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Great Cult Movies

Updated on May 1, 2011

A Guide to Cult Movies

Cult movies are films that have a very devoted but limited (at least in numbers) fan-base. Before the rise of VHS and DVDs, cult movie fans would have to wait things like midnight screenings to have a chance to see their favorite flicks, but in recent years these films have gained a greater following as word as mouth spreads them around college campuses and film aficionados. In fact, now some "cult" movies that bomb at the box office are rediscovered on DVD and end up selling millions of copies: far more than some of the mainstream films that overshadowed them at the box office.

Anyway if you're interested in cult film you've probably heard of some of the standards (The Big Lebowski, Office Space, etc), but here's one film lover's guide to the best cult films out there.

Office Space: A total bomb at the box office (barely making 10 million dollars), this excellent comedy directed and written by Mike Judge found millions of new fans after being released on DVD. Like perhaps no other cult comedy from the 90s, Office Space has made its mark on popular culture: the infamous "TPS reports" from this movie were even name-dropped in a Reebok commercial (the equally famous Terry Tate: Office Linebacker one that aired during the Super Bowl a few years ago). Anyone who has worked in a office will at least find a few laughs in this film, and odds are if you have any sense of humor at all it will move to the top of your list of favorite comedies.

The Big Lebowski: Another comedy that did terribly at the box office but found new life on DVD, the Big Lebowski gave the world of cult film one of its best characters: the dude. Jeff Bridges' ultimate stoner (with a taste for joints and white Russians) is awesome in this flick, as is John Goodman as his slightly (maybe more than slightly) unstable friend and bowling partner. Directed by the almost always on-point Coen brothers, this film is entirely ridiculous, completely absurd, and hilariously funny.

Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece can't be considered a true cult film because it did very well in theaters and received a number of academy award nominations. But because of its legions of devoted fans and high level of rewatchability (if that's not a real world, it should be) it still gets put on this list. Samuel L. Jackson made his career of his movie, John Travolta revived his, and a host of terrible writers and directors found inspiration for making movies with nonlinear time-lines and interweaving plot-lines. But Tarantino somehow manages to hold everything together here, making one of the best movies of the 1990s (if not ever). Great soundtrack, great acting, great writing...just an outstanding all around film.

Donnie Darko: Starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character, this psychological thriller centers around the life of an emotionally troubled teenager living in a small town in Vermont in the 1980s. Writer and director Richard Kelly delves into issues like time-travel, predestination, and tangent universes: if you like the crazy pseudo-scientific/philosophical stuff in the TV show Lost you'll probably love this movie. Ranked number 2 on Entertainment Weekly's List of the best independent movies of all time, this movie is definitely the most intellectually interesting of the film's on my list. Highly recommended.

Hard Target: Starring Jean Claude van Damme, who sports the best mullet in the history of film, this movie has a ridiculous plot, terrible acting, and the leading actress has a uni-brow. So why is this on my list? Hard Target is director John Woo's first American film, and the action sequences live up to his reputation. Besides, the acting is so bad that the film ends up being hilarious, especially as a one-liner spouting Van Damme tries to come across as a New Orleans dockworker. The plot centers around some ridiculous villain who runs a business where rich people pay him to set up real-life "hunts" of homeless residents of New Orleans (I'm not kidding), but you're not here to see that, you're here to see van Damme take out a bad guy by kicking a bucket of miscellaneous toxic waste at him, then blowing it up in midair with a shot gun. The most badly awesome action movie ever made.

Waiting: An overlooked film that about wait staff in an Applebee's/Chili's/TGI Fridays clone, and one of Ryan Reynolds' first movies. The jokes are incredibly stupid. the plot can be summarized as yet another story where "aimless youth needs to figure out is life, and does so with his crazy friends who show him what is really important." Yet somehow, it all works, and you will be laughing out loud. And you will never eat at a place with goofy stuff on the walls and servers singing crappy birthday songs to children ever, ever again.

This list is just a few of my favorite cult movies, I know there are tons more out there...hope you enjoyed the hub.


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    • samuraipoet profile image

      samuraipoet 7 years ago from Fayeteville Arkansas

      Not a bad list, but needs expanding. Thumbs up, though.

    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      I think Donnie Darko's pretty smart, or at least imaginative and different. The cult classics really have more to do with appeasing a niche market than the general public so it's ok to not like them.

    • jellydonut25 profile image

      jellydonut25 8 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      Good list, and I know Donnie Darko IS a cult classic...but I have no idea WHY. I think it's terrible, personally.

    • profile image

      Adam B 8 years ago

      This is a good list and here are some other cult classics to check out (but I am sure you have already seen them.)

      1) A Clockwork Orange

      2) Pump Up The Volume

      3) Raising Arizona

      4) Army of Darkness

      5) Rocky Horror Picture Show (Probably the biggest cult film)

      6) The Warriors

      7) Dead-Alive

    • Wayne Orvisburg profile image

      Kenneth Wayne 8 years ago from Alabama

      I'd question Hard Target, but good list.