While 2020 hasn’t been devoid of quality cinema, it has been lacking in some areas. There was no way around that. A pandemic hit, which pushed so many releases forward. This has resulted in something of a lackluster year for moviegoers. Although the last twelve months have brought us plenty of gems, some people have used their quarantine time to sit back and take a look at older films they normally don’t have time to appreciate.
That’s why this list exists. Rather than counting down another assortment of new movies, we’re looking to celebrate cult classics that have fallen by the wayside. This particular list will focus on films in the science fiction genre, but honestly, there are countless hidden gems from various time periods.
The choices for this list aren’t the most obscure films to ever release. If they were, they wouldn’t have a cult following. However, they do tend to put the “cult” in cult classic. The ten entries listed below have some passionate fans, and they do for a reason. They might not have mainstream appeal, but they do target certain types of people, and those types of people will really appreciate them.
1. Fantastic Planet (1973)
It’s probably not the most obscure entry on this list considering the boatloads of critical acclaim, but Fantastic Planet isn’t exactly a Disney-sized hit either. This trippy animated feature mixes social commentary with surreal visuals, and the result is simultaneously confounding and magnificent. René Laloux’s magnum opus isn’t always easy to follow. Certain themes come across as ambiguous, and as a result, some viewers may find the end result to be hollow and pretentious. However, with a little bit of brain power, you’ll find something special.
In Fantastic Planet, humans live on a planet alongside massive aliens. These aliens treat the humans as if they were animals. In other words, humans are not the top of the food chain in this world. They’re just another species to exploit for entertainment and labor
The premise sounds disturbing, and in a lot of ways, it is. At the same time, this is a beautiful motion picture with complex allegories that will resonate with a specific group of people. Let’s be clear: Fantastic Planet is not going to rock everyone’s world; it’s too weird. That being said, plenty of people will be hypnotized.
2. Liquid Sky (1982)
If you’re looking for sex, drugs, and rock & roll, you can’t do much better than Liquid Sky, an avant garde masterpiece soaked in neon. Slava Tsukerman’s examination of punk rock subculture involves aliens, orgasms, and oodles of cocaine. It’s hilarious, touching, and more than a little bizarre. It’s also one of the most slept-on movies of the 1980s.
It’s a shame that Liquid Sky is so hard to find. Even in 2020, where streaming services allow folks to access a vast quantity of films at the touch of a button, you’ll have a tough time finding a way to watch this little-known cult classic. Nevertheless, it’s worth seeking out especially if the above description stood out to you.
3. Upstream Color (2013)
Shane Carruth’s follow-up to Primer was never destined for mainstream success. After all, Primer was never destined for mainstream success. Carruth’s dense screenplays are as confusing as they are fascinating. Because of this, his two directorial efforts have been arthouse with a capital A. We’ve chosen to focus on Upstream Color because it’s slightly lesser-known than its time-travelling older brother, but both are worth checking out.
At its core, Upstream Color is about a nasty parasite with an appetite, but we all know it’s not that simple. Carruth has never been fond of coherent, linear narratives. Instead, he presents viewers with a scattered assortment of puzzle pieces that don’t necessarily fit together. The jumbled storytelling is accompanied by a lack of dialogue. This combination of arthouse staples ultimately results in an exasperating hour-and-a-half, but it’s an experience you won’t be able to get out of your head.
Upstream Color might be an obtuse head-scratcher, but there is clearly something beneath the surface. This is not convoluted for the sake of being convoluted. If it was, you wouldn’t be able to find countless analyses that come to similar conclusions. Carruth might not present the central message on a silver platter, but he leaves enough bread crumbs to help people come to their own conclusions. That obviously won’t appeal to everyone, but there’s an audience who will adore the mystery,
4. Silent Running (1972)
Silent Running is no stranger to Taste of Cinema. It has been included in several lists, and for good reason; it’s excellent. Sure, it lacks subtlety, but it more than makes up for that thanks to the clever writing mixed with shockingly competent special effects. It has a tendency to get negatively compared to genre titans like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, which isn’t fair.
The sci-fi behemoths of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s benefited from bigger budgets and more experienced filmmakers. Silent Running tells an exciting story with a modest budget, and it does so without any excess flash. It doesn’t need to be compared to anything because it’s in a category of its own.
5. Save the Green Planet (2003)
It might not always know what the hell it wants to be, but Save the Green Planet is nothing if not amusing. Jang Joon-hwan’s most well-known film is the most endearing identity crisis you will ever witness. It’s a grab-bag of different genres, and none of those genres really breaks through to the forefront, but that doesn’t affect the final outcome as much as you’d believe.
Lack of focus be damned. Save the Green Planet doesn’t need to adhere to boring conventions. It’s loud and proud about its quirky aesthetic, which thankfully works out in its favor. It’s willingness to try so many things should be a much bigger issue than it is. Hell, that little trait will likely appeal to most viewers.
Like most cult classics, there will be people who just don’t get the appeal. That’s fine. Just give the flick a short amount of your time before you judge it. You may become another one of its many cult followers.