No Money No Cry | Why Cult Movies Are Cult movies by Mark de Wit
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Why Cult Movies Are Cult movies by Mark de Wit

What defines cult movies? Is it their genre, their actors, their budget, their box-office success or failure, something else?

According to Wikipedia, a cult movie is “a film with a cult following, obscure or unpopular with mainstream audiences, and often revolutionary or ironically enjoyed”. Let‟s take a look at what most cult movies have in common. And that seems to be their genre. Almost all cult movies are either in the sci-fi or horror genre. But there are many exceptions to that rule. For instance Kevin Smith‟s „Clerks‟. A low budget black and white picture from 1994 shot by a few friends, which, if you would have to give it a genre, fits in with dark comedy.

Some would argue cult movies are always movies with a low budget. But again, there are many, many exceptions to that rule as well. Take for instance 1994‟s „The Shawshank Redemption‟. This prison-flick had a $25 million budget, bombed at the box office at the time of its release, but gained a very strong cult following in later years. Such a big following even one could argue today it can no longer be considered a cult film.

Maybe a cult film is something totally different for every individual. What defines a cult movie for this author? I asked myself that very question upon writing this article. To me cult movies are movies that are so bad, they become good again, or great even. For instance when I watch a low budget horror movie about a monster, and that monster is very obviously just a guy in a rubber suit, i immediately consider it to be a cult film. With extra points earned if you can make out the zipper in said suit. Or how about the old Japanese Godzilla movies, once again a guy in a rubber suit trampling a cardboard city. Gotta love that stuff.

Sometimes a film‟s actors can make a movie feel like cult to me. Great examples of some of those actors are Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Atkins and Charles Napier, just to name a few. Whenever they appear on my screen I immediately get that cult movie vibe.

In the end I feel it all comes down to personal preference, and what I consider a cult classic, might seem like garbage to somebody else. There is a great article on that goes much deeper into the subject, naming some great cult film examples and looking at their history, because they only came about once television became a thing. You‟ll have to read the article to understand why.

So next time when you are watching a cult film, take a moment and ask yourself why you consider that movie to be cult. You might be surprised at your own answer.

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