Whether we’re talking low-budget, arthouse films that eventually broke through into the popular consciousness, or box office flops that found a loyal, dedicated audience over time, the enduring success of these movies proves that you don’t need a massive budget or record-breaking opening weekend to go down in cinematic history.
Powered by passionate fan followings and taking in films both iconic and still under-the-radar, here are the fifty greatest cult movies of all time, as selected by the WOW247 team.
An ingenious, mind-bending micro-budget debut from rising auteur Shane Carruth, who wrote, directed, produced, edited, scored and starred in the movie. Clearly a labour of love then, but one that has most definitely rewarded the hard work and $7,000 invested in the project.
Primer is the story of two engineers who accidentally discover the secret of time travel while working on a completely unrelated project in a humble domestic garage. The implications of their extraordinary breakthrough soon lead to some fascinating and frankly confusing results, as different realities and time-lines become increasingly muddled. Primer is a thoroughly smart and refreshingly mundane sci-fi drama that will leave you both baffled and delighted – even on a third or fourth viewing. [MB]
Session 9 (2001)
An atmospheric, chilling and intelligently-constructed horror movie, Brad Anderson’s psychological exploration of interpersonal tension and madness revolves around a crew of labourers grafting in an abandoned insane asylum. Strange things inevitably begin to happen – but the story does not unfold as you might expect.
Taking place mainly in broad daylight and all the scarier for it, Session 9 is a terrific vehicle for Peter Mullan in a rare starring role, and is thick with imagery and implications that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. Anderson’s masterstroke is to leave it ambiguous as to whether the evil here is supernatural in nature or merely the result of human anguish. Regardless, it retains a raw, gripping power. [MB]
The very same year that Joss Whedon’s Cabin In The Woods was gleefully carving up the box office with its entertaining, tongue-in-cheek meta commentary on horror movies, this low-budget indie flick was ploughing similar territory in an even more outlandish way – earning itself a small but dedicated following in the process.
Ostensibly the story of an ordinary guy who tries to get his drug addict friend clean by forcibly restraining him and making him go cold turkey in the middle of nowhere, what follows quickly becomes as weird as it is creepy. Outlandish characters are encountered, unsettling events unfold, and both men gradually realise that someone or something has sinister plans for them. Genuinely inventive and funny, with a number of shiver-inducing moments. [MB]
Man Bites Dog (1992)
Rémy Belvaux’s brilliant satirical mockumentary sees a student film crew accompany a vicious yet charismatic murderer on his bloody and brutal exploits. The subject in question, Benoit, is a genius creation: when he isn’t delivering self-important lectures, he’s bludgeoning postmen, strangling strangers and quite literally scaring old ladies to death.
What starts as a laugh-out loud black comedy, however, gradually takes on a much darker and more sinister tone as the horror of his actions is ramped up, and both the crew and audience become complicit in them. Inspired, shocking and unforgettable once viewed, it’s a true subversive masterpiece that really sinks its teeth in. [MB]
Justly notorious for its eventual descent into nightmarish depravity and violence, Takashi Miike’s masterful thriller nonetheless spends a great deal of time ominously building a thick atmosphere of suspense and tension before sticking the needles in.
A lonely middle-aged widower decides to ‘audition’ for a new wife with the help of his TV producer friend, and at first things seem to be going well. But this is no sentimental romantic flick. While the climactic scene is undoubtedly the most talked about, it is an earlier moment of surreal, skin-crawling dread that stands as its most effective onslaught. [MB]
Trick R Treat (2007)
Now a Halloween staple for countless horror nerds in the know, this wickedly twisted and funny slice of ghoulish fun was initially destined for a full cinematic release before being cruelly consigned to straight-to-DVD hell. There it found a fanatical following however, and deservedly so.
