A dark comedy that explores both suburban narcissism and adolescent ignorance, Thoroughbreds is a clever experiment in that it knows when to be restrained. Noted theater director Cory Finley directs the film with a stage like precision, focusing on the ambiance of the environments and the methodical nature of the characters’ actions. This approach makes the shocking elements all the more earned, and even more shocking.
Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Oliva Cooke) couldn’t be any more different, as Lily is emotional, popular, and sure to have a successful future, and Amanda is cold, restrained, and emotionally distant. The two grow close through a tutoring session and decide to kill Lily’s stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks), plotting a gruesome murder with the help of local drug dealer Tim (Anton Yelchin). Featuring idiosyncratic performances from the leads and satirical associations between white suburbia and bloodlust, Thoroughbreds is a conversation starter that should fit well within the cult movie scene.
4. Hot Summer Nights
Hot Summer Nights is an odd amalgamation of genres; while the premise of a reclusive young man finding love and identity over a wild summer seems like the framework for a fairly traditional coming of age story, the film transforms itself into a gripping crime thriller as Timothee Chalamet’s character Daniel gets involved with serious drug dealers as he attempts to pursue his crush Makayla (Maika Monroe). The result is a film that includes John Hughes-esque existential yearning with the sordid world of double crossing crime fiction.
It’s also an incredibly idiosyncratic film in terms of design, as it utilizes a voiceover framing device from a side character (whose role isn’t revealed until the end) and an eclectic soundtrack that features everything from David Bowie to The Zombies. Chalamet plays a character so awkward and reclusive that it feels like a borderline parody of teen movie clichés, and it’s this strange mix of sincerity and irony that makes Hot Summer Nights such a fascinating watch.
3. Bad Times at the El Royale
Drew Goddard’s first film Cabin in the Woods was an instant cult classic, gaining admiration from horror fans for the clever deconstruction of familiar archetypes and plot points found in slasher films. Goddard’s follow up film hasn’t quite attained the same status, as it still suffers from the stigma of its poor box office performance. That is very unfortunate, as Bad Times at the El Royale is a highly entertaining throwback to contained location thrillers, and soaks up all the personality of its 60s setting.
Six strangers meet at the mythic El Royale hotel on the California-Nevada border; FBI Agent Dwight Broadbeck (Jon Hamm), aging thief Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), aspiring singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), lobby boy Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman), and hippie sisters Emily (Dakota Johnson) and Rose Summerspring (Cailee Spaney) all trade secrets and deals as they await the arrival of the sociopathic cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth). Filled with dark comedy, amusing dialogue, and some stunning camerawork that includes one of the great tracking shots of the decade, Bad Times at the El Royale is a lurid genre mashup that deserves a passionate cult appreciation.
2. Tron: Legacy
The Tron franchise is a highly unusual one; the 1982 original film, while featuring some noteworthy visual effects, was only a moderate success and doesn’t hold up as well as other 1980s science fiction films. Over time, Tron grew in cult status enough to justify a sequel, and ironically enough, Tron: Legacy also proved to be only a moderate success. However, Tron: Legacy should not be dismissed as a shameless sequel, as the film is one of the most aesthetically interesting and visually arresting blockbusters of the 21st Century.
It would be impossible to talk about the film without mentioning the incredible score from Daft Punk, which worked alongside the breathtaking visual effects to create an electric, dazzling techno future. The action sequences are visceral and exciting, and the film works well with the mythology of the original film to create a touching father-son story between Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and his grown son Sam (Garrett Hedlund). If Tron proved to be a cult classic, then it’s superior sequel deserves the same status.
1. Under the Silver Lake
The journey for Under the Silver Lake to hit theaters was a tumultuous one; after receiving mixed reviews upon its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2018, the film’s June release date was pushed to December, and then pushed again to April, where it only received a limited theatrical run and was released simultaneously on VOD. As the film’s mythic status grew, fans became obsessed with analyzing the clues and messages behind the film’s marketing, and these questions continued to persist after the film was released.
Under the Silver Lake is all about the latent messages in everyday life, and the viewer must force themselves to reckon with whether Sam (Andrew Garfield) is either picking up on details no one else did or is completely crazy. The film has many subplots that hint at larger ideas, and viewers continue to be divided on whether the film is an ingenious satire of obsession and toxic masculinity, or a rambling, pointless endeavor. Either way, the extreme views on either side set the stage for a divisive cult classic that will continue to be debated for years.