Everyone and everything deserve a second look, even films that were once considered an utter failure just because they don’t adhere to typical narratives. Such is the case of cult classic movies which feature a unique combination of genres in their storytelling and are ahead of their time.
Most cult classic movies went flop at the box office upon its initial release but they have attained glory and redemption over time. They succeedingly gained a huge following after their re-release on DVDs, midnight screenings, and on the small screen.
Cult classic movies also share something in common: an excellent repeat viewing value. From one generation to the next, a plethora of films that come in various genres has achieved cult status thanks to their deeply devoted fans.
So without further ado, here’s our 30 best cult classic movies that you can add to your collection of midnight screening staples and watch right in the comfort of your home.
Best Cult Classic Movies Of All Time
- Best Cult Classic Movies Of All Time
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- Blade Runner (1982)
- Jennifer's Body (2009)
- The Thing (1982)
- Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
- Donnie Darko (2001)
- Dazed and Confused (1993)
- Tombstone (1993)
- Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
- Trainspotting (1996)
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
- Taxi Driver (1976)
- Reservoir Dogs (1992)
- Scarface (1983)
- Aliens (1986)
- The Shining (1980)
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Pulp Fiction (1994)
- Repo Man (1984)
- Fargo (1996)
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
- The Warriors (1979)
- The Evil Dead (1981)
- Heathers (1989)
- Clerks (1994)
- Rocky (1976)
- The Blues Brothers (1980)
- The Exorcist (1973)
- They Live (1988)
- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Wizard of Oz has been acclaimed as one of the most iconic motion pictures ever made in the history of filmmaking. But did you know that it didn’t make money for MGM on its cinematic debut in 1939? It only realized a profit 10 years hence following its re-release.
This fantasy movie has evolved into an adored classic as it earns a spot in movie critics’ list of best movies of all time. In addition, the 1939 film received its cult status when it made a real connection with the TV viewers after it appeared on CBS in 1956.
Wizard of Oz has been lauded for its musical score, stunning visuals, incredible storytelling, and unforgettable characters. It got six Oscar nominations and won the Best Original Song and Best Original score by Herbert Stothart.
Cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr
Runtime: 1h 52min
Blade Runner (1982)
As crazy as it sounds, Blade Runner didn’t fare well in the box office when it first came out in theaters. It wasn’t a darling of film critics either as it generally received bad reviews. It maybe because it offers a darker, bitter take of the future compared to its contemporaries such as Star Wars and Star Trek.
However, Blade Runner has gained a massive following after it was released to eventually turn into an all-time best cult classic. To date, this Ridley Scott film has joined the ranks of the most celebrated sci-fi cinematic masterpieces in the world of filmmaking.
It also marked a significant milestone in developing cyberpunk genre movies and heavily influenced succeeding movies as well as anime and video games. This 80s dystopian sci-fi movie is an adaptation from a novel by Philip K. Dick who also wrote A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report.
Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos
Runtime: 1h 57m
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Jennifer’s Body is also one of the best cult classic movies of all time from acclaimed screenwriter of Juno, Diablo Cody. But like the others on this list, the horror-comedy was a commercial failure upon its initial release. It made a meager $31.5 million at the box office worldwide against a $16 million budget.
This Megan Fox-led movie also received a negative critical reception when it premiered in 2009 and Cody blamed it to poor marketing. 21st Century Fox advertised as an excessively erotic horror flick which focused on pleasing the male audiences. .
Over a decade later, critics say Jennifer’s Body was ahead of its time and has since gained a massive fandom. It goes from flop to a feminist cult classic which explored profound theme of sexuality and women empowerment.
Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody, Chris Pratt
Runtime: 1h 42m
The Thing (1982)
Director John Carpenter’s The Thing failed to resonate with the 80s audience who, according to pundits, were more into the E.T. vibe. During its theatrical debut, it immediately drew flak and negative reviews.
