Earlier this month, we got the first real look at the remake of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it got some mixed reactions. While some loved seeing Laverne Cox as Dr Frank-N-Furter (and knowing that the original star, Tim Curry, would be back as the criminologist!), others felt that the remake is unnecessary. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! And the original Rocky Horror Picture Show is most definitely not broken.
In fact, it remains one of the best-loved cult films of all time, with cities the world over hosting midnight showings – extravaganza productions where fans dress up, sing, dance, and generally celebrate the awesomeness that is this classic movie. While other big name “cult” films have crossed over into the mainstream as accepted classics (such as Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Donnie Darko and A Clockwork Orange), Rocky Horror remains gloriously niche – perhaps it’s just a little too weird to be anything else. Although Rocky Horror will always be king of the cult, there are plenty other amazing films with a dedicated fanbase that deserve to be watched… and we rounded up the best fifteen!
15. Withnail and I (1987)
This bleak British comedy focuses on two out of work actors, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and “I” (Paul McGann). The pair live together, drink together, do drugs together, and bemoan their failing careers together – although Withnail is definitely the worse off of the two. When they decide that they need to take a break from their squalid London flat, the pair go to the country cottage of Withnail’s Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths).
The humor may be very dark, but it is razor sharp throughout, and the acting is superb. Withnail & I is a morose look at the kind of low-income bohemian lifestyle that many pretended to aspire to (although few actually wanted it), and represents some of the best of British cult cinema.
14. Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
Set in a dark, dystopian future where a worldwide epidemic has led to giant (evil) corporation GeneCo financing organs, Repo! is the perfect cult film for goths. As a result of GeneCo’s work, many can survive…but only if they make their payments. If not, the dreaded repo man will come to reclaim the organs in the most brutal way possible.
Others are addicted to surgery and the painkillers that are used for it, including Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), the daughter of GeneCo’s CEO. Amber and her two brothers battle it out for control of GeneCo as Shilo (Alexa PenaVega), the repo man’s daughter, sneaks out to search for a cure to her genetic disease.
13. Clue (1985)
Based on the board game of the same name, Clue is a comedic take on the classic murder mystery, with the game characters trapped inside a Gothic mansion with a murderer – or is the murderer one of them?
As well as many call outs to the game (the locations, names and weapons remain the same), the creators also chose to release three different endings to the film. The alternate endings were shown in different theaters – although all three were included with the home release. Starring Tim Curry as the butler, Clue is a comedy first and foremost, with the kind of simple gags that were so popular in similar movies from the ’80s. It’s not subtle, but it’s certainly a lot of fun – just like the game that inspired it.
12. Big Trouble In Little China (1986)
A Western-inspired modern take on the damsel in distress story, Big Trouble In Little China follows two friends into the magical underworld of San Francisco’s Chinatown. In the course of their adventures to rescue Wang Chi’s (Dennis Dun) fiancée, Wang and Jack Burton (Kurt Russel) go up against the evil sorcerer Lo Pan (James Hong) – who is holding Wang’s fiancée prisoner for his own devious purposes.
What follows is a madcap adventure with the two (and their lawyer friend) battling monsters, magic and prophecy to save the day. With plenty of camp and some hilariously over-the-top fight scenes, this is a fantastic action-comedy that has become a cult classic despite a terrible original box office showing (and some admittedly less-than-appropriate depictions of Asian culture).
11. The Warriors (1979)
A dark journey through the night of New York’s ganglands, The Warriors paints a picture of a city overrun by different gangs, including the Warriors themselves. Starting with a truce called, the Warriors join nearly a hundred other gang delegations at a meeting run by “the one and only” Cyrus (Roger Hill). Cyrus wants to band together to take over the city, and it looks like he will convince the gangs…until he is shot and killed by someone in the crowd.
The Warriors’ leader, Cleon (Dorsey Wright), is framed for the murder, and now he and his friends have to find their way back to Coney Island with the police and every other gang in the city after them. A cult film for the punk subculture, The Warriors has developed a huge following, with the most famous line in the film (“Warriors, come out to pla-ay”) parodied across pop culture to this day. Can you dig it?
10. Death Race 2000 (1975)
A gory and pun-filled action flick, Death Race 2000 is set in a dystopian version of the year 2000, where the fascist police state known as the United Provinces is controlled by a single political (and religious) party and headed up by “Mr. President.” Gory “sports” keeps the masses entertained, including the annual death race – where cars compete to get from coast to coast… but also to survive, and to kill as many bystanders as possible.
While some racers only want to win, the best of them all is Frankenstein (David Carradine), and he wants to kill Mr. President when he wins. Action, confusion, romance, and lots and lots of explosions follow in a fantastic cult film that has since spawned a comic book series and a 2008 remake.
9. Clerks (1994)
Still one of Kevin Smith’s best-known films, Clerks has long been a favorite film of the disenfranchised minimum-wage worker (much as Office Space is to the cubicle dwellers of the world). A classic day-in-the-life format centers on Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), two clerks who work at a convenience store and video store next to each other. Dante is focused on the mess that is his love life – rekindling things with a cheating ex (who happens to have just gotten engaged), dealing with a current girlfriend who is more sexually experienced than he is, and finding out that another ex has just died.
On top of his personal life, he has to cope with rude customers, crazy customers, litigious customers, and even a customer who dies in the store bathroom. Nerdy, funny, and offbeat, Clerks was an incredible first film for Smith. Plus, of course, it introduced the world to Jay and Silent Bob!
