Classic Cult Movies Made After 1970 - Lovable Villains and Terrible Heroes

What is a Cult Movie?

Early cult movies made with low production values, poor acting, or bizarre story lines often encourage viewers to ask the question - what were they thinking? Whether strangely artistic, oddly dramatic with weird sets and peculiar characters, the older films (mentioned in a previous article) seem to have been made with the failed intent of creating a good film.

In the 1970s, when odd ball movies achieved what we think of as cult status, people flocked to midnight screenings at colleges, universities, and in urban settings, garnering the attention of the off-beat, outsider crowd.

Cult films made after the sudden popularity of such quirky cinema seem to be tailor made to attract audiences who yearned for this type of film. The cult movies made after 1970 seem to wink at the audience. Unlike earlier cult films, made with a kind of innocent idiocy, the newer movies appear to have been created for the midnight shows that attracted stoners, gay people, film students, and a group of young people who questioned standard movie forms.

The question is - is a movie that has been created with such audiences in mind authentic? When directors and producers set out to offer viewers peculiar story lines with annoying or wildly quirky characters - is the attempt too contrived to be a true cult movie?

The Dude Abides


Small Group of Dedicated Fans

The fact remains in the definition - a group of dedicated fans who appreciate the oddly original, driven to watch the same movie over and over, who maybe know a bit too much about a particular film.

Maybe Monty Python know they would earn the dedication of intelligent, outsider teen-aged boys when they made Monty Python's Holy Grail . Perhaps the makers of Rocky Horror Picture Show realized they were filling a void with the trash glam horror musical. And the Coen Brothers certainly knew what they were doing when they offered us a twisted and ridiculously ironic version of the classic quest tale with the Big Lebowski.

Whatever the intent, these newer modern cult classics offered audiences the stories that informed a somewhat cynical view of a sordid world, and sometimes comically skewed vision of modern society.

Below, I offer you just a few of the modern cult movie favorites made after 1970.

Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude (1971) Directed by Hal Ashby, starring Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, and Vivian Pickles.

A preppy young rich boy, obsessed with death who enjoys faking suicide scenes enters into a romantic relationship with a women 60 years his senior and dresses exactly like his psychiatrist in this oddly touching movie.

Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos (!972) Directed by John Waters (who also produced, wrote the screenplay, and was responsible for casting and cinematography). Starring Divine, Mink Stole, and Edith Massey.

The Baltimore indie film maker's famous story of Babs Johnson, the head of a family with unlikely status as the Filthiest People Alive, who enters a showdown with another group called the Marbles in order to retain their honor. Filled with bad acting, idiosyncratic language, vitality, and originality, this film includes a scene that may be one of the most disgusting scenes ever produced. The kitschy pink flamingo lawn ornaments first designed in 1957 by Don Featherstone became a huge pop icon after the release of the film.

Gray Gardens

Gray Gardens (1975) Directed by Albert and David Masters, starring Edith Bouvier Beale, and her daughter, 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale in a true and fascinating documentary based on their own reclusive lives as ex high society ladies living in a rat infested dump in East Hampton dining on tinned meat and mayonnaise canapes. Little Edie is fascinating in her various 'revolutionary costumes.' Big Edie is a broken down old woman whose beauty occasionally flickers across her face in moments of exquisite poignancy. An upside down faerie tale of a couple of eccentric survivors.

Strange, sad, yet somehow beautiful. The two Ediths were eventually helped out by their famous cousin Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Directed by Jim Sharmon, starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Meatloaf.

The king of midnight movies is a musical about a young couple stranded in a Transylvanian castle presided over the Dr. Frank 'n' Furter and filled with sexual impropriety, cannibalism, and trashy glamor. Tim Curry plays the doctor as dynamic and over the top with his powerful voice - a bizarrely lovable villain.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, starring Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and Graham Chapman.

