Last Updated: December 7th
In the world of film, a cult classic is that rarest of unicorns. It’s a film that eschews mainstream popularity and blockbuster ticket sales, a film that’s misunderstood, under-appreciated by the masses, intended only for true cinephiles that can enjoy its elevated artistry. A cult movie is one that’s ahead of its time. It pushes the envelope, deals in raunchy humor, grotesque violence, thought-provoking comedy, or campy horror. Most people won’t get it, but that’s okay. For the fans of cult films, the fun comes in being part of a select few who truly understand the nuance of dick jokes, stoner comedies, and over-acted crime thrillers. And like fine wine, cult films only get better with age.
Here are some of the best cult classics currently streaming on Netflix.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Run Time: 91 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
Even if you’ve never seen any of the Monty Python films, you most certainly know of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s been quoted, memed, gif-ed, and idolized by comedy fans for generations. At its core, it’s a parody of the legends of King Arthur and his knights. It’s stocked with an impressive cast — John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, etc — and it’s full of eccentric characters, bizarre adventures, and gut-bustingly funny jokes. Think failed Trojan Rabbits, modern-day murder investigations, animated monsters, and musical numbers. Intellectual midgets everywhere will love it.
American Psycho (2000)
Run Time: 101 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Christian Bale stars in this horror thriller from director Mary Harron that focuses on a wealthy New York businessman with bloody habits. Bale plays Patrick Bateman, an investment banker seemingly dissatisfied with his life of excess and envious of his successful colleagues. To cope, he entertains psychotic fantasies that see him hacking prostitutes up with chainsaws and torturing his co-workers. It’s an edge-of-your-seat gore fest that leaves you questioning any sense of reality you may have in the end.
Run Time: 103 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
At the tail end of a decade of teen films dominated by John Hughes movies came Heathers, which turned Hughes’ observations of high school cliques into black comedy. There’s no Saturday-morning detention long enough to bring peace to the warring factions of Westerburg High, so outsider JD (Christian Slater) decides to expose the underlying hypocrisy with the help of Veronica (Winona Ryder) — but without telling her there will be a corpse or two involved. Though much-imitated, Daniel Waters’ screenplay remains a model of dark wit. It’s still the take-no-prisoners high-school comedy all others want to be.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Run Time: 112 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Edgar Wright’s 2010 action comedy about a hapless boy who must defeat evil ex-boyfriends in order to win the hand of the girl he loves is a fast-paced ride that bombards the senses. Michael Cera plays a loveable goof in the titular hero, a young man enamored with a woman named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be with his lady love, Scott must fight her evil exes, six guys, one girl, who challenge him to truly strange contests. The film is a cinematic mash-up of Japanese anime and gamer culture, intended for the crowd who grew up on Nintendo and comic books, but it brings plenty of laughs all the same.
The Crow (1994)
Run Time: 102 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
The legacy of The Crow has, sadly, been marred by the tragic death of its male lead, Brandon Lee. (Lee was struck by a defective blank on set and died during surgery with just a week left of filming.) The movie was refashioned to serve as a kind of tribute to the young actor, and it’s gained a cult following since, particularly because Lee plays a badass rockstar brought back to life to get revenge on the men who raped and killed his fiancée. It’s full of action and impressive stunts done by Lee himself, but the actor pairs his fight prowess with an emotional range that only elevates the story at the heart of this flick.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
Jim Henson’s imaginative fantasy adventure was eons ahead of its time when it premiered in the early ’80s. The story was set in a magical world called Thra and followed a Gelfling named Jen who set out on an epic quest to restore order to his world by finding the missing shard of a powerful crystal. The world-building of this movie is what gained it a cult following, but it’s the puppetry, and how Henson pushes the boundaries of filmmaking, that make it truly special to watch all these years later.
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
A stone-faced Ryan Gosling steers us through the criminal underworld created by director Nicolas Winding Refn in this high-speed thriller. Gosling plays a near-silent stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway man. When he gets involved with his next-door neighbor and her young son, his carefully cultivated life is thrown into chaos, forcing him to align with criminals and take on risky jobs to protect the pair and keep a firm grip on the wheel.
Run Time: 122 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Look, we were just as excited about Stranger Things star David Harbour picking up the mantle of this fantasy hero as the next nerd, but before we enjoy a new iteration of the comic book character, we need to appreciate the brilliance of Ron Perlman as the devilish beast destined to save the world. Guillermo del Toro directs this epic, which means that even the convoluted and ridiculous plot — a story about a demon spawn brought to Earth through a portal opened by Nazis, who must fight an evil Russian mystic that unleashes monsters on the world — is somehow still riveting and beautifully shot.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Run Time: 154 min | IMDb: 8.9/10
Possibly the most famous of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces, Pulp Fiction stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman spitting out punchy dialogue, pop culture references, and committing some pretty violent crimes along the way. Tarantino’s love of non-linear storytelling is on full display here with three separate plots, all entwined in some way, take shape over the course of the film. Travolta plays Vincent, a hitman for a mob boss who, along with his partner Jules (Jackson), survives a couple of shootouts in the film as the two contemplate their life of crime, escort mob wives across town, help fix boxing matches, and dispose of dead bodies.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Run Time: 132 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving star in this sci-fi action flick about a dystopian world ruled by tyranny and fascism. Portman plays Evey, a frightened young woman thrust into a world of cloaked rebellion after a meeting with the mysterious V (Weaving), a man who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and plans to blow up Parliament in one year. The British government has utilized a military state to purge itself of “undesirables,” homosexuals, free-thinkers, those of a different race and religious background than they deem worthy. V seeks to correct this by punishing the government, slashing up police, burning down buildings, and inciting others, including Evey, to riot. It’s an action-filled romp that packs a philosophical punch.