Join The Fandom Party With These Essential Cult Classics

Do you wish you could speak entirely in sly inside jokes? Are you longing to belong to something bigger than yourself? Are you attracted to the strange, offbeat, and outlandish? If you answered yes to these questions, then you've come to the right corner of the pop culture universe: the cult classic movie genre.
While keeping up with the endless stream of new releases is important, so is catching up on old favorites. And there are none more significant than cult classics, which spur secret societies, conspiracy theories, and Halloween costumes more readily than any other kind of movie.
So, you ask, what is a cult classic? Fear not: The term has nothing to do with Kool Aid or Charles Manson. Rather, a cult film is one that has garnered an impassioned fanbase in the years following its release. These are people who attend midnight screenings, can quote monologues by heart, and sneer at anyone who hasn't caught on to their club.
Don't be late to the party. Watch these movies, and you'll see what all the fuss is about.
Read These Stories Next:
1 of 13
The Disaster Artist (2017)

This film is actually about the making of a cult classic movie called The Room. In 2002, Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, produced, and starred in a melodramatic, nonsensical movie about a love triangle between a man, his fiancee, and his best friend. Watch The Disaster Artist, and be one step closer to achieving Room fandom status.
2 of 13
Teeth (2007)

With its gruesome and yet completely irresistible premise, Teeth was bound for cult classic stardom from the start. For most of high school, Dawn (Jess Weixler) was an active member of the chastity club (apparently that's a thing?). Everything changes when she meets Tobey (Hale Appleman), and feels an immediate attraction. When Dawn and Tobey start doing the deed, though, she makes a shocking realization: Dawn's vagina has teeth, and bites off any intruders. Here's the "vagina dentata" myth at its finest.
3 of 13
Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a troubled, schizophrenic teenager who encounters Frank, a man in a disconcertingly scary bunny costume. One night, Frank informs Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds — and later that evening, a jet engine crashes through the Darko house. Had Donnie not been sleepwalking, he would've been instantly killed. With this narrow miss, so begins Donnie's wild ride on Time's Arrow, as he begins to unfurl his hidden ability to alter his destiny.

Donnie Darko was released to theaters in October 2001, but its inclusion of a crashed plane dissuaded American viewers, still raw from 9/11, from seeing the film in theaters. The movie got a chance at second life in home videos. By now, Donnie Darko's not the cool, cult classic it once was. It's still cool — but it's a straight-up classic.
4 of 13
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

We could tell you what Rocky Horror is about, but really, the hype is more about the viewing experience than the movie's plot. Technically, Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical about a lost couple who seek shelter with Frank N. Furter's outlandish group of friends. Frank's about to unveil the secret to life: his creation, Rocky, whom he made in a lab.

For the full Rocky Horror Picture Show experience, be sure to head to a movie theater. It shouldn't be so hard to do, considering Rocky Horror is the longest continually-running movie of all time.

In the wee hours of the morning, in theaters around the country, people gather to participate in an elaborate dialogue between audience and characters. Seasoned vets come bearing objects to throw at the screen, when necessary. For example, when Dr. Frank N. Furter struts into his lab after singing "Sweet Transvestite," people snap rubber gloves. Or, when Frank proposes a toast, people throw toast at the screen. This is a movie that lives off the screen as much as on.
5 of 13
The Room (2003)

From the mind of a modern-day auteur comes The Room, an egregiously terrible movie about a successful banker's devolving relationship with his girlfriend, Lisa, and his best friend, Mark. The mysterious Tommy Wiseau, about whom no biographical details are known, directed, produced, wrote, and starred in the "the Citizen Kane of bad movies," as EW calls it.

This melodramatic stew will leave you perplexed, entertained, and hungry for another viewing. Be sure to catch a live screening, where Tommy himself is known to appear.
6 of 13
Troll 2 (1990)

There are a lot of things wrong with this B-horror movie about a family whose apartment is overrun by an evil goblin creature.

For one, Troll 2 isn't a sequel. In fact, it has no connection to the 1986 film Troll; the filmmakers thought the film would perform better if their original idea, Goblin, was rebranded as a sequel to Troll. Then, there's the movie's stilted language. Claudio Fragasso, a native Italian, wrote the script in his shaky English. While actors protested some lines, saying that the sentences didn't make sense in English, he insisted they perform the script as written.

So, what emerges is a steaming pile of bad costumes, bad language, and inexplicable plot. Cult classic gold.
7 of 13
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Fans of The Office and Parks and Recreation have This Is Spinal Tap to thank for popularizing the mockumentary genre. Filmed as though it were a documentary, This Is Spinal Tap peers into the universe of a once-successful English metal band looking to make a comeback. It was only until home release that the film found its viewership; in ensuing years, it's topped comedy lists.
8 of 13
The Princess Bride (1987)

If you haven't memorized the entirety of Inigo Montoya's assassination speech by now, we don't know what to tell you.

This hilarious, intelligent, adorable take on the fairy tale follows two separated lovers and their journey to get back together. And while Westley and Buttercup are nice, the real highlight of The Princess Bride is the film's colorful supporting cast, from the sword-wielding Inigo Montoya to the "inconceivable" Vizzini.
9 of 13
Harold And Maude (1971)

Harold, a wealthy and depressed teenager, and Maude, a 79-year-old anarchist, share a unique pastime: attending strangers' funerals. When Harold and Maude meet at a funeral, the two oddballs find themselves in the middle of an unexpected romance — much to the horror of Harold's family. In Harold and Maude, and often as in life, love knows no bounds.
10 of 13
The Big Lebowski (1998)

"The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is an easygoing, laid-back, pothead bowler, who happens to have the same name as a millionaire. What proceeds is a caper, a convoluted plot, and a whole slew of scenes now rendered iconic by their cult-classic status.

The Big Lebowski hit theaters while the American public was still going to Titanic in droves. So the public ignored it, and critics wrote the film off as being too quirky. After simmering in the American imagination (and home box office) for a while, the Coen Brothers' film has risen as the great phoenix of cult classics.
11 of 13
Grey Gardens (1975)

Everyone has "weird" relatives — but only Jackie Kennedy's strange corner of the family is given its own documentary.

Aging in a decrepit East Hamptons mansion, Edie Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith, are more than happy to give these documentarians a tour of their house, their wardrobes, and their hearts. Their conversation with filmmakers Albert and David Maysles inevitably focuses on the glories of their pasts, though, because neither Edie nor Edith have left Grey Gardens in quite some time.
12 of 13
A Clockwork Orange (1971)

In a dystopian future of London, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his gang of aesthetically aligned "Droogs" make mischief throughout the city — but not any kind of mischief you'd like to get caught up in. While speaking in their strange slang, the friends get high and carry out some "ultraviolence," which eventually leads to the death of an innocent woman. The government decides to subject Alex to a new behavior technique, designed for reform. Now, he'll get a taste of his own "ultraviolent" medicine.

This vicious, off-kilter Stanley Kubrick film has a strong cult following, who don Alex's gang uniform and learn nadsat, the film's language.
13 of 13
Clerks (1994)

The plot is simple enough. This cmedy follows a single day in the life of two New Jersey convenience store clerks, Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), and mostly consists of the friends' free-wheeling conversation.

Clerks marked the start of director Kevin Smith's career, which produced movies like Chasing Amy and Mallrats. Since Clerks is situated in Smith's "View Askewniverse," you can expect to see some recurring characters from other Smith films, like Jay and Silent Bob. By now, references to Kevin Smith's Clerks have embedded themselves in the American pop culture landscape.

More from Movies


R29 Original Series