The 1982 title suffered a hard blow from critics for its dark tone and grim plot vis-à-vis its contemporary sci-fi pieces that offer a much lighter theme. Over time, The Thing has gained traction upon its re-release on home video and TV and amassed a cult following.
Renowned filmmaker Quentin Tarantino even paid homage to Carpenter’s masterpiece when he created The Hateful Eight. His film also uses same winter setting, an original score from Ennio Morricone, and Kurt Russell as lead actor.
Cast: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimlev, T.K. Carter, David Clennon
Runtime: 1h 49m
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Wet Hot American Summer is an outrageously hilarious teen comedy filled with a lot of sex and profanity. This could explain why it got a lukewarm reception and a commercial disaster at the box office upon its 2001 release.
As time passes, it has appealed to a new generation of viewers and became so popular to have its own wide fanbase. The film’s massive following enticed Netflix to release a prequel series in 2015. The giant streaming app also made a sequel series to the original movie in 2017 set a decade later.
Wet Hot American Summer follows a group of counselors who each attempts to accomplish their unfinished business before the last day of camp ends. It features an ensemble cast which include many of today’s Hollywood A-listers such as Bradley Cooper in his acting debut.
Cast Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper
Runtime: 1h 37m
Donnie Darko (2001)
On its initial outing, Donnie Darko suffered a tremendous loss at the box office, raking in just more than half a million dollars against its $4.5 million budget. One of the reasons behind its failure was it lacked advertising effort. Another one was the movie trailer which showed a horrible plane crash scene several weeks after the traumatic 9/11 attack.
Donnie Darko, however, bounced back following its re-release and recorded a profit that’s more than it did on its initial theatrical run. It also received critical acclaim for its philosophical themes and gained millions of devoted fans across the world.
This unorthodox sci-fi film features a young Jake Gyllenhaal in the titular role as a troubled teenager. He gets visions of a rabbit which foretells an impending apocalypse.
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Seth Rogen, Jena Malone
Runtime: 1h 53m
Dazed and Confused (1993)
On its initial opening in cinemas, Dazed and Confused similarly shared the same fate with the rest of the box-office bombs on this list. It only made a modest $8 million gross sales worldwide against a $6.9 million budget.
However, this coming-of-age movie about a group of Texan teenagers celebrating their last day in high school has received critical acclaim. It is highly regarded as a cinematic touchstone and a must-see 90s cult classic to watch.
Directed by Richard Linklater, Dazed and Confused features an ensemble cast and catapulted Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck to stardom. This teen comedy is also well-remembered with McConaughey’s famous line, “Alright, alright, alright.”
Cast: Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Renée Zellweger, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey
Runtime: 1h 42m
We sparingly come across a film that has instantaneously achieved a cult status right after its first release but Tombstone certainly did so. All thanks to its successful theatrical opening, regular DVD sales, and satisfactory TV ratings.
Tombstone amassed a cult following for its near-perfect 1880s costume design. It also offers compelling acting performances of historical characters as well as impressive sets that transcend time and space.
Directors George P. Cosmatos and Kevin Jarre’s western drama has also been recognized as best Western ever made in the past 25 years.
Cast: Kurt Russell, Van Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Dana Delaney
Runtime: 2h 14m
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
George A. Romero’s 1968 original version of Night Of The Living Dead is lauded as one of the greatest indie horror movies in history of filmmaking. It boasts horror elements that make a real cult classic and mixes it up with various undertones.
Despite low budget, Night Of The Living Dead has continued to receive praises five decades hence and succeeded in getting a message across its audiences. It has also laid the first stone for other survival and zombie movies that followed.
This horror masterpiece makes a perfect scary movie to watch to get some Halloween feels or a scary adventure.
Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Tony Todd
Runtime: 1h 37m
Renowned filmmaker Danny Boyle created the 90s masterpiece Trainspotting which also earned a cult status. This cult classic movie receives warm reception as it poignantly reflects the proliferation of drugs in Edinburgh in the 80s era.