Monty Python's glorious, low budget send up of the King Arthur legend set in the dangerous and filthy Early Middle Ages is filled with foolish knights, stupid kings, and dancing Crusaders. Classic scenes include the bombardment of a castle with barnyard animals, a grubby peasant spewing communist philosophy, and the so sickening it's funny 'bring out your dead' scene. A must for history lovers and 14 year old boys (or anyone with the mind of a 14 year old boy).

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) Directed by John DeBello, starring David Miller, George Wilson, and Sharon Taylor.

When a tomato rolls off a garbage truck and kills a woman, other similar attacks soon ensue. A team of special agents sent to investigate this horrifying phenomena are shadowed by a journalist. It is soon discovered that a high ranking DC politico hopes to use the killer tomatoes for nefarious purposes. Here is a film that tried to be awful and succeeded so well that it bombed at theaters.

Mad Max

Mad Max (1979) Directed by George Miller, starring Mel Gibson and Joanne Samuel. In a post apocalyptic Australian desert, violent gangs rove empty roads in search of victims. 23 year old Mel Gibson as highway patrolman Max Rockatansky fights the dangerous fiends with tactics not unlike the bad guys themselves. The weak plot, low budget, and lousy acting combine with cartoonish horror to create a powerful cult movie as you ask yourself - is this some kind of sick joke?

Blade Runner

Blade Runner (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott with Harrison Ford, Rutger Haur, and Sean Young. Loosely based on Phillip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Blade Runner asks the question - what does it mean to be human?

Harrison Ford plays a retired blade runner named Deckart sent out to hunt down and 'retire' a group of highly intelligent, revolutionary androids. He discovers that the androids (used as slaves) or 'replicants' have developed empathy and self awareness, have become sentient beings and so questions the dystopian society in this dark, shadowy near future. Blade Runner performed poorly at the box office but over the years has developed a devoted fan base.

This is Spinal Tap

This is Spinal Tap (1984) Directed by Rob Reiner, starring Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. A satirical documentary follows a heavy metal band's come back tour and includes mock interviews, and phony old footage in a deadpan, cliché ridden ode to star swaggering affectation. The movie bombed at the box office but does very well on video and DVD.

The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994) Directed by Stephan Elliot, starring Terrance Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Bill Hunter.

Another Austrialian road adventure, this time featuring 3 drag queens in a lilac painted bus crowned with a gigantic stiletto high heel shoe. Silly, sweet, and poignant, Bernadette (Stamp) is a transsexual who longs for an honest relationship. Bernadette is feminine, and tough with great bitchy humor.


Clerks (1994) Directed by Kevin Smith, starring Brian O'Halloran, and Jeff Anderson. Kevin Smith made Clerks for a mere $27, 575.00 He shot the film in black and white using his college fund and money from the sale of his vast collection of comic books. Shot in 3 weeks at a store where Smith worked, Clerks offers the viewer a day in the life of a convenience store clerk named Dante and an homage to slacker culture.

The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski (1998) Directed by Joel Coen, produced by Ethan Coen, starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Sam Elliot, and John Torturro. This beautifully absurd story revolves around an unemployed, White Russian swilling slacker called the Dude. When inept thugs urinate on the Dude's rug in a case of mistaken identity, the Dude takes time away from his life at the bowling ally to seek redress from the thugs intended target, a millionaire who shares the same name. The marvelously weird cast of characters include the pious yet aggressively loyal Viet Nam vet Walter (Goodman), an erotic artist (Moore), a confused sweet heart of a slacker (Buscemi), and a trashy, purple suited bowling fanatic (Turturro). Hilarious, poignant, weird, and the most prolific dropping of the F bomb in movie history.

Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko (2001) Directed by Richard Kelly, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

A troubled teenager who is in therapy and heavily medicated is being stalked by a giant, ugly rabbit named Frank who warns Donnie (Gyllenhaal) that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. Donnie's world is shaken when a jet engine falls through his roof and lands in his bed. As he moves through his own darkness in suburban America, Donnie comes to understand the message brought by Frank, and comes to a descison involving a dramatic, yet bizarre self sacrifice.

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