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The A.V. Club's New Cult Canon Is My New To-Do List


I hadn't really thought about it that much, but recently I realized that I watch movies a LOT. Good, bad, classic, camp, rom-coms, dramas, comedies, mainstream, underground, independent, big budget, foreign, weird, simple...I'll watch just about anything. And it's not because I like to simply consume. I really just enjoy watching and considering cinema. On any given weekend, I'll watch 4 or 5 movies, which may not sound like an extraordinary amount, but when you consider that I work full-time, freelance write, go to grad school, and have a kid, I think it becomes obvious that this is something that I really make time for, the same way that people make time for things like...oh, I don't know...exercising, or cleaning the house...or bathing. Netflix and cable are not luxuries for me, they're essential and keep me from running amok.

About a year ago, Scott Tobias of The Onion's A.V. Club embarked on an open-ended project called the New Cult Canon. The premise is simple: in the tradition of Danny Peary's Guide for the Film Fanatic and Cult Movies books, compile a list of recent movies that have achieved cult status. What defines a cult movie? The basic guidelines are:

  • obscurities kept alive by a small cadre of followers
  • popular movies with special replay value
  • flawed gems
  • movies deliberately tailored to the obsessive weirdoes who love them

Since embarking on the New Cult Canon, Tobias' list now includes 49 movies. Tobias writes very nice examinations of each one and opens the floor to comments and, of course, debate.

So, here's my brief take on the list:

The Limey commentary track - haven't seen yet

Velvet Goldmine - I've tried to watch this a few times and you'd think I'd be all over it since I would totally have an orgy with Toni Collette, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Christian Bale, and Ewan McGregor given the chance, but I just can't get into this one.

Bitter Moon - haven't seen yet

Mysterious Skin - haven't seen yet

King of New York - haven't seen yet

Married to the Mob - haven't seen yet

Reservoir Dogs - I'm such a sucker for Tarantino. And, yeah, his flicks are obvious choices but I think they're quintessentially cult movies. Plus I have a weakness for a group of men walking in slow motion. Makes my heart go pitter patter. Stop pointing that gun at my dad.

Exotica - haven't seen yet

Fallen Angels - haven't seen yet

The Devil's Rejects - haven't seen yet

Pulse - haven't seen yet

Audition - Ugh. Saw this once, regretted it ever since. I guess it's good, technically, and I generally like fucked up movies, but this one I just couldn't handle.

Near Dark - haven't seen yet, which is surprising because I took a course on vampires in film and literature in college (seriously) and this never came up. However, I have seen every Dracula movie ever made.

Rounders - I've seen this movie countless times since it's often on cable. I was actually surprised to learn that this has a cult following, because I don't know anyone who's seen it besides me or my husband, despite its rather impressive ensemble cast. I can't totally get into the fetishization of poker, but this is definitely a good, satisfying flick.

Office Space - This is another movie that I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times I've watched it. Sublime satire, endlessly quotable, and funny as hell.

Irreversible - I actually just watched this last night, which is honestly not the best way to wind down on a Tuesday night. All I had heard about this movie was that there was a rape scene that was certainly brutal and perhaps excessive. I won't get into that discussion here, but if you can stomach the two very graphic scenes that arc this movie, you're guaranteed an interesting conversation afterward. Hence, my husband and I staying up until 3 a.m. discussing it. *yawn*

Gerry - haven't seen yet

Oldboy - haven't seen yet

Songs from the Second Floor - haven't seen yet

Fight Club - I mean...duh. I saw this in the theater twice. 1) It's Chuck Palahniuk 2) Nihilists fuck shit up and 3) Brad Pitt. Shirtless. And sweaty. And dirty. I'm human, okay?

American Movie - haven't seen yet, but probably the one I'm looking forward to seeing the most.

The Kingdom - haven't seen yet

Gremlins 2 - I've seen this many times. I honestly did not realize there was a cult following. I mean...why?

Sonatine - haven't seen yet

Sexy Beast - haven't seen yet

Showgirls - Oh. Really?!?! I've only seen bits of this because it really is just that bad, but I will say that the movie poster kicks ass and that part where she says her dress is "Ver SAYCE" is golden.

The Devil's Advocate - I've only seen this once. I only thought it was okay.

Manos: The Hands of Fate vs. Troll 2 - haven't seen yet

Road House - haven't seen yet but: SWAYZE

Wild Things - haven't really seen yet, but my husband likes to tell the story of when he went to see this in the theater and when Denise Richards and Neve Campbell started making out, all of the dudes in the theater gave it a standing ovation.

