Certain films go beyond mainstream success to achieve a dedicated and passionate following. These are the cult classics – movies that have a unique charm, unconventional appeal, and a devoted fan base that keeps them alive in pop culture for years after their release. Here, I shall take you through my top 17 cult classics of all time:
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
This musical-comedy horror film follows the bizarre and fantastical tale of Brad and Janet. With its unconventional storyline, unique blend of campy humor, and catchy tunes, The Rocky Horror Picture Show captivated audiences and established itself as the quintessential cult film.
Directed by Jim Henson and starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, this fantasy-adventure film takes audiences on a magical journey through a labyrinth to rescue a baby brother. Labyrinth’s imaginative visuals, puppetry, and Bowie’s iconic portrayal of the Goblin King have cemented its place in cult film history.
Fight Club (1999)
Compared to the popularity it enjoys today, Fight Club did not get a lot of attention when it was released in 1999. It was also very controversial, with many critics pointing out that its plot glamorized brutality and violence. Fight Club would nevertheless go on to become the defining cult movie of the 21st century.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Big Lebowski is a Coen Brothers’ cult classic known for its offbeat humor, memorable characters, and iconic quotes. The film follows the misadventures of “The Dude” as he gets entangled in a bizarre case.
Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a groundbreaking dystopian sci-fi noir that follows a jaded cop, portrayed by Harrison Ford, who has to take down a group of synthetic humans in a futuristic world. The film’s mesmerizing visuals, thought-provoking narrative, and compelling performances have made it a timeless favorite among cult film enthusiasts.
Repo Man (1984)
Repo Man thrives off of its weirdness. Believe it or not, the plot of the 1984 sci-fi comedy revolves around a car—a Chevrolet Malibu that may or may not have something to do with aliens. Amidst all its absurdity, Repo Man’s anti-establishment theme shines through.
American Psycho (2000)
Featuring one of my favorite performances by Christian Bale, the Mary Harron-directed American Psycho follows a wealthy investment banker who also doubles as a serial killer. The horror comedy was considered a box office disappointment upon its release but has since grown in popularity thanks to a significant presence in meme culture.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
At the time it was released, Dazed and Confused was just another small-budget indie comedy. No one could have anticipated how much impact the film would go on to have, setting the template for almost every high school party movie that followed.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is a mind-bending cult classic that blends elements of sci-fi, drama, and mystery. Directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the film follows the enigmatic journey of Donnie, a troubled teenager who experiences strange occurrences.
David Keith Lynch is widely known for making highly surrealist and enigmatic films. Eraserhead, despite being the director’s first full-feature film, embodies these qualities as well. The film, which follows a man who tries to care for his grossly deformed child, was an instant cult classic, screening for three years in L.A.’s Nuart Theater.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
No one could have imagined that this parody of ’80s teen movies would go on to become a cult-beloved classic. To be fair, with a cast consisting of Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, and Amy Poehler amongst others, Wet Hot American Summer wasn’t short of talent, even if unproven at the time.
With a budget of less than $30,000, director Kevin Smith made his directorial debut with the comedy Clerks. The film’s setting is a convenience store in New Jersey where Smith worked at the time and the plot revolves around a single day in the life of a clerk at the store. Clerks was a surprise hit in theaters, grossing over $3 million in the US.
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (1978)
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park follows the four original members of the iconic rock band Kiss, as they attempt to save an amusement park from destruction with their superpowers. Despite the ridiculousness of its plot, the film has found a cult following, even though it is despised by the band it is about.
Office Space (1999)
In my opinion, Office Space was way ahead of its time. The film gives a hilarious but accurate portrayal of mundane corporate life and the woes of frustrated employees. While Office Space’s domestic gross was disappointing, the film would gather such a significant cult following in subsequent years that, by 2006, it had sold six million DVDs domestically.
The Room (2003)
The Room is infamous for its status as a “so bad it’s good” cult classic. Written, directed, and produced by Tommy Wiseau, the film’s unintentional humor and puzzling storyline made it so iconic that it has inspired several memoirs and even an Oscar-nominated film.
El Topo (1970)
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s take on the western genre, El Topo is characterized by bizarre characters and an absurd plot. Understandably, many were not into the film; but El Topo had a fascinating hold on those who were, screening all year at some New York theaters upon its release.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Off John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s stage musical, the 2001 film follows Hedwig, a gay rock singer who, after a botched gender reassignment procedure, has to navigate her gender identity. While Hedwig and the Angry Inch wasn’t a box office hit on its release, it built an international cult following in the years that followed.
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