8. Labyrinth (1986)
David Bowie gives a stunningly weird performance as the star of this fantasy musical, and although it was far from his only foray onto the big screen, it remains his most popular.
Bowie is The Goblin King, accidentally conjured by a sixteen year old girl named Sarah (Jennifer Connelly). When Sarah is left to babysit her baby brother, she calls for goblins to take him away – never guessing that it could actually happen. When it does, she is transported to a magical kingdom and must solve a labyrinth in order to free her baby brother and prevent him from becoming a goblin himself. Created by Jim Henson, many of the creatures she meets are Muppet-style critters, giving the film a slightly surreal feel – at times we expect it to fall back on it all being a dream, but it never does. Blending fantasy, reality, music and the Starman himself, it’s no wonder that Labyrinth has such a cult following.
7. Showgirls (1995)
The film that took Elizabeth Berkley from wholesome teen star of Saved By The Bell to a full-blown sex symbol, Showgirls is a wonderfully sleazy look at the world of dancers in Las Vegas. Berkley stars as Nomi, a young woman who hitchhikes her way to Vegas, at which point her suitcase is stolen and she is left with nothing but her wits.
She befriends a seamstress, who remains her only true friend as Nomi works her way from the stage of a strip club to the star of a Vegas show. A very new age version of rags to riches, Showgirls questions whether success is really worth it in the cutthroat world of show business. Of course, there’s also a lot of gratuitous nudity, over the top “sexy” scenes, and some girl on girl kissing. It may be a cult classic, but it’s definitely not classy!
6. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
One of the original cult films, Plan 9 From Outer Space falls squarely into the “so bad it’s good” category, and has managed to find fans despite being considered by some critics to be one of the worst films ever made.
This sci-fi B movie sees aliens (with flying saucers and everything) come to Earth to execute “Plan B” – which is to re-animate the dead and create an army to march on the cities of the world. Far from the massive scale of destruction that we see these days in alien invasion movies, Plan 9 From Outer Space is a low-budget flick with only a few flying saucers and a very limited threat. Don’t take it too seriously, and you may fall in love with this (Plan) B-Movie classic.
5. The Big Lebowski (1998)
An LA slacker known as “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges) is the focus of this neo-noir crime comedy of mistaken identities and convoluted plots. The Dude’s real name is Jeffrey Lebowski, which just happens to be a name shared by a multi-millionaire. When two men show up on the doorstep of the wrong Lebowski to collect on a debt, he is drawn into a complicated world of pornographers, nihilists, gangsters and White Russians.
Told in an episodic style, it failed to hit home at the box office, but has since gained a loyal fandom who love to quote The Dude, who has become something of a stoner icon over the years. Some might argue that the film has ascended its cult status on its way to becoming a full-blown classic, but we simply love this movie too much to not include it here.
4. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
A film about a personal journey as much as a physical one, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows two drag queens and a transgender woman (who performs with them) as they drive across Australia together in a bright pink bus. This is sparked partially by a job offer in Alice Springs, but also by a desire to climb Ayer’s Rock in full drag.
On the way, the three may butt heads, but dealing with the prejudices and problems they encounter in small outback towns along the way brings them together to try and deal with it. The film isn’t without its problems, of course. While much of the LGBT community celebrated Priscilla and her passengers, others have found it a problematic portrayal of gay and trans characters. Still, it is a brightly colored and charming adventure, and one that will strike a chord with misfits the world over.
3. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
The film that popularized the term “mockumentary,” This Is Spinal Tap tells the story of fictional rockers Spinal Tap, starting with them promoting their latest record and tour (despite their age), and going back to the very beginning of their “success.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the music industry, touring, and selling out, and it does it so very well.
Drummers are the butt of many jokes — as the band is constantly replacing their luckless fourth member — as is the diva mentality and the idea of being offensive for the sake of causing controversy. Satire at its best, This Is Spinal Tap has been lauded by critics since its initially disappointing release, and has even struck a chord with musicians, with many claiming that it was surprisingly accurate.
2. Re-Animator (1985)
This campy zombie movie spawned a series of sequels, each more wonderfully ridiculous than the last. In this first installment, we meet a pair of medical students who become involved in increasingly bizarre and disturbing experiments in the basement of their home. Led by the overtly weird Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), the pair work to bring dead tissue back to life, with hilariously creepy results.
Combs is brilliantly off-putting, but don’t worry about becoming too frightened; the terrible special effects and gag-filled script make this more of a comedy than a true horror. With exploding eyeballs, re-animated cats, green ooze, and psychotic severed heads, Re-Animator is the ultimate in campy horror (and the sequels hit that same mark).
1. The Princess Bride (1987)
Since 1987, quirky girls have been dreaming about having their crush say three little words… “as you wish.” Told as a story read to a sick child, The Princess Bride tells the sweet tale of Buttercup (Robin Wright), a farm girl who is being forced to wed Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), and Westley (Cary Elwes), her true love-turned-pirate. After Buttercup is kidnapped, Westley hunts her down, with the Prince hunting them both.
It’s a perfect fantasy tale, with action, adventure and romance…and with plenty of ridiculousness on top. The Princess Bride refuses to take itself seriously, and many of the silliest jokes have become fan favorites. Based on the book of the same name, The Princess Bride remains one of the most quotable films ever made, nearly thirty years after its initial release.
Which cult classic do you feel deserves a spot on our list? Sound off in the comments.