The 25 Best ‘Cult Classics’ Of All-Time

25. Streets of Fire, 1984

Dubbed “A Rock & Roll Fable,” director Walter Hill intended this to be the first in a trilogy that’s part musical, part action drama starring a young Diane Lane, and Michael Pare (Eddie and the Cruisers), as the mercenary with a soft spot for her character. However, the movie made just $8 million and the concept died after one film. The movie, though, earned a loyal following thanks to video and a stellar soundtrack including the Jim Steinman-penned gems “Nowhere Fast” and “Tonight is What it Means to Be Young,” and Dan Hartman’s radio-hit “I Can Dream About You.”

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24. The Last American Virgin, 1982

While the premise of three friends trying to lose their virginity would suggest this is another typical teenage sex romp, it’s far from. The viewer may actually feel for the central character, Gary (Lawrence Monoson), an awkward teen trying to find his way in life and love. The end is actually somewhat heartbreaking, and makes the film more realistic than one would think. A stellar early-‘80s soundtrack featuring U2, The Police and The Cars, plus all the REO Speedwagon one can handle, is why it’s legacy is a strong one.

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23. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, 1970

This campy, satirical film following the journey of a female rock band dealing with creepy managers, jealous significant others, greed and fame is perhaps best known for a screen play written by the legendary late film critic Roger Ebert. It’s a Russ Meyer film, so there is plenty of sexploitation. But the camp is king and the soundtrack has a solid late-1960s-early-‘70s psychedelic sound.

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22. Re-Animator, 1985

Bringing dead bodies back to life who become zombie-like characters, what can be more entertaining? Especially in the 1980s, when science-fiction was being taken to a more visual and captivating level. The film has just the right amount of violence, horror and plenty of under-the-table humor while also delivering a healthy dose of gratuitous sexual content. It was well-received on release and continued to thrive on video and DVD.

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21. Blade Runner, 1982

It took a while, but Ridley Scott’s sci-fi, retro-fitted future about the “replicants” and a jaded cop (Harrison Ford) tasked with taking them down, has become a cult-fan must see. The film’s “neo-noir” look and use of music to dictate the pace of the story has had a major influence on the sci-fi genre. A sequel – Blade Runner 2049 – was released in 2017.

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20. Donnie Darko, 2001

Jake Gyllenhaal heads an impressive cast that includes Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore and Seth Rogan. It wasn’t a big hit initially, but thrived in the home video market as fans became captivated by Gyllenhaal’s Darko and his journey to learn the reasons for his end-of-the-world visions. Music from the 1980s, specifically Tears for Fears and Joy Division, enhance the entertainment value.

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19. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974

A controversial film at the time that was even banned by some theaters because of its violent nature, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is now one of the most popular “slasher” movies of all-time. A slumber-party staple, the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface remains one of the most recognizable killers of this genre, and a character that has allowed this movie to create a successful franchise within film, video games and graphic novels.

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18. Repo Man, 1984

A hit when it came out, this Emilio Estevez-driven vehicle remains a favorite to this day. Estevez and the late Harry Dean Stanton shine in a movie with the perfect blend of science-fiction, punk rock and comedy. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and keeps the audience engaged. How can it not be a hit?

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17. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, 1985

The eccentric Paul Reubens took his quirky and successful stage character from The Pee-wee Herman Show on to the big screen. The result was a roaring success in this Tim Burton-directed tale of Herman trying to track down his stolen bicycle. The late Phil Hartman was one of the co-writers and Danny Elfman scored the film that brought us “Large Marge” and the annoying, but hysterical “I know you are but what am I” exchange.

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16. Fight Club, 1999

Even with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in tow, this David Fincher movie wasn’t a commercial success out of the gate. But because of its unique and highly controversial story about an underground fight club and the main character’s dissatisfaction with his personal and professional life, the movie drew a larger following. Supporting roles by Jared Leto and singer Meat Loaf only enhance the film’s legacy.

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15. They Live, 1988

John Carpenter has directed some big-screen classics (Halloween, The Thing, Christine), but this one might have the biggest cult following. Roddy Piper, the late pro wrestler in his finest lead role, plays a drifter who happens upon some dark sunglasses that are a window to a world run by aliens. Piper doesn’t say much, but his 5 ½-minute fight scene with Keith David, complete with an assortment of WWE-style wrestling moves, is legendary.

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14. A Clockwork Orange, 1971

The film adaptation of the 1960s novel of the same name is disturbing, violent and campy all at the same time, in true Stanley Kubrick form. Taking place in an apparent futuristic English setting, the movie follows the demented and deranged young Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his gang of “droogs.” A box office success that earned four Oscar nominations, the film became even more popular in the years that followed. You’ll never listen to “Singin’ in the Rain” the same way again.

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13. Reservoir Dogs, 1992

Quentin Tarantino’s first feature-length effort is considered one of the best independent films of all-time. The heist film introduced movie-goers to Tarantino’s unique and often controversial characters, as well as innovative direction, lighting and moral journey of said characters. Stealers Wheel’s 1973 hit “Stuck in the Middle with You” became more popular than ever thanks to Michael Madsen and his trusty straight razor.

