Skip

An introduction to cult movies
August 3, 2012 11:40 PM   Subscribe

"What is a cult film? A cult film is one that has a passionate following, but does not appeal to everyone. James Bond movies are not cult films, but chainsaw movies are. Just because a film has become a cult movie does not automatically guarantee quality. Some are very bad; others are very, very good. Some make an awful lot of money at the box office; others make no money at all. Some are considered quality films; others are exploitation movies. One thing cult movies do have in common is that they are all genre films - for example gangster films or westerns. They also have a tendency to slosh over from one genre into another, so that a science fiction film might also be a detective movie, or vice versa. They share common themes as well, themes that are found in all drama: love, murder and greed." - of the British TV film slots accompanied by an introduction perhaps the most celebrated is Moviedrome, running between 1988 and 2000 and presented first by Repo Man director Alex Cox and then film critic Mark Cousins. posted by Artw (88 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite

 
Moviedrome was fantastic, and I wish there was still something like it on the telly - having a well-read, opinionated expert put a film in context, point out similar films to track down, &c. is just the perfect way to turn folk who enjoy the odd trip to the cinema into rabid cinema heads.
posted by jack_mo at 12:19 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Knightriders? A classic?

All the others, I can see. But Knightriders?
posted by Mezentian at 12:23 AM on August 4, 2012


It's a George A Romero movie about motorcycle jousts. I'm pretty sure that's automatically cult. TBH I suspect some of the other ones I was able ti fund YouTube vids of are a bit too mainstream by comparison.
posted by Artw at 12:36 AM on August 4, 2012


"Cult" classic, Mezentian.

Put on yer irony glasses.
posted by notyou at 12:37 AM on August 4, 2012


Also. Where's Duel?
posted by notyou at 12:41 AM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


What have you done, Art? I HAVE THINGS TO DO.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:41 AM on August 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


Is there much fallout from a neuron bomb?
posted by Avelwood at 12:57 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, the film (of the more recent era) which most clearly fits into the "cult" definition for me is Donnie Darko, which would be hard to classify as a "genre film" by any measure.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:59 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. Cox is an amazingly unique looking guy.
posted by egypturnash at 1:02 AM on August 4, 2012


If you only watch one of these intros then watch the one for The Parallax View. Always gives me chills.
posted by oh pollo! at 1:47 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's disappointing to note the omission of any arguably-cult movies that have more appeal to women than men (TITANIC, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SOUND OF MUSIC all spring to mind). Many people watch those over and over, know great chunks of dialogue, cry every time they watch them, know every scene, and can comment on odd things in the background. Which all seems pretty "cult movie" to me. Except the people are usually women, so somehow they don't count as much.
posted by alasdair at 2:41 AM on August 4, 2012


Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, and Titanic are numbers 1, 2, and 5 respectively on the all time list of inflation adjusted top grossing films. It's possible that their exclusion from the list of cult movies has less to do with the demographics of their audience as it does with the fact that they were all massively successful mainstream films.
posted by Grimgrin at 3:18 AM on August 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Hrm. Repo Girl is missing from this list.
Good.
posted by Mezentian at 3:32 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stardust Memories is a cult film?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:01 AM on August 4, 2012


It's possible that their exclusion from the list of cult movies has less to do with the demographics of their audience as it does with the fact that they were all massively successful mainstream films.

From the post: "Some make an awful lot of money at the box office."
posted by alasdair at 4:15 AM on August 4, 2012


Knightriders is one of the few films I have not been able to finish.
But then I don't like Brazil, although I see why that's a classic.

I am also loving the "video flickers", especially those in People Under The Stairs.
I feel like I'm back in the loving arms of the early 1990s.
posted by Mezentian at 4:22 AM on August 4, 2012


From the post: "Some make an awful lot of money at the box office."

