Home Movies Movie Lists

Readers’ Poll: The 25 Best Cult Movies of All Time

Midnight and dorm room favorites from ‘Eraserhead’ to ‘The Evil Dead’

the evil dead weekend rock question

Courtesy New Line Cinema

There's no single way to recognize a cult movie other than the simple fact that it's developed a fiercely devoted audience that watches it over and over, preferably at midnight in a theater packed with other die-hards. Few reach the level of The Big Lebowski and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where fans throw giant conventions and come dressed up like their favorite characters, but all are repeatedly watched on DVD and analyzed endlessly on the internet. In honor of the ten year anniversary of Mean Girls (an extremely unlikely candidate for a cult movie, but one nonetheless) we asked our readers to select their favorite cult movies. Click through to see the results. 

Play video

6. ‘Harold and Maude’

This 1971 black comedy is about the unlikely romance between a death-obsessed young man and an equally morbid woman in her late seventies. The boy's family is obviously horrified by the relationship, and the woman has a secret plan that ultimately solves the problem, but not before all sorts of dark wackiness ensues. A young Elton John was considered for the lead role, but it ultimately went to Bud Cort. 

Play video

5. ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange shocked audiences in 1971 with its scenes of rape and graphic violence, and time has done little to dull it. Many filmgoers that got into Kubrick after Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey were horrified by the film, but it also won over a substantial cult very early on and many punk bands that emerged a few years later took some of their fashion sense from the movie. It's also played countless times on the midnight movie circuit and generations of college kids have put the poster on their wall.

Play video

4. ‘Pulp Fiction’

Unlike many cult movies, Pulp Fiction was a big hit when it came out and critics absolutely loved it. It is, however, still a regular on the midnight movie circuit, and continue to quote its lines and obsess over all of its details. That means it is absolutely a cult movie, though those fans that keep hoping Quentin Tarantino will break down one day and make a Vega Brothers movie are probably out of luck. 

Play video

3. ‘This Is Spinal Tap’

Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap was such a convincing mockumentary that to this day many people think that Spinal Tap is an actual band. Spinal Tap, however, was in on the joke, touring when the movie came out and writing some songs in the years since. Who knows? Maybe the people who think they aren't a real band have become the foolish ones.

Play video

2. ‘The Big Lebowski’

Like many cult classics, The Big Lebowski didn't do very well with critics when it first came out. "Kingpin was a much funnier film set in the world of bowling," said Gene Siskel before giving it a thumbs down. "The Jeff Bridges character wasn't worth my time. There's no heart to him." History has proven Gene Siskel wrong. Very, very, very wrong. 

Play video

1. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Could any other movie have possibly won this poll? This low budget 1975 film tanked when it came out, but the following year a New York theater started showing it at midnight and within months a fiercely devoted cult started seeing it over and over, dressing up like the characters and singing along to the songs. The tradition continues today, though the movement peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Like many cult movies, there's a quasi-sequel (Shock Treatment) that fails to live up to the original, or even come close.