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Top 50 Wildest & Weirdest Cult Movies: PART 3
By: Mickael
What is a “cult” film? Well, simply put, it’s a movie that wasn’t originally considered a financial or critical success, but over time has gained a dedicated cabal of fans who passionately love it despite it’s flaws. By this definition, you’d be flabbergasted to learn that The Wizard Of Oz was initially a flop which took decades to turn into a cult classic. Upon its release in 1939, it was the most expensive film MGM had ever made (with a budget of $2.7 million) but lost $1.1 million when it was originally released. 10 years later, they re-released it into theaters and finally made their money back. In the decades since, TV broadcasts and home video releases have cemented this film as an iconic piece of cultural and cinema history.
Similarly, The Shawshank Redemption, despite being based on a novella by Stephen King and having an all-star cast, lost nearly $10 million at the box office and was considered a flop. It also didn’t win a single Academy Award, even though it was nominated in 7 categories. Being released on VHS and airing frequently on cable TV eventually secured it’s legacy as a top film of the decade. Neither of these films hemorrhaged as much money as Fight Club, however. This beloved modern tale of anti-consumerism and anti-social behavior originally lost $26 million in the theaters. It had a tremendous following among the angsty and insufferable wannabe teen philosophers of Generation X, who demonstrated their strict adherence to anti-consumerism by giving Rupert Murdoch another $100 million when the film was released on home video.
Regardless of the numbers, there is no larger cult around film than that of the Star Wars fanatics. Even though the original movie immediately broke box office records and was considered a tremendous success, the fact is that Star Wars fans act more like a cult than any other subset of pop culture fandom. Not only has their passion kept this Sci Fi property alive for nearly 40 years, but they’ve managed to support the entire expanded universe consisting of spin-off novels, cartoons, comic books, made-for-TV movies, and loads of video games. They have conventions dedicated solely to their favorite franchise and have (most recently) made Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens the highest grossing movie of all time. This just shows that even successful movies can have a nucleus of cult fans surrounded by its mass audience.
You didn’t come here to learn that Star Wars, Fight Club, and The Wizard Of Oz are all worth watching, though. You came here to learn about some flicks that you haven’t seen. To be dragged deeper down the rabbit hole and hopefully find 2 or 3 films, on this ridiculously long list of 50, that are worth your time. Every other list you’ve stumbled across has just been a jumbled up version of the same movies over and over again; a constant circle jerk of copy/paste bullshit that websites post as clickbait. They all just recommend the same things: Reservoir Dogs, Donnie Darko, and anything by David Lynch, thus abandoning you to fumble about in the darkness of film history. Well, here’s your guiding light. An absolutely unpopular, non-definitive list of zany B-movies and cult films that you should check out:
If the following movies are too popular or mainstream for you (you little nonconformist, you!), then be sure to check out our ongoing series of esoteric “Hidden Gems”: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6 are available already!
#30: Mars Attacks! (1996)
Mars Attacks is a pastiche of 50's Sci Fi movie cliches, simultaneously mocking the worst elements of the genre while still paying homage to the greatest examples of the xenophobic studio films from the Cold War era. Tim Burton is a master craftsman who manages to make his ensemble comedy better than the sum of its parts. In fact, even without the massive talent featured in this film, the style and frenetic energy would be more than enough to carry it to cult status. As I've discussed before, Mars Attacks only "failed" in theaters due to it's timing: coming out a few months after the blockbusting Independence Day, theater-going audiences were satiated on alien invasion pictures and many thought of this film as merely another zany mockbuster. The all-star cast of Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Natalie Portman, Martin Short, Annette Bening, and Jim Brown should have been beyond enough to attract moviegoers; instead, we're left with a fantastic cult film that should be seen by every cinephile.
#29: Snakes On A Plane (2006)
Snakes On A Plane gets the dubious honor of being the first high concept film so ridiculous, that it sent the internet into an uproar. The instant news hit that Samuel L. Jackson was currently filming a script about venomous snakes let loose on an airplane mid-flight, messageboards erupted with derisive comments and suggestions. To the filmmakers' credit, they saw the deluge of criticism and virtual eye-rolling as an opportunity to utilize these suggestions and win over the cynical netizens. Lines like "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" came directly from internet parodies of the film and were wisely added to the finished product. Originally, "Snakes On A Plane" was just a working title, as the studio intended to release it as either "Venom" (the title from the original screenplay) or "Pacific Air Flight 121", but Sam Jackson insisted that he only accepted the role based on the title and so the studio conceded. Adjustments to the script were made, 5 additional days of shooting were added, and we were given this gem of a big budget B-movie that harkens back to the direct-to-video horror films of the 80's. This film was a great example of how a ridiculous premise could nearly be squandered into forgettable tripe, but thanks to a community of creative feedback, was turned into a cult classic.
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn is the film most favored by deadites around the world, but make no mistake: any Sam Raimi film is going to be, at the very least, watchable; and at it's best, fantastic. While the first film was an extremely low budget horror production shot with some friends in the woods in an attempt to make a non-stop scarefest, this sequel maxes out the screw-ball meter with it's depiction of Ash's descent into madness and hysteria after the events of The Evil Dead. This is a genuinely demented and bizarre horror comedy that will burn images directly onto your brain for decades after viewing it. The third film in the franchise, Army Of Darkness, also goes to campy extremes as he sucked through a time portal to the Middle Ages, where he must fight an army of deadites. After viewing these, you'll also want to check out Darkman, Drag Me To Hell, and just about anything starring Bruce Campbell.