I don't know...I tend to think enormous mainstream success may disqualify something from being a cult movie. A movie like, say, Pulp Fiction really ought to be a cult movie, at least in spirit, but given that it's a modern classic just about everyone in the western world has seen by the time they finish high school, that'd be a pretty damn big cult. I mean, The Godfather is definitely not a cult -- The Godfather is a religion. I feel like huge box office is an external factor that maybe shouldn't have much bearing, but to me it kinda has to be a question both of content and relative obscurity. Like, I would be comfortable calling The Blair Witch Project or even Night of the Living Dead or even Taxi Driver (!) a cult movie now, because they're films that were huge hits in their heyday but are less often seen today.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:33 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Man With X-Ray Eyes gave me nightmares for many months, as a young boy. I'm pretty sure that if I watched it now I'd laugh.

Pretty sure. Maybe. I ain't watchin' it.
posted by Splunge at 4:35 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Moviedrome (and the cult movie scene in general) owes a huge debt to Danny Peary and his series of Cult Movies books, which came out in the 80s. He was the first person who took many of these movies seriously as objects of criticism, even though he clearly had issues with some of them...
posted by daveje at 4:45 AM on August 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Inspired by Moviedrome et al critic Mark Kermode has recently started a film club (with some typically quirky selections) on his blog

Intro
Breathless (vimeo) Responses
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (vimeo) Responses
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:53 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Man With X-Ray Eyes gave me nightmares for many months, as a young boy. I'm pretty sure that if I watched it now I'd laugh.

Watched it again not long ago - it starts of super pulpy (and laughable) but it transcends that gets pretty unnerving by the end
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:01 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


How Buckaroo Banzai failed to make this list....head....splodey....
posted by Thistledown at 5:30 AM on August 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


These are just the ones I could find intros for on YouTube, of course. The full list of Moviedrome movies is here. That's not really any kind of list of top 100 cult movies or anything either, and probably is largely shaped by what they could get hold of. They probably wouldn't have bothered with anything that was on telly every Christmas like The Sound of Music either.
posted by Artw at 5:40 AM on August 4, 2012


There's some films on that list that I would LOVE to see the intros for again or for the first time. Sadly nobody thought to tape them on VHS...
posted by Artw at 5:43 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing cult movies do have in common is that they are all genre films

I wouldn't consider most of that list, particularly Brazil, a genre film. And success at the box office while not being popular seems like a contradiction in term. Otherwise, good list though.
posted by destro at 5:59 AM on August 4, 2012


It's disappointing to note the omission of any arguably-cult movies that have more appeal to women than men (TITANIC, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SOUND OF MUSIC all spring to mind). Many people watch those over and over, know great chunks of dialogue, cry every time they watch them, know every scene, and can comment on odd things in the background. Which all seems pretty "cult movie" to me. Except the people are usually women, so somehow they don't count as much.

On the one hand, you make a point -- that there are probably "cult" films which traditionally may have appealed more to women than men -- but on the other, the examples you give aren't "cult" films, but rather are mainstream films.

It's not a film's fans that make it a "cult" film, but rather it's being overlooked by the mainstream film community and film scholarship. Gone with The Wind inspires rabid appeal in its fans, but it is also regarded by film scholarship as a masterpiece. Titanic and The Sound Of Music inspires similarly strong appeal, but enjoyed box-office popularity and mainstream appeal.

A cult film, meanwhile, is something that maybe did okay at the box office, is going to maybe get written about by a couple film scholars but otherwise is never going to be regarded as A Prime Example Of Film Art, and most people who hear about it are going to furrow their brows and say "mmm, I dunno," when asked if they want to see it - but it will have a following of people who will see it and forever afterward their eyes will light up and they will love it passionately and drag their skeptical friends and watch it over and over and over again.

I'd actually consider putting Lost In Translation into the field of "cult" film because the public reaction to that was so divided, but it was regarded by film scholars and cogniscenti as a very good work, so I'm not sure it counts as cult.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:03 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this must use a different definition of "cult" to the one I've always used.

