of tents, and the hookers and guys trying to take over your spot. These movies are all out of the '70s — which is my era — but that was a really golden age of filmmaking.
Directed by: Billy Wilder | Written by: Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond
It is, of course, Marilyn Monroe's best movie. She's this ball of fire, and sexuality, and humor, and beauty, and vulnerability. And Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, it doesn't get better. It has the best ending line of any movie in the history of movies: 'Nobody's perfect.' I saw it in the movie theater and, when that line came, the whole audience burst out in the most raucous laughter I'd ever seen. I want to do that. I want the funniest line in the movie to be the last line, and that's the hardest thing to do.
Directed by: Roman Polanski | Written by: Robert Towne
Chinatown is wonderful. It is a great tale of power, and corruption, and greed, and lust, and all those kinds of things. And it was based on a true story, how L.A. became L.A. because they got water that was diverted by these movers and shakers of the period. It was great. Great acting by Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, and a wonderful screenplay. From the beginning, you were intrigued.
Directed by: Lou Adler | Written by: Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong
It's obviously a work of genius. Tommy and I wrote that. And it's funny because it is really evocative of the era. If you wanted to find out what the vibe of that era was, it was Up in Smoke. And it was not done by these classically trained actors; it was these two improv street players who had no experience making films whatsoever. We had experience in watching movies, but never making one. And a great portion of that film was improv.
And it has remained iconic throughout the world since then. People still watch it. It was bigger than we ever thought. That was the point that we became international. Because, before, we just had records. And they were English. But movies, you could either dub them or subtitle them. So, that whole vibe went around the world and came back. And whoa! We really realized the power of movies.