Let’s do the time warp again! Or maybe not…
As strange as it may seem, there are cult movie fans out there who don’t love The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and they much rather spend their time watching an under-appreciated “midnight movie” like Howard the Duck or Basket Case instead. Personally, I love Rocky Horror but I also subscribe to the theory that it actually isn’t a cult movie anymore. (It is so popular and has transcended its cult roots thanks to over 40 years of fandom, the sequel Shock Treatment, merchandise and a 2016 TV remake).
Not that the light over at the Frankenstein Place has dimmed one bit, it’s just that Rocky Horror has long ago made the journey from box office dud to becoming so mainstream that Glee even did an episode based on it.
See also: The Room, which arguably stopped being a cult movie once The Disaster Artist became a critical darling.
Then there are movies where the fandom begins to overshadow the film itself, and not for the better. I call this The Lebowski Effect (after the 1998 Coen Brothers masterpiece The Big Lebowski, a film that is hugely entertaining…although its fanbase seems to get more obnoxious with every year).
“But wait,” you might be saying, “wasn’t that a major studio release?” It was, but cult films can be anything and everything, that’s the appeal of them. Well almost anything…
Star Wars fandom is especially vocal and toxic these days, so I have no interest to kick at that hornet’s nest other than to say that when a beloved film and its sequels/prequels make up the largest moneymaking franchise on the planet, its hard to look at these pictures as cult films. Regardless of how devoted their fanbase may be. I will however, agree that their was a period from 1984 to 1995 when the prospect of ever seeing another Star Wars film seemed like a real possibility — and during this now-carefree era the enthusiastic fans who carried the torch for these films when pop culture had temporarily moved on certainly felt as if these pictures had entered the cult realm.
And that’s the tricky thing here. So again I ask, what do you think constitutes a cult movie? Is it strictly something that bombed the first time around but has had a subsequent life? Can a mainstream franchise like the Star Wars movies or Marvel Cinematic Universe films ever truly be considered cult movies due to their huge impact at the box office and upon pop culture? At what point, if any, does a movie once considered a cult film become mainstream?
These are questions I’d like to hear your thoughts on. But even more, I would like to know what your personal favorite cult films are and why. Let us know below. This should stir up some spirited debate…or at least make you want to throw on The Rocky Horror Picture Show and take a jump to the left once more.