There are some movies that are so great, they become must-watch classics. But the most indelible cult movies are like a shadow canon, which become just as essential. Except sometimes some incredibly deserving cult movies never quite get their due. Here are 12 movies that deserve to be cult classics.
Hercules is one of the all-time great public domain heroes, so it’s not surprising that he appears twice on this list. But it’s an absolute travesty that people don’t constantly GIF and quote the Hercules films that Lou Ferrigno starred in right after he played the Incredible Hulk. In the first movie, he fights robot centaurs that shoot laser arrows. And mecha-bees. And he travels to other planets by lassooing a rock and throwing it into space. In the second movie, though, he kills a sasquatch so hard, it turns into a lightning bolt. And he grows to giant size and pushes the Earth and the Moon apart with his bare hands, while Zeus cheers him on. See that amazing moment above.
The Wicker Man remake tends to steal all of the “bonkers Nic Cage” glory, thanks to the “bees” line and some other great moments. But Drive Angry deserves a whole other entry in the pantheon. You’ve probably seen the famous “Nic Cage has sex while chugging Jack Daniels and shooting random assassins” scene, because that was all over the internet. But the whole movie is like that, leading up to a pretty thunderous conclusion, where Nic Cage makes good on the various threats he’s made throughout the film towards the Satanic cult that corrupted his daughter. (Cage has come back from Hell to get revenge, and it turns out that Satan doesn’t really like Satanists very much.) Plus you have to love a movie whose title is so gleefully syntax-free—you have to wonder if they were trying to cash in on the success of Cage’s Bangkok Dangerous.
Everybody always goes on about Hell Comes to Frogtown—but what about Donald G. Jackson’s other great post-apocalyptic epic? In Roller Blade, the scarred landscape is governed by roller-skating nuns with switchblades (hence “roller blade”) and their Mother Superior uses a glowing smiley face to heal their wounds. This process involves the nuns getting into a hot tub while the nun watches, and the smiley face gets bigger and glowier. But the world is also overrun with punks, berserkers, and the followers of Dr. Sattacroy, who is basically an evil hand puppet. Dr. Sattacroy wants the source of the nuns’ power, and he’ll do almost anything to get it—even promise Walkman batteries to a young skater whose Walkman is out of juice. This movie is full of lines, like “Thou must either skatest or diest.” It is absolutely the best film I ever purchased on VHS for $1 back in the day.
This one is not, strictly speaking, a science fiction or fantasy movie—but it does include a billion tropes of the “spy action-adventure” genre, so I’m just sneaking in there. Ninja star Sho Kosugi (and half his family) co-star in this campy James Bond spoof. Basically, a bus load of tourists (including a visiting U.S. Congressman) gets kidnapped in the Philippines, by a team of evil lesbian commandos led by the vicious Colonel Honey Hump. (The scene in which Colonel Honey Hump introduces herself to her captives is kind of unbelievable.) But Colonel Honey Hump is actually working for the gay Islamic terrorist Alby the Cruel, who looks a bit like Prince circa Under the Cherry Moon—if Prince was playing an Islamic Dr. Strangelove with a pet monkey. (Seriously, Alby the Cruel is doing some kind of weird Dr. Strangelove riff, including a fake German accent, but he has a pet monkey on his shoulder.) This movie should be seen by everybody at least three times.
You might argue that Beastmaster II has something of a cult following. But no cult following could ever be enough for this film, in which the hero of the sword-and-sorcery series (played by V’s Marc Singer!) goes through a time portal to present-day Los Angeles and has to learn how to say the word “asshole.” Seriously, this movie deserves ALL the cult status.
There are tons and tons of amazing post-Rapture movies, ever since Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind became a huge smash hit. There are movies about the dystopian future where the United Nations forces people to get bar codes and get gay married. There are plenty of movies where Satan takes over the world. But in this one, a man with the unlikely name of Stone Alexander has just become the President of the European Union, and tries to use this position to create one world government—but nobody realizes that Stone Alexander is possessed by Satan. Stone’s brother David, though, is the Vice President of the United States (and he’s played by Terminator’s Michael Biehn), and after Stone uses his Satanic powers to give the U.S. President a heart attack, David becomes President. Yes, the President of the U.S. and the President of Europe are brothers—one good, one evil. It’s up to the Mexicans and the Chinese to step in and fight Satan, in a ginormous battle scene during which Stone Alexander’s head rips open to reveal his true form. Oh, and Udo Kier plays a demon in this—you’ll find Udo Kier playing an MVP role in a few of the films on this list.