Composed of several interlocking stories told over a single All Hallows Eve in one small town, it has a superb cast (Bryan Cox, Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker) and harks back to the golden age of EC Comics with its creepy, nasty yet devilishly entertaining moralistic fables. [MB]
Miracle Mile (1988)
This low-key cult favourite bafflingly still doesn’t have a UK DVD release, so you’ll need to head over to iTunes (or pre-order the US Blu-ray) to find out what the fuss is all about. Without spoiling things too much, the film focuses on the imminent end of the world as viewed through the eyes of Los Angeles musician, Harry (Anthony Edwards), who’s hoping to go on a first date with Julie (Mare Winningham) when he hears it’s likely be the last date he’ll ever have. Harry spends the rest of the film trying to grasp his potential destruction, encountering oddballs and opposition along the way.
Writer/director Steve De Jarnatt spent years trying to get Miracle Mile into production, thankfully bringing his low-budget vision to the screen for just shy of $4 million. It’s a captivating vision of the end of the world that deserves a wider audience. [JM]
Wake in Fright (1971)
It may have received its world premiere at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, going on to garner critical acclaim around the globe, but this slice of twisted Australiana somehow faded from public consciousness until resurfacing at Cannes once more in 2009 at the behest of Martin Scorsese. Often said to have kickstarted the Ozploitation genre, Wake in Fright finds prissy teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) leaving his outback post as a small town teacher to return to Sydney for Christmas. Passing through the town of Bundanyabba, dubbed “The Yabba” by the locals, Grant receives nothing but kindness but still manages to find his life spiralling out of control overnight.
Director Ted Kotcheff captures the grim and grimy reality of outback life perfectly – everyone sweats, dust gets everywhere and beer flows like water – leaving the viewer feel almost as dirty as the characters as the film unspools. And yet, it’s a compulsive watch that demands multiple viewings. As for the kangaroo hunting sequence, it’s safe to say you’ll never see Skippy in the same light again. [JM]
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Made at a time when Australian cinema seemed to rule the world – stand up Strictly Ballroom and Muriel’s Wedding – this terrific little road movie has gone on to spawn a huge cult audience and even an award-winning stage musical. Starring Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp as two drag queens and a transgender woman who agree to head into the heart of Australia to perform in Alice Springs, this is a moving examination of masculinity and homosexuality wrapped up in a raucous comedy.
Stamp famously almost turned down the role of Bernadette, sure that it would affect his reputation and future casting decisions, before being encourage to embrace the role. Now he acknowledges that it’s a minor classic, something it’s hard to disagree with. [JM]
Aguirre: Wrath of God (1972)
Arguably Herzog’s masterpiece, Aguirre, Wrath of God is like nothing you’ve ever seen. A German New Wave film set in the Amazonian jungle, telling the story of an ill-fated 16th century attempt to find El Dorado, starring one of cinema’s craziest actors and featuring the pioneering Krautrock music of Popol Vuh. Shouldn’t really work, should it?
But in an unbelievably challenging project (the whole cast and crew had to climb mountains, ride on rafts over rapids, hack through rainforest and even trap monkeys to be included in scenes), Herzog proves himself to be peerless as a hands-on filmmaker. Aguirre is haunting, mysterious and impossible to shake after a first watch. [NM]
Harold and Maude (1971)
Hollywood in the 1970s was nothing like the tired conveyor belt of remakes and reboots it has become today. Back then a studio like Paramount green-lit a film about a rich teenager whose comical obsession with death is only conquered by a developing romantic relationship with a 79-year-old woman.
But Harold and Maude is so much more than the sum of its parts; it’s a brilliantly bizarre, utterly eccentric love story that can be read as either an indictment of the privileged boredom of the upper class, or a touching paean to living life to its fullest. Hal Ashby’s offbeat gem of a film, soundtracked by Cat Stevens, was a slow-burner in the true cult sense, only going on to make a profit in the early ’80s. [NM]
When Cube was first released, it’s fair to assume that no-one would have been able to predict its impact on the future of the sci-fi and horror genres – most notably in the Saw franchise. The premise is startlingly effective in its simplicity – 5 people wake up to find themselves in a cubed room, none of whom know how each one got there. Working together as a team they must solve the mystery of what brings them together while figuring out how to escape each room before they are killed by a trap.
