Increase Your Hip Factor With These Top 10 Cult Movies
1. Harold and Maude
The storyline of Harold and Maude is too weird to make it a commercial success—a teenage boy, obsessed with suicide, meets 79-year-old woman and falls in love, after which she kills herself. But the weirdness is exactly why it has become such a venerable cult classic, there’s something about a good suicide-love story that hits a soft spot with an underground crowd.
2. The Room
When The Room was initially released, it was marketed as a dark drama reflecting on how everyone you love will hurt you. After it became a cult classic, due entirely to the absurdity of the plot, characters, set and general exhibition of the entire movie, writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau changed his mind and said he had intended for it to be a black comedy all along. He could have said that it was meant to be an art house karate movie and we’d still watch it anyway.
3. Rocky Horror Picture Show
Indisputably one of the most fun songs to learn how to dance to is “The Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show. First of all, it’s easy, and second, it will bring back happy thoughts of all the times you went to see the movie at midnight dressed in drag. No matter what city you’re in, you can guarantee that on one night that week there will be a showing of Rocky Horror. It is such a cult movie that there’s an anticult for people who have never seen it and promise that they never will.
4. Office Space
Everyone hates their job to a certain extent, but for the more unfortunate ones, hating your job can become a full-time job in itself. Before Office Space there was no solace. Then this movie came along and we all had an outlet for our biggest work woes. The overwhelming cult status of Office Space was a shock, given how boring it is to hear other people talk about their jobs, but what this movie taught us was that there is a great market for escapism.
5. The Warriors
Low-budget movies about New York, especially when they’re gritty, grungy and anti-glamorized, are some of the biggest contenders for cult status because you can never properly get that vibe with an overly produced flick. It’s really all about the low production quality that makes movies like The Warriors feel a little bit more real and a lot more menacing. If you ever find yourself in a shady area under an overpass, listen hard and you may just hear a faint “Warrrrrriors, come out to play-ee-ayyyy.”
6. Dazed and Confused
There are a lot of movies about high school-hell, there are even a lot of movies about the last day of high school—but none can compare to Dazed and Confused. Ensemble casts, for whatever reason, seem to draw a big cult fan base and this is no exception. Maybe it’s the thrill of seeing Ben Affleck as a giant douchebag interacting with Matthew McConaughey as the harmless teen-girl-predator. And viewers can thank the heavens every night that there wasn’t a girl quite as evil as Parker Posey’s Darla in their high schools.
Wes Anderson has such a devoted fans that everything he does has cult classic potential. But it’s Jason Schwartzman in glasses, a beret and a ridiculous school uniform that inspires the biggest following. All the societies little Max Fischer was a part of, all the melodramatic ways of communicating his love to Miss Cross and his many expressions that represent hurt and anguish—these are all reasons we can’t get enough of this film. And as is the case with most Anderson movies, there is a litany of marketable inside jokes, which is why you may see people wearing Rushmore Beekeepers’ Society shirts.
8. The Big Lebowski
No movie has fans like this one does. The Dude is one of the greatest film characters of all time, and, conveniently, is easily imitated as his dress is unfussy (robes, sunglasses, etc.) and his lingo is quick to catch. This means there are conventions, costumes, bars, books and even moments of self-reference that continue to fuel the fire. Jeff Bridges, whether he likes it or not, is The Dude. In Tron, Bridges is in a far-off dimension and is still able to slip in a line about his stasis: “You’re really messin’ with my zen, man.” Even if by some cataclysmic event it is decided that Halloween no longer exists, people will look for another reason to dress up as The Dude and put back more than a few White Russians.
9. Evil Dead
All horror films are likely contenders for cult film status, but none have achieved such a committed following as Evil Dead and its two sequels. Evil Dead was banned from hundreds of theaters when it was initially released because of how “gruesome” it is, and although the effects are dated, we still love it today. Our culture is also insanely obsessed with zombies that seeing a bunch of college kids get murdered and turned into zombies is like a dream come true.
10. Donnie Darko
For obvious reasons, this movie became an instant cult favorite. It had a cast of desirables—Drew Barrymore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Noah Wyle—who you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in a psychological thriller, let alone with each other. The movie’s title song, a cover of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World,” became an instant anthem for brooding and introspection. Donnie Darko isn’t just any old pseudoscientific, wildly creepy indie film. It’s a classic for the gloomy ages.
Want to brush up on your cult directors? Read up on Wes Anderson’s influences. Or see actress Maggie Gyllenhaal in THE HONORABLE WOMAN, premiering Thu., Jul. 31, 10/9c on SundanceTV.