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Cult Classics Open Thread.

Cult Classics are movies that were initially deemed box-office failures but attracted a devoted group of fans. One of the original cult classics was 1936’s Reefer Madness. Like many cult classics it falls in the category of “so bad it’s worth watching.” Ed Wood’s 1959 Plan 9 From Outer Space is probably the ultimate example of that type.

The Big Kahuna of cult classics is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It did poorly when first released in 1975 and was almost headed for oblivion when someone got the bright idea to run it at “midnight movie” screenings. With a few months fans began showing up dressed as their favorite characters and talking back to the screen. They also threw rice at the wedding scene.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show still plays in a small number of theaters, making it the longest running theatrical release in movie history at 34 years and counting. Produced for $1,200,000 it has grossed nearly $140,000,000 in box office receipts.

Prior to the video revolution fans of cult classics were at the mercy of the film studios and television programmers. Once VCR’s and later DVD’s became commonplace, many films that bombed in the theaters were resurrected in the home video market.

As I said before, some movies become cult classics because they are egregiously bad. Others are actually pretty good movies that just didn’t catch fire in their theatrical releases. One common factor in most cult classics is that the studios that originally released them didn’t spend very much promoting them. That’s not surprising, since most of them were low-budget productions in the first place.

Here’s a clip from my favorite cult classic:

What’s your favorite?

97 Responses

  1. Where else can you get classic lines like:

    “Gee, I’m really sorry your mom blew up Ricky.”

    • Did you see Fame? (Yeah, I’m guessing you didn’t see Fame). One of the kids in the movie auditioned with a deathless RHPC monologue about Eddie and Rocky. 🙂

  2. Harold and Maude (1971)

    she’s the original cougar!!!

    Harold: “You sure have a way with people.”
    Maude: “Well, they’re my species!”

  3. Todd Browning’s “Freaks.”

  4. Earth Girls Are Easy, with Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, and Jim Carey

  5. Deep Blue Sea

  6. I still remember the first time I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    I was freshly escaped from the world of fundiegelicals, and it was pretty shocking, even for the freewheeling Seventies.

    It’s still pretty edgy in homophobic USA

    • I remember the first time I saw it too-early 70s. How could anyone forget it!
      It was the theater show in London-same actors more or less as the movie. Tim Curry was fantastic.

  7. I didn’t realize that a cult classic had to be a box office failure. I think there are some that did well that could be considered “cult” films, e.g. “Heathers” and “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”

    • There seems to be a magic number of fans, on one side is “cult classic” and on the other is just “classic.”

      • I think it’s some magic number of fans plus some magic level of devotion to deserve the ‘cult’ title.

        • To me, if a movie has been shown in a theater daily for years and people are still going to it, it is a cult classic, e.g. Rocky Horror and The Harder They Come, which ran for years at the Orson Welles Cinema just outside Harvard Square.

          I would also argue that a number of Humphrey Bogart movies are cult classics–Casabanca, The Big Sleep, the Maltese Falcon, and To Have and Have Not.

          I think The Big Lebowski might qualify as a cult classic.

  8. Another of my favorite cult classics:

  9. Kitchen Stories.

    Who says Scandanavians have no sense of humor?

  10. I like…”They Live” by John Carpenter. Rowdy Roddy Piper’s line…”I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

    • ld82

      “The middle of the road is the least safe place to be.”

      The fight scene absolutely kicks.!

      • I thought that movie was a metaphor for last year.

        We were the people wearing the special sunglasses.

        • myiq,

          It’s a training film that wakes those of us who are not fully-blown eloi to the presence of the morlocks.


        • I believe the movie was supposed to be a social commentary on the Bush I regime on how the goverment was putting corporate interests ahead of the people. With the Bush II regime championing the same interests I’m sure that’s why it seems so familiar.

    • absolutely loved it and the glasses!

  11. Pecker:

    “Full of grace, full of grace…”

  12. ‘Blast of Silence’ will often seem familiar because it is the archetype that began a genre.

  13. No movie cult classics but hubby and I used to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 religiously. Nothing more fun than making fun of cheaply made horror movies or PSAs.

  14. I think my eventual favorite is going to be “The Saga of Barack Hussein Obama”. I think this would series would make a great clip: (from a NQ post)

    “Oh, one last thing. About those fundraisers Obama is flitting around doing while we have all of these major issues detailed above? In the first nine months of his presidency, Obama has gone to TWENTY-THREE fundraisers. In the first twenty, he has raised $20 million for the DNC coffers. That’s just jake.

    Want to guess how many Bush did in the same amount of time? Six. I said, SIX. And Bush raised $48 million from his six, and he did none after the attacks on September 11th.

    I can’t leave Bill Clinton out. He did five fundraisers in nine months. That’s it.”