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12. The Warriors, 1979

Violence reigns supreme in this Walter Hill classic. A midnight-showing staple still to this day, The Warriors was controversial at the time as fights and vandalism broke out at showings of the movie, especially in New York City, where the film is based. Plus, it made the Baseball Furies a popular Halloween costume option. The lines “Can you dig it?” from the late Roger Hill’s Cyrus and “Warriors, come out to play,” via David Patrick Kelly’s Luther are both cult-classic gold.

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11. The Evil Dead, 1981

Sam Raimi has created a monster – pun intended – with the Evil Dead franchise, and this got it all started. It made Bruce Campbell a star and his Ash Williams character one of the most popular figures in horror movie history. It features some of the goriest, yet entertaining, death scenes in the genre. It’s fair to include Evil Dead II alongside the original.

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10. Harold and Maude, 1971

Hal Ashby’s dark, romantic comedy might be the epitome of the cult classic. The film was far from a hit at the box office, but eventually thrived with the advent of the VCR. The May-September relationship between the young, death-obsessed Harold (Bud Cort) and 79-year-old free spirit Maude (Ruth Gordon) just seems to work, and proves that life is worth living even to those who do not believe that’s the case.

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9. The Princess Bride, 1987

Not a big box office hit, but like many other cult favorites, took on a life of its own through home video. In the case of this Rob Reiner gem, it’s one of the more quotable movies around. “Inconceivable,” “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” “As you wish,” and “Have fun storming the castle.” All memorable lines, along with the R.O.U.S.’s and Andre the Giant as “Fezzik.”

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8. Office Space, 1999

Anybody who has worked in an office environment can probably relate to this Mike Judge movie. A somewhat unknown Ron Livingston stars as a whiny, burnt out computer programmer who hates his job and decides to do something about it. The film failed at the box office, but home video ignited its popularity. Gary Cole as the smarmy Bill Lumbergh might be the most hated fictional boss in film history.

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7. Heathers, 1988

A teenage love story with a body count. This late-‘80s black comedy has grown into a cult favorite for its twisted attack on high school popularity – a storyline that was acceptable at the time but probably could not be told in the same fashion today. Still, Christian Slater’s renegade J.D. and Winona Ryder’s Veronica Sawyer work brilliantly together while teaming against the original Mean Girls – all named Heather. Corn Nuts and slushies for everyone.

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6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975

King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail has never been funnier. Though reviews varied at the time of its release, Monty Python’s legend grew and remains the famed British comedy troop’s most successful venture. “Run away, run away” from that killer bunny. Just one of the memorable moments from a movie that spawned the hugely popular Broadway smash adaptation Spamalot.

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5. Clerks, 1994

Our introduction to the often warped, but completely genius mind of Kevin Smith. Made for less than $30,000 and shot in black and white, Clerks is the first installment of Smith’s New Jersey trilogy (Mallrats and Chasing Amy followed). The dialogue is often raunchy, but drives the movie about a day in the life of a convenient store clerk, his video-store working buddy and the duos overall disdain for their jobs. Don’t forget about Jay and Silent Bob.

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4. Dazed and Confused, 1993

The quintessential stoner film that is actually very relatable to anybody who attended high school parties and or played prep sports. Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age-flick features plenty of before-they-were-stars actors like Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey and once-indie queen Parker Posey. Not to mention a ‘70s-laden soundtrack that seems to fit perfectly with every scene featured. A cable staple, the movie’s themes of friendship and fitting-in still resonate today.

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3. This Is Spinal Tap, 1984

The godfather of all mockumentaries, the legacy of Rob Reiner’s film is so lasting that it’s preserved by the National Film Registry. It’s a satirical look at the life of a rock band and also pokes fun at rock documentaries of the time. Veteran comedic actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer brilliantly depict the fictional rock band through a series of monumentally hilarious moments. We still don’t understand why more amps don’t go to 11?

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2. The Big Lebowski, 1998

The Coen Brothers have made some critically acclaimed gems (Fargo, No Country for Old Men), but The Big Lebowski is probably their one film that can be enjoyed by any type of movie-goer. Great characters (“The Dude”), a sweet, eclectic soundtrack and witty dialogue that has become expected from the Coens. Time to put on your hooded sweatshirt and head to the bowling alley.

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1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975

Tonight, somewhere across the United States, this film will be playing at midnight. Fans will be dressed as their favorite characters, perhaps the handyman Riff Raff, nerdy Brad or Dr. Frank N. Furter. They’ll recite the lines, yell at the screen and do “The Time Warp” – again. That’s the Rocky Horror experience in a nutshell. Not many movies have such a devoted following, nor will any to come. It’s a parody and tribute at the same time, with catchy songs, crazy characters and just the right amount of comedy to make for a fun evening.

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