Top 5 Greatest Cult Films of The Moment

When I sat down to write about my favorite cult films, I thought it would be easy. I could pick them in seconds and then spend my time crafting wonderful adventures of text around each film.

Turns out picking my top 5 Greatest Cult Films was harder than I thought. For starters you could fill the list with almost all of John Carpenter’s body of work. Then there is David Lynch and David Cronenberg’s back catalogue. Let’s not forget Russ Meyer, John Waters, Ed Wood, the Coen brothers and so many more directors. Each had so many great films under their belt that it made it so difficult to choose.

Before I go any further let us look at what makes a “cult film.” A cult film is a movie that has acquired a cult following with a specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside small fanbases; however, there are exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences. Many cult movies have gone on to transcend their original cult status and have become recognized as classics. Usually, cult films have limited but very special, noted appeal. Cult films are often known to be eccentric, often do not follow traditional standards of mainstream cinema and usually explore topics not considered in any way mainstream.

As you can see the definition covers quite a wide spectrum of film. One person’s cult film can end up becoming beloved my millions, often to the dismay of that small group who initially loved it.

So how was I to decide whether Kurt Russell sitting around waiting to see what happens in “The Thing” was better than Charlton Heston riding around in a red convertible shooting up vampire hipsters in “The Omega Man”? That was a trick question. John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is automatically the number one spot on almost all Top 10 lists: Best use of a head falling off a body then sprouting spider legs and walking off? Check. Biggest hat Kurt Russell has ever worn? Check. Keith David being cool as hell? Check. Wilford Brimley using crappy computer graphics to work out the world is doomed? Check mate.

For the purposes of the list I decided to leave “The Thing” off it as that would be too obvious; same with “The Big Lebowski,” two cult films which have transcended space and time to become legend…wait for it…ary.

Let’s get on with it then. All the films have their own merits, coolness and strangeness that makes each one an essential watch at some point in your life. Not all of them feature great acting and cohesive story lines yet they all feature quirky coolness that sticks in your brain.

I don’t expect you to agree with all of my choices, I just hope you enjoy the ride. As The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” once said, “no matter where you go…there you are.”

5. Repo Man
(Otto) Emilio Estevez and (Bud) Harry Dean Stanton driving around L.A. repossessing cars turns out to be even cooler than you would think. The 1984 film by Alex Cox features all kinds of strangeness. All food and drinks get generic labels (a can of beer is labeled “beer,” food as “food,” etc.) which adds the otherworldly-ness of the film which is already populated by nihilistic punks, government agents, aliens, people spouting strange monologues and various random disintegrations. You know you are in for a fun ride.

4. In The Mouth Of Madness
As I had taken “The Thing” out of the running, I had to have another John Carpenter film in the list. Which one would it be? “They Live” has the best fight scene ever. “Escape from New York” has Snake Plissken being all kinds of cool. “Big Trouble In Little China” shook the pillars of heaven and “Prince of Darkness” has Donald Pleasance as a priest and Alice Cooper as a homeless man. All are works of genius.

I’ll go with “In The Mouth of Madness” for now. It seems to be one of Carpenter’s films that seems to be the least well known. I have no idea why as its tale of Sam Neill’s insurance investigator seeking the horror writer Sutter Cane is pure Lovecraftian goodness. The all-encompassing horror and discomfort that slowly builds as Neill enters Hobb’s End is truly great.

Who knew that one of the scariest questions in the world would be, “do you read Sutter Cane?”

3. Scanners
The protagonist acts as if he is doped up and seems to sleepwalk throughout the film. The plot is a sci-fi staple yet it is elevated to cult status by the fact David Cronenberg directed it and the mighty Michael Ironside stars in it. The scene where Ironside blows up a man’s head using the power of his mind seals the deal. Nothing more need be said.

2. Mulholland Drive
The very fact this is a David Lynch film means it will be a cult film forevermore. Most things from the mind of Lynch are pure cult.

What was planned as a TV show pilot grew and changed into a modern day noir tale that could possibly have all been the dream and broken wishes of a washed-up actress.

It gave us Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in a story featuring amnesia, cowboys, murder, blue boxes, smiling old people, Billy Ray Cyrus, and the scariest moment behind any diner.

It is hard to narrow down any one scene…although there is a certain lesbian love scene which springs to mind…yet I personally love the scene of Naomi Watts going to an audition. It features some of the greatest acting I have ever seen.

1. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
This 1984 film screams cult film from the title alone. The fact it follows Dr. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller), a physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, and rock musician, to save the world by defeating a band of inter-dimensional aliens called Red Lectroids from Planet 10 only confirms this.

Upon my first viewing of this film many years ago I wondered what the hell was going on. It just kept throwing more and more weirdness on the screen until it was all too much. Then something happened.

I am not sure if it was the sight of John Lithgow electrocuting himself, or Jeff Goldblum wearing a cowboy suit, maybe it was Perfect Tommy being perfect or the rest of the Hong Kong Cavaliers always having Banzai’s back and harkening back to Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five.

It was probably all that, but I like to think it was Buckaroo stopping the band playing because he had heard Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin) crying over the sound of the guitars.

So there you have it. My Top 5 Greatest Cult Movies of the Moment. It will probably have changed by this time tomorrow, but that is the nature of the beast.

What about “Barton Fink,” “Evil Dead,” “Flash Gordon,” “UHF,” “Dark City,” “The Warriors,” “Killer Klowns From Outer Space,” Brazil,” “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist” and all the rest? Well, they are all cult films for another day.
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