Taking thematic cues from The Twilight Zone and the works of Franz Kafka, Cube sets up a world in where we see nothing outside of a large cube – inside of which is housed thousands of identical looking rooms. The magic of Cube is that it subverts expectations – teeing you up for a b-movie scarer but unfolding as an intelligent and philosophical puzzler that is one of the most mysterious and re-watchable sci-fi horrors ever made. It’s a peculiar and gripping film that has the special quality of being fun and challenging all at once. [AL]
Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
“We have had a doozy of a day…” Eli Craig’s gloriously funny caper takes the well-worn trope of murderous rednecks stalking clean-cut college kids – and turns it magnificently on its head.
The endearing hillbillies of the title land themselves in all sorts of trouble when their well-meaning efforts lead to terror, death and dismemberment. It’s become an instant horror-comedy favourite, but a word of warning: if you’ve never seen the movie before, skip the trailer. It gives away all of the best bits. [MB]
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
One of those movies that should be required viewing for all at least once in their lives. Darren Aronofsky’s haunting masterpiece is akin to being emotionally punched in the gut for two hours by the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen. Requiem for a Dream is the heart-wrenching intertwined tale of four people fighting a losing battle with very different types of drug addiction, lost in a society that has utterly abandoned them.
Truly shocking, superbly acted and at times deeply humanist. No film is as more viscerally terrifying. [JDM]
Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982)
Stunning imagery and a dark story to accompany the legendary titular album by the progressive rock giants. A young Bob Geldof stars as Pink, a rock star struggling to overcome a drug addiction and the consequences of his own fame. Making its way through the album tracklist, Pink’s life devolves from promising child to broken man hallucinating scenes of mass-genocide and neo-nazi rallies.
Poetic, smart and with a killer soundtrack to boot. Look out for a cameo by the late, great Bob Hoskins. [JDM]
The Warriors (1979)
After their leader is wrongly accused of the murder of a powerful rival, the remaining members of The Warriors street gang find the New York police force, a number of violent rival gangs and a whole 27 miles of city between them and the safety of their home-turf.
Will they all make it through the night? A great cult thriller with some of the most iconic representations of street-gangs in cinematic history. [JDM]
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
One of the finest war movies ever made. Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies is the haunting tale of tow young orphans attempting to survive in Japan during the tail-end of WWII.
A compelling story and beautiful animated visuals make for a must see picture. Never before has a film so powerfully encapsulated the horror of war and the lives of the people it destroys. [JDM]
In this blistering South Korean revenge thriller, Oh Dae-Su is held captive for 15 years without any inclination as to his captor’s motives. Then one day he is released without explanation, and embarks on a mission to seek revenge and uncover the truth behind his long incarceration.
It’s violent, stylish, and jaw-dropping stuff, as his the warped protagonist’s journey takes him down a dark path full of mind-blowing twists, turns and revelations. [JDM]
Kill List (2011)
Seemingly everyday scenes sing with anxiety and foreboding in Ben Wheatley’s grim masterpiece – and that’s long before the blood actually starts flowing.
Veering between tense domestic exchanges, eye-wateringly violent outbursts and an intense final act that descends into full-on folk horror, this tale of two hitmen and their titular series of targets is an astonishing, maddening tour de force. [MB]
The surreal arthouse oddity that announced David Lynch to the world, a young man living in what appears to be a bleak industrial dystopia finds his life turned upside down when his girlfriend gives birth to a bizarre mutant child – and then walks out on him. That’s before we even get on to the strange singing woman who lives in the radiator…
Lynch’s knack for brooding atmosphere, dark humour and a deliriously off-kilter rendering of familiar situations is apparent even at this early stage in his career. The dinner scene, for example, is a wonderful skewering of the anxieties men feel visiting their partner’s mother and father for the first time (way better than Meet The Parents). Is the movie about the pressures of parenthood? Or the paranoia that exists in modern urban life? Regardless, you can’t stop yourself from looking. [MB]
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Now considered by many as one of the best comedies ever produced, this tale of a stoner caught up in a bizarre case of mistaken identity now has its own annual festivals in the US and the UK; ‘Lebowski Fest’ and ‘The Dude Abides’ respectively.