To me a cult film is one which has followers who will love it until the end of time and who can't understand the people who don't adore it equally. To counteract them, there must be people who just don't get it, often because they have heard so much about how incredible it is that it can never live up to the hype.

To me that makes Star Wars the ultimate cult film (I have a hard time seeing it as anything but low budget cheesy sci-fi) while I know others will never understand my love of The Italian Job (a "rubbish 60s heist movie"), Donnie Darko ("wtf?") or Momento ("but you know how it ends").

I've pretty much given up on watching any old film with anyone who loves it. One day i'll watch Fight Club or Bullett, but I'll do it alone and without telling anyone first...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:09 AM on August 4, 2012


I wouldn't consider most of that list, particularly Brazil, a genre film.

Brazil is a dystopian science fiction film. Most of that list is horror, sci fi or fantasy, or some mix thereof. Together it makes a good list of English-language films with a certain cachet. I really wish there were more regular features on TV that captured this kind of movie. Something about watching cult movies on TV seems right in a very odd way.
posted by graymouser at 6:17 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would Harold & Maude count as a cult film that appeals to women?

I do notice in the list of "Moviedrome" titles that most of the titles listed have a great love of the grotesque. This makes me wonder if disgusting movies are more easily welcomed into the cult canon than something like Harold & Maude or Rushmore or something...
posted by pxe2000 at 6:21 AM on August 4, 2012


Moviedrome (and the cult movie scene in general) owes a huge debt to Danny Peary and his series of Cult Movies books, which came out in the 80s. He was the first person who took many of these movies seriously as objects of criticism, even though he clearly had issues with some of them...

I should point out that Robin Wood was arguing (cogently, as always) in favour of serious critical analysis of horror films in the late 1970's. Wood was more of an academic. I am curious to know how much he and Peary knew of each others' work and were influenced by each other.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:22 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nah a generally popular film cannot be a cult movie. It might inspire cult-like devotion but Star Wars isn't one.

The ultimate cult movie is probably Rocky Horror but that might have become too mainstream now. You could say the same thing with what was the cult movie of my uni years, The Blues Brothers - a tribute act currently on tour, played just down the road from me.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:23 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a weird YouTube subgenre of taping the Shutdowns for the night... This being when TV channels weren't 24/7 and shut down at night.

Me, I get a kick out of seeing the old station indents, some of the BBC2 ones being works of art, and thoroughly ingrained into my memory.
posted by Artw at 6:24 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whereas to me, a cult film is one which did not have great box office success but which nonetheless develops an unusually large and devoted following of admirers. So Brazil would be a good example but Star Wars would not be, under my terms.

Some confusion may arise because there are qualities that many cult films share, which has resulted in some filmmakers deliberately setting out to make a "cult-style" movie that uses those tropes, but those features do not in and of themselves make a movie a cult movie.
posted by kyrademon at 6:24 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I wouldn't consider most of that list, particularly Brazil, a genre film."

Brazil, a dystopic speculative film that takes place in an unspecified future (or alternate history) Britain, is definitely genre, said man who listed film as one of the 50 canonical science fiction films in his book on science fiction film. Likewise, Donnie Darko is definitely genre as well, concerning as it does pocket universes.

Brazil did have the "advantage" of being a bit of a cause celebre when it was first released, because Terry Gilliam fought with Universal Pictures about the editing of the film and only (mostly) got his way when he smuggled a print out to the Los Angeles Film Critics Society and they give it two very hard to ignore awards that forced Universal's hand. At least partially as a result of that, the film was positioned in a slightly more high-toned way than genre films of the time (it was also nominated for two Oscars, including in a screenplay category, which is unusual for a genre film -- but then again, this genre film also had Tom Stoppard as one of its cowriters.)
posted by jscalzi at 6:25 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a weird YouTube subgenre of taping the Shutdowns for the night...

