Top 10 Cult Films

Neal Damiano of FilmWad takes a look at the best cult films of all time from Barbarella and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai to Repo Man and Blue Velvet.

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The dictionary categorises the cult movie as one “of, for, or attracting a small group of devotees”, that has “acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans.”

Cult films are often those which grow in popularity some time after release (often, many years after release). They are held in high regard by those that hold them dear to their hearts, and many of these films have become the poster-of-choice for pop culture-shunning students around the world. Some of these cult classics transcend the definition to become widely held favourites while others, in the so-bad-it’s-good category, remain destined for obscurity.

We take a look at some of our favourites.

10. Barbarella (Roger Vadim, France/Italy, 1968)

One of the quirkiest films in history. It made a sex symbol out of Jane Fonda. As a wandering and swinging 41st century girl in plastic thigh highs traveling the galaxy in a furlined starship it was hard to keep your eyes off her. Best line “I’d better adjust my tongue box”

9. The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension (W. D. Richter, USA, 1984)

The hero wore many hats in this zany film – a scientist, surgeon, and rockstar. The villain was named Dr. Lizardo. It was destined to be a cult classic. Coined the famous quote “Wherever you go, there you are.”

8. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, USA, 1998)

A very eccentric film about a strange schoolboy, a widowed teacher, and a sad tycoon. Very popular video rental.

7. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, USA, 1968)

Made with only $20,000. George Romero packed up equipment, headed to northern Pennsylvania, and shot this frightening zombie classic that influenced every zombie movie to come.

6. The Warriors (Walter Hill, USA, 1979)

Walter Hill’s vision of urban paranoia. Street gangs in New York fight over territory. The Warriors try to get home to Coney Island in one piece. Filmed with a low budget, evidence of which is the unique gang costumes. Who could forget The Baseball Furies.

5. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, USA, 1986)

David Lynch set the bar of “quirky” with this 1986 gem. With references to Van Gogh, and Dennis Hopper as a drug dealing, kidnapping, sex-crazed sociopath, this movie could not get anymore bizarre.

4. Repo Man (Alex Cox, USA, 1984)

Alex Cox’s punk/sci-fi classic about two guys who repossess cars. Very dark undertones. Emilio Estevez’s character somehow finds higher meaning to life by repossessing cars.

3. Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, USA, 1989)

Made on a small budget in Portland, Gus Van Sant made a surreal film about bad habits. A very offbeat story of four drifters that rob pharmacies to support their drug addiction. Memorable cameo by William S. Burroughs.

2. Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1989, USA)

A sarcastic but truthful take on high school life. Heathers is one of the greatest dark comedies ever made. This anti-teen classic “blew up” (pun intended!) the genre like no other film. The witty one-liners are nonstop and the film features a great ending.

1. Night of the Comet (Thom Eberhardt, USA, 1984)

A story of life after the apocalypse. Two sisters and a truck driver find their way around Los Angeles battling off humans who got zombified after a comet hit. This one has it all – zombies, evil scientists, snarky valley girls, witty one-liners, and a happy ending. Best quote “Attention K-Mart shoppers.” It bombed at the box office but went on to be one of the most rented cult films on video.

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano.
Follow Neal (@Nealreviews1) on Twitter by clicking here and read more of his reviews at FilmWad

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About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.

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  1. Avatar
    Pete Reply

    A lot of films I want to see on this list and a few I’ve never heard of, including your number one!

    I get very confused by what a cult film actually is. I’ve heard Star Wars called one but surely that’s too popular? What about Blair Witch? Clerks? Napoleon Dynamite?

  2. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Hi, Neal and company:

    Thanks for assembling a pretty decent list!

    Haven’t seen ‘Rushmore’, but completely agree with ‘Night of the Living Dead’. One of the great, low to no budget ‘Bang For The Buck’ flicks that still delivers today.

    Excellent catches with ‘Buckaroo Banzai…’ and ‘Repo Man’. And no list is complete without ‘Blue Velvet’. Though ‘Barbarella’ is growing a bit long in the tooth.