Jeff Bridges gives arguably the performance of his career as the confused bowling aficionado blundering into a chaotic world of vicious nihilists, wealthy belligerents and randy artists. Unforgettable supporting turns from John Goodman and John Turturro play their part, but the real enduring love fans have lies in the endless quotability of the Coen Brothers’ amusing, rhythmic script. [JDM]
Terry Gilliam offers a deeply unsettling vision of a nightmare bureaucratic dictatorship; a place where a simple mistake on a form leads to the abduction and state-sponsored torture of an entirely innocent family man (at a department named ‘Information Retrieval’).
It’s a startling combination of the terrifying and the farcical that really makes this sing. Jonathan Pryce’s low-level employee escapes his humdrum existence by losing himself in a dream-like fantasy world, while the grotesque, plastic-surgery distorted elite around him shut off their minds and worries from the everyday horrors around them. Michael Palin is inspired casting as a charming, friendly acquaintance with a very dark line of work. We can’t promise the ending will leave you uplifted… [MB]
Blade Runner (1982)
It’s hard to believe that Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi alienated audiences and critics alike on its release, but while its Director’s Cut and Final Cut versions are certainly superior, even in its flawed theatrical cut it exudes a distinctive and bold sense of style, atmosphere and intrigue.
Harrison Ford plays a cop tasked with hunting down a group of rogue androids, whose charismatic leader wants only to prolong his short life. The cinematography is sumptuous, Vangelis’ electronic score majestic, and Rutger Hauer’s rightly feted ‘tears in the rain’ speech a genuinely moving moment. Arguably the finest mediation on a well-worn theme in sci-fi culture. [MB]
Few movies inspire campaigns crying out for a sequel, but Pete Travis’s superb graphic novel flick – scripted by genre movie master Alex Garland – is far from ‘just another comic book film’.
Armed with luscious slow-motion imagery and as smart as it is gritty and violent, it sees Judge Dredd and a young psychic rookie fighting desperately for survival when Lena Headey’s psychopathic gang boss traps them inside her tower block and demands that the residents help destroy them. Tense, expertly-paced and making clever use of every little set-up and pay off, it’s a tremendous action movie that suffered from poor marketing on release, and has left fans craving more. [MB]
The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi’s low-budget shocker – and first feature team-up with actor, buddy and long-standing punch bag Bruce Campbell – is perhaps the finest export of the video nasty era, and an inspired low budget horror that oozes flair and knowing humour.
A bunch of friends head off to party in a remote forest cabin, only for them to foolishly read from the Book Of The Dead. Gloriously schlocky, it shows just one can be achieved with some nifty homemade gore and improvised contact lenses. [MB]
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Gloriously camp, energetic and OTT, the screen adaptation of the hit musical is utterly demented in all the best possible senses.
Boasting one of the most eccentric and perfectly charismatic casts ever committed to screen (Tim Curry! Meat Loaf!) the sheer exuberance of its songs, performances and costumes have made it synonymous with widespread fan screenings typified by fancy dress, sing-alongs and copious in-jokes. An absolute scream. [MB]
The Boondock Saints (1999)
Critically panned as a juvenile Tarantino rip-off on its initial limited release (and notorious for its troubled production – as depicted in acclaimed documentary Overnight), The Boondock Saints nonetheless became one of the bigger direct-to-video success stories, after gaining a word of mouth following and scooping $50 million in video sales.
The film follows Irish vigilante twins played by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus, as well as Paul Smecker (Willem Defoe) – a troubled FBI agent tasked with hunting them down. [WB]
Although the much loved (and oft-derided) “creature feature” had largely died out by the late 1980s, the likes of 1954’s Them! (featuring giant raditation-infused ants in the New Mexico desert) and and 1959’s The Killer Shrews (a small team on a remote desert island are terrorised by, you guessed it, giant shrews) replaced by teen slasher pictures, 1990’s Tremors was a glorious return to the genre. Giant underground worms terrorise the Nevada town of Perfection (population 14), as the residents battle their foes in broad daylight and handymen Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) become heroes.
