Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cult Film

Pythons In Armour. Photographer. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 21 Oct 2017.
Though many drive-ins have been shut down, and the practice of screening midnight movies in theaters has waned considerably from its heyday in the early 1970s, the thrill of sharing boundary-testing films in the dark can now be enjoyed just as well while curled up on the couch—no accompanying cult required... These films stubbornly refuse to be marginalized, lower budgets and lack of Hollywood gloss be damned.
~Themes: Cult Movies, from the Criterion Collection website 

The term “cult classic” gets thrown around a lot these days, usually to describe anything that wasn’t widely seen but has some vocal fans. There should be another word for that, because “cult” implies a whole other level of devotion. This list is about movies that inspire very unusual outpourings of support. Let’s put the “cult” back into “cult following.”
~Andy Hunsaker, "15 Movies With Crazy Cult Followings"

How do you define cult film? The two quotes above, the latter taken from the IFC website, seem to have a subtly different take on that question. Is a cult film just a B-movie or a midnight movie? Or is it something that has grabbed hold of at least certain moviegoers' imagination and become part of the culture of moviegoing, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Criterion defines cult films from their own collection as Crumb, Eating Raoul, F for Fake, Fantastic Planet, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Eyes Without a Face, Harold & Maude, House, Koyaanisqatsi, Kiss Me Deadly, Man Bites Dog, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Repo Man, and Slacker. The IFC article, which, granted, is just the opinion of a single author, is more inclined towards Star Wars, The Big Lebowski, Evil Dead, Repo: The Genetic Opera, Clerks, Fight Club, Labyrinth, Star Trek, Serenity, and Showgirls. (Both lists do include David Lynch.)

Rolling Stone is more closely aligned with Criterion's definiton, but allows a little lee-way - "There's no single way to recognize a cult movie other than the simple fact that it's developed a fiercely devoted audience that watches it over and over, preferably at midnight in a theater packed with other die-hards." The website i09 also recognizes that you can debate cult status,  but we like their definition best: "A great cult movie is like a weird underground discovery, that feels so strange and wonderful, you suspect that you're the first person ever to appreciate it properly. But certain cult films have acquired fame and influence to rival any blockbuster, and have become part of our shared vocabulary."

How do you define cult film? Do you lean more towards a blockbuster big enough to warrant its own convention, or something more arty and obscure, perhaps involving audience participation at a late-night showing? Regardless of definition, many films, both popular and niche, have made their mark on our cinematic landscape. Our list of cult films, below, leans a bit more towards the midnight movie definition of cult, but we've thrown some more popular titles into the mix. Hope you find something that strikes your fancy!

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