10 Great Recent Movies That May Become Future Cult Favorites

6. Polite Society (2023)

Following the success of British sitcom We Are Lady Parts, series creator Nida Manzoor doubled down on her ultra stylized comedy to deliver one of 2023’s biggest surprises. Polite Society is a brilliant genre mishmash with a sharp-witted screenplay that mixes quirky humor with a surprising amount of pathos.

Priya Kansara plays Ria Khan, a teenage girl who desperately wants to be a successful stuntwoman when she grows up. Unfortunately for her, seemingly every adult in her life dissuades her from pursuing her dream. Eventually, she decides to use her skills to take on Salim, a suspicious geneticist who also happens to be her older sister’s fiancé.

Polite Society’s cast is excellent. Priya Kansara in particular gives a breakthrough performance that deserves to be talked about in the inevitable onslaught of best-of lists. However, Manzoor’s big screen debut is more than just an acting showcase. Thanks to some truly surprising narrative shifts, Polite Society also presents a story that never bores.


7. Shiva Baby (2020)

At this rate, it might be fair to say that Shiva Baby is already a cult classic. Just two years after its theatrical release, it has already earned a coveted Alamo Drafthouse rerelease. On top of that, Rachel Sennott, the lead actress, continues to appear in comedies that are factory-made for Gen Z viewers looking to find the next cult hit. Basically, this anxiety-inducing comedy ticks every box needed to earn a cult following.

The film introduces viewers to Danielle, a college senior who runs into her sugar daddy at a shiva. For the uninitiated, a shiva is, at its most basic, a Jewish funeral. Of course, that definition is severely oversimplifying things, but for the purpose of this article, there’s only one thing that readers should be aware of; this is not the place to run into your married sexual partner.

This setup leads to a tense, albeit hysterical, 78-minute genre-mashup. Danielle’s unfortunate run-in is only part of her nightmarish day. When her family hounds her about her career choices and her ex-girlfriend begins asking big questions, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the in-over-her-head protagonist.

There’s no other way to put it; Shiva Baby is uncomfortable to sit through. There’s enough secondhand embarrassment to test anyone’s patience, but it’s so tightly executed that it almost plays out like a Hitchcockian thriller. In spite of this being her directorial debut, Emma Seligman proves to be a master at her craft. You’d be hard-pressed to find a contemporary comedy that takes this many risks and still manages to stick the landing.


8. System Crasher (2019)

System Crasher is a movie about outsiders; it’s a movie about people who don’t want to follow the rules. Starring Helena Zengel as the positively punk Benni, System Crasher paints a touching picture of childhood rebellion. While it has a tendency to come off as grating and cringey, it does so in order to teach viewers about its many impactful themes.

Compared to other entries on the list, System Crasher might have a tendency to come off as a little schmaltzy. Especially toward the end, things shift and become overly sentimental. That being said, its misunderstood protagonist absolutely deserves to be the poster child for all of the kids in the world who have been practically forced to rebel. Helena Zengel’s sympathetic performance will inevitably stand the test of time, and because of that, the central message is all the more palpable. In other words, there’s a clear audience for this niche German drama,


9. Theater Camp (2023)

Theater Camp almost feels like it was designed to be a cult classic. From the niche premise to the off-kilter sense of humor, this is not a movie designed for mainstream viewers to sit through casually. It strives to approach its target audience with as much authenticity as possible, and because of that, its cult appeal is through the roof.

At its core, Theater Camp is an infectious homage to the world of theater. It pays tribute to the timeless tropes of theater, but at the same time, it makes a concerted effort to tackle modern social and cultural issues. By pairing nostalgia with lighthearted commentary, viewers are left with something charming, intelligent, and good-natured.


10. Zola (2020)

Back in 2015, Aziah “Zola” King posted a series of tweets that recounted her days as a part-time stripper whose impromptu trip to Florida got messy. After gaining traction, Rolling Stone reported on it in a lengthy article, and from there, the film rights were eventually granted.

Janicza Bravo’s adaptation of this viral story is suitably frantic and kinetic. It’s a constant barrage on the senses, filled with quippy dialogue, over-the-top violence, and rapid-fire twists and turns. There is a whole lot of movie crammed into a 90-minute runtime, and ultimately, the average viewer’s tolerance for Zola’s feverish raunchiness might be tested.

Regardless, this is a list about future cult classics, so divisiveness tends to come with the territory. Zola might not handle its taboo subject matter with grace, but it does present viewers with thought-provoking questions alongside its high levels of bloodshed and anarchy. When you also factor in two career-defining performances, you’re left with a film that is bound to resonate with viewers for a long time.