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GreenCine Movie Talk
Cult
Those films with a following all their own.
83

Wondering the Definition of Cult Movie
Topic by: transom
Posted: March 6, 2004 - 11:12 AM PST
Last Reply: March 29, 2004 - 5:07 PM PST

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author topic: Wondering the Definition of Cult Movie
transom
post #1  on March 6, 2004 - 11:12 AM PST  
Just wondering about some of the parameters it takes to be labeled a "cult movie".

Or, does anyone have/know of a definitive list of cult movies on the web?
Taranangel
post #2  on March 6, 2004 - 7:15 PM PST  
This is all just my opinion but a movie is a cult movie when:
1) It had little funding to start with.
2) Made MUCH more money in after market sales than in Theatres.
3) Popularity of the movie is spread almost entirely by word of mouth.
4) And became MUCH more popular months and even years later than when it was originally released.
5) These movies also tend to have a real following of people behind them.

Movies that consider Cult classics are:
Evil Dead 2 (Army of Darkness)
The Princess Bride
Spaceballs
Rocky Horror Picture Show [Not really a cult movie because it was so popular in on stage Theatre before becoming a movie, but definately has a huge following and gets ever more popular by word of mouth]
History of the World Part I
Robin Hood, Men in Tights.
Donnie Darko

I guess you will notice a trend, Lots of Mel Brooks films =)

Thats just one persons opinion of what a "cult" film is.
dh22
post #3  on March 7, 2004 - 7:45 PM PST  
> 4) And became MUCH more popular months and even years later than when it was originally released.


I think this is really the only important one. This is pretty much what makes the cult film. The other parts would just make it an indie.
DLeonard
post #4  on March 8, 2004 - 12:34 AM PST  
Taranangel,

I'd say these guidelines fairly well sum up the idea of a cult film, but your examples on the other hand...

In what bizarro world is Spaceballs and Robin Hood, Men In Tights loved by anyone? Alright, I'm sure some people do, but these are not what I would consider cult films along the lines of say Eraserhead or Carnival of Souls or Pink Flamingos or even Showgirls. And I would say Rocky Horror is a prime example of a cult film. The stage show was only popular in London prior to the film and it was here in the U.S. where the film gained it's rabid fan base.


> On March 6, 2004 - 7:15 PM PST Taranangel wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> This is all just my opinion but a movie is a cult movie when:
> 1) It had little funding to start with.
> 2) Made MUCH more money in after market sales than in Theatres.
> 3) Popularity of the movie is spread almost entirely by word of mouth.
> 4) And became MUCH more popular months and even years later than when it was originally released.
> 5) These movies also tend to have a real following of people behind them.
>
> Movies that consider Cult classics are:
> Evil Dead 2 (Army of Darkness)
> The Princess Bride
> Spaceballs
> Rocky Horror Picture Show [Not really a cult movie because it was so popular in on stage Theatre before becoming a movie, but definately has a huge following and gets ever more popular by word of mouth]
> History of the World Part I
> Robin Hood, Men in Tights.
> Donnie Darko
>
> I guess you will notice a trend, Lots of Mel Brooks films =)
>
> Thats just one persons opinion of what a "cult" film is.
> ---------------------------------

larbeck
post #5  on March 8, 2004 - 2:45 AM PST  
> On March 8, 2004 - 12:34 AM PST DLeonard wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> In what bizarro world is Spaceballs and Robin Hood, Men In Tights loved by anyone?
>
One in where a Son of a Bush is in the White House, the U.S. invades and butchers thousands of people and constantly tells lies and gets away with it, millions of jobs are exported to foriegn countries that make it illegal for me to move there and apply, and the FCC goes on a vendatta against free speech after a singer semi-exposes a mammary for a few milliseconds. Since, it is so hard to care that Howard Stern is target, but then that is why I donate to the ACLU - to the heavy lifting in the fight for free speech that I cannot.

Trash chic has a large following in Austin, Texas and I did indulge a few times at the begining but half-baked no budget super 8mm films with bad acting no longer have the charm it once did. Those two examples you cite are so much superior even and I don't even wanna see those again! And they are probably not even trashy enough for this cultists.
sinisterguffaw
post #6  on March 8, 2004 - 4:20 PM PST  
> On March 7, 2004 - 7:45 PM PST dh22 wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > 4) And became MUCH more popular months and even years later than when it was originally released.
>
>
> I think this is really the only important one. This is pretty much what makes the cult film. The other parts would just make it an indie.
> ---------------------------------

Amen.

Also, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness are not the same movie.