I so miss the shut down... often after the end of watching a good film into the early hours. The announcer wishing you a good night then the national anthem sending you off to bed. 'We are now going over to the News Channel' is just shit. I'm sure in future years the beginning of the downfall of civilisation will be traced to getting rid of the shut down.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:29 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whereas to me, a cult film is one which did not have great box office success but which nonetheless develops an unusually large and devoted following of admirers.

So, Citizen Kane, then?
posted by iotic at 7:18 AM on August 4, 2012


Man do I wish the intro for F for Fake had survived.
posted by Artw at 7:25 AM on August 4, 2012


What about The Big Lebowski? Surely a candidate for cult status, but I don't think Comedy fits this meaning of "genre".
posted by scose at 7:33 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Big Lebowski may be a comedy, but it's also (IMO) one of the greatest "accidental noir" pieces ever (dude ends up in a noir through no fault of his own--the pinnacle is probably North by Northwest). I think Lebowski is a fine example of a cult classic, for more than a few reasons/definitions.
posted by tzikeh at 7:38 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say cult film need a new definition since the major studios have made it their business to produce schlocky "B" movies as their "A" content.

Nothing new here but Star Wars and Raiders really change the whole, whaddya call model of aspiration for the industry.
posted by Trochanter at 7:39 AM on August 4, 2012


So, Citizen Kane, then?

There can be something of an argument for "Citizen Kane" as cult classic. I run into folks all the time who have either never seen it or don't understand the hype if they have seen it. "It's a boring black and white movie in which nothing happens about a weird dude who owns a newspaper. A freaking newspaper!"
posted by blucevalo at 7:41 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


ZOMG! Best. Post. Ever.
posted by biscotti at 7:50 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd add Mommie Dearest to these lists, for sure. And White Dog. And Hausu. And The Apple. And Vamp.

My local video store has a "Cult" section, and it's really interesting to browse. Tons of really icky horror shit and goofball sci-fi (Plan 9 From Outer Space, etc.) and then occasionally stuff that you have just never heard of, which from the look of the cover art you might not be brave enough to sit through without a few friends and some strong drinks.

As for distinctly female-oriented cult films, most women I know have given Girls Just Wanna Have Fun a whirl. Or Altman's Three Women.

The overlap between gay cult films and female cult films is significant! For lots of reasons.
posted by hermitosis at 7:55 AM on August 4, 2012


Oh yeah, that includes the Valley of the Dolls movies!
posted by hermitosis at 7:55 AM on August 4, 2012


Lebowski was pretty popular when it came out and remains so, it was in the top twenty of greatest movies of all time voted by listeners of Radio 1 in the UK a couple of years ago
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:00 AM on August 4, 2012


The Godfather is definitely not a cult -- The Godfather is a religion.

What a perfect way to describe these movies which are too big for their "cult" britches.

I'd say Big Lebowski and Star Wars are both in that category. Yes, there's something undeniably and almost unwholesomely powerful at work there -- but these are religions, with actual sects and subgroups.

Real cult filmwatching always feels a little more outsidery than that, even if you know there's a solid core group of people who appreciate the film. It's like you have to strain a little and learn HOW to love the movie, you have to break your brain a little to get what makes it so good, and to appreciate the bonkers (perhaps literally) spirit that went into making it.
posted by hermitosis at 8:02 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of cult films that wouldn't be considered "genre" films for most reasonable definitions. The Holy Mountain, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead, and a lot of the other most famous cult films weren't substantially representative of any major genres that existed when they were filmed.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:02 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cult Flms that seem to have a bigger following among my female friends

Party Girl
Wet Hot American Summer
Labyrinth
Foxes
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:18 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


ZOMG! Best. Post. Ever.

CertainlY the most fun I've had putting one together. I'll post more links tonight.
posted by Artw at 8:51 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, what isn't a genre film at that point?
posted by destro at 8:52 AM on August 4, 2012


fearfulsymmetry: "Lebowski was pretty popular when it came out and remains so, it was in the top twenty of greatest movies of all time voted by listeners of Radio 1 in the UK a couple of years ago"

It didn't quite bomb but it didn't do very well at the box office during its theatrical run. It only grossed $17M in the US which was just about what it cost to make.
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 AM on August 4, 2012


I like Knightriders! Unironically, even.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 9:05 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Holy Mountain, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead, and a lot of the other most famous cult films weren't substantially representative of any major genres that existed when they were filmed.

