There is something special about a cult film.  It’s one of those ‘I know it when I see it’ classifications, but there are a couple of tells.  

One is that the fans are really devoted.  Even years after the movie was released.

Two, the fan base is usually pretty small.  So while Avatar has a huge number of people painting themselves blue, it can’t be considered a cult film because it’s supportive audience is too large.  There have been exceptions, where a cult movie’s audience grows from a small following to mainstream attention, but as the beginnings are humble they still retain the cult movie title.

Three – the worlds are different from those shown in mainstream films, shucking standard narrative and technical conventions. They are also fully realized, down to the little details.

Cult movies can belong to any genre, romance, horror, drama, but there are a plethora of science fiction titles that have become cult movies.  A lot might have to do with how horrible the special effects are compared to today, launching them into the ‘so-bad-they’re-good’ type of cult stardom, but most of the films on this list don’t fall into that category.  Though if you’re interested, check out Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

1)    Blade Runner – directed by Ridley Scott

Blade Runner is now considered a classic science fiction film, a mBlade Runner DVD coverCredit: see by many.  Such a must see, that I know several people who were sat down and forced to watch it when their friends heard they hadn’t yet.  But despite this popularity, Blade Runner wasn’t successful at the box office and became a cult classic. And that following has now expanded to the general public. 

The movie follows blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) as he is forced out of retirement to hunt down a gang of replicants, organic robots that look the same as adult humans.  It takes place in a nitty-gritty dystopian LA, following a film noir style, and is an excellent cyberpunk example.

2)    Donnie Darko – directed Richard Kelly

Donnie Darko DVD coverCredit: Darko is a movie you have to pay close attention too, and ultimately will want to watch at least twice in order to get everything because it messes with your mind that much. It deals with alternate universes and time travel, and was very confusing when the film came out in 1988.  The Director’s Cut in 2004 included visual excerpts from the (nonexistent) book The Philosophy of Time Travel that attempts to alleviate confusion, but even then you still have to watch the movie twice to get it.

A box office flop, this film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie, a teen who has visions of a demonic looking rabbit named Frank.  Frank draws a sleeping walking Donnie outside of the house and tells him that the world will in 28 days, and coherers Donnie into committing a bunch of crimes. As well as introduces him to time travel.

3)    Plan 9 from Outer Space – directed by Edward D. Wood

Plan 9 From Outer Space DVD coverCredit: 9 is most well-known for being the worst movie ever made in the history of movie making.  Filmed in 1959, the special effects aren’t specular to begin with, but the smoke and mirror used to make them aren’t hidden at all.  You can see the strings attached to the space ship. Bela Lugosi, the movie's star, died before filming even began, but Wood used clips he had filmed for other incomplete projects of Lugosi to have him star in the film, getting a second actor (Tom Mason) to play Lugosi’s character in new scenes. The two look nothing alike.

The film is about two aliens whose goal is to stop humankind from developing a doomsday device and enact Plan 9 to do so. Plan 9 is resurrecting Earth’s dead, resulting in them walking around like zombies and creating mass panic. Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.

4)    The Rocky Horror Picture Show – directed by Jim Sharman

Every year tRocky Horror Picture Show DVD coverCredit: local indie theater where I live shows this Halloween weekend and every year people dress up to see it.  This is a cult production that encourages participation, either on stage or on the screen.  It’s a parody of science fiction, but that just makes science fiction fans find it that much more to their liking.  It’s been a successful midnight movie since 1977, and is still in limited release since it’s theatrical debut in 1975.

The plot centers around a newly engaged couple who find themselves with a flat tire and lost. They seek aid in a nearby castle and get caught up in the events of the Annual Transylvanian Convention. From there it’s a tangled walk through gay and transgendered culture, all done with humor and songs that stick in your brain. 

