For various reasons, movies don’t always get the attention they deserve. Whether they bomb at the box office or underperform critically, not every movie is destined to be a classic. In some cases, a miracle happens. People decide that the critics were wrong all along or people finally get around to watching that movie everybody missed when it first came out. Without small but dedicated fan bases, movies like Donnie Darko, Eraserhead, and Super Troopers would fade into obscurity.
With that in mind, this list is going to look at ten movies that have the potential to become cult classics. For some reason, the movies listed all lack the mainstream appeal to push them into future classic territory. However, they have potential to become cult classics for various reasons. Whether it’s due to their quirky nature or intellectual maturity, these movies all show signs that they can (and hopefully will) earn a dedicated audience.
10. The Girl With All the Gift
It has become damn near impossible to make a unique zombie movie nowadays. Every now and then, someone gets lucky, but for the most part directors have to rely on elements other than creativity. The Girl With All the Gifts is one of those rare zombie movies that’s both fresh and well made. It has strong characters, great dialog, and genuine scares. However, it also approaches the zombie subgenre in a way that feels distinctive.
In order to give credit where credit is due, it should be noted that The Girl With All the Gifts is an adaptation of a dystopian novel by M.R. Carey. That doesn’t make it any less worthy of praise though. Carey deserves recognition for bringing so many great ideas to the table, but the cast and crew shouldn’t be ignored. The visuals are stunning, the cast is top notch, and the scares are frequent. Director Colm McCarthy did a masterful job of bringing the novel to the big screen.
The limited release unfortunately means it might fade into obscurity relatively soon. Luckily, the creativity of the project means that a small crowd of people might (and should) be willing to embrace it. Horror movies are easy to peg as future cult classics because horror fans are so passionate about the genre. Here’s hoping this film gets the fanbase it deserves.
Colossal misses the mark in terms of accurate marketing. It’s not a monster movie but rather an oddly melancholy look at alcoholism and mental illness. It instead chooses to use the “colossal” monster as some type of allegory. Some folks will love it while others will immediately want their money back.
Including a giant movie monster in a movie generally means that large-scale brawls are going to happen. Colossal takes a decidedly different approach. Does it work? Absolutely. Is everyone going to love it? Not a chance.
Aside from the incredibly strong cast, Colossal works precisely because it puts the monster in the background. This isn’t a monster movie as much as it is a drama that happens to have giant kaiju monsters in it.
The concept is already pretty strange. Anne Hathaway controls a giant monster from a different country without even knowing how. The way it’s approached is even weirder. It’s more about her relationship with other people and herself rather than her hilarious predicament. It’s freaking brilliant, but it’s even stranger than most people could’ve imagined.
8. Good Time
With the style of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie and the raw grit of your average Fincher crime thriller, Good Time is one hell of an adrenaline rush. Despite easy-to-make comparisons, the Safdie brothers have still created a movie that’s entirely unique.
This directing pair is hardly a household name, but 2015’s Heaven Knows What made a strong impression on the few viewers who gave it a watch. In other words, they make quality movies that quickly fade into obscurity. Unfortunately, their latest effort has also fallen under-the-radar. While it managed to earn a wide release, it still bombed at the box office.
It’s easy to blame poor marketing on the film’s lack of financial success. The movie expanded to a wide release after a few weeks in theaters, but it was advertised like a limited release movie throughout its entire run. Trailers were generally attached to arthouse movies, it went up against several other crime movies when it expanded (Logan Lucky and The Hitman’s Bodyguard), and the summer release date ensured it wouldn’t fit in with the general summer crowd of movies.
Honestly, the movie is excellent. The stunning visuals are enough to push it into cult classic territory, but the wild sense of humor and over-the-top intensity make it even more appealing. The Safdie brothers have yet to make a mainstream smash hit, but they have made a little bit of progress with each subsequent release. If they eventually blow up, movies like Good Time and Heaven Knows What have an even greater chance of becoming cult classics. Only time will tell.
7. Buster’s Mal Heart
Wikipedia describes Buster’s Mal Heart as a “surreal mystery film,” and that couldn’t be more accurate. Calling this movie surreal is an understatement. It’s both stylistically and narratively weird as hell. The visuals immediately hook you, but it’s the thought-provoking ideas and Rami Malek’s phenomenal performance that keep you watching. If you can handle the film’s confident surrealism, you’ll be properly rewarded.
A good chunk of these films are present on this list because they’re too strange for mainstream audiences. Buster’s Mal Heart is no exception. In fact, it’s one of the oddest movies on the list. This is because every single aspect of the movie is downright strange. From the visuals to the structure, this is a movie that tries to outweird itself at every turn. Lucky for everyone involved, it mostly succeeds. The big ideas sometimes get buried beneath the quirkiness, but all in all this is a movie that’s different for all the right reasons.
6. Dave Made a Maze
Dave Made a Maze was practically designed to be a cult classic. The premise, which revolves around a man getting lost in an elaborate cardboard labyrinth, is the kind of quirky setup that’s just brilliant enough to work. It’s also the kind of quirky setup that’s too surreal for the average viewer. The inclusion of eccentric comedian Nick Thune as the lead only further proves that this movie is tailor-made for the hipster crowd.
For the most part, it’s just crazy enough to work. Admittedly, Dave Made a Maze would probably be more effective as a short film. It nearly wears out its thin premise several times throughout the fairly short runtime. Luckily, there are just enough solid jokes to make the journey worth it.
The dialog is what makes the movie so watchable because the plot unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. The good news is that the dialog is so entertaining that it’s fairly easy to forgive the overly simplistic plot. Sure, the movie can be a little simplistic, but it’s always fun.