Those three are solidly in the field of midnight movies. The thing is, the cult cinema distinction has usually gone to a blend of avant-garde and transgressive movies (like the ones you list), exploitation movies, and low-budget genre movies. These blend sometimes imperceptibly into and out of each other. The main characteristics of the movies are that they are marginal releases viewed by devoted subcultural enthusiasts. Trying to get more pinpoint on it is going to leave too many outliers.

Whatever it is, there is a difference that you can tell between a cult movie and a mainstream flick. Something is different between for instance Halloween and the stream of teen slashers that followed its formula - how it's filmed, how it grew and how it's kept a particular audience.
posted by graymouser at 9:07 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


BRAZIL is unique which isn't to say it doesn't swim in the Sci-Fi-as-satire pool. But is it cult? I'd argue, no. Any film that wins Film Critic Awards and gets nominations from the Academy isn't cult. That is, just because it quacks like a cult doesn't make it cult. Because cult is not defined by subject matter, themes, etc (or else, yes, Star Wars would be cult -- the first two anyway). Cult, by definition, means a movie that either never got a mainstream release or died a mainstream death, but which has since found some kind of eternal life.

Trust me, I've worked one. It's not on any of these lists but whenever it gets mentioned, the c-word is always close to it.
posted by philip-random at 9:11 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


... and where's SOCIETY?
posted by philip-random at 9:17 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


doubtfulpalace: "I like Knightriders! Unironically, even."

It's Knights on Motorcycles, what's not to like?
posted by octothorpe at 9:20 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Moviedrome is not about "ironically" liking things.
posted by Artw at 9:32 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


... and where's SOCIETY

Um...
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on August 4, 2012


It's Knights on Motorcycles, what's not to like?

There's that... but actually what I like most about it is that once you get past that aspect (and the over-the-top plot), it captures the vibe (for lack of a better word) of 70s fannish/medievalist subculture better than anything else I can think of. This comes out best in the scenes where the characters are just sitting around shooting the shit.

I also like the way that the gay relationship is treated as totally normal. Not bad for 1981.

But I can certainly understand someone not being able to get past the goofiness of it all.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 9:56 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Will you people stop leaving words out of your comments? Jesus.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 10:09 AM on August 4, 2012


I'd add Mommie Dearest to these lists, for sure. And White Dog. And Hausu. And The Apple. And Vamp.

Cox on Vamp:
Vamp is the perfect Moviedrome film. I don't mean the perfect film artistically - Vamp is not a perfect film by any means. But it is the perfect Moviedrome film: a rarely seem cult exploitation movie with irrelevant actors, avergae direction, a daft script borrowing from other, equally daft movies, and guest appearances by such cult luminaries as Grace Jones and feminist body builder Lisa Lyson, plus original furniture by Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.

Mommy Dearest wasn't covered until the Mark Cousin's years, and TBH his intro's aren't as good (possibly why there aren't as amny on youtube). It does make me think that should Moviedrome ever come bakc they'd be all over Black Swan. Black Swan is a perfect Moviedrome film.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Considering that the name of the show was Moviedrome the lack of Videodrome is surprising.
posted by Splunge at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2012


A-Z list of all the movies covered by Moviedrone - sadly the intros for most of these are lost in the mists of time, though you can get the gist for some of them from the two Moviedrome books.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2012


I've pretty much given up on watching any old film with anyone who loves it. One day i'll watch Fight Club...

Today is the day I became an old man. It's not so bad...

Anyone who liked the Parallax View is likely to enjoy Winter Kills, which stands up much better than I'd imagined it would. It fits most of the definitions of 'cult' discussed here. The dvd includes cameos from Liz Taylor and other luminaries.

