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The 20 Greatest Cult Classic Movies of All Time

Vinay Dev
Cult classics are different from the conventional hits we see every year. They endure through the decades, widening their fan base by the year, becoming great, greater, greatest as time passes.

Did You Know?

To produce the movie Clerks, Kevin Smith sold most of his comic book collection and spent a part of his college education fund, and raised around $27,000!
Cult movies have almost fanatic fan following. These movies can be mainstream or obscure at the start. Some elements in the movies that are unique may strike a chord with the audiences. This may be catchy dialogs, amazing script and screenplay, hilarious plots, and over-the-top costumes. Every now and then such, a movie lifts the spirits of the cinema goer.
The person might just be a bored patron with nothing to do on the weekend and probably cannot sleep at night. So he goes to one of the midnight screenings and comes out smiling. The word quickly spreads and popularity catches on.
For the mainstream films however, the factor that stands out should be awesome and should make the audience sit up erect in their seats, because most of these movies are pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. Ideas presented should be radical, thought-provoking, and the effects should last long after the movie has ended.
In short, the buzz that the movie gives should be like LSD, lasting much longer than the usual short drag on the cigarette.
Cult movies generate quite a bit of revenue for the movies too, and this adds to the longevity. For example, a movie like the recent Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise was good, but is almost forgotten. But a movie like Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still imprinted in the minds of everyone who saw it. This is despite that both the movies are science fiction.

The Big Lebowski

Director: Joel Coen
Released: 1998
Duration: 119 minutes
Actors: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro.
Famous Quotes: "That rug really tied the room together."

"Man, if my f**kin' ex-wife asked me to take care of her f**kin' dog while she and her boyfriend went to Honolulu I'd tell her to go f**k herself."
This is a hilarious movie of a man looking for his rug. Between the events of the central character losing his rug and finding it, a lot of action happens. There are car chases, weird dream sequences, mugging, signature one-liners, and a horribly complex plot.
This movie, directed by the Coen brothers, was specifically written for Jeff Bridges, who came to be known as the 'dude' after the release.
Cult Status
It has got its own festival, The Lebowski Fest. It is frequently listed in the funniest movies of all time. The movie made the word 'dude' hugely popular. It has had such an influence that it even started a religion called Dudeism.

Fight Club

Director: David Fincher
Released: 1999
Duration: 139 minutes
Actors: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier.
Famous Quotes: "Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else."
This movie achieved notorious fame for its controversial plot and ideas. Based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the movie stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. The movie was recognized for path-breaking techniques in film making, and introduced the audiences to dark undertones of nihilism, which even though sound irrational, are very enticing.
Cult Status
The movie gained notoriety as many such unofficial fight clubs were organized and founded over the world. The 'Project Mayhem', that was in the plot, was attempted by many people, with intensities varying from pipe bombs to homemade bombs detonated in public coffee houses.
The movie is frequently talked about as being one of the best movies of all time.

Evil Dead

Director: Sam Raimi
Released: 1981
Duration: 85 minutes
Actors: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, Sarah York.
Famous Quotes: Linda: "We're going to get you. We're going to get you. Not another peep. Time to go to sleep."

Ash: "You bastards, why are you torturing me like this? Why?"
This movie series blurs the line between comedy and horror. The second installment gained fame from word of mouth and quickly achieved cult Status. It features the exploits of the protagonist played by Bruce Campbell against the underworld of undead, ghouls, and trees that rape.
The Book of the Dead featured in the movie became an urban legend, and the plot of college students going to a remote haunted cabin inspired countless subsequent horror flicks.
Cult Status
The trilogy defined Bruce Campbell's career and made him wildly popular with fans. The trilogy has one of the biggest cult following in cinema history. It also established Sam Raimi as a path-breaking director with a unique style of direction.

The Shawshank Redemption

Director: Frank Darabont
Released: 1994
Duration: 142 minutes
Actors: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown.
Famous Quotes: "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

"Lord! It's a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!"
The movie is about Andy Dreyfus who is imprisoned for a double homicide, although he pleads not guilty. It is based on a novella written by Stephen King. Andy serves his sentence in the prison for double homicide.
He forges deep friendship with Red, a fellow inmate. The movie teaches a lot about human nature, hope, and the extent to which adverse conditions change the mind of a person.
Cult Status
The movie is considered to be one of the best movies ever made. The scene in which Andy escapes and comes out of the sewer and stands with his arms stretched in the rain, has been copied and parodied in many subsequent movies.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Released: 1968
Duration: 142 minutes
Actors: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain, Leonard Rossiter.
Famous Quotes: "Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?"

"Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye."
This movie ushered in an era of space movies, and is celebrated for its visual style and uniqueness. Made in the year 1968, it is based on the screenplay written by famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, and directed by the maverick director Stanley Kubrick.
The movie shows how an alien monolith starts human evolution and then the adventure of a spacecraft to Jupiter. They encounter the same monolith on their way, and everything is ambiguous after that. The movie does not have a definite end and is speculated in countless forums on the Internet.
Cult Status
The movie inspired numerous directors, most prominent of them being Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Ridley Scott. It also depicted the first visualization of how tablet computers might operate in the future, and they were right; since the tablets that we use today are very similar to those used on their crafts.

The Matrix

Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Released: 1999
Duration: 136 minutes
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano.
Famous Quotes: "To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human."
"You hear that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sound of inevitability... It is the sound of your death... Goodbye, Mr. Anderson..."
This trilogy is considered as one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. It is set in the post apocalyptic era, where the machines have taken over the planet, and use humans as a source of energy and engage them in a virtual reality called the Matrix.
Although many critics found the plot to be absurd and heavily influenced, they appreciated the style and techniques used by the Wachowski brothers.
Cult Status
The movie popularized the use of Bullet time or slow motion effects which was later copyrighted by Warner Brothers. It also made the careers of Lawrence Fishburne and Carrie-Ann Moss. The visual style of dark colors influenced many movies after it.
Many people thought that Hong Kong style of film making was very dry and repeated, but this movie popularized the style and opened up the market for Asian movies that used the style for their action.

Harold and Maude

Director: Hal Ashby
Released: 1971
Duration: 91 minutes
Actors: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Cyril Cusack, Vivian Pickles, Charles Tyner.
Famous Quotes: "Harold, *everyone* has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much."

Harold: "I haven't lived. I've died a few times."
The movie tells the story of Harold, a young man who has lost his perspective on life, and is obsessed with death. He attends funerals of strangers, attempts innovative suicide attempts, and tries to get the attention of his mother unsuccessfully. However, he does get the attention of a 70-something widow who teaches him how to live.
Cult Status
It is frequently listed in the lists of the funniest movies. The movie did not make much money in the year of its release, but did develop a following. This was because of the presence of dark humor in the film which was still new to the movie going audience then.
It also began the trend of movies with the message of living life to the fullest without any reservations.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Released: 1975
Duration: 88 minutes
Actors: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones.
Famous Quotes: Black Knight: (after his arm is cut off)"It's just a flesh wound."

King Arthur: "Well, we'll not risk another frontal assault. That rabbit's dynamite."
This famous movie by the troupe of Monty Python and the Flying Circus became a cult classic for its absurd and outrageous humor. It parodies the quest of King Arthur to find the Holy Grail. The movie is full of political, religious, and social satire. The humor is presented in a very stupid way, but is very intelligently written.
Cult Status
This movie brought worldwide acclaim to the already famous Monty Python troupe. The movie got a cult following for the different way in which the humor is presented. It is counted as one of the best comedies to date. Many of the concepts used in the movie have been replicated and borrowed in other movies, as a homage.

Blade Runner

Director: Ridley Scott
Released: 1982
Duration: 116 minutes
Actors: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos.
Famous Quotes: Batty: "Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave."

Rachael: "I'm not in the business... I *am* the business."
The movie, released in the year 1982, is set in the year 2019, where Tyrell Corporation has made androids who are indistinguishable to humans. They are called The Replicants, and are not allowed to enter the planet. Hence, they are hunted down by Blade Runners.
Cult Status
This movie, like many cult movies, did not do well at the beginning, but was recognized as time passed. Many of the designs used in this film have inspired subsequent futuristic movies. The movie is also hailed by many as the best science fiction film ever.
The visual styles in the scenes are unique to the movie, and the technique of advertising on a skyscraper is taken from Blade Runner.

Night of the Living Dead

Director: George A. Romero
Released: 1968
Duration: 95 minutes
Actors: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne.
Famous Quotes: "They're coming to get you, Barbara, there's one of them now!"