This 1996 crime drama is further acclaimed as the most notable anti-drug film since its release. It gained a cult following as it sends a powerful message: a life after addiction for those who choose sobriety.
The British indie film fared well at box office contrary to other cult classic movies with $71.5 million gross sales worldwide on $18 million budget. It also earned a critical success, winning the BAFTA Film Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Kelly MacDonald
Runtime: 1h 34m
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Coen Brothers brought the most popular cult classic in pop culture to the fore in 1998. Entitled The Big Lebowski, this black comedy neo-noir crime film only pulled in $17 million upon its release in cinemas.
Years later, this adored hangout sensation has attained a cult status after fans reviewed it on the internet and social media. It now has a total earnings of nearly $47 million to date.
The movie’s unforgettable catchphrases, sunny acting performances, and brilliant characters place it on the ranks of the best cult classic movies of all time.
Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi
Runtime: 1h 57m
Taxi Driver (1976)
Legendary director Martin Scorsese made the hit drama Taxi Driver one of top cult classics ever made after its premiere in 1976. Playing the lead role of Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro soon became a Hollywood sensation of .
De Niro delivered a compelling portrayal of the main character who became famous of his immensely popular punchline, “You talkin’ to me?” This catchphrase, which De Niro himself improvised, even made it to the top 10 film lines by the American Film Institute.
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodi Foster, Harvey Keitel, Martin Scorsese, Cybill Shepherd
Runtime: 1h 54m
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Reservoir Dogs is Quentin Tarantino’s entry film to our curated list of 30 best cult classic movies of all time. Recognized by Empire magazine as the Greatest Independent Film of All Time, this neo-noir crime drama revolves around a jewelry heist gone wrong and turned bloody.
It has built up a cult following among cinemaholics worldwide perhaps because it keeps the audience guessing what happens next. Plus, it features hilarious jokes and a well-told story with one-of-a kind motifs.
This cult classic marked Tarantino’s directorial debut film that made him one of the famous and respected film creators in Hollywood.
Cast: Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn
Runtime: 1h 39m
On its initial opening, Scarface disappointed film critics because of its extreme violence, the rather long runtime, and stereotyping Cuban immigrants. But in time, this Brian De Palma creation has grown into one of today’s celebrated cult classic.
It follows Tony Montana, a violent Cuban gangster who becomes the most notorious drug lord in Miami by killing anyone who gets in his way. Al Pacino is a perfect fit to play the lead role that cemented his star status.
The film is best remembered by the trademark punchlines that Pacino powerfully delivered. These include “The eyes, chico. The never lie” and others which have been referenced in a number of shows and animations.
Cast: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Runtime: 2h 50m
Award-winning director James Cameron took the audiences for a journey to outer space in the critically-acclaimed Aliens over three decades ago. It offers a gripping experience of a slow-burn monster movie in space to film aficionados that it became an all-time cult film favorite.
This horror sci-fi masterpiece is a visually stunning sequel to Alien which saw a successful release in 1979. The film revolves around the space crew’s deep space exploration and horrifying alien encounters 57 years after the events that transpired in the first film.
Aliens is a timeless cult classic that has a repeat value to die-hard fans of science and Cameron’s genius in filmmaking.
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser
Runtime: 2h 17m
The Shining (1980)
The movie adaptation of Stephen King’s eponymous novel The Shining is like wine that just gets better with time.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this timeless horror drama captures a massive cult following since its release in the 80s. Its immortal one-liners “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” has kinda stuck and lingered in the minds of its devoted fans.
This gorgeous film has many scary moments centering on Jack Torrance and his family. The all stay in a remote hotel for the winter but it turned out to be haunted. Jack Nicholson delivered brilliant performance in the lead role
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Runtime: 2h 26m
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption was a critical success for its story and the cast’s impeccable acting performances. Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the crime drama won two Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actor for Morgan Freeman.
