Recently, I was reading about cult films, which are little known, small budget films that have a highly devoted fanbase. Some of the lists of cult films that I found on the interweb include some pretty big budget films, like Fight Club and ShowGirls, and well known family movies such as Willy Wonka, Princess Bride and the Goonies. These films shouldn't count as cult films, as they have become part of the general culture. Wikipedia goes further to state that cult films have a habit of creating subcultures.
I would say that once a subculture is formed, it no longer has a cult following, it has a subculture. For example, Trekkies are not cultists, but they are a subculture. Star Wars, once had a cult following, grew into a subculture, but since has outgrown its subculture into the general mainstream.
Frank Zappa once said that his favorite monster movies were cheap ones. And cheap didn't necessarily mean budget, but low budgets help. It has more to do with the strings attached to the giant spider. Cult movies are best when corners are cut, acting is poor, and writing is predictable, or downright awful.
You may ask what are some of the best cult films EVER? I just happen to have a few thoughts on the matter. Here are some of my choices...
1. Rock and Roll High School -- High school rebellion movie + the Ramones = awesome! Punk rock is probably going to be a huge theme in this post. The film is full of random dream sequences, '80s teen angst, and over the top authority stereotypes.
2. Toxic Avenger -- Probably the epitome of the cult film idea, the Toxic Avenger's story is about a 98 pound weakling who receives superhero strength from an unlikely accident. Sound familar? Instead of cool spider-like powers, or strength and agility from a super serum, or lightning from the gods, the Toxic Avenger is mutated by radioactive toxins. He's probably the best thing to come out of Jersey aside from the Boss.
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- Crazy, angry musical about a transvestite rock singer. Its like a David Bowie concept album. The gender, sexuality, coming of age and fringe culture plots make this a favorite with college students, and Pride groups, but the overall theme of consequences of childhood trauma, and human beauty transcends any sexuality or gender politics.
4. SLC Punk -- Matthew Lillard is the man... and then he did Scooby Doo. This indy film is all about the hardcore punk scene in the '80s. However, it follows a predictable plot, much like Menace to Society and The Anarchists Cookbook. The Anarchists Cookbook even has a similar protagonist in a similar subculture, but this film is far superior. Basically, a kid involved in a subculture has a life changing experience and ends up joining the mainstream. Still cool though. Don't be a poseur, watch it.
5. Animal House -- Most definitely the best National Lampoons movie ever, and arguably the best frat movie of all time. A must see for every aspiring college student, this should be required viewing in high school college prep classes. This film helped launch John Belushi's short lived movie career.
6. Big Lebowski -- This is a surprisingly talented cast for a movie that has almost no critical acclaim. The movie has everything anyone could want in a film: bums, nihilists, Tara Reid, bowling, a marmot, The Jesus, and a rug that really tied the room together. Needless to say, this film is probably the most recognizable on this page. It blew up all over pop culture after it left the theaters.
7. Clerks -- shot on a small budget, in black and white, it has a B-movie feel, without the horrible acting and writing of a B-movie. This film was written by and for cult film enthusiasts. A day in the life of store clerks with no true plot equals excellent mindless cinema. This is Kevin Smith's first film, and launched him into the hearts of fanboys and girls everywhere.
8. Rocky Horror Picture Show -- Not only is it a musical, its a creepy transgendered musical. Best seen in a theater where you can experience the cult following first hand (you have to dress up as a character). Like most of these films, everyone should see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at least once. and yes, that is Tim Curry in drag.
9. Evil Dead -- Before Zombieland, before Rose McGowan with an AK for a leg, before videogames like Left 4 Dead, and Resident Evil, there was Bruce Campbell with a chainsaw for a hand. There are two sequels, and they rebooted the franchise in 2013.
10. Repoman -- Punk rock soundtrack? check. Young Emilio Estevez? check. Chevy Malibu with a cosmic secret? check. whats not to like?