The Cult Film Guide: From Mainstream to Underground

Cult films come in all different shapes and sizes, so defining the exact characteristics that make a movie attain cult status can be difficult. Some films become cult favorites despite their mainstream appearance, while others amass a fervent fanbase through their outrageous oddity. Here are some cult films that span the gamut, from the well-known to the more obscure:

  1. Grindhouse (2007) - Although marketed as a single film, Grindhouse is a double feature consisting of the productions of two renowned cult directors, Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) and Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof). Both films are reminiscent of the thrilling and campy exploitation films of the 1970s and 80s.
  2. This is Spinal Tap (1984) - This mockumentary follows the exploits of a heavy metal band on tour. Packed with quotable moments and hilarious characterization, this film has become synonymous with the term "cult film."
  3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) - A movie adaptation of the popular comic book series, Scott Pilgrim, is full of exciting video game references and a cult following. It's a classic example of a film that owes its cult status to its unwavering dedication to its niche source material.
  4. Mad Max (1979) - Mel Gibson stars in this post-apocalyptic action film as Mad Max, a reckless loner who navigates a world ruled by violence and depravity. Though technically the first installment in the Mad Max franchise, the film stands alone with its distinctly Australian flavor and punk aesthetic.
  5. Harold and Maude (1971) - A dark comedy that follows the relationship between Harold, an obsessive young man fascinated with death, and Maude, a free-spirited old woman. This film is filled with poignant moments and a unique outlook on life and death.
  6. Speed Racer (2008) - This film adaptation of the classic Japanese anime features a stellar cast, including Christina Ricci, John Goodman, and Susan Sarandon. The kinetic visuals and fast-paced action sequences have garnered a cult following, emphasizing its homage to the manga.
  7. Legend (1985) - A dark fantasy film starring Tom Cruise and Mia Sara, directed by Ridley Scott. It follows the tale of a young man destined to take down a powerful, evil sorcerer. Though not well-received upon its release, it has since become a cult classic, thanks to its compelling themes and atmospheric visuals.
  8. Brazil (1985) - This dystopian comedy, written and directed by Terry Gilliam, follows a man attempting to correct a government mistake that has placed him in a terrible fate. With a fantastic cast and thought-provoking themes, it has become a cult favorite, despite its tumultuous production.
  9. House (1977) - This horror film, directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, is a bizarre and surreal take on the haunted house genre. With a unique blend of horror, comedy, and experimental storytelling, it has gained a strong following in Japan and overseas.
  10. After Hours (1985) - This Martin Scorsese-directed black comedy follows a hapless young man as he navigates the seedier side of New York City nightlife. Though not a box office success at the time, it has become a cult favorite, especially for its depiction of 1980s Manhattan.
  11. Watership Down (1978) - This animated adventure follows a group of rabbits as they brave the dangers of the world and the challenges of survival. With a darker tone and more mature themes than typical animated films, it has become a cult favorite, appreciated by adults and children alike.
  12. The Princess Bride (1987) - A romantic fantasy film that has become a cult classic, starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, and Mandy Patinkin. With a witty script and unforgettable characters, it has garnered a loyal following, thanks to its clever spoof of fairy tale conventions.
  13. Black Christmas (1974) - This holiday horror film is considered one of the earliest slasher movies, marking a shift in the genre. With a killer wielding a knife and a primarily female cast, it has become a cult favorite, especially around the Christmas season.
  14. Suspiria (1977) - Dario Argento's Italian giallo thriller follows a young dancer who attends a prestigious ballet school and unravels a dark secret. With its striking visuals and intense violence, it has become a cult favorite among horror enthusiasts.
  15. Ghost in the Shell (1995) - This groundbreaking anime film, directed by Mamoru Oshii, explores themes of identity and consciousness in a technologically advanced world. With its philosophical underpinnings and stunning animation, it has become a cult favorite among fans of the cyberpunk genre.
  16. Escape From New York (1981) - In this science fiction thriller, directed by John Carpenter, the protagonist must save the day in a dystopian future where New York City has been turned into a dangerous prison. It has become a cult favorite for its unique setting and adrenaline-fueled action sequences.

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