But it was a box office flop upon its release in 1994, raking in a measly $16 million against $25 million budget. It however gained a cult following when it was later released on home video and made an overwhelming DVD sales and viewership. Its gross revenue is pegged at $73.3 million to date.
The cult classic’s most memorable punchline which stuck and resonate with its fans is Andy’s line which reads, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler
Runtime: 2h 22m
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction is arguably one of the greatest and most favorite cult classic movies ever made in the world of cinema. It is heralded as a masterpiece and the touchstone of post-modern films.
Tarantino, meanwhile, was lauded for film’s witty, entertaining well-written script. It also boasts top-caliber cast with the likes of John Travolta and Bruce Willis.
Pulp Fiction has been a popular theme for costume parties hosted by the film’s devoted fans who mimic the outfits of their favorite characters. The crime drama also features a cool immortal soundtrack and trademark dance move from the movie’s iconic dance scene.
Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis
Runtime: 2h 45m
Repo Man (1984)
Repo Man is the true definition of a quintessential cult classic movie. It looks like the movie appeals to just a specific audience with its off-beat rhythms and hilarious jokes. But it achieved a cult status when it has been able to amass more dedicated fans years later following its theatrical premiere.
Alex Cox’s punky sci-fi satire follows an angry young man (Emilio Estevez) who is hired to work in a repossession business but things get complicated when he discovers something in the Chevy Malibu trunk.
Repo Man features an intense punk soundtrack which includes a theme song by Iggy Pop.
Cast: Emilo Stevez, Harry Dean Stanton, Olivia Barash, Tracy Walter
Runtime: 1h 32m
Ethan and Joel Coen hit it big when the masterfully created comedy-thriller Fargo which critics believe is the brother’s wittiest film they ever made. This masterpiece ascended to its cult status for its unique plot, commendable acting, as well as its astonishing cinematography.
With a $7 million budget, it has made over $60 million in gross sales. It also attained critical success when it and bagged four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
Set in winter of 1987 Minnesota and North Dakota, Fargo a straightforward detective who investigates the brutal murder of two residents and a state trooper.
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
Runtime: 1h 38m
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The rock musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show defines a true-blue cult classic movie, not on the basis of its box office figures upon its first release. As a matter of fact, it was a commercial flop.
But it gained traction from its four-decade-long run at midnight screenings. It has now accumulated a gross revenue of $226 million.
The musical comedy’s tremendous success and relevance which spans through generations are attributed to a powerful message. It tells the viewers, “Don’t dream it, be it.”
Cast: Tim Curry, Richard O’brien, Susan Sarandon, Meat Loaf, Barr Bostwick
Runtime: 1h 40m
The Warriors (1979)
Walter Hill’s 1979 cult classic The Warriors was a fan-favorite while it was showing in cinemas. Although it first received negative reception, film pundits reviewed the action crime thriller and has since gotten a cult status.
Based on Sol Yurick’s 1965 eponymous novel, this crime thriller is ahead of its time. It’s inspired by street gang violence in the 70s.
With its captivating visuals, heart-warming theme, realistic fight scenes, and unique viewpoint, The Warriors has acquired new devoted fans over time. It’s a masterpiece that built up a huge following and is also rich with catchy lines.
Cast: Michael Beck, James Remar, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Marcelino Sanchez
Runtime: 1h 32m .
The Evil Dead (1981)
The Evil Dead ran on a low $375,000 budget and only opened in 15 cinemas on its opening weekend. But thanks to a grassroots campaign, this film has been acclaimed as one of most legendary movies of all time in the supernatural horror genre.
Written and directed by Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead stars Ash, who travels with his friends to an isolated cabin in the woods. There, they find an old book which contains texts that reawakens the dead.
Raimi’s debut film has extended its influence up until modern-day cinema, whether horror venture or other categories. It even evolved into a film franchise which spawned a couple of direct sequels, a reboot, and a TV series.