    I can imagine a sort of SNL take on this with visuals of all the money bags who would probably be the same set for each prez–just older and more botoxed. And perhaps the cult audiences would look at it all and get off on how incredibly stupid it all was—or maybe not—maybe they would just think, “that is how all our crappy lives began to go down the drain.”

  15. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

  16. the Blob

  17. Hmm. “Female Choice Benefits Mothers More Than Offspring”


  18. Television cult classic:

  19. Raising Arizona


    Big Lebowski

    Repo Man was fab as well —
    I used to have these friends from NJ who lived in Santa Monica — they were part of the crowd that used to go dressed up for Rocky Horror — there were whole festivals arranged around it when it played — I never saw it though? It used to play at midnight once a week in art houses for a time there…hmmm…..I think the last days of the disco crowd were totally into it…

  20. miQ! THE PRISONER!

  21. Gotta run, but no cult classics thread is complete without…Mr. No Legs

  22. Easy Rider–Jack Nicholson’s breakout movie

  23. It probably goes more in the category of “so bad, it’s good”, but one of my all-time favorite movies is “The Oscar” starring Stephen Boyd as well as many Oscar nominees and Oscar winners in cameo roles. It’s about a down on his luck actor (Boyd) who inexplicably gets a Best Actor nomination and his attempt to manipulate the Academy voters because he realizes if he doesn’t win, his career is over. Believe me, you will never watch the Oscars the same way again, if you ever see this movie. It’s got great 60’s hipster dialogue too.

    Another favorite is “Susan Slade” with Troy Donahue and Connie Stevens.

  24. For me an absolute cult:

    Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown

    • It’s “You killed my father,” then “Prepare to die.”

      (Could not help myself.)


  25. Zoolander opened two weeks after 9/11 but still gained a cult following after it was released on DVD.

  26. youngest daughter’s favorite:

  27. The Red Room in Twin Peaks.

    • Yes! I was going to suggest Twin Peaks. Remember when you found out who Bob was?! I also suggested “Eraserhead” yesterday–another very weird David Lynch cult classic.

  28. and mine (anime)

  29. Grosse Pointe Blank is another John Cusack film that didn’t do very well at the box office but has somewhat of a cult following. I’ve come across a lot of people who have this on their list of favorite comedies.

    • I LOVE it when they shoot up John’s ‘home’ that is now a convenience store with the Quentin Tarentino movie posters on the wall and someone playing video games listening to his audio not noticing a thing going on. And the sound track is one of the best.

    • You beat me to it with this one. Joan has a cameo in tit too.

  30. A favorite scene from Blue Velvet.

  31. The Warriors! Hey, they’re from Coney Island…

    And, of course, Escape from New York.


    I’m a big horror fan and horror films are the perfect genre for cult classics. My faves would be the Evil Dead series and the Phantasm series.

    Does Blade Runner count as a cult classic? If so, that’s high on my list.

  32. Tribute to Patrick Swayze, and one of his memorable lines.
    “Back off warchild, seriously..”

  33. Ack! Yankees-Angels game postponed till tomorrow night. I was hope to go to sleep tonight know the hated Yankees had been eliminated.

  34. Speaking of cult classics and breaking news

    Washington (CNN) — President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the “rapid increase in illness” from the H1N1 influenza virus.


  35. Lisztomania.

  36. okay, here’s a good hypothesis … obots came from the 8th dimension?

  37. Affleck, McConaughey et al doing the 70s.

  38. So, most if not all of the NYC media have backed Bloomberg on breaking his term limit. Now Bloomberg is spending $100 million on NYC media during a harsh media recession. Coincidence. I think not.

  39. How not to post Doctor Who – Original Theme Music Video .

    Original 1963 theme music made before the availability of commercial synthesizers.

    The original 1963 theme was created by cutting and splicing segments of anologue tape, using recordings of plucked strings, white noise and waveforms of test-tone oscillators. Pure genius 🙂 (ht to the comments)

  40. Lower key:
    “They Might be Giants”
    “It a Wonderful Life” (classic cult film which became a classic)
    “Used Cars” (may not actually be a cult film but should be)
    Almost anything with Ken Russell in it
    “The Wind and the Lion”
    “Forbidden Planet” — or is that a classic?

    Adding to TV series list:
    The Avengers
    The Twilight Zone


  41. I cannot count the times I saw Rocky Horror back in the day. Every Friday or Saturday nite (one of the two) my friends & I would go down to the theater to see it , then do something else the other nite. We didn’t dress up but we brought plenty of rice, toilet paper, & newspaper & sold the extras to those who didn’t bring any. Especially the newspaper. That was de riguer b/c the theater turned on the sprinkler system during the rain scene & if you didn’t have one covering your head you got soaked!!

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