20 Weird Cult Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen
Though many drive-ins have been shut down, and the practice of screening midnight movies in theaters has waned considerably from its heyday in the early 1970s, the thrill of sharing boundary-testing films in the dark can now be enjoyed just as well while curled up on the couch—no accompanying cult required.
From the whiff of exploitation emanating from Roger Vadim’s sensational And God Created Woman to the touch of snuff in Michael Powell’s voyeuristic Peeping Tom, these films delicately ride the line between pulp and art, always landing firmly in the latter camp. Who better to challenge cinematic standards than Samuel Fuller, with his unforgettable B melodramas Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss, or Brian De Palma, whose wonderfully nasty Sisters ushered in a new era of thrilling post-Hitchcock stylish excess? These films stubbornly refuse to be marginalized, lower budgets and lack of Hollywood gloss be damned.
20. Peeping Tom
A frank exploration of voyeurism and violence, Michael Powell’s extraordinary film is the story of a psychopathic cameraman—his childhood traumas, sexual crises, and murderous revenge as an adult. Reviled by critics upon its initial release for its deeply unsettling subject matter, the film has since been hailed as a masterpiece.
Maybe the New Wave’s most anarchic entry, Věra Chytilová’s absurdist farce follows the misadventures of two brash young women. Believing the world to be “spoiled,” they embark on a series of pranks in which nothing—food, clothes, men, war—is taken seriously. Daisies is an aesthetically and politically adventurous film that’s widely considered one of the great works of feminist cinema.
18. Dillinger Is Dead
In this magnificently inscrutable late-sixties masterpiece, Marco Ferreri, one of European cinema’s most idiosyncratic auteurs, takes us through the looking glass to one seemingly routine night in the life of an Italian gas mask designer, played, in a tour de force performance, by New Wave icon Michel Piccoli. In his claustrophobic mod home, he pampers his pill-popping wife, seduces his maid, and uncovers a gun that may have once been owned by John Dillinger—and then things get even stranger.
A surreal political missive about social malaise, Dillinger Is Dead (Dillinger è morto) finds absurdity in the mundane. It is a singular experience, both illogical and grandly existential.
17. Eating Raoul
A sleeper hit of the early 1980s, Eating Raoul is a bawdy, gleefully amoral tale of conspicuous consumption. Warhol superstar Mary Woronov and cult legend Paul Bartel (who also directed) portray a prudish married couple who feel put upon by the swingers living in their apartment building. One night, by accident, they discover a way to simultaneously rid themselves of the “perverts” down the hall and realize their dream of opening a restaurant.
A mix of hilarious, anything-goes slapstick and biting satire of me-generation self-indulgence, Eating Raoul marked the end of the sexual revolution with a thwack.