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker
Runtime: 1h 25m
Heathers failed miserably at the box office flop on its initial outing. But it found a second chance on home video and also became a popular Broadway musical.
Directed Michael Lehmann, the dark comedy about peer pressure in high school follows a clique of four famous girls in the campus and murder. It has developed into a cult classic movie with its fantastic one-liners that its avid fans like to quote.
This teen film later on has been tagged as one of the best coming-of-age movies of all time. Heathers even inspired popular teen films such as Clueless and Mean Girls. .
Cast: Winona Rder, Christian Slater, Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk, Shannen Doherty
Runtime: 1h 43m
Almost three decades after its premiere, Clerks has remained a quintessential film of the 90s independent cinema. It also launched the career of Kevin Smith as one of Hollywood’s most talented writer slash director of this era.
Shot in black and white mainly because of a limited budget, Clerks makes an excellent indie comedy that has plenty of hilarious moments. It also offers a refreshing take on people’s everyday lives to achieve a cult following.
Clerks is both a theatrical success and critical success that it spawned two sequels. This Kevin masterpiece is recognized as tipping point in making indie films.
Cast: Kevin Smith, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Brian O’Hallora, Ben Affleck
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rocky is an award-winning sports drama that has acquired a cult status since it hit the big screen in the 70s. Winning an Oscar for Best Picture, this feel-good boxing film spurred Sylvester Stallone’s acting career and made him an instant Hollywood celebrity.
Running just over a $1 million budget, Rocky was also box office hit. With Stallone’s remarkable performance, fans still break into tears even if they watched this cult classic for the nth time. Stallone’s lead character is known for his famous one-liner, “Yo, Adrian! I did it”.
Rocky is hailed as the best sports film that made Rocky Balboa an iconic fictional boxing legend. Its enormous success has called for the release of three more film sequels.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers
Runtime: 1h 59m
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Directed by John Landis, The Blues Brothers is acclaimed as one of most celebrated movies of all time. But it wasn’t until decades later when it became a cult classic.
The musical comedy has some brilliant moments that explain why it has gained a huge cult following. Thanks to the film’s incredible soundtrack, fans can groove to the music, have a good laugh, and piece of action while watching it.
With an estimated $27 million budget, it didn’t fare well at the box office on its initial theatrical release. However, it continues to make money from midnight screenings and now records over $115 million gross revenue worldwide.
Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway, John Candy
Runtime: 2h 13m
The Exorcist (1973)
The Exorcist is a movie adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s eponymous novel. It is said to be the scariest horror film ever created in the history of filmmaking and was a box-office success when it premiered in theaters.
On its release back in the early 70s, this supernatural horror film scared the hell out of the audiences. It continues to bring horror to movie goers at present with believable the cast’s compelling performances spine-chilling screening experience.
The Exorcist tells the terrifying story of 12-year-old girl who is possessed by the devil. This disturbing piece has gained a solid cult following over time perhaps because of cited incidence of puking and heart attacks happening in cinemas while watching the film.
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb
Runtime: 2h 12m
They Live (1988)
They Live is another John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror film which also made it to the hall of fame of cult classics. It first received negative reviews from critics, especially in its acting and writing department as well as social commentary.
However, it was able to have its dedicated fanbase just like other Carpenter films which are considered ahead of their time. Overall, it’s a spot-on in a lot of aspects with hilarious and outrageous action scenes.
Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, Raymond St. Jacques
Runtime: 1h 37m
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian crime drama from the reputable filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. It is delightful blend the horror and science fiction genres which is a recipe of a cult classic. .
This disturbing and thought-provoking film is an adaptation of Anthon Burgess’ eponymous 1962 novel. It received mixed reviews on its first outing in theaters as it contains graphic violence and was even banned in other countries.
Later on, however, A Clockwork Orange earned its rightful place in the roster of the best cult classic movies of all time after a critical reevaluation. It further received several Academy Award nominations including Best Picture.
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke
Runtime: 2h 16m