What makes a great cult classic movie? Is it how cheesy, shocking or likeable they are despite their flaws? In truth, it is all and none of these traits at the same time.
Cult classics are movies (often low budget) that have a dedicated fanbase in a subculture outside of the mainstream. With these movies, Film critics often panned a film on first viewing and the box office takings were likely sub-par. But for some reason, the movie spoke to enough people for it to rise from the ashes 10 or 20 years later.
There are so many cult classic movies out there, lists of top 25 or 50 seem too overwhelming to tackle. So, here is a list of 10 great cult movies that are quotable, unappreciated in their time, but well-loved today. (In our humble opinion!)
Fight Club (1999)
Yes, you’re not supposed to talk about it. But let’s make an exception this one time, okay?
Nowadays, Fight Club is a well-known film. So, it might surprise you to know that Fight Club‘s box office takings were dismal, to say the least. On a budget of $63 million, it only took $100 million worldwide and critics were lukewarm at best.
Even though this is a film directed by David Fincher and starring the one and only Brad Pitt!
The star-power and future success of both Fincher and Pitt likely helped Fight Club gain a cult, indie movie following in later years. It is so loved that it is less of a cult classic these days and one of the top, must-watch movies.
Director: David Fincher
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Alright, alright, alright! Dazed and Confused is the film that launched this immortal Matthew McConaughey line.
Except, that for a while, this film was not alright. It earned only $8 million from a tiny $6.5 million budget. But critics loved it and it helped launch the careers of McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Reneé Zellweger and so many others.
Like many great cult classics, it is a fun, stoner, coming-of-age movie set on the last day of Texan high school. You can guess which subculture it found an audience in.
Director: Richard Linklater
Heathers is one of the best movies to watch if you love dark, black comedies. It stars Winona Ryder as Veronica who befriends the cool girls in her school who are all called Heather. She also gets mixed up with bad boy J.D. and starts an inadvertent murder spree in their high school.
Not exactly a John Hughes 1980s high school movie, right?
But critics loved it, as did the less popular girls at school who may or may not have fantasised about bringing down the popular girls. It is one of the best cult classics with many female leads.
Director: Michael Lehmann
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Big Lebowski qualifies as a cult movie only because it made a dismal amount of money at the box office at the time of its release. The plot is still on the right side of weird for its fans who have slowly but surely grown in numbers, making it a well loved go-to movie.
Jeff Bridges stars as the title character but he goes by the name “The Dude.” It is one of the most quotable, loveable, entertaining films. It is also a homage to 1950s Film Noir but seen through a fug of marijuana smoke. You cannot help but laugh until you cry and walk away with a smile on your face after watching this movie no matter how many times you’ve seen it
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen (The Coen Brothers)
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
How did Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks and Amy Poehler star in this low-budget, indie movie together and all become super famous?
Wet Hot American Summer follows the last day at an American summer camp. It earned no money and critics were less than impressed. Nonetheless, it is so much fun and still wonderful to watch these Hollywood names before they hit the big time.
Thanks to its cult popularity with modern audiences, the film spawned a couple of Netflix series.
Director: David Wain
Withnail & I (1989)
If you have ever gone on holiday by mistake, you will identify with this brilliant British comedy cult classic. Two London booze addicted movie/TV/Stage actors go on holiday to the rainy UK Lake District and mayhem ensues.
It is so beloved by certain people, so much so that the most dedicated movie fans take a pilgrimage to visit the filming locations. If you do, steer clear of the randy bull (don’t ask!).
Director: Bruce Robinson
To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995)
What happens when you mix Patrick Swayze as a drag queen, RuPaul wearing a confederate flag dress, and a drab hick town in the USA? You get the awesome camp road trip movie, To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar (1995).
Is that one of the longest movie titles in history!
This is one of those great cult classics with a low critics score and a high audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Grab your “say something” hat and watch this heartwarming cult movie to brighten your day.
Director: Beeban Kidron
The Wicker Man (1973)
No, not the Nicholas Cage version (NOT THE BEES!). The original version with Christopher Lee. This film uses the literal meaning of “cult” as well as being a cult movie.
The beautiful Scottish Highland scenery will delight you but the animal masks and sacrifices will disturb you. If you liked Midsommar (2019), you will love The Wicker Man.
Director: Robin Hardy
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
If you’ve ever wanted to turn something up to 11, you will have been quoting This Is Spinal Tap without even realising it! Directed by Rob Reiner, this mockumentary is huge amongst music lovers and it will make you laugh your socks off.
In fact, this film is so good, people 100% believed at the time that the Spinal Tap band was a real band…leading them to go or tours!
Director: Rob Reiner
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The cult film to end all cult films. The Rocky Horror Picture Show did not only speak to a subculture, it created one.
This comedy horror film is the perfect blend of music, sci-fi, sexuality, vivid visuals and heart jumping moments. Thousands of people now dress up as the characters and watch midnight screenings of the movie. You will be donning your fishnets and singing all the tunes after watching this film.
Director: Jim Sharman
Cult Classics All Film Fans Must Watch
If you’re a dedicated film fan, you have likely seen at least one or two of these cult classics. But if you want to find more of those movies, you’ll need to sign up for the right streaming service. We can help you decide which is best suited for you.
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