Source: HubPages

Chances are that if you’re a movie goer, you’ve heard of the term “cult classic”. However, what does that actually mean? This article aims to answer that question, starting at the very beginning and what defines something becoming a cult classic.

Cult Classic – Where Did It Begin?

Defined by TVTropes, a cult classic is “a film or other work which has a small but devoted fanbase”. Members of the fanbase are often proud of their connection to the obscure works, relating to other fans and taking integral parts of the film, such as references, into their every day life. This is where the term “cult” comes from, as fans stick together surrounding the one film. Members may then turn to resent the film or media when it breaks into the mainstream and becomes popular, or claim they liked it “before it was cool”.

Some cult classics only become a commercial success after being a blockbuster flop, while others are spread online and become popular that way – such as The Room (2003). But the term of “cult” being used in reference a devoted fanbase however goes far beyond what we know now.

The 1920s saw the release of Nosferatu (1922). This was an unauthorized adaptation of Stoker’s novel Dracula. After Stoker’s widow sued the production company and drove it to bankruptcy, all known copies were destroyed. However, the film had gathered a small fanbase, and fans passed illegal bootlegs to one another to keep it alive.

Films defined as “cult” became mostly European art films as opposed to anything released by Hollywood. These were considered to be more underground, taking the name of “midnight movies“. These slowly became more popular, with the release of the infamous The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) finding it’s feet years after the initial release.

Midnight movies then lead on to home video, so the public could watch at home. This meant that those films that were otherwise a flop being released could be re-watched and reissued. It was this that made films such as Beastmaster (1982) have a surge in popularity.

So What Defines a Cult Classic?

A brief explanation behind what makes a film a cult classic was already talked about – something with a small but highly devoted fanbase. However, there is a little more to it than just that. There mostly seems to be two types of cult films: Those that have a small group of fans and fly under the mainstream radar, and those that had mainstream releases, were unpopular, and then became huge hits later down the line. “Cult” applies to those films that really, without their fans, would fly completely and utterly under the radar.

However, there is a third category of cult film – the “so bad it’s so good” category. Those films that have you cringe and continuity errors and laugh at unbelievably bad acting. Because they are so entertaining for entirely the wrong reasons, a fan base is then formed for that purpose, giving it a cult following.

All in all, it is the fans that give a film the cult status. These dedicated fans are the ones speaking about the film – or even dressing up as characters, hosting viewings for other fans, and so on. This is known as the audience being “active“, which many academics have spoken and written about in the past. Because of the devotions of fans, these movies become unforgettable.

Likewise, films can try to become cult classics and fail. After all, a cult following is not something that can be forced. Snakes on a Plane is an example of a film that tried to become cult, but ultimately did not work. Not bad enough to be good, but not good enough to be good either.

Source: IMDb

What Are Some Examples of Cult Classics?

There’s a high chance that you have already heard of or even seen most of these films. However, some of the most discussed and known Cult Classics are:

  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Fight Club (1999)
  • Donnie Darko (2001)
  • Scarface (1981)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  • This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
  • Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003)

Though there are many others. A full list of the “100 Greatest Cult Classics” can be found here if you’re looking to expand your watch list.

Source: The Telegraph

But what are your thoughts on cult classic films? Do you have a favorite? Are you a fan of a film no one else seems to have heard of? Let us know in the comments!