'100 Cult Films': Some You'd Expect, But 'Star Wars'?

  • With a "jump to the left" and a "step to the right," The Rocky Horror Picture Show has for decades been a staple at midnight film screenings, where fans often sing along to "Time Warp" and the musical's other signature numbers.
    Hide caption
    With a "jump to the left" and a "step to the right," The Rocky Horror Picture Show has for decades been a staple at midnight film screenings, where fans often sing along to "Time Warp" and the musical's other signature numbers.
    All photos from The Kobal Collection
  • "There are pockets of fans who use [The Sound of Music] as a guide to life," says Ernest Mathijs, co-author of a new cult-films compendium. Some fans have interpreted catchphrases like "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" as questions of gender identity.
    Hide caption
    "There are pockets of fans who use [The Sound of Music] as a guide to life," says Ernest Mathijs, co-author of a new cult-films compendium. Some fans have interpreted catchphrases like "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" as questions of gender identity.
  • The 1946 box-office flop It's a Wonderful Life became a cult family film after its copyright lapsed. Local TV networks looking for cheap content began airing the movie annually in time for the holidays.
    Hide caption
    The 1946 box-office flop It's a Wonderful Life became a cult family film after its copyright lapsed. Local TV networks looking for cheap content began airing the movie annually in time for the holidays.
  • Dirty Dancing gained cult status not least for its iconic "Time of My Life" dance scene, in which Patrick Swayze whisked Jennifer Grey's Baby from the corner, according to Mathijs.
    Hide caption
    Dirty Dancing gained cult status not least for its iconic "Time of My Life" dance scene, in which Patrick Swayze whisked Jennifer Grey's Baby from the corner, according to Mathijs.
  • The enduring camp appeal of star Judy Garland — and the intricate back-story told in the novel and stage musical Wicked — have inspired new cult interpretations of The Wizard of Oz.
    Hide caption
    The enduring camp appeal of star Judy Garland — and the intricate back-story told in the novel and stage musical Wicked — have inspired new cult interpretations of The Wizard of Oz.
  • More than 2,000 NPR listeners sent in their suggestions of the best cult films missing from the list. Robert Allan wrote, "What? No A Clockwork Orange? Without that, the list is illegitimate."
    Hide caption
    More than 2,000 NPR listeners sent in their suggestions of the best cult films missing from the list. Robert Allan wrote, "What? No A Clockwork Orange? Without that, the list is illegitimate."
  • Margo McIntire wrote, "Seriously, no The Princess Bride on the list? Inconceivable!"
    Hide caption
    Margo McIntire wrote, "Seriously, no The Princess Bride on the list? Inconceivable!"

1 of 7

View slideshow i

If one movie can sum up the definition of "cult film," it would probably be The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Yeah, that is why it's up there at the top of the page.)

Midnight-movie screenings and singalongs with the film's musical numbers have cemented Rocky Horror's status in the pantheon of cult classics.

They've also helped to land the film on a new list of the top 100 cult films of all time. But that list also contains some surprising titles — sci-fi and fantasy mainstays like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, even family favorites like The Wizard of Oz, It's A Wonderful Life and The Sound of Music.

So what's "cult" about those movies? NPR's Audie Cornish talked to the two film studies professors who put the list together for their new book 100 Cult Films. Ernest Mathijs teaches at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver; Xavier Mendik teaches at Brunel University in London.

Earlier this month, we published Mathijs and Mendik's list and asked NPR's audiences to weigh in on what was there and what was missing.

This weekend, in the audio above, we explain what Mathijs and Mendik were thinking — they talk about surveying the field "from the margins to the mainstream" — and what you wanted to add to their list.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.