I do think budget and studio are a bit of a factor, too. To be a cult film, it kinda has to be something no studio would touch. Not a steadfast rule, as there are many exceptions (like Darkman or Starship Troopers) but a good general guideline.

And I would strongly hesitate to call Mel Brooks' films "cult." I think I'd just rather call them "Mel Brooks' films."
ALittlefield
post #7  on March 8, 2004 - 8:41 PM PST  
Film critic Danny Peary wrote three very good books on cult movies (called CULT MOVIES, CULT MOVIES 2 and CULT MOVIES 3, duh.) But his definition of what makes a cult film seems odd; he includes CASABLANCA (can a best picture winner truly ever be a cult film) and excludes WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, a camp cult film if there ever was one...so it would appear that a definition of cult film is tricky...I tend to go with movies that either perform way beyond expectation at the box office, often building slowly through word of mouth (Such as THE CRYING GAME, or NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or the first TERMINATOR movie), or films that flop at first, and are then revived and revered at a later date, often because they are ahead of their time. Examples of this would be the Marx Bros. classic, DUCK SOUP, or Charlie Chaplin's surprisingly dark MONSIOUR VERDOUX.
ALittlefield
post #8  on March 8, 2004 - 8:44 PM PST  
Come to think of it, I think a case could be made that both SCREAM and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT could be called cult films, since box office expectations for both were much lower than they delivered..but note that none of the sequels to both film could be called cult.
manfarang
post #9  on March 9, 2004 - 7:10 AM PST  
To me, a cult film is any film that retains a small but fanatical set of devotees, whether the film was big budget or was financed by someone who maxed out the line-of-credit on his/her credit cards. If it has a large set of devotees, then it is just a popular film; if most people think the film is dull or crappy, but not spectacularly crappy, then it is just a dud. Mean Streets is a cult film, Taxi Driver is not.

I think of big budget turkeys like Battlefield: Earth, Showgirls, The Postman and Waterworld as cult films- most people think these films stink, but a small base appreciate them for their absolute awfulness (and an even smaller group may actually like them!) Valley of the Dolls and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls are both cult films, but I doubt that they share the same fan base.

EAinsworth
post #10  on March 10, 2004 - 10:37 PM PST  
Things that might make a movie 'cult.'
1. It stars Bruce Campbell
2. It's directed by someone Italian
3. It has more than one DVD floating around labeled 'Directors Cut', 'European Version' or 'Unrated Version'
4. The DVD box garishsly proclaims it a 'cult classic'
5. The DVD box has someone in drag on the cover
6. The film is only comprehensible under the influence of illegal substances
7. Your Mom has never heard of it
8. You show it to a new girlfriend who immediately breaks up with you
9. That really weird guy at the video store tells you how great it is
10. You can only rent it at one video store out of 50 in the city
hamano
post #11  on March 10, 2004 - 11:00 PM PST  
> On March 8, 2004 - 8:41 PM PST ALittlefield wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Film critic Danny Peary wrote three very good books on cult movies (called CULT MOVIES, CULT MOVIES 2 and CULT MOVIES 3, duh.) But his definition of what makes a cult film seems odd
> ---------------------------------

Oh, I have those books! I wonder if they're still in print... They're very good. "Cult" is hard to define because it's a relative term... One man's religion is another man's cult, and this applies to films and their fans as well. I would call a film "cult" if it has a significant base of fans who love the film so much they are more than willing to overlook its flaws. People who feel rewarded by repeat viewings of this film they love so much. I think Peary includes films that have a large popular following (and even some Oscars and other awards) if it also has a core of fanatical supporters, the kind that goes to fan conventions and memorize every scene and line from the film... This would be true for a film like Casablanca...
hamano
post #12  on March 10, 2004 - 11:13 PM PST  
This page lists all the films reviewed by Danny Peary in his 3 Cult Films books. You can use dpowers' "bookmarklets/favelets" (easily imported browser based javascript search tools) to quickly search the GC catalog for these titles...
RWaller
post #13  on March 11, 2004 - 6:15 AM PST  
> On March 10, 2004 - 11:00 PM PST hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
if it also has a core of fanatical supporters, the kind that goes to fan conventions and memorize every scene and line from the film... This would be true for a film like Casablanca...
> ---------------------------------
True, this would not exclude others like 2001 ... and possibly the new LoTR movies ... although peter jackson is one of the great cult directors, I don't know if they'll ever really qualify, since LoTR itself is already not just a cult but an entire fandom.