Some genuine scares are punctuated by memorable one-liners (“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya you bastard!”), ensuring the film remains a firm favourite on DVD and ITV4. Look out for the guide to the film later this year from yours truly… [JM]
This is Spinal Tap (1984)
The world of the mockumentary is strange and dangerous territory, but in This is Spinal Tap it had a film which knocked the balance of hilarity, confusion and realism out of the park. Following the fictional heavy metal band Spinal Tap, the film takes us on a journey with them as they embark on a US wide tour. On the way there’s no shortage of side splitting moments as the band offend, baffle and annoy almost everyone they come into contact with.
The pure magic of it is down to the fact that, only when things get truly outrageous, the self-made illusion that you’re actually watching a real life band in action shatters and you’re momentarily left saddened that these insanely brilliant characters don’t really exist. Spinal Tap is a film that, upon discovering, you think ‘I want to watch more films like this!’ Unfortunately for you, there’s simply no other films that come close to pulling off what Spinal Tap did. Don’t worry though, on the upside it only gets funnier and more quotable with repeated viewings – so sit back, turn it up to eleven and try not to kill the drummer. [AL]
Easy Rider (1969)
One of the all-time great ’60s movies, Peter Fonda and director/co-star Dennis Hopper get their motors running and head out on the highway in this head-spinning trip of a movie.
Featuring all the drug-taking, free-loving, and psychadelic freak-outs you’d expect from the era’s rebellious excesses, Jack Nicholson turns up in an unforgettable supporting role – while the film’s shockingly dark ending, particularly given that initial spirit of adventure, leaves a bitter and tragic taste in the mouth. [MB]
In Bruges (2008)
Probably one of the smartest black comedies ever made, playwright Martin McDonagh’s cinematic debut is a thing of hilarious, anarchic beauty. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are Irish hitmen, sent to lie low in the sleepy Belgian city of the title after a job goes horribly wrong. But there troubles are far from over.
The script is infinitely quotable, Ralph Fiennes (pictured above) threatens to steal the show as the duo’s angry Essex boss, and the action takes in everything from clashes with tourists to a Ketamine-snorting, racist dwarf. The true genius is in the sudden shifts from pathos to hilarity and back again; heart-breaking and a hoot in equal measure. [MB]
The Room (2003)
A movie so unwittingly terrible it’s led to worldwide Sound Of Music-esque screenings of devotees, this unintentionally hysterical melodrama from writer, director and star Tommy Wiseau has been dubbed the “Citizen Kane of bad movies”,
Sub-plots involving life-threatening illness and a violent drug dealer are introduced and dropped for no apparent reason; shell-shocked actors utter atrocious dialogue in surreal, stilted exchanges; and Wiseau’s bizarre delivery of his own awkward lines has to be seen to be believed. “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!” [MB]
Fight Club (1999)
What was marketed as a bare-knuckle boxing film starring Brad Pitt is actually a pitch-black and deeply subversive satire on modern society and the state of men within it, armed with some of the most close-to-the-knuckle gags and delightfully vulgar subject matter ever seen in a mainstream release.
Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter and Pitt are all excellent in the compelling dark comedy, which uses everything from visual slapstick to outright shock value to entertain and surprise. Starting out as the story of an insomniac and turning into an anarchist terror cell thriller (of sorts), David Fincher’s film is a trip in every possible sense. [MB]
Packing state-of-the-art visuals for the time, the story of a computer genius being drawn into an actual virtual world, and doing battle on digital motorbikes in the process, has become a flagship totem of ’80s geek culture.
In many ways the first proper video game movie, it may seem dated now, but it was a supreme exercise in stylish escapism for the time. [MB]
The film that shot indie director Kevin Smith to worldwide fame, this darkly comic day-in-the-life of corner shop store clerks Dante and Randal sees the pair attempt everything they can to see the slow shift come to an end; including rooftop hockey, discussions on the political implications of Star Wars, and visits from their layabout pals Jay and Silent Bob.