"All right, Vince, hit him in the head, right between the eyes."
The first movie to popularize the reanimation of the dead, cannibalism, nudity, and killing of the undead, it automatically became a cult classic. The movie shows characters affected by the undead, swarming and multiplying as they spread their condition to other people.
The movie was criticized heavily when it was released; due to explicit imagery. However, with time, it has achieved cult Status.
Cult Status
The movie spawned the series of the Living Dead. It also popularized the use of zombies in movies, although it does not refer to the undead by that name. It also ushered in the splatter genre, and inspired movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween.


Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Released: 2013
Duration: 86 minutes
Actors: Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, John Heard.
Famous Quotes: Baz: "Storm's dying down."

Nova: "How can you tell?"
Baz: "Not as many sharks flying around."
With Jaws, sharks were shown as killers, and with the film Twister, tornadoes were shown as danger to human lives. The movie Sharknado broke all limits of absurdity. It shows a big tornado affecting a city and bringing a lot of sharks with it.
All these sharks turn out to be man-eaters and devour every human in the way. It doesn't matter that the sharks cannot move on land and that a tornado cannot sustain so long. The movie makes all this possible.
Cult Status
As a Z-grade movie, it got midnight release in selected theaters and did not get a lot of audience. But it got a lot of publicity on Twitter after it was given a midnight slot on television.
In the subsequent showing, the number of viewers just increased, and the popularity it generated even ended up with a green light for a sequel. Hope it is as absurd as its predecessor.

Cannibal Holocaust

Director: Ruggero Deodato
Released: 1980
Duration: 96 minutes
Actors: Robert Kerman, Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi.
Famous Quotes: "Today people want sensationalism; the more you rape their senses the happier they are."
One of the most disturbing movies to ever get a release, or maybe ever made, Cannibal Holocaust, surprisingly has a cult following. The movie even holds a 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie is about a group of journalists who venture into the forests of Amazon and encounter an indigenous tribe indulging in cannibalistic acts.
These acts are filmed and the journalists go missing. The tape is then found and the tribe is searched by the present crew. There is impaling, animal cruelty (real stuff), torture, sexual assault, and executions. Surely not a movie for the faint-hearted.
Cult Status
The movie pioneered the 'found footage' genre in film making, and was for a short period of time classified as a snuff film too. Many critics have made social metaphors about the gruesome violence depicted in the movie. However violet and sick the movie is, it is watched and critiqued by many, even though it is banned in many countries.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Director: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Released: 1959
Duration: 79 minutes
Actors: Bela Lugosi, Vampira, Lyle Talbot.
Famous Quotes: "Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future."
This movie is so bad, it's good. It has a ridiculous plot, where an alien race resurrects all the dead people on the planet. Why? Because the human race has invented a weapon that can cause the universe to collapse.
Gone are the questions that even seem remotely logical. This movie laughs in the face of logic and then bashes a pie in your face. And you know what? The pie is surprisingly good.
Cult Status
It bombed badly when it was released and was buried in obscurity before it was listed as one of the worst movies ever made. It also brought its director Ed Wood the accolade of the worst director ever. The movie is so bad, it cannot be parodied. No wonder it gives a good time to people who watch it.


Director: Ridley Scott
Released: 1979
Duration: 117 minutes
Actors: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt.
Famous Quotes: Ash: "I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality."

Ripley: "Micro changes in air density, my ass."
Innovative filming is the hallmark of Ridley Scott movies, and hence, he features on this list again. The film shows a spacecraft traveling in deep space, returning from a mining expedition. It is forced to land and investigate on a planet which hosts a terribly parasitic species of an alien race.
Cult Status
The movie was the first to have a female as an all out leader, both in the cast and in the story. The concepts of terraforming, stasis and artificial intelligence, and androids are well portrayed in the movie. It became a cult hit with sci-fi fans, and is very popular in conventions around the world.

Battle Royale

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Released: 2000
Duration: 113 minutes
Actors: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki.
Famous Quotes: "So today's lesson is, you kill each other off till there's only one left. Nothing's against the rules."

"It's beautiful, even though it's where everyone died."
This movie's plot is almost like a fantasy of a very strict headmaster. In the movie, a class of 8th grade students are rounded and taken on a deserted island, where they are told that only one will survive.
They are instructed to kill each other, and if they refuse to do so, everyone would be killed, thanks to an electronic tamper-proof collar fitted onto each one of them.
Cult Status
The movie inspired Quentin Tarantino and Hunger Games. The movie spoke about teenage problems and their behavior in hostile situations. It also inspired movies like The Tournament and Gamer.


Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Released: 1988
Duration: 124 minutes
Actors: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki.
Famous Quotes: "Amoebas don't build houses and bridges, they only eat."

"The future is not a straight line. It is filled with many crossroads. There must be a future that we can choose for ourselves."
The central character in the movie is Tetsuo, a member of a radical biker gang in the streets of Tokyo. Tetsuo has psionic powers, and that's what makes the gang powerful. The gang's leader Kaneda wants to prevent Tetsuo from unleashing Akira, who is too powerful and can cause catastrophic destruction if freed.
Cult Status
The movie was released in 1988 and exposed the western markets to Manga animation. It also had landmark animation techniques which were used in almost every other animated movie that came out of Japan. It also had Cyberpunk undertones, which inspired The Matrix.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Director: Jim Sharman
Released: 1975
Duration: 100 minutes
Actors: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick.
Famous Quotes: "I'm just a sweet transvestite, from Transsexual Transylvania."

"And crawling on the planet's face, some insects called the human race. Lost in time, and lost in space... and meaning."
This movie is a homage to B-grade movies with reanimations, UFOs, and apocalypse featuring in the movie. As with Plan 9, this movie too was first released as a midnight movie, and did not get recognition right away. But a ridiculous script and over-the-top costumes caught the eyes of the audiences.
Cult Status
The audiences themselves started dressing like the characters in the show and re-enacting it as a play in theaters, thus increasing its publicity. The number of such groups kept on increasing and many such re-enactments took place, making it the movie with the longest running theatrical release in film history.

Back to the Future

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Released: 1985
Duration: 116 minutes
Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover.
Famous Quotes: Marty McFly: "Whoa. This is heavy."

Dr. Emmett Brown: "There's that word again. "Heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?"
This movie is about a time travel adventure and how it can go wrong. Marty, an easygoing teenager, is friends with a seemingly nutcase/eccentric of a scientist, Emmett 'Doc' Brown. Doc creates a car that can go back or forward in time, and when things go wrong, Marty unexpectedly finds himself in the past, where things go lower south.
Cult Status
The film is appreciated by scientists for its innovative portrayal of time travel. The movie spawned a series of three Back to the Future movies which were popular too. Marty's skateboarding in the movie also influenced teenagers too.
This helped because the sport was still in its nascent stage. It also set a precedent to many time travel movies in the future.


Director: Paul Verhoeven
Released: 1995
Duration: 131 minutes
Actors: Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi.
Famous Quotes: "The Farmer in the Dell, The Farmer in the Dell, I had a cherry once, and now it's gone to hell."

"She's no butterfly. Tony, she's all pelvic thrust. I mean, she prowls. She's got it!"
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, this movie was made on a budget of $45 million. It did get theatrical release, but because of the explicit content, was given midnight slots. The plot has a woman who climbs the rungs of the Las Vegas show business, upgrading herself from a stripper to a show girl.
The movie bombed badly, and is considered by many as one of the worst movies ever made.
Cult Status
This movie was popular in video rentals, making almost $100 million. The makers were also surprised by the late success their movie achieved. It was appreciated for stupid humor, and loads of nudity and explicit scenes. The movie is still popularly rented in the States, even today.


Director: Kevin Smith
Released: 1994
Duration: 92 minutes
Actors: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes, Lisa Spoonhauer.
Famous Quotes: "People say crazy shit during sex. One time I called this girl "Mom.""

"I'm offering you my body and you're offering me semantics."
The movie, made on a shoestring budget of $27,000, launched filmmaker Kevin Smith's career. It depicts a typical day in the life of two convenience store employees. Smith himself makes an entry in the movie as Silent Bob. The movie is the first in the series of later movies set in the 'Askewniverse' universe made by Kevin Smith.
Cult Status
This film is very funny, and after Miramax agreed to distribute it, it generated more than $3 million in box office collection. It was a surprise hit, and was appreciated by audiences and critics alike. The movie makes entries into many top comedy movies lists, rated well by various critics and publishers.
These were easily some of the best cult classic movies of all time. If you think there are others that are worth a mention, feel free to use the comment section below to add your views.