I’m fighting for this one, because Uwe Boll’s films all tend to get lumped together into one glob of awful. And it’s not true—the first Bloodrayne movie is in a class by itself. (The two Bloodrayne sequels are bad and boring, though.) In Bloodrayne, Meat Loaf basically plays the Marquis de Sade and hosts a bloody S&M orgy halfway through the film. Also in this film: Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Madsen and Matt Davis (from Vampire Diaries!) as three vampire hunters—the scene where Rodriguez sword-fights Rayne while spouting incredibly stilted dialogue is just amazing. (And Davis gets a pretty bonkers prison sex scene.) And Ben Kingsley, playing the main villain, is clearly trying to compete with Jeremy Irons’ performance in Dungeons & Dragons. This movie was almost theatrically released—our local theater was advertising it, only to yank it two days before opening—and it’s probably the biggest budget Boll ever had. (And Udo Kier plays a Regal Monk, who dispenses lots of exposition.)
Do you need any more information besides this film’s title? Really? Okay, here goes. In Spermula, a group of aliens come down to Earth to harvest men’s sperm. What sets this movie apart from your typical “aliens come to Earth to harvest men’s sperm” film is that this one is bizarrely artistic—including a scene where they invite a red-robed Catholic priest to dinner and use their psychic powers to beam images of naked ladies into his brain. Also, the English dub of this film contains the following dialogue, when one of the alien ladies chastises another: “We went all the way to Bloomingdales for those sheets. I can show you the invoice! Now get a hold of yourself, darling, or I’m telling Big Mother. You’re getting involved with these Earthlings. You’re turning our pragmatic ideology into materialistic revisionism. Stifle your human lust!” Oh, and whenever the aliens harvest a man’s sperm, he becomes impotent for life afterwards. Udo Kier plays the only one of the aliens who’s taken on the form of a man, and he wanders around glowering at the other aliens. (Warning: video is very NSFW!)
This film got a bit more exposure recently, when it inspired the spoof Manborg. But still, this movie about a cyborg “Mandroid” on the run from the evil scientists who created him deserves a much, much higher profile. The “Mandroid” flees from the lab where he was created, by removing his legs and turning himself into a tank, and then teams up with a roboticist (Denise Crosby, right before Star Trek: TNG) and a ninja, to fight the bad guys. There is a long sequence where Crosby tricks a boathouse full of tour guides into beating each other up for the “honor” of leading her up the river, causing a mean lesbian boat captain to swear vengeance against Crosby. Every time you think this movie can’t get wackier... it does. (And until just now, I thought this movie had never been released on DVD. But turns out it’s available as part of a four-movie pack that retails for around $6. Woo hoo! Guess what I just ordered?)
This movie is impossible to find now, in any format. But it made a huge impact on the LGBT festival circuit in the late 1990s. Basically, a woman in “Bumfuck Arkansas” is about to be forced to marry a man against her will, so she shoots herself—and finds herself in an alternate universe ruled by lesbians. Cue musical numbers about “la-la-la-la-lesbians.” (Oh, did we not mention it’s a musical?) The movie’s trailer, embedded above, proudly proclaims this film is guaranteed to offend absolutely everybody—and gives enough of a flavor that you can judge for yourself.
This is another one that doesn’t have the cult status it deserves—purely because it’s too recent. But the Renny Harlin-directed movie in which Hercules becomes a gladiator contains some of the most incredible acting we’ve ever seen on the big screen. Plus a LOT of gratuitous beefcake, and a huge sequence where Kellan Lutz swings a sword made of lightning.
Shortly after the Tsui Hark-produced Chinese Ghost Story became a huge sensation, someone else put out Erotic Ghost Story, the tale of three female demons who become human and seduce a young scholar—but he’s got a secret of his own. I remember the first Erotic Ghost Story being somewhat tame, but the sequels get wilder and crazier—Erotic Ghost Story III, embedded above, is a heady mixture of wuxia fights, bizarre double entendres about wooden fish, crazy dance numbers, and mystical orgies. Oh, and long explanations about how someone needs to sacrifice her virginity to protect the young hero from yang poisoning. (Warning: Video is very NSFW!)
Now that M. Night Shyamalan has made a decent movie again, it’s time to revisit his worst disaster. Which is not just an awful travesty and an insult to a great TV show—it’s also the epitome of “so bad it’s good.” This movie should be at the top of everybody’s “midnight movies” list, for reasons I detail here.
But we’re just scratching the surface here. What’s your favorite movie that deserves to have way more of a cult status?
Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming in January from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.