A defining landmark in the impact of Generation X on pop culture, this show-string slacker comedy inspired a whole wave of low-budget imitators. [JDM]
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece oozes style and mood from its very opening shot; with sadistic anti-hero Alex staring wryly into the camera as synthesised Beethoven blasts in the background. Embodied brilliantly by a sly Malcolm McDowell, he makes for a compelling, atypical protagonist that’s for sure.
But it’s the central theme and philosophical problem of the piece that really makes it hit home. Is it better to force an evil person to become good, even if it denies them free will? Cutting through the black comedy, satire and tense drama the answer, as portrayed here, is decidedly uncomfortable. [MB]
Love Exposure (2008)
A darling of the festival circuit when it emerged from Japan, Sion Sono’s epic drama about a young catholic who goes careering off the rails is full of iconic scenes and moments that have widely become influential and ingrained across the modern cultural spectrum – even if you didn’t realise it.
A snapshot of complicated love, family life and mental illness bolstered by controversial, provocative set-pieces. [MB]
Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Tokyo Godfathers follows the story of three homeless people who discover a baby thrown out in the rubbish on Christmas Eve, and their attempts to reunite the infant with her family. The film deals with the public’s attitude towards homeless people, and the reasons that people become homeless.
As an audience we side with our homeless protagonists in the film, but it is the decisions they have to make that are the most thought-provoking. [WB]
This profoundly uncomfortable portrait of a young teen going off the rails features astonishing performances from Evan Rachel Wood as the ‘good girl gone bad’, and Holly Hunter as her loving but horrified mother.
Shot and acted in a highly naturalisticway, it makes the subject-matter even more difficult to watch as the lines between normal adolescent rebellion and out-of-control trauma become first blurred and then shattered. Never have the dangers of falling in with the wrong crowd been more effectively conveyed. [MB]
Troll 2 (1990)
There are no Trolls, and it isn’t a sequel. Confused? You will be. Centering around one family’s battle against vegetarian monsters that want to turn them into plants, this delightfully dreadful creature feature is a feast of horrendous writing, rubbish visual effects and absolutely dire performances.
The Italian filmmakers could barely communicate with their largely amateur American cast, which included – we kid you not – a pot-smoking psychiatric patient on day release. Full of bizarre laugh-out loud moments and frankly baffling scenes, it’s ‘so bad it’s good’ appeal has made it a firm favourite with many. [MB]
Mad Max (1979)
With the critical acclaim surrounding Mad Max’s latest outing, it’s hard to remember his exceedingly low-budget humble beginnings. In an apocalyptic future, Australian MPD officer Max Rockatansky and his colleagues do their utmost to keep law and order as violent gangs and murderous bikers begin to control the streets.
Fearing for the life of his family, Max decides to move them to the coast, but little does he know they are pursued by a dangerous crime-lord. Supremely impressive considering the low-budget, the stunts of Mad Max still hold up, despite the heady recent heights of Fury Road. [JDM]
Donnie Darko (2001)
Looking back now, almost 15 years after its release, it’s easy to see that Donnie Darko created a seismic wave throughout the independent film-making community. Made for a mere $3 million, it was showed what astonishing things could be created with such a modest budget if care is taken to develop a solid script with great ideas behind it.
The film is an exploration of teenage anxiety, small town morality and the ever-looming shadow of mortality all wrapped up the guise of sci-fi drama about a teenager who isn’t able to fit into the strange and eerie world around him. Much like David Fincher’s Fight Club, has gone on to gain a crazed following of fans, who, with a devotion and passion that goes beyond casual film watching, analyse the film frame by frame in the hope of bringing us closer to understanding its countless mysteries and ambiguities. [AL]
Hot Rod (2007)
Widely panned by critics on release for reasons known only to them, this early vehicle for Saturday Night Live graduates who are now mostly household names is unashamedly stupid – but all the better for it. Andy Samberg stars as a delusional small-town waster who dreams of becoming a legendary motorbike stuntman, but is thwarted by his own innate lack of talent. Until, that is, a cause (sort of) presents itself.
