Last Updated: February 18th
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.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Run Time: 136 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian crime thriller A Clockwork Orange most certainly is not a breezy watch. The film, based on the classic novel by Anthony Burgess, follows the charismatic, completely unhinged Alex (Malcolm McDowell), leader of a gang of criminals who enjoy inciting chaos and committing horrific crimes. When Alex is captured, the Minister of the Interior suggests experimenting on him using rehabilitation techniques that psychologically condition him to become averse to violence and sex. They work, for a time, and to disastrous consequences, but Kubrick’s real goal with this film was to dive into the idea of free will and morality.
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
This disaster parody starring Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty has become a sort of cult classic over the years, mainly thanks to its slapstick comedy and verbal puns and gags, of which there are plenty. Hays plays an ex-fighter pilot (with a serious fear of flying), who must take over when the pilot of a commercial flight he’s on becomes ill.
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.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Run Time: 113 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
For anyone surprised that John Malkovich was the funniest thing about Netflix’s recently released Space Force, I’d like to point you to this Spike Jonze fantasy mindf*ck. Malkovich has been a comedy giant since the ’90s, but he masks his funny in truly weird vehicles, like this movie about a puppeteer (John Cusack) who discovers a portal that leads into the mind of actor John Malkovich. It’s bizarre, but the funniest things usually are.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Run Time: 99 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
The early aughts action-comedy borrows elements from famous Kung Fu films of the ’70s and pairs them with a completely ridiculous plot and some impressive cartoon-style fight sequences to produce a wholly original flick that we guarantee you’ll marvel at. The film follows the exploits of two friends, Sing and Bone, who impersonate gang members in the hopes of joining a gang themselves and inadvertently strike up a gang war that nearly destroys the slums of the city. Of course, the real draw here is the absurdist, over-the-top comedy that takes place during some of the film’s biggest action sequences. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, but only if you check your brain at the door.
Run Time: 82 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
One of the better found-footage movies to come down the pike in Paranormal Activity‘s wake is this creepy gem about a videographer (director Patrick Brice) who answers a strange Craigslist ad from a man (Mark Duplass) who requests to be followed around with a camera for 24 hours. There are a few points late in the narrative where suspension of disbelief becomes an issue (a not-atypical problem for the genre), but if you can look past that, you’ll be treated to a very scary turn by Duplass and a supremely-unnerving epilogue.
Mad Max (1979)
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
George Miller has come a long way since this 80s action-packed adventure, which kicked off his uber-successful film franchise, but there’s a bit of nostalgia and something else … something special about revisiting where it all began. The story, as you probably already know, is about a former Australian policeman with a score to settle who goes hunting in an apocalyptic wasteland for the biker gang that ruined his life. It’s a bit more raw and outdated than Miller’s later entries but it’s still good.
Run Time: 126 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Chris Evans stars in this sci-fi thriller from auteur Bong Joon-ho. The film, set years into the future following a devastating ice age caused by mankind, follows Evans’ Curtis who lives in poverty on a train that continuously circles the Earth and contains all that remains of human life. Curtis is part of the “scum” the people relegated to the back of the train while the “elite” enjoy the privilege of wealth and status that comes with living in the front. Curtis sparks a rebellion that ends in bloodshed and a devastating reveal when he makes it to the train’s engine room and discovers just how the elite have been fueling their operation. It’s a dark, grimy action piece that should give fans a new appreciation for Evans’ talent.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Run Time: 85 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Another ’80s flick, this Sam Raimi creation launched the director’s career and has since become a cult classic. The story follows a group of college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in a remote wooded area when they find an audio tape that somehow releases a legion of demons and spirits. Most of the group suffer varying degrees of possession which leads to gory mayhem (hence the film’s NC-17 rating).