Feature by Marc Boka
The identifying of a cult film is a very unique thing in the film industry. Cult films are not unique to any one genre and cannot be identified upon immediate release; it takes time and a sense of how an audience reacts to the film. There is no set of guidelines as to what makes a film a cult classic or just a cult film in general. Cult film can be highly critically acclaimed or can be some of the worst movies ever released. They can be quite popular and extremely rare and even not available for viewing except rarely on minor television stations and strange hours. It seems to be that the only common thread amongst cult films is that viewers either absolutely revere the film in high esteem or simply don't understand it and therefore do not enjoy it.
With all this in mind, while looking through a book of the 500 best cult films I discovered that cult films, or films that are sometimes labeled as cult films, will always get film enthusiasts talking and debating. It is with these thoughts and "guidelines" of sorts that I decided to create the list below, a few more to come of different fields of film, and the ones that are considered cult films and how we rank them as best movies, not necessarily most popular of cult films.
To begin this series of lists, I will strictly focus on cult comedies and will rank the best this genre produced in the area of cult films. This is likely to be highly debatable and we welcome all thoughts good and bad. One thing is certain of cult films we have noticed, everyone has at least one they love.
Slap Shot (1977)
Director George Roy Hill is often credited with creating one of the most memorable and most enjoyed acting duos ever when he cast Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He brought them together again in the Oscar-winning movie, The Sting. Four years after The Sting, Hill would team up with Newman again, this time without Redford. The result was not only the greatest hockey movie ever, but one of the greatest sports movies ever.
Newman plays Reggie Dunlop, an aging player/coach on a failing team in a town that is about to go under with it. Dunlop begins turning the team and it's attendance around with some unusual players and style that not only translates to wins on the ice but quite a few teeth as well.
With Newman displaying his extremely underrated comedic skills, Slap Shot delivers memorable scenes and lines that will leave you in tears with laughter. So why is it a cult comedy classic? There are a few reasons, one of which is the fact that it's about hockey. Hockey is the least popular of the major sports therefore some people just don't get the humor.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
It's not a coincidence that some directors, writers and producers, make several cult films. Their styles tend to find a very small niche audience, but their fans can be the most loyal in cinema. King of all these is John Waters. Waters has long since been revered as the ultimate cult filmmaker.
Pink Flamingos is the film that made Waters the director he is while using his muse, the original famous drag queen, Divine. In Pink Flamingos, Divine declares herself the filthiest person alive. Divine escapes to the suburbs while the ones wanting to take her spot as the filthiest person alive, go on a criminal war path that includes dealing heroin to school children.
One of the darkest comedies of all time and truly bizarre plot lines make Pink Flamingos to strangest and possibly the most vile film on our list. One thing is certain, John Waters fan's swear by what could be called the original cult comedy.
Despite being a cult comedy and one not as many people have seen as should see it, Heathers made a star out of Winona Ryder. With a common theme in cult comedies is that they tend to be on the dark to even black side. Heathers is no different. The story of a girl who wants to be part of the popular clique until she meets a fellow outcast in Christian Slater (who was at the peak of his teen idol days). The two team up and eventually end up killing off the popular students.
With several wannabe films to follow of the years like, Jawbreaker and Mean Girls, Heathers proves to be the original and some say the anti-Hughes teen movie. It doesn't wrap up neatly at the end or bring everyone together. It is dark slant on high school cruelty and life but it's not something every outcast hasn't wanted to do to at least one classmate.
Clerks is the ultimate low budget comedy. Shot in black and white with great dialogue that truly has an authentic feel as to what most friends talk like in language and pace. While it's a movie with flaws it made Kevin Smith an indie film icon. Smith has since seemed to fall from that status but clerks remains the feather in his cap.
The story of a convenience store clerk and his best friend, it follows their day at the store with different conversations and different visitors, including the infamous characters, Jay and Silent Bob. It has become a calling card film for several generation Xer's. It is a movie with dialogue that will offend some and others will feel like they are watching themselves.
