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Top 50 Wildest & Weirdest Cult Movies: PART 4
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!
If you put a workplace mockumentary (a la "The Office") and a slasher horror movie into a blender, you get this smooth treat from first-time director Scott Glosserman. An up-and-coming serial killer named Leslie Vernon has allowed a documentary crew to bear witness to his exploits in the town of Glen Echo, where he intends to cement his legacy. At time darkly hilarious, while still maintaining a genuinely suspenseful atmosphere, the film manages to explain numerous slasher movie cliches as our subject executes them (and his victims) to near-perfection. The dynamic between the killer and the crew is fascinating, as they alternate between their desire to remain objective about what they're documenting and their fear of the subject. This is a really unique take on the self-aware horror comedy; somewhat akin to Scream, Student Bodies, Cut, Popcorn, and There's Nothing Out There... but ultimately with it's own identity.
#19: Hudson Hawk (1991)
Hudson Hawk was critically derided for it's slapstick sensibilities and ridiculous performances. Bruce Willis stars as the titular cat burglar who is coerced into stealing the works of art of Leonardo Da Vinci as part of a nefarious plot to take over the world by completing one of his most challenging machines: an alchemic device that turns lead into gold. With a story co-written by Willis himself and a screenplay by a couple of guys who brought us Demolition Man, Heathers, Batman Returns, Commando, Die Hard, The Running Man, Street Fighter, 48 hours, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider; this film never takes itself too seriously, and neither does the cast. Co-starring with Bruce are Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, David Caruso, Frank Stallone, and Sandra Bernhard; all delivering fantastically campy performances that are not soon forgotten. This film is so dumb, it's brilliant. For more silly Willis, try The Last Boy Scout, Death Becomes Her, and Four Rooms.
#18: A Better Tomorrow (1986)
John Woo spent over ten years in the Hong Kong studio system, churning out average action pictures for Golden Harvest like The Young Dragons and The Hand Of Death before he decided to step away from filmmaking due to a lack of creative control. Tsui Hark then came forward and helped to produce a pet project called A Better Tomorrow. This film is a landmark of not just Hong Kong cinema, but action films as a whole; John Woo seamlessly combined kung fu and gunplay while weaving a brilliantly emotional story of brothers on opposite sides of the law. His collaboration with actor Chow Yun-Fat would prove a lucky bit of serendipity, as their legacies were both defined by the incredible run of beautifully brutal films that they produced over the next decade. The Killer, Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow II, and Once A Thief are all fantastic examples of action cinema. John Woo would briefly transition to American markets with Face/Off, Broken Arrow, Windtalkers, and Paycheck before returning to China to direct dramatic period pieces like Red Cliff and The Crossing. Also, check out Chow Yun-Fat in Full Contact, City On Fire, God Of Gamblers, and Prison On Fire.
#17: Desperado (1995)
In the mid-90's, a slew of amazing independent directors stormed Hollywood: Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Abel Ferrara, Bryan Singer, and Robert Rodriguez were all catapulted into stardom with their brash language and iconoclastic concepts. Robert Rodriguez, in particular, took his $7,000 movie El Mariachi and turned it into a cult trilogy worth over $125,000,000. The second film in the series, Desperado, is probably the best of the bunch with its cast of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, and Danny Trejo. In Desperado, the character of El Mariachi totes around a guitar case filled with guns as he seeks revenge on the man responsible for killing his lover. The film is romantic, brutal, funny, and intense. The gunfights are unrealistic and yet top notch, and the storytelling throughout the movie is vivid and memorable. Also watch the finale of El's story, Once Upon A Time In Mexico.
Fewer properties were hotter in the 1980's than He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe. So, when Cannon Films optioned the property with the intent of building a film franchise, they were convinced that it would be a money printing machine, the "Star Wars of the 80's". With up-and-comer Dolph Lundgren on board as (let's face it) the picture-perfect He-Man, the legendary Frank Langella as Skeletor, Meg Foster as Evil-Lyn, Billy Barty as Gwildor, and a then-unknown Courteney Cox as damsel-in-distress Julie Winston; this film's cast far exceeds its production. Unfortunately, childish dialogue and an inordinate amount of time focusing on earth instead of Eternia led to a disappointing cheese-fest. The failure of this film, alongside Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, ultimately led to the downfall of Cannon Films. However, this overly-theatrical movie feels like a Jack Kirby comic book brought to campy, ridiculous life, and that's enough for me.
