What Makes a Cult Movie?

Posted on September 13, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Desson Thomson has a great interview with Scott Simon on NPR about cult movies — what (and who) defines them and what is appealing about them. What do the Coen brothers have in common with “The Wizard of Oz” and “Blade Runner?” Listen to Thomson and find out.

Entertainment Weekly has a list of the all-time top cult classics, though I’d argue that some of them, like “Blade Runner,” “Spinal Tap,” and “Willie Wonka” are now so firmly and widely established they are canonical. The A.V. Club has an edgier list and I like the way they helpfully point out the movies influenced by their choices and give their honest view of how well the films on the list hold up.

I don’t think a movie has to be a horror film or low-budget to be a cult classic. It just has to have a small but passionate audience. The best cult films gradually find a broader fan base — or maybe it just takes a while to find its audience — or for the audience to catch up to it. My favorite cult classics include Office Space and The Big Lebowski, a movie which is now so beloved it has annual gatherings of its fans.

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