And that brings up another thing ... it's not enough for a film to have a fanatical following; it's more significant if they're an ad hoc following, and not a ready-made following. Does it qualify as a cult movie, if it's a movie made for a cult, instead of a movie that creates one?
hamano
post #14  on March 11, 2004 - 7:29 AM PST  
Ah, but that's sort of a "chicken and egg" question.
ColonelKong
post #15  on March 11, 2004 - 11:11 AM PST  
Trying to define what is a "cult" movie and what isn't can be a little tricky, but I tend to think that if the makers of a film set out to make a cult classic, it probably isn't a "cult" movie, and that simply being weird and unusual doesn' mean that a movie is a "cult" movie. I tend to think of a cult movie as being anything that gained an audience through word of mouth on DVD/video after flopping or being critically savaged or poorly marketed during it's initial theatrical run.

There are some movies that are "cultish" in one way or another that don't quite count as "cult" movies to my way of thinking: Movies like Monty Python and The Holy Grail or The Rocky Horror Picture Show seem a little too well-known to me to count as cult movies anymore (I suppose it's possible for one decade's cult movie to be another's mainstream favorite). Battlefield Earth was as critically panned as any "cult" movie ever made, but I've never met anyone who professed to liking it. Ken Russell's Lisztomania might count, but I don't know that it's been seen by enough people to have a cult following. Defining foreign films as "cult" or not gets a little tricky too, I'm sure that there are plenty of Japanese films that have cult followings in this country that really don't in Japan, or are considered "kids" movies by most.

Something that Roger Ebert said in his review of Bubba Ho-Tep came to mind when I was thinking about what is a "cult" movie and what isnt: "It doesn't work as a cult movie because it challenges the cleverness of the audience instead of congratulating it."

In some ways, I think that a movie's definition as a "cult" movie is probably somewhat temporary, most probably either become established "classics" or sink into relative obscurity.
Taranangel
post #16  on March 11, 2004 - 11:37 AM PST  
I dont actually watch alot of Cult films so coming up with ones I thought of as cult films was kinda difficult. But I think the guidelines work pretty well for the definition.
hamano
post #17  on March 11, 2004 - 11:58 AM PST  
> On March 11, 2004 - 11:11 AM PST ColonelKong wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> There are some movies that are "cultish" in one way or another that don't quite count as "cult" movies to my way of thinking: Movies like Monty Python and The Holy Grail or The Rocky Horror Picture Show seem a little too well-known to me to count as cult movies anymore (I suppose it's possible for one decade's cult movie to be another's mainstream favorite).

That's where I think I agree with Danny Peary. The Python films and Rocky Horror, despite their popularity, I think still have a core cult following, which can be separated from the mainstream fans. The same goes for a lot of musicals, I think.

> Something that Roger Ebert said in his review of Bubba Ho-Tep came to mind when I was thinking about what is a "cult" movie and what isnt: "It doesn't work as a cult movie because it challenges the cleverness of the audience instead of congratulating it."

Ha! I wonder if he considers Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to be a film that challenges or congratulates the cleverness of the audience?!? Why doesn't GreenCine have a copy of this? Isn't it out on DVD?
manfarang
post #18  on March 12, 2004 - 10:21 AM PST  
>Battlefield Earth was as critically panned as any "cult" movie ever made, but I've never met anyone
>who professed to liking it.

There are actually drinking games inspired by Battlefield Earth - I think that alone makes it eligible for cult status.
underdog
post #19  on March 15, 2004 - 1:20 PM PST  
> On March 11, 2004 - 11:58 AM PST hamano wrote:
> ---------------------------------
>> Ha! I wonder if he considers Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to be a film that challenges or congratulates the cleverness of the audience?!? Why doesn't GreenCine have a copy of this? Isn't it out on DVD?
> ---------------------------------

Nope.

Alas, it is MIA

underdog
post #20  on March 15, 2004 - 1:25 PM PST  
> On March 11, 2004 - 11:11 AM PST ColonelKong wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> In some ways, I think that a movie's definition as a "cult" movie is probably somewhat temporary, most probably either become established "classics" or sink into relative obscurity.
>


This is probably true, with many cult films. Yesterday I was flipping channels when I noticed that a favorite 80s cult film, Night of the Comet, was playing on the SciFi channel. It's still a lot of fun, as far as end-of-the-world spoofs go, but in some ways has that oh-so-80s look and sensibility to it that hasn't aged completely well. But since it's a spoof in the first place, then it still works. But whereas it was once a bonafide cult film (people reviving it and talking about it and it made late night cable cult shows, etc), it's now back to being pretty obscure.

Or at least, it was playing on the SciFi channel, which is where many bad genre films get dumped. Sad to see it lumped in with "Spiders 2" or whatever.


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