#15: Bulworth (1998)
In Bulworth, Warren Beatty plays a morally-corroded United States Senator, who has lost all faith in his work, and barters a vote with an insurance lobbyist to gain a $10 million life insurance policy that will pay out to his daughter. He then puts a hit on himself. Still active on the campaign trail, and knowing that his life will end within 2 days, the senator begins to spiral out of control as he delves into hip-hop culture and delivers rhyme-and-verse speeches that spell out the political corruption rampant in our system. Often funny, occasionally precise, and somewhat racist; this film does its best to lay bare all of the flaws in our current political culture. Even though Beatty occasionally comes off as stiff (not always intentionally), the supporting cast of Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Sean Astin, Nora Dunn, Laurie Metcalf, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino, Sarah Silverman, Isaiah Washington, and Christine Baranski all add energy and life into this oddball cult classic.
#14: Wild At Heart (1990)
Almost every David Lynch film belongs on some sort of "weird cult films" list, because no one can seem to do "weird" quite like he does. This film is my favorite, due to the spontaneous rock 'n' roll score, the outbursts of wreckless violence, and the absolute insanity displayed by Nicolas Cage. For someone that has lately come to be synonymous with overacting and oddball expressions, Cage manages to deliver a truly compelling performance while hamming it up here, thanks to the unsettling directorial style of Mr. Lynch. Cage's unpredictable "Sailor Ripley" is the forbidden love of Laura Dern's "Lula Fortune", so the two run away against the wishes of Lula's mother, played by Diane Ladd. Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Isabella Rossellini, Harry Dean Stanton, and David Patrick Kelly round out the ensemble cast. For more from the twisted mind of David Lynch, check out these classics: Eraserhead, Dune, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, and The Elephant Man.
#13: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
I was trying so hard to avoid putting multiple movies by the same director on this list, but I'm using a Tarantino loophole here. In the intro, I discussed how every cult film list features Reservoir Dogs and since I want this list to be different, I'm leaving off that film. My justification for this is as follows: 1) All of Tarantino's movies are essentially re-writes/pastiches of 70's & 80's genre films from foreign markets (so they're not truly original), 2) He's so prevalent in modern pop culture that, when asked, my 60-year-old mother could name half of his films, and 3) Because it's my list, so I can do whatever I want. All that being said, I'm including this second Robert Rodriguez movie in place of a Tarantino picture because with Quentin as co-writer and co-star of the picture, it sort of fills that gap. Also, I like this movie MORE than any of Tarantino's individual outings. Oh yeah, I forgot, the movie is about George Clooney, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, and Harvey Keitel battling vampires in a Mexican biker bar where Salma Hayek dances and Cheech Marin guards the door. It's brutal, bloody, funny, sexy, and all-around fucking AWESOME.
Zombie properties are hot now, but none of the modern zombie movies, TV shows, or comic books would exist without this original classic. At the time, George A. Romero was actually trying to rip off the Richard Matheson novel "I Am Legend" by creating a story about the start of the plague that's depicted in the book. In Romero's own words, "Richard starts his book with one man left; everybody in the world has become a vampire. I said we got to start at the beginning and tweak it up a little bit. I couldn't use vampires because he did, so I wanted something that would be an earth-shaking change. Something that was forever, something that was really at the heart of it. I said, so what if the dead stop staying dead?" And with that simple beginning, a whole genre of flesh-eating ghouls was born. Obviously, Romero flicks are like potato chips, you can't consume just one: try Dawn Of The Dead, Day Of The Dead, Monkey Shines, Martin, The Crazies, Knightriders, and Creepshow for the best of his work. I also really loved Land Of The Dead, but it's pretty lonely out here on this island.
#11: Repo Man (1984)
Repo Man stars Emilio Estevez as Otto, a punk rocker who quits his job, loses his girl, and is tricked into repossessing his first car, unaware that the life of a repo man will take him into some ridiculous territory. Televangelists, conspiracy theorists, FBI agents, and government scientists are among Otto's many roadblocks on his road to making ends meet. With Harry Dean Stanton as his repo man mentor, Otto goes on a madcap Sci Fi adventure the only the 80's could create. Director Alex Cox never quite returned to this quirky glory, but he still made other cult classics in Sid & Nancy, Straight To Hell, and Revengers Tragedy. He also tried to revisit this world with Repo Chick in 2009, but without the energy and enthusiasm that this movie discharges.
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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