Punch-Drunk Love - I got through about half of this and it was okay and then I just started hating it. I really hope Adam Sandler just stops talking altogether at some point.

The Boondock Saints - I had never heard of this but about 5 years after it came out, my sister-in-law gave the DVD to us for Christmas. Its cult following is certainly comprised of douchebags who over-romanticize gangster movies, but this one is actually pretty rad.

Wet Hot American Summer - haven't seen yet

Dead Man - haven't seen yet

Battle Royale - haven't seen yet

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control - haven't seen yet

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - haven't seen yet

The Rules of Attraction - I really did not like this movie the first time that I watched it. But with nothing better to do one night, I watched it again and kinda liked it. I've since watched it a few more times and now I love it.

I Am Cuba - haven't seen yet

The Blair Witch Project - One of the scariest movies I've ever seen and one of the best examples of slow-burning hype using the internet back before it was cool to do so.

Pi - This one holds a special place in my heart since it was the movie that my husband and I watched the first night we started making moves toward being together. We watch it every year on our anniversary. But besides my sentimental attachment, this is a fascinating and weird movie.

Primer - My husband and I rented this one night and I unfortunately fell asleep very early on (see: aforementioned job, school, writing, kid). Going to watch it again soon because my husband psychotically loved it.

Clerks - THIRTY SEVEN!!!!!! Mwah! I love you, Clerks.

They Live - Totally underrated brilliant gem. See this as soon as possible if you've never, or if it's been a long time. CONSUME. OBEY.

Babe: Pig in the City - haven't seen yet and honestly kind of puzzled by its cult status, but whatever.

Miami Blues - haven't seen yet

Irma Vep - haven't seen yet

Morvern Callar - haven't seen yet

Donnie Darko - I know that this might make me some enemies but here it goes: the only good thing to come out of this piece of shit was that cover of "Mad World."

Obviously, I have my work cut out for me. But what say you? Agree? Disagree? What needs to be added? And more importantly, what should I see first?

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YAY! Finally, someone else who didn't fall madly in love with Donnie Darko. I really don't see what all the hype is about when it comes to that one...

I can't believe Serenity isn't on their list.

As someone who watches an EXCESSIVE amount of movies I can't believe I haven't seen a lot of these. Although a good deal of them are on my "watch that if it's on" list.


I agree with you on the Donnie Darko. Not a fan. Some of the others look interesting and worth a rent though...

Where's my Better Off Dead???


Yes, Better Off Dead, where is it? I loved that film.

Babe: Pig In The City deserves its cult status. That was a really strange film.


You're breaking my heart with the Velvet Goldmine comment! Anything featuring Bowie or a thinly veiled Bowie-esque character has my full attention. I actually JUST bought the Donnie Darko special edition BLU RAY version so obviously I am not of the same opinion as you on that one either BUT thank you for posting this list. I would suggest renting Battle Royale and Oldboy ASAP. They are REALLY amazing.


Re: Serenity and Better Off Dead

The list is a work in progress! Head on over there and campaign for them to be included.


I would add Barton Fink to the list. I know a lot of people dislike this movie, but I'm a big fan and I think it's one of the Coen Brothers best. John Turturro is great in the title role as a clueless writer and John Goodman is disturbing as the insurance salesman neighbor. Good stuff.

As far as what to see first, I vote for Dead Man.


This list just forced me to go online and buy a copy of Wet Hot American Summer. It is one of the best damn summer-camp/early-80's/made-for-tv-movie type spoofs ever made, if not the best. (And possibly the only, as I re-read my convoluted description.) The demographic that will find it funny is kind of narrow, think Hamlet 2 or Kids in the Hall. Also, it has Paul Rudd. And Amy Poehler. And Christopher Meloni, (who I can't look at and not think of Elliot Stabler, but who has always impressed the hell out of me when he's in a comedic role.) You should definitely add it to your NetFlix queue.


I am so pleased that you didn't dig "Donnie Darko". Everyone else in my extended family thinks it's brilliant, but I'm just meh. And I hate that bunny. Every time I see it I'm left feeling like I just didn't get it...and everybody else did.