5)    Tank Girl - directed by Rachel Talalay

This film is loosely based on the Tank Girl comics by Alan Martin and Tank Girl DVD coverCredit: Hewlett. It did horribly at the box office, not even earning a quarter of its budget back, and it’s not hard to see way.  It’s completely different from mainstream action movies; it contains disconnected scenes, tries to mimic the aesthetics of the comic book, and uses almost every type of filmmaking special effects - animation, montages, makeup, prosthetics, song-and-dance routines, scale models, fake backdrops, holography, title cards, matte drawings, and of course computerized special effects.

Tank Girl takes place on a desert Earth, it hasn’t rained in 11 years and the water supply is controlled by the W&P group.  Tank Girl (Lori Petty) is part of a group of rebels who have their own well, drawing W&P’s attack. 

6)    Repo! The Genetic Opera – directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

RepRepo! The Genetic Opera DVD coverCredit:! is a rock opera produced by the same people who did Saw.  So yeah, it’s a sci-fi horror with lots of gore. As far as cult films go, this one is really new – released 2008, and is based in the same world as the Jude Law movie Repo Man (they are both based on the same short story).  However the world here has a dark feel, full of smoky cemeteries and Goth characters.  The soundtrack is amazing, though having both Paris Hilton and opera singer Sarah Brightman on the cast and singing is enough by itself to have this move be a cult favorite.

The movie is set in a world where just like cars and houses, your organs can be reposessed if you don’t pay on time.  Nathan (Anthony Head) is the head Repo Man, blackmailed into the role to protect his sick daughter (Alexis Vega), who isn’t found of being cooped up as her night forays into cemeteries show.

7)    Akira – directed by Katsuhiro Otomo

Otomo created the manga by the same name and then went on to direct thisAkira DVD coverCredit: Japanese anime.  Akira is a landmark of Japanese animation and has a high ranking on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. It’s pretty graphic for being animated, sparing none of the details of violence or transforming human flesh. There’s talk of an American live action version, but many fans of the original anime are against the idea.

Set in Neo-Tokyo, Akira is a cyberpunk story following two members of a biker gang – Tetsuo who develops God-like super powers and Kaneda who tries to stop his friend from blowing up Tokyo. It's a fact paced action movie, riddled with such realistic art you can't help but be drawn into the world.

8)    Tremors – Directed by Ron Underwood

Tremors DVD coverCredit: is a low-key monster film, just making budget in it’s theatrical release, but it’s humor and diverse cast gave it wonderful word of mouth advertising.  The one-liners the characters say are great! It became a huge hit in the home video market, spawning three more movies (all direct to video) and the Sci-Fi Channel show Tremors.

The movie takes place in Perfection, Nevada – population 14.  Or was fourteen, as residents are found murdered. But it’s quickly discovered that the killer is one of many underground mutant snakes that the cast has to survive.

9)    RoboCop – directed by Paul Verhoeven

RoboCop DVD coverCredit: fans are truly dedicated.  If you haven’t heard, there’s going to be a statue of the famous cyborg in Detroit. While I’m sure the movie was seriously met when it came out (it did well at the box office), today it’s just campy.  The evil robot looks like a walking microphone and screams like a jaguar, how can you not snicker? But the film is also very real, as it takes place in a run down Detroit.  At least in the future, it doesn’t look worse than it does now.

Centered around James Murphy (Peter Weller), a cop who is killed on duty and then resurrected as a cyborg, RoboCop is a pure action movie.  With cyborgs and robots of course.

10) Army of Darkness – directed by Sam Raimi

The cover for tArmy of Darkness DVD coverCredit: film just screams ‘cult movie’!  There really isn’t much else you can think when seeing a He-man-esque pose with a chainsaw for a hand.  Army of Darkness is the third film in the Evil Dead series, and arguably the best known.  It’s a comedic horror/sci-fi movie that has a surprising amount of slapstick humor in it.  It did pretty well in the box office, but then disappeared to become a cult film after it was released on video.

The film follows Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) as he tries to find his way back home to the present day from Medieval England. There’s a couple of undead who try to get in the way, but that’s why he has a chainsaw for a hand. ^_~