Bottle Rocket (1996)
Three huge careers were launched with Bottle Rocket. Wes Anderson made his debut as director and its two lead actors, Luke and Owen Wilson, made a near perfect film. Wes Anderson laid down the blueprint for the style of all his future films and won over critics widely while many audiences didn't get the film (a definition of a cult film). It has it's loyal following.
The story of a man whose dreams are to be revered by the criminal underworld and enlists his friend to help him become a master criminal. A series of events make him out to be nothing more than a bumbling small time crook.
With his signature dialogue and subtleness, Wes Anderson crafted one of the best debut features of the last 35 years. Luke and Owen Wilson played off each other perfectly to give the film the dynamic it needed.
Little Shop Of Horrors (1960)
Roger Corman is indisputably the king of all B movies and Little Shop is arguably his most popular or at least most notorious film. Probably most known for having an extremely fresh faced Jack Nicholson in 1960 make a small appearance.
The story of a flower shop worker who breads a deadly combination of plants that desire the taste of human flesh. A series of terror and comedy takes place under the unbelievable thought of attacking plants being so unstoppable.
It's more well known for the 1986 remake starring Rick Moranis which is a bit of a cult film itself, I chose the original based on Corman as director and the fact that without the original there is no remake.
Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
Once again we come across a director who defines cult film with his entire library of films. Stanley Kubrick may be the most respected and critical favorite among not only cult films and film makers but among directors in general.
One of the best satiric movies ever made, Kubrick's biting humor along side the best performance in Peter Sellers brilliant comedic career. It has all the elements of not just a cult comedy but a cult classic with great one liners and an absolutely insane plot lines. Taking a huge risk to release it during the time in American history when it was just part of what made Kubrick a maverick in the film making community. A film that has stood the test of time and can prove to be relevant at any time in the future.
This film could be talked about for pages and hours but one thing remains, that is it is a comedic and film classic that is a flat out brilliant movie.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Creating a new style of film making with the faux documentary, Rob Reiner managed to fool audiences into thinking Spinal Tap was a real band.
The story of a film maker following around the "legendary" heavy metal group, Spinal Tap to find they have fallen into oblivion. Expertly written by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Rob Reiner, Spinal Tap has truly fallen into the annals of legendary films with some of the most memorable scenes in comedy period.
When it comes to Spinal Tap every fan has a favorite scene and every movie goers know that you always "turn it up to 11".
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Rocky Horror is recognized as the cult film that first had a rabid following of hardcore fans. Dressing up as characters and acting out scenes at the now legendary, late night screenings. It's mixture of sci-fi, horror, musical and comedy it may be the strangest film on the list and people really either worship this movie or would just as soon never be reminded of it again.
The story is that of young straight laced couple who comes across a castle in the middle of a rain storm after the breakdown in their car. There they discover a most unusual group of people lead by a transvestite played by Tim Curry.
The only way to really view the film and attempt to understand it is to attend a midnight viewing and see the obsession that has over taken its fans. Only there can people really begin to understand Rocky Horror and cult film in general.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
For every one Rocky Horror obsessed fan you can find 5 who live by The Big Lebowski. The Coen Brothers follow-up to their breakout Fargo, Lebowski brought them right back to their roots of off-beat comedy. With absolutely perfect performances from Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, Lebowski has plethora of quotable lines.
The story is one of mistaken identity that drags an easy going stoner into a world of kidnapping and extortion. Assisted by his best friend Walter, The Dude embarks on a series of misadventures stressing him out beyond his comfort zone.
Lebowski has as loyal a following as any film or political party you will find. To understand peoples love of the film you only need attend Lebowski Fest. A traveling festival that is a 3 night event where actors from the film show up to greet fans and watch the movie on opening night and the highlight is the costume bowling night complete with oat sodas and white russians.
Lebowski's a near perfect script that people either love or loath and fans of the Coen Brothers consider their crown jewel.
That's my list, let the debating begin. Marc it Dude!
Marc has been a lifelong film fanatic. From the moment he saw his first live action movie in a theater at the age of 5 (Back To The Future) film has been special and exciting with every viewing. While writing and managing his own site, Loveyourmovies.com, Marc has developed his writing ability, views and opinions on film and acting. You can follow Marc on Twitter @thedvdgen and on Facebook.