The slapstick is great, the performances full-throttle, and fixtures such as the ‘dancing asian guy’, ‘babe – wait babe!’ and a certain deliriously silly song sequence have now become the kind of in-jokes that comedy aficionados everywhere bond over. Absurdly brilliant. [MB]
Danny Boyle’s intriguing sci-fi thriller sees a determined space crew on a mission to re-ignite our dying sun – only for technical problems, deliberate sabotage and very human conflicts to jeopardize the future of humanity.
It sank at the box office and divided critics, but has retained an enthusiastic following due to its sensational soundtrack, stunning visual design and emotionally powerfully scenes (“what can you see?”). Ultimately, its enduring power stems from the meaty themes and character conflicts at its core. It’s a film about just what it means to be human in the face of the vast scale and power of the cosmos, and just what happens to people when they’re asked to lay everything on the line. [MB]
Office Space (1999)
Office Space is the essential comedy for anyone who’s ever felt undervalued, overworked and underpaid in their job. It shines a crafty gaze on a group of dissatisfied white-collar workers as they hatch a revenge plan on their smarmy and abusive boss.
Each worker in Office Space, in their own way, has built up a defense against the mundane and mediocre existence – and in doing so become instantly sympathetic and entirely releatable characters. Office Space doesn’t really give you laugh out loud moments, instead opting to gain its comedy through acute wit and a heavy dose of emphatic pathos. If you watch Office Space on your weekend, there’s a high chance you wont return to work on the Monday with your usual compliant attitude. [AL]
Ghost World (2001)
Life is tough for best friends Enid and Rebecca, two misfit high school graduates with more gripes about the world than they have opportunities in life. Faithfully adapted from the graphic novel of the same name, Ghost World inhabits a strange comic universe where characters are trapped by the weird world that is around them, yet shown that there are many ways to find joy in a world that is not quite made to fit around them.
The two lead characters have a fantastically dry and comic evocation of wit, that makes them seem mean yet undeniably likeable – reminding us of those cool college kids you wanted to be friends with but knew that they would inevitably treat you with a certain level of contempt. The story has just enough warmth to cut through the coldness of its two heroines and the unexpectedly poetic conclusion makes for one of the most hauntingly effective endings of its cinematic generation. A must watch for anyone who is fast approaching their twenties. [AL]
Weird Science (1985)
Funnier than The Breakfast Club yet not as widely-acknowledged, John Hughes perfectly captures both the sweet naivety and crude nature of teenage nerds when he has his geeky pair design the perfect woman – and unwittingly bring her to life.
Comically flawless in its execution of everything from the rampaging biker scene to their interactions with a dumb, bullying Bill Paxton, it’s a wacky subversion of the coming-of-age genre that thrives on chaotic set-pieces, outlandish fantasy and a sense of exuberant, hapless fun. [MB]
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
John Landis is a genuinely great comic director – and his classic tale of reluctant lycanthropy is a landmark splicing of genuinely nightmarish scares with outrageous laugh-out loud humour.
Two American tourists get far more than they bargained for while trekking across the misty Yorkshire Moors. The remarkable transformation scene and grisly violence may shock, but the splendid pub sequence, bizarre zombie apparitions and smile-inducing closing number lend a riotous sense of fun to the whole enterprise. [MB]
Samurai Cop (1989)
Winner of the award for ‘Worst Wig in a Fight Scene Ever’, this endearingly terrible crime thriller boasts baffling sex scenes, hilarious shoot-outs and some of the most side-splitting cut-aways ever committed to film.
Highlights include an insanely camp restaurant owner and a very sexually-forward nurse, while the presence of stalling vehicles during a chase scene and actors visibly fluffling their lines suggests that this is the world’s first movie to be constructed entirely from outtakes. So powerful has its rise to cult appeal been, its star has come out of obscurity for a long-overdue sequel. [MB]
The hilarious space comedy is a perfect parody of the original Star Wars trilogy. Starring the likes of John Candy, Mel Brooks and Rick Moranis, the irreverent spoof sees the nefarious Dark Helmet plan to kidnap Princess Vespa in an attempt to steal her planet’s air.
It’s true knockabout brilliance in the vein of other Brooks favourites Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, with the fourth-wall breaking sequence in the movie’s middle a genuinely inspired highlight. [JDM]