Thanks, artw, for the wonderful post.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:53 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't judge Knightriders just by its poster or it's central gimmick.
Thats a mistake.
Knightriders at its core is probably thematically the most personal film in the GAR filmography.
I'm not saying that it is without flaws, but there is gold there for those that don't mind looking a bit.
Most of the time I feel like Dawn of the Dead is his masterpiece, but sometimes...every now and again...this makes some great arguments for that spot.

Just one mans opinion, but I would urge any fan of GAR's work to give it a chance.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:11 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think by definition, a cult film is one that most modern audiences just plain won't get, but nonetheless has a small, rabid following.

Cult films often have at least one aspect that makes you ask, "How did this actually get made?" Either it's so bad it's good, or it's so offbeat it makes you wonder how they thought they could actually find an audience for it. There's also another variety, films that were considered mainstream at the time, but are now only enjoyed ironically or by dedicated enthusiasts.

A cult film is enjoyed personally. It is not watched in a multiplex. It's viewed in your apartment with friends, or after midnight in one of the funkier theaters in your city. It's a joke that you're in on, something that appeals to the sensibilities of yourself and your friends and pretty much nobody else. It feels like it was made for you and people like you.

What makes this conversation tricky is that, in our modern internet-related reality, films that may have once been consigned to the dollar bin at Blockbuster now get attention and an audience. Also, the culture is changed such that rabid Star Wars fandom is no longer considered the property of sad, awkward men who spend their weekends alone. Star Wars is interesting, because it went from being a massive blockbuster, to nerd cult classic, and then back to mainstream as nerd culture became the dominant one. (Do they even make movies that aren't based on comic books anymore?)

Anyhow, my suggestions for midnight movie canonization :

The Stuff
Horror House on Highway Five
posted by Afroblanco at 12:21 PM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyone who liked the Parallax View is likely to enjoy Winter Kills,

Winter Kills - Director's Cut - part one
posted by philip-random at 1:04 PM on August 4, 2012


Afroblanco: The Stuff

YT Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Looks like it starts a little bit after the opening credits, but I've never seen it so I can't tell.
posted by Decimask at 1:21 PM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Stuff is also netflizzz streamy
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:41 PM on August 4, 2012


I said:

[Knightriders] captures the vibe (for lack of a better word) of 70s fannish/medievalist subculture better than anything else I can think of

but I have since thought of Peter Beagle's The Folk of the Air. So make that "any other movie I can think of."

I remember liking The Stuff quite a bit, but not much else about it.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 1:45 PM on August 4, 2012


> So, Citizen Kane, then?

Interesting point. I had been thinking of adding that cult movies shouldn't be crticial darlings as well as not being box office successes, on the grounds that this would make them arthouse, but I thought of too many movies that were critical darlings but pretty obviously deserved cult status.

However, I do think this point means my definition needs fine-tuning though, since I don't really think Citizen Kane qualifies for cult status - even if it may have at one time. A couple of people have pointed out films that may have fallen out of cult status by becoming too widely popular. I think the Blues Brothers, as has been mentioned, may very well be a good example of this.

So I will fine-tune my definition. A cult film, to me, is a one which did not have great box office success or subsequent mainstream popularity, but which nonetheless develops an unusually large and devoted following of admirers.

In other words, a cult film has too have a significant following, but not so large as to be considered a mainstream success. It has to have, in other words, a cult. And that would mean it is possible for a cult film to stop being a cult film if the cult becomes an "established religion".

I.e., Christianity was a cult in the earliest days, now it's a religion. Mormonism, the same, and changed more recently.

So Star Wars, which started out as a blockbuster, was never a cult film; it always was too big for that, under this reading, anyway. Brazil is still most likely a cult film, but if it ever becomes too big, it will stop being cult. And Blues Brothers may already have passed that border.

