I love lists. I love making them and the satisfaction of ticking things off. I like reading other people’s lists too because it’s an insight into their world and how their mind works. Now Total Film‘s guide to the 34 Greatest Cult Movies of All Time is very interesting.
I’m only in my early twenties and out of the 34-strong list, I’ve seen eight of them. I’ve heard of 18 though so while I can’t cast judgement on all of them, I’m going to attempt to make sense of the ones I have seen.
First up, Mamma Mia! and I’m not too sure why this had made the list. Sure it has a large following and is loved by many both in it’s film and theatre versions but why has it made Total Film‘s list?
While it doesn’t always speak gospel truth, I agree with Wikipedia’s definition of what a cult film is: a cult film (also known as a cult movie/picture or a cult classic) is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans… Cult films are often known to be eccentric and do not follow traditional standards of mainstream cinema and usually explore topics not considered in any way mainstream.
Mamma Mia! was made on a big mult-million dollar budget and features big Hollywood names. It is adapted on an extremely popular West End musical which itself is based on the highly successful songs of ABBA. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mamma Mia! and own it on DVD but there is nothing cult about it. It is very mainstream and is not contraversial in any way.
A Clockwork Orange on the other hand was extremely contraversial and was withdrawn from British distribution and voluntarily altered by Stanley Kubrink in order to change the film’s X rating to an R-rated re-release. I have seen the film and read the book and yes, the film is very difficult to watch in places. However, it is definitely a cult classic and has influenced musicians from David Bowie to Muse and is referenced in television programmes, films and games.
Looking at some of the other films which made Total Film‘s cut, I can understand why Labyrinth made the list. Deliciously weird and bizarre, Labyrinth is one of my all-time favourite films. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me I saw a few years ago and was memerized because of its strange characters and haunting music. Withnail and I I saw fairly recently and again is intriguing because of its simultaneously tragic and comedic elements. Superb acting by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann too.
Even with Total Film‘s guide, Wikipedia’s definition and my own ramblings I’m still unsure of what makes a film a cult classic. I think it is primarily down to personal opinion. While I find Labyrinth fantastic, I know people who think it’s silly and just bizarre. I think that being able to quote lines off by heart and being able to chat endlessly to like-minded fans also makes a film worthy of cult status. With this in mind, the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series can be defined as cult classics even though they did make huge financial successes. Both have strong fanbases and both have their own events and festivals. As a lover of both series, I can happily quote lines and talk for ages on them.
I fear I’ve gone off on a tangent now, especially as my mind has now wandered off onto an image of Legolas and Frodo walking around the Death Star with R2 and C-3PO… Anyway, have a think about what makes a film a cult classic and perhaps get back to me. To give you even more food for though, here is the complete list of Total Film‘s choices. I’m going to try and find copies of the ones I haven’t seen.
- 34. Labyrinth (1986)
- 33. The Room (2003)
- 32. Harold and Maude (1971)
- 31. Office Space (1999)
- 30. Get Carter (1971)
- 29. They Live (1988)
- 28. Clerks (1994)
- 27. Pink Flamingos (1972)
- 26. Mamma Mia! (2008)
- 25. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
- 24. Bottle Rocket (1996)
- 23. Brazil (1985)
- 22. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
- 21. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
- 20. Re-Animator (1985)
- 19. The Warriors (1979)
- 18. Love Story (1970)
- 17. Eraserhead (1977)
- 16. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
- 15. Barton Fink (1991)
- 14. Evil Dead II (1987)
- 13. Akira (1988)
- 12. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
- 11. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- 10. Repo Man (1984)
- 9. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
- 8. Freaks (1932)
- 7. Showgirls (1995)
- 6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
- 5. Withnail & I (1987)
- 4. Fight Club (1999)
- 3. Quadrophenia (1979)
- 2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
- 1. The Big Lebowski (1998)