What makes a cult classic actually classic? Is it minimal box office success compared to enormous post-theater sales? Is it a film that gains popularity among a small, passionate fanbase in spite of the mainstream’s tepid feelings and responses toward it? I’m not sure. I do think with all cult films there’s always a heated debate about the importance of the piece. One group of movie fans suggest the film is not worthy of memory space, to which its box office failure is proof, while another, usually smaller group, will fight for the movie, proudly declaring the film’s value as something worthy and lasting. Sometimes, even a cult classic was received decently well at the time of its release in the box office results, but “decent” wasn’t quite good enough for the film, its fans and its destiny; it was headed for much bigger things.
On this list, there are all kinds and shapes of cult films. We’ve included the movies that people think about when they think about cult films, the ones that have defined the term. There are box office flops, underappreciated, unknown, so-bad-they’re-good films and films that age better with time like fine wine. Perhaps the one consistent thing about cult films is that they all age well. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be droves of people still watching them. No, maybe the special effects don’t look so great under a 21st century lens, but the message, the comedy or the performances have beautified over time. At the time of their release, no one could have predicted that these films would stand the test of time, let alone make the list of the best cult classics in the year 2016.
Many of the films on this list have years and years of diehard fan support entrenched into their fabric, so, even if you don’t enjoy them, don't voice your displeasure too loudly. Not all of these films have midnight showings or massive fan clubs dedicated to singing songs about them, but that doesn’t mean there isn't a rabid fan lingering nearby. So let’s get right down to business. Here are 15 movies that somehow became huge cult classics.
15 Plan 9 From Outer Space
14 The Big Lebowski
13 The Room
12 Office Space
11 Troll 2
8 Wet Hot American Summer
7 Braindead/Dead Alive
6 Dazed and Confused
4 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
3 Donnie Darko
2 Blade Runner
1 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Considered by most to be the greatest cult classic of all time, The Rocky Horror Picture Show almost definitely has the most dedicated fanbase of any film and any point in history. Originally, the film was panned by critics, or better yet, ignored by critics, but soon after its release, theater-goers began participating in the performance, dressing up, saying lines, acting out scenes and dancing. The campy acting and catchy songs helped it along and have made it a mainstay in film history. Roger Ebert called The Rocky Horror Picture Show a “long-running social phenomenon,” which might be the most apt description. One thing is for sure, 40-years strong and the midnight showings are still rocking, Rocky Horror isn’t going anywhere.
Sources: Wikipedia; IMDB; Rotten Tomatoes
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