  3. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    @Pete …..well Blair Witch hardly had a following at all and it was way over publicised! Clerks is a great cult film but I felt it doesn’t quite make my top ten. I couldn’t stand Napoleon Dynamite it also had wide mainstream popularity from the gate.

    Star Wars is in no way considered a cult film in my opinion.

    A cult film is a movie that attracts a small but devoted group of obsessive fans or one that has remained popular over successive years amongst a small group of followers. Often the film failed to achieve mainstream success on its original release.

    Thank you for your interest

  4. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    @Jack thanks glad you like the list, yes Night of the Living Dead is a classic! Blue Velvet is one of my faves.

    Well Barbarella isn’t one of my favorites but it does have a huge following to date. The story was just so quirky and gained more success after it’s release. Geez did Jane Fonda look good!!

  5. Avatar
    Jaina Reply

    So much love for Warriors. I’m a new fan to it, but just fell for it the first time I saw it.

    Would consider putting Office Space up in this list too.

  6. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Thanks Jaina

    I know isn’t it such a fascinating film…always liked this movie as a kid – my friends & I would always qoute the lines.

  7. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    Boondock Saints!!!!!!

    Ahem. Nice list, Neil, although I too haven’t head of quite a few of these… Some I most definitely SHOULD have, mind you.

    I’ll have to peruse the bottom shelf of the local rental store to see if I can find them….

  8. Avatar
    Louise Reply

    Great idea for a list – and one that’ll get us all talking. I haven’t seen it (yet – it’s on my shelf though) but surely Withnail & I is the very epitome of a cult film. Especially with its small but very very devoted following.

  9. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    @Louise yes I’ve heard buzz of this film Withnail & I but I’m true to my lists and haven’t seen it so I couldn’t put it up. There is so many great cult films seen a lot but a lot I have not. Liquid Sky is another epitomy of a cult film ….but I post what I’m most familiar with!

  10. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    @rodney Thanks for the interest my friend. Definitely check out these films on my list some are essential like Heathers & Night of the Comet.

  11. Avatar
    Louise Reply

    @Neil I’m exactly the same.

  12. Avatar
    mark Reply

    I would argue that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre should be on this list … I may be wrong, but during the first few years of its release it had a dedicated midnite following in the US despite the fact no one at the New York Times had ever officially reviewed it.

  13. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    @Mark very true I agree that is a very valid point….and I liked Texas. Chainsaw Massacre very much I think it’s one of the greats of frightening and scary films. I didn’t consider it but you just made the point for me right from the start of its release it gained a massive following almost immediately into the mainstream. Everyone has seen this film. I think it’s much more suited among the top ten frightening horror films list. Btw Roger Ebert and Peter Travers have done reviews on this. Thanks for the input and interest.

  14. Avatar
    Erich Kuersten Reply

    Hey Neil – I like that so many of these are from the 80s, having just posted a best of the 80s list on my own site with a culty edge. THAT SAID, does Rushmore really belong here? It’s pretty mainstream and was a hit from the get-go. Cults that spring up around a particular film would exclude it, in favor of, say, TROLL 2, DONNIE DARKO, and SPIDER BABY, all of which have devoted cults who gather for conventions devoted solely to that film, etc. THAT SAID, well done for putting Night of the Comet and The Warriors together on the same list!

    • Avatar
      Neal Damiano Reply


      I just decided to revisit this from a memory post on my FB page so I just saw this and will answer after years of this post being up. And I do hope you see the reply eventually.I guess you can say, it is debatable whether Rushmore belongs on here or not. I put it on here because I think the film wasn’t very popular when it was released. Then went on to gain a huge cult following among Wes Anderson fans, shortly after release. I know there’s no Rushmore conventions but does that solidify a cult film? It has a very big following among people who like quirky films.
      Donnie Darko which you mention, I think was quite popular right out the gate, nonetheless a great film. Thanks for reading buddy.

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