Unless and until you have watched at least a few cult classics you really can’t call yourself a serious film buff. However, there are so many cult movies to choose from it’s hard to know where to begin. Thankfully, Netflix has some choice selections to get you started.
A cult movie is difficult to define. They all share a certain identifiable style, and they’re usually commercially unsuccessful when first released. Fans and critics then discover these movies and they consequently gain popularity and notoriety over many years.
There is always some healthy debate as to whether a movie should be considered cult or not. This list contains great films that are generally agreed upon as being cult favorites, but, for those of you willing to dig a little deeper, there are plenty of others available to watch on Netflix.
Jack Burton is going to be your favorite superhero without superpowers. First released in 1986, Big Trouble In Little China (BTILC) had a weak welcome. But as the years rolled by, it became a cult classic. Dare I say it, but I think this is director John Carpenter’s finest work.
BTILC is the story of Burton and his sidekick Wang Chi, rescuing a damsel in distress (Wang’s fiancee) from a Chinese gang. This quickly escalates into a war between two ancient Chinese clans, with the duo caught in the middle of it. The movie parodies the gun-toting, kung-fu-fighting machismo flicks of the 80s. It’s a great movie to watch with your buddies, or by yourself when you want some mindless entertainment.
Pro Tip: Try watching it thinking Burton is the sidekick and Wang Chi is the hero. It’ll blow your mind!
Danny Boyle is now most famous as the director of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. But he first shot into the limelight in 1996 with Trainspotting.
Trainspotting follows the lives of five Scottish youngsters, all of whom are addicted to heroin. It’s a dramatic look at the effects of heroin and heroin addiction. Boyle is at his best in portraying what a heroin trip feels like.
Throw in fantastic performances by Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner, as well as a few crimes and hi-jinks, and you have a winner.
If you haven’t watched The Princess Bride, make it the first film you see after this article. It doesn’t matter what you’re in the mood for, this movie delivers it in spades.
Acclaimed director Rob Reiner presents a fantasy tale of a masked pirate rescuing the princess, who he has fallen in love with, from an evil prince. It’s an epic journey that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter, as he faces giant rodents, giant humans, and vengeful Spanish swordsmen.
Clerks is Kevin Smith’s directorial debut, and every geek needs to watch this film. Shot in black-and-white and by cobbling together a budget on credit card loans, it’s the epitome of the indie film movement.
Smith is best known for writing witty dialog in his movies, and Clerks delivers that in spades. It’s the story of two clerks and best friends, managing a convenience store and a video rental store. We get a peek into one of the worst (or best) days in their lives, while they go about discussing everything from Star Wars to cigarettes vs. chewing gum.
5. The Warriors
Now this here is a cult classic if ever there was one. If nothing else, you’ll know it from the immortal line, “Hey Warriors, come out and play!”
In this film, The Warriors are a street gang in New York City, framed for the murder of another gang’s leader. Now, all the other 20 gangs are baying for their blood. The Warriors need to make it back to their home turf without getting killed.
It’s a joyous bloody ride through street fights and crazy violence, with a pinch of drama thrown in for good measure. Sure, it’s a bit campy at times, but that’s one of the reasons it’s considered a cult classic!
There’s a riveting comeback story behind Wet Hot American Summer. A satire of summer camp movies, it died a quiet death when it was first released in 2001. But then its stars got famous, people revisited it, and realized it was genius!
The film stars Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, and other famous actors before they became A-listers. It’s a coming-of-age film about the counselors, the kids, and even the camp heads, all wrapped up in the innocence of an old-school summer camp flick. It’s also one of the best summer vacation movies on Netflix.
7. Galaxy Quest
Tim Allen. Alan Rickman. Sigourney Weaver. Tony Shalhoub. Sam Rockwell. If that doesn’t sell this movie for you, then consider this: Galaxy Quest is the greatest Star Trek parody you will see. And no, you don’t need to know everything about Star Trek to love it.
Allen and the others play actors, part of a hit Star Trek-like TV show called Galaxy Quest. But a group of aliens think the actors the real thing, and beam them onto a spaceship for a crucial mission. What follows is an incredible, hilarious ride through space, spoofing the best and worst aspects of sci-fi shows and their loyal, crazy fans.
Quentin Tarantino is undoubtedly a cult hero. But even among his cult films, this one stands out. From Dusk Till Dawn was the first film Tarantino wrote, and it’s directed by his good friend and frequent collaborator, Roberto Rodriguez. Yes, that Rodriguez who directed Desperado.
From Dusk Till Dawn is the story of a couple of bank robbers and a father-son-daughter family caught in a strip joint. But as the sun goes down, everyone in that strip joint is revealed to be a vampire! The five of them now need to stay alive until dawn, fighting off an entire bar full of vampires. And a bloody good time is had by all!
Primer is one of the best recent science fiction films, and it takes the “science” seriously. It explores the concept of time travel without compromising on the science of the subject matter, going deep into every aspect of it.
It might be a little difficult to understand at times, so switch on the subtitles. Director Shane Carruth hasn’t dumbed it down at all, using complex scientific terms throughout. As two engineers work on a time travel machine, the audience is taken along on their journey, battling with the questions the two protagonists have to consider. And the climax will blow your mind!
10. In Bruges
Few cult films have as much rewatch value as In Bruges. The entire movie centers around just three characters, but you’ll be enthralled throughout.
Two hitmen, after botching up a job, are hiding out in Bruges, Belgium, waiting to hear from their boss. Most of the film is about them in the city, kind of like an unromantic, buddy-film version of Before Sunrise.
It all builds up to the climax, where Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes provide two of their finest performances. And then there’s the riveting dialog throughout the film too.
11. The Crow
Bruce Lee, the actor who brought martial arts to Hollywood, died at an early age. What’s even more tragic is his son, Brandon Lee, also died at an early age, on the set of this film, in one of the most famous movie accidents. Lee was supposed to be shot with a blank round, but a mishandling caused a real bullet to be fired at him.
The Crow may not be a great film, but it has become a cult classic as the movie in which the lead actor died because of an accident. Lee’s remaining scenes were discarded, filmed with a stunt double, or filmed using special effects.
12. Battle Royale
The only non-English movie in this list, it’s the craziest of them all. You know the idea of The Hunger Games, where kids fight to the death? Well, the Japanese did it long before Hollywood, and in a much more frightening fashion. Much like cult Japanese video games, this is a cult Japanese movie classic.
A class of junior high school students is taken on a school trip. However, halfway into it, they’re gassed. They wake up in a classroom on a remote island, and find that only one of them can leave. Battle Royale is literally a fight to the death between untrained kids, who each get one random weapon.
Which Cult Movies Did We Miss?
Start with The Princess Bride, skip The Crow if you need to, but don’t miss Battle Royale, In Bruges, and Trainspotting. Those three are the highlights of this selection.
That’s our list, but now it’s over to you to add your own suggestions.
Which other cult films have you found or watched on Netflix? We’re always looking for recommendations, so if you have a favorite cult movie that didn’t make our list, please feel free to share a title and a link to it on Netflix in the comments below!