But I still think genre, critical acclaim, and style don't matter. The only qualifier a film needs to be a cult film is to have a cult.
posted by kyrademon at 2:45 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So Star Wars, which started out as a blockbuster, was never a cult film

no.... but it did have a cult following.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:27 PM on August 4, 2012


Star Wars actually had a modest opening weekend - I only took a chance on it because me and my buddy had time on our hands, and liked the poster; we hadn't heard of it prior to seeing it. It only became a block buster later in the summer of '77.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:42 PM on August 4, 2012


A couple of people have pointed out films that may have fallen out of cult status by becoming too widely popular. I think the Blues Brothers, as has been mentioned, may very well be a good example of this.

Blues Bros was never not widely popular. It opened big, it's been big ever since.
posted by philip-random at 4:47 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only qualifier a film needs to be a cult film is to have a cult.

That seems reasonable, but it's not how people tend to use the phrase. For example, it's been pretty common to advertise a current release as a "new cult film" since the Eighties at least, which implies a stylistic meaning.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 4:51 PM on August 4, 2012


The problem is that "cult film" has a dual sense. On the one hand it refers to an odd melange of movies - B-reels, low-grade genre films and midnight movies that have a particular following apart from the mainstream movie audience. On the other hand it refers to films that individually have a cult following despite not being tremendously popular at the start. Danny Peary's list, which was pretty instrumental in defining what cult films are, switches between the two types. Some movies, like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, are both at once. But I don't think having a dedicated fandom makes a picture into a cult movie - there is some element of rejection from the mainstream that I think is needed.
posted by graymouser at 5:14 PM on August 4, 2012


"... which implies a stylistic meaning."

Well, yes, which is why I said in my first comment that I think that's an inaccurate use of the term. I'd always thought that meaning wasn't "how people tend to use the phrase" so much as "how marketing departments attempt to sell certain movies", but I could be wrong.

Not a big deal, really. A word can handle more than one meaning.
posted by kyrademon at 7:34 PM on August 4, 2012


Inspired by Moviedrome et al critic Mark Kermode has recently started a film club (with some typically quirky selections) on his blog

Kermode seems to be Channel 4s go to guy for this sort of thing.

Rabid
The Brood
Braindead
The Last Broadcast
Welcome to the Dollhouse
La Classe de Neige

More recently...
Evil Dead 2
Suspiria
Tenebrae
Film4 Extreme Season
Antichrist

Some audio stuff...
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy
The Devil Rides Out
posted by Artw at 9:36 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


James Ferman's introduction to 'The Devils'
Robert McKee on Chinatown

I remember the Channel 4 banned season as having all kinds of intros, but no, aparently we got this: intro to Life of Brian

But we did get Dancing with the Devil, an awesome documentary from when Metal was proper satanic, at least in the minds of some nutjobs: 1 a href=""> 2 3 4 5 6 7
posted by Artw at 9:45 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the history of edgey (or just gorey or porny) films on late night British TV all probably starts with Channel 4's Red Triangle films, which might explain their obsession with the banned, the extrem and the censored.
posted by Artw at 9:49 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is the Princess Bride not on that list?
posted by talitha_kumi at 4:40 AM on August 5, 2012


Why is the Princess Bride not on that list?

Recentness? It's definitely become a modern cult classic, but it was only released in 1987 and may have been a touch recent for Moviedrome.
posted by graymouser at 7:52 AM on August 5, 2012


No Night of the Comet? I am disappoint.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:31 AM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]




I don't know if I'd be as hard on Wossy as they are though. He's no Alex Cox, but he does alright.

Jonathan Ross introduces...
The Wages of Fear
Les Diaboliques
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
posted by Artw at 9:37 PM on August 5, 2012


Why is the Princess Bride not on that list?

What is cult about it?
posted by hermitosis at 9:45 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]




I just managed to see 'Nothing Lasts Forever' from the posted list. It is both weird and wonderful. Cox's intro was a little confusing at first...
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 1:46 PM on August 8, 2012


« Older Cups and Balls, hand cranked.   |   Femme de la Rue Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post