What's your take on "Sin City"?


i hate to make you seem like more of a dork than is already obvious kel, but i think most of our DVD collection could be classified as cult movies. i know when i browse the cult section at Eide's it's like looking through our stuff at home. Dark City, Science of Sleep, Road to Perdition, Angel Heart, Black Sheep (NZ), I <3 Huckabees, Waking Life, Baraka, Secretary, City of God, Ghost World, Virgin Suicides, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Clue, UHF, it could go on and on. most of the shit that isn't cult is probably like B, foreign, horror (which i guess count as cult as well in terms of what we have, like Basket Case, The Wicker Man, etc) or just fucking insane.

i tend to really enjoy movies made for any subculture, even ones i don't engage in myself (Bounce Rock, Dogtown and Z-Boys (the documentary), the Fast & the Furious series, etc) because theyre just guaranteed to be more interesting than the typical crap that people watch. i know i would rather watch any of the movies on this list than say "Milk" or whatever.


other good ones that we don't have but we watched: Bartleby, Josie and the Pussycats, House of Yes, Party Girl, Midnight Madness, etc. i can keep going and going. these are all so much better than your typical Academy Award winners.


This is a pretty great list, but what the hell is Devil's Advocate doing there?

Of the stuff you haven't seen that I have seen, I loved Sexy Beast and Wet Hot American Summer. As a former camp counselor, W.H.A.S. holds a special place in my heart.

Audition bugged me too. It made me realize that I have limits when it comes to cinematic violence.

Backpacking Dad

Donnie Darko isn't a movie. It's an amusement park ride: You get on. Weird shit happens that doesn't normally happen. A dude in a bunny suit sits down next to you and tells you the world is going to end. Then you get back to the beginning of the ride and get off.

I do love me some amusement park rides, though.


Wet Hot American Summer= Paul Rudd. Enough said.
HOW have you not seen Road House?


Dead Man is one of my favorites. Johnny Depp. Neil Young does soundtrack. Blake. I don't feel I have to say more about it. Move this to the top.

American Movie is so great, and so full of must-have pop culture references (coven. you'll see). WHAS is another must-see just so you get in on the in-jokes.

Road House is hilariously bad. Watch now. You will appreciate It's Always Sunny in Philedelphia on a whole new level (the "cooler").

I am also going to say that I Am Cuba and Babe 2: PITC need to be moved up on your list. Both need to be watched in full to appreciate their awesomeness. You may be tempted to turn them off. Don't. I Am Cuba is seriously BEAUTIFUL. It is a movie that will move you politically, socially, romantically, emotionally... it will make you more human to watch it. And the exact same thing can be said for Babe 2.


kelly, i think we're close enough to have established this, but for the record, if you were a man i'd be all over that shit.

jus sayin'.

Jason, that PetCobra Guy

Another great cult flick that the AV Club loves to hate is Neil LaBute's bugfuck crazy remake of "The Wicker Man". Forget all you know, or think you know, about bad moviemaking; it's transcendent. Also, it's about a cult, so it's a cult film in every sense.

Robyn G

Yeah, where's my Better Off Dead and The Goonies? Too well-known to be cultish, perhaps?

There are some on here that I need to see.


Pet Cobra, do you read the "My Year of Flops" entries on AV Club? One of the first ones I read was "Wicker Man." I had no interest in it prior to that entry.

Kelly, I will join the chorus saying watch "Wet Hot American Summer." This entry has reminded me that I need to show my damn boyfriend this movie to prove that our tastes are not exclusive.

Also, re: "Primer": God, that movie is so awesome, but I really really wish I could figure out what the hell is going on. I also wish that dude would make another movie.

Additionally, I NEED to watch "Roadhouse."


the cover of "mad world" is very awesome.


Gerry is ok. My wife really likes it and calls her best friend, with whom she might conceivably have that sort of misadventure, Gerry.

Imagine a scene with no dialogue and no soundtrack. Two men are in the wilderness, walking.

Now it keeps going. And then it goes some more, the same way. Just when you think it can't possibly go on the same any longer.... it goes on some more. And then you think it REALLY can't possibly go on longer. And then it does. Right when you get to the point of going insane, it finally ends.


Also, haaaaated Punch Drunk Love.


Aerdin, I liked Sin City, but I haven't had a strong urge for repeat viewings. I thought the visual and theatrical aesthetics were cool and the story pretty interesting, but I don't own it on DVD and I'm not really missing it from my collection. I might watch it on cable, though.


@kelly - you forgot to mention how pi. is. probably. the. most. important. movie. ever.


songs from the second floor is absurd and breathtaking. i highly recommend.

dead man might be my favorite movie of all time. i 100% agree with the person who says move it to the top of your list with this caveat: watch on a mildly (stress mildly) caffeinated saturday afternoon. you want to be wide awake, but not energetic. you definitely can't watch dead man if you're at all sleepy kel.

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