What ingredients make a film be hailed as a ‘cult classic’, you ask? Not every piece of cinema is christened a masterpiece like The Godfather since its inception. Certain films manage to garner the same reaction over a more prolonged period. Usually, these films generally gain an organic buzz and popularity through word of mouth recommendations.
In its truest sense, the term refers to motion pictures that have developed a small yet steady fanbase largely dedicated to the particular film. Arguably, even blockbuster franchises like Harry Potter or Twilight could fall under this category due to their avid army of fans. More commonly, however, it relates to the likes of The Big Lebowski and Harold & Kumar.
Netflix has a wide variety of films on display, with every genre well represented. With that in mind, here are ten cult classics that you need to stream today.
The 10 best cult classics available on Netflix right now
10) Scott Pilgrim vs the World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
Based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series on the titular protagonist, the film features the indie bassist named Scott Pilgrim, who, despite dating Knives Chau, falls irrevocably in love with Ramona Flowers, whom he encounters in his dream. He is attacked by her ex while trying to pursue her and soon discovers that he must defeat seven ex’s to finally woo Ramona.
With a video game or comic book aesthetic, the film combines the two distinctly different media’s to create a quirky and wonderful effect. Additionally, the director’s innate eye for detail helps him construct comic panels within the screen, which provide a gratifying graphic novel effect.
If you like action sequences, incredibly hyperreal premises and the sweet croon of indie rock music, then you’re in for a brilliant watch.
9) American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2008)
A wealthy investment banker by the day and a menacing psychopath at night, Patrick Bateman wonderfully oscillates between his two contrasting facades. He is attractive, egotistic and charming by the day, yet, on an evening, he indulges in violent, hedonistic fetishes at night that often blurs the line between moral and immoral.
Bateman, played by Christian Bale, is the manifestation of the disgust he harbours within himself. His slow descent into madness is accompanied by extreme violence, narcissism and perversion. Bale’s performance is terrifically nuanced and exhibits the existential despair that cripples Bateman amidst the emptiness of his opulent lifestyle is palpable. American Psycho garnered a cult-like following thanks to its genius, which teeters between magic, madness and mania.
8) Girl, Interrupted (James Mangold, 1999)
In Girl, Interrupted, Susanne Kaysen is sent away to a mental institution to rehabilitate after allegedly attempting suicide. Here she meets a diverse group of girls, who she befriends and becomes aware of their psychological disorders while becoming drawn a ballsy rule-breaker named Lisa, who teaches her to live.
Although it has faced valid criticism for romanticising mental illness in recent years, the film is an undisputed cult favourite. Angelina Jolie’s iconic unkempt fringe bangs and her smirk-plastered nonchalance epitomise the film in one image. Claymoore, in all its madness and glory, is an escape from the brutalities of the real world for the dysfunctional set of girls who strike up an unlikely friendship.
7) Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
Based on Jane Austen’s Emma, the film witnesses the journey of an affluent social butterfly, Cher spending her time playing the perfect matchmaker. She encourages new student Tai to get a makeover, and when the latter dethrones her on the popularity scales, Cher soon realises her mistake and disillusionment.
Wild and ragingly humorous, this iconic ‘90s film will always be film buffs’ go-to coming-of-age teen comedy. With Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd blessing the screen, Clueless is an offbeat adaptation of a piece of high literature that adds its own iconic twist to Austen’s work.
Notably, it subverts the stereotypical idea of femininity. It has some of the most memorable dialogues and noteworthy fashion moments that have continued to inspire people, becoming an instant cult classic in the process.
6) Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
Even Quentin Tarantino named Dazed and Confused as one of the top ten films of all time, so who are we to disagree? This coming-of-age comedy has become a cult classic with its diverse range of characters in the form of high school students in Austin, Texas, who indulge in all kinds of eye-opening activities, from romancing to getting high.