#27: The Monster Squad (1987)
If you're a fan of the classic Universal Monsters, then The Monster Squad was tailor-made for you. It's a witty, irreverant ode to the original monster movies as well as evidence of the impact that they had on a generation of kids. A group of nerdy, pre-teen social outcasts meets in their treehouse every day to discuss monsters and trade tales of terror; until one day they learn that the legends are real. They come in to possession of Van Helsing's original diary and enlist the help of their neighbor, a "Scary German Guy", to help them translate it. The kids then must turn their monster fan club into a true Monster Squad to defeat Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Gill-Man, and The Frankenstein Monster before evil can take over the world. Smartly written by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Iron Man 3, Last Action Hero), The Monster Squad still holds up more than 25 years later.
Melvin Van Peebles is equal parts musician, filmmaker, and activist. He has crafted numerous films, plays, albums, documentaries, and books to illustrate the injustice of racial inequality. His first film, The Story Of A Three-Day Pass, was about an African-American soldier who is punished for a weekend fling with a white woman in France. It's dramatic, subtle, and heartbreaking. His second film, The Watermelon Man, is a somewhat broad comedy about a bigoted white man who has to deal with being black after his skin inexplicably darkens overnight. It's funny, revelatory, but largely benign. With his third film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, however, he opted for an aggressive approach of awakening a dormant social disillusionment through this wild and raucous film that inspired all future Blaxploitation movies. It's sexual, violent, and everything you would ever want from a Black Exploitation film. Also check out Melvin Van Peebles' fourth film, Don't Play Us Cheap, which is an adaptation of his own Broadway musical.
#25: Starship Troopers (1997)
Starship Troopers is the ultimate in over-the-top, gritty Sci Fi war films. In the future, teens are constantly bombarded with reminders that if they join the Mobile Infantry, they'll be guaranteed citizenship on Earth. The militaristic Federation that runs this united Earth then sends these kids to fight in a faraway war against giant bug-like creatures that are highly intelligent and extremely dangerous. Filmed by Paul Verhoeven, this movie retains his trademarked social satire from previous work like Total Recall and RoboCop, but delivers more action and at a faster pace. Stars Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside, Rue McClanahan, and Dina Meyer all seem to get the tone of the film and never take themselves too seriously. Starship Troopers is an absolute blast from start to finish, but it has a lot more in common with Vietnam war movies than with your average Star Trek or Star Wars film... and that's a good thing.
I've barely gotten halfway through my list, and I'm already at the ultimate definition of a cult film. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, besides showcasing Tim Curry's inimitable voice, has inspired legions of fans to don gold bikini briefs, corsets, or sequined top hats as they sing and dance along to this film at midnight showings around the world. When my mom was in college, she attended late night screenings of this film, complete with rubber gloves, noisemakers, and handfuls of rice. 25 years later, she was a die-hard conservative Republican that struggled to find common ground with her liberal punk son, until she discovered that I also loved this film and had also tagged along to the midnight movie/live show in Orlando. This is the type of movie that is so infectious in its energy that it is capable of bridging generation gaps and bringing the freak out in anyone. If you've only ever watched it at home, make it a point to find a group that screens the film complete with audience participation and props. You'll thank me later.
#23: Iron Monkey (1993)
One of the greatest Wire-Fu movies ever made, Iron Monkey will absolutely blow your mind upon first viewing. Rongguang Yu stars as a doctor/Robin Hood-esque martial artist who battles corruption in his village. Donnie Yen plays an honest man who is merely trying to raise his son properly, and thinks that the vigilante Iron Monkey is violating the law. They battle, and what the young boy sees will eventually inspire his actions as the legendary Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-Hong. Directed by the fight choreographer of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Iron Monkey's fight sequences are top notch and fast-paced. If you want more Wong Fei-Hung films, grab The Last Hero In China, Drunken Master, and the Once Upon A Time In China franchise.
#22: Waterworld (1995)
Waterworld was seen as Kevin Costner's ill-fated pet project: a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future where the polar ice caps have melted, leaving Earth's survivors to traverse vast waterways as they search for dry land. At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made at a whopping $172 million; but due to poor reviews and people hesitant to buy into the highly politicized "global warming" premise, it initially floundered at the box office. The film is solid, however, with an amazing landscape (er- waterscape?) and fantastic wardrobe. The cast of Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, & Jeanne Tripplehorn all do a fine job no matter what the critics say. In time, its cult following has grown and it is now fondly remembered by an entire generation of people that watched it with fresh eyes, instead of through the socio-political lense of adulthood. As far as grimy post-apocalyptic flicks go, this one ranks right up there with the Mad Max-es of the world.
The "Scream" of our generation. The smartest horror film written in years. Cabin In The Woods is an expertly crafted dissection of horror movie cliches across multiple subgenres, not just the "slasher flick" that so many horror comedies like to brazenly mock/openly emulate. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and starring Chris Hemsworth and Bradley Whitford, this film simultaneously derides the horror genre while establishing the new standard for meta-content. From the little girls of J-horror to zombie rednecks to killer clowns (and everything in between), this film contains essentially every monster archtype from decades' worth of terror tropes. While still a cult film, this one was initially successful as well due to its association with Joss Whedon and Chris Hemsworth in a year when the first Avengers movie was the highest grossing film. If this same exact movie had been made 3 years earlier, by the same people, it would have been just as great but with a considerably smaller audience.
The previous 10 cult films are HERE!
The next 10 cult films are HERE!
Or, you can always read our other articles here!
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