They’ve got fanatical followers who can quote every joke, jest, and jab.
Cult films have usually bombed at the box office for one reason or another: they’re either bizarre, low-budget, or just don’t fit the mainstream. For this list, we’ve decided to stick with films that err on the side of comedy, and are leaving the rest for other lists. And yes, we know “Army of Darkness” is hilarious.
#10 – “The Room” (2003)
We admit it: this one’s not supposed to be a comedy. In fact, it’s a horrible, horrible melodrama full of questionable performances, glaring plot-holes, terrifying sex scenes and impossible-to-say-with-a-straight-face dialogue. Written by, directed by and starring Tommy Wiseau, “The Room” is the car crash cinemagoers can’t look away from. The result? A “Room”-themed book, play and videogame, as well as midnight showings where fans toss plastic spoons and footballs.
#9 – “Dazed and Confused” (1993)
You want evidence of this flick’s cult status? Quentin Tarantino put it on his list of 10 all-time best films – consider that proof positive. Richard Linklater’s high-school comedy has plenty of drugs, 1970s fashion, and Parker Posey; what more could you want? Ben Affleck getting that smirk wiped off his face? Done. Stoner Matthew McConaughey? Also done. Hysterically funny and even incisive stories? Done x3!
#8 – “Office Space” (1999)
IT workers across the country can quote chapter and verse from this 1999 white-collar comedy. But you don’t have to be a computer whiz to appreciate Mike Judge’s sly, satirical swipe at the workaday world. Anyone who’s ever suffered through an idiot boss can identify – even if the rest of us don’t go as far as the film’s drones do to get even.
#7 – “Clerks” (1994)
Made for less than $30,000 and shot largely in a convenience store, “Clerks” is the epitome of the true cult classic. But its humble origins wouldn’t count for squat in the cult world if it wasn’t also filled with bizarre characters and loaded with quotable and articulate dialogue. The fact that Kevin Smith also creates a unique, highly-personal celluloid universe just secures its place in cultdom.
#6 – “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” (1985)
Nerd humor was never so funny. Pee-Wee’s quest to get his bike back is merely an excuse for a series of odd encounters, and isn’t odd what cult films are all about? Paul Reubens’ Pee-Wee Herman character is innocent and guileless, allowing us to see the world from his strange and strangely perceptive point-of-view. Skewed, silly and sophomoric, “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” is cult fun at its best.
#5 – “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
It musta been hard to walk across a campus in the ‘70s without hearing someone quoting: “we are the knights who say…Nii!” or “I’m not dead” or “It’s just a flesh wound” or simply “Run away!” “The Holy Grail” was just that – the kind of movie comedy troupes dream of making, and it was unlike anything American audiences had seen before. Thanks to this flick, the Pythons’ underground English sensibility exerted a huge influence on stateside comedy – yes, even with the gratuitous violence and silly villains.
#4 – “The Big Lebowski” (1998)
Dudes love “The Dude,” the bowling-obsessed slacker who gets in over his head in this 1998 Coen Brothers comedy. Its cult status began with midnight screenings, but really caught fire with the first Lebowski Fest in Louisville in 2002 and the founding of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude in 2005. With that accomplishment, “Lebowski” became quite possibly the only cult film that has spawned an actual cult.
#3 – “Super Troopers” (2001)
Who knew that Vermont state troopers were first-class pranksters? Probably only those clued into the weirdly funny “Super Troopers.” Created by the Broken Lizards comedy troupe, this cult hit is infantile at times and obvious at others, but it doesn’t matter: it has its own crazy, messed-up style that forces you to laugh, even when the grown-up part of you says to keep it down.
#2 – “This Is Spinal Tap” (1984)
This 1984 Rob Reiner mockumentary follows a fictional heavy metal band on its latest, if not greatest, American tour. Along the way, we experience a not-quite-life-size Stonehenge set, an amplifier that “goes to 11” and the band’s tendency to lose drummers. Satirizing the excesses of rock stage shows and the musicians who create them, the film is somehow both savagely funny and rather sweet at the same time.
#1 – “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
We know you’ve been waiting for this one with antici…..pation. “Rocky Horror” kick started the modern cult movie craze. Midnight shows, elaborate costumes, talking back to the screen and even throwing things at it: Dr. Frank-N-Furter and friends helped everything come together to make this camp flop a huge hit and a cultural milestone. They also proved that, hey, with perseverance – and perversity – anything is possible.