The film is soaked in nostalgia with a distinguished cast, including future A-listers Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey, who rose to prominence in Linklater’s masterpiece. On top of that, McConaughey’s sleazy yet iconic one-liner “Alright, alright, alright!” transcended the film and became ingrained in pop culture.
5) Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
Narrator is a depressed insomniac who meets Tyler Durden on a plane and soon moves into the latter’s grimy old house after his residence is destroyed in an explosion. They dream up an underground fight club where men who are frustrated with their daily lives come to fight away from their woes. Soon, this perfect camaraderie starts to dissipate once the beautiful Marla struts into their lives and catches Tyler’s unbridled attention.
The fast-paced Fincher directed classic is feral, provocative, gruesome and unsettling with a vivid narrative. The director manages to explore deep-rooted themes including anarchy, castration, isolation and social morality against the backdrop of the quagmire of life.
Fight Club scandalously suggests violence as an escape route from life’s problems and frustrations. A thorough satire, it entertains and enlightens, making it indisputably one of the most celebrated cult classics of all time.
4) Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983)
Scarface follows Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee, who receives his green card and seeks out the American dream along with his docile minions. As Montana ventures deeper into the drug trade, he slowly becomes merciless, and the word ‘stop’ doesn’t exist in his lexicon. His road to becoming a feared drug lord while dealing with his own addiction woes, increasing threats from the police and rival cartels, is a deadly cocktail.
DePalma avoids the tropes of a conventional gangster film. He masterfully curates a narrative involving drugs grisly violence that has a pervading sense of doom. Scarface boasts ultraviolence while also gleaming with raging cynicism which obscures the line between grandeur and morality.
Al Pacino revels in the grandiose of his character, Tony Montana; the role is tailormade for him, as is the dialogue that became a staple of this film: “The eyes, Chico. They never lie!”
3) The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Jack Torrance takes his family to stay at the Overlook Hotel for the winter, where he serves as the caretaker and attempts to finish his book. The horrifyingly bloody past of the habitation slowly catches up to the family, gradually disintegrating Jack’s sanity, leading him to turn violent. Meanwhile, his son Danny, gifted with certain supernatural abilities, begins to witness the haunting past of the hotel.
Adapted from Stephen King’s 1977 novel and admittedly his least favourite film of all times, the legendary auteur Stanley Kubrick’s film goes down in history as one of the scariest, genre-defining horror classics of all time.
The legendary director took his own creative liberty to meander away from the source material, ingeniously delving deeper into themes of isolation, violence and slow but steady descent into madness while taking a close examination at the emotional and psychological repercussions, making it an all-time fan favourite.
2) Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Vietnam war veteran turned taxi driver Travis Bikle is lonely and morally bankrupt. He lurks the streets of New York City, which is ridden with moral corruption, dysfunction, prostitution and crime. Bikle’s slow fall into madness and violence is motivated by his obsession to assassinate the Presidential candidate. In addition to that, there’s also a notorious pimp who harasses his friend, an underage prostitute named Idris.
Arguably one of Scorsese’s best, the film abounds in jarring violence and dysfunctional characters while the atmosphere reeks of filth and blood.
Robert DeNiro, as the angsty Bickle, embarks on a memorable carnage. Intense dialogues, brilliant cinematography and Bickle’s iconic haircut and that epic on-liner “You talkin’ to me?” has made this film a beloved cult classic among neo-noir aficionados.
1) Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
Six dangerous criminals operating under pseudonyms alluding to colours are recruited to carry out a planned heist disrupted by the police. In response, the gang see violence as their only escape. They gather at the warehouse and soon discover that it was all a trap and have a snitch in their midst; soon, they try and figure out sho it is by resorting to cruel methods.
Arguably Tarantino’s best film, this straightforward-thesis thriller abounds in themes that later became quintessential for Tarantino, defining the Tarantinoesque. With his ingenious and nuanced narrative, the film reflects the auteur’s audacious and unabashed directorial skills. It abounds in gruesome violence, verbose characters, stupefying eloquence and overall magic that reeks of Tarantino’s reckless and pastiche filmmaking.