The Five Best Cult Classics on Netflix
Tricky creatures, cult films, some you may spot as soon as they’re released, others seem unremarkable at first but then time passes and something strange happens. What was nothing special, suddenly seems much more interesting. If you’ve not caught any of these beauties then it’s high time you filled the gaps in your education.
A sure sign of cult status is when a phrase from a movie becomes a part of everyday language, in this case, the title, which has become shorthand for describing any monotonous event that seems to happen again and again. The central idea of the film is brilliantly simple, grumpy weatherman, Bill Murray, who called this role ‘probably the best work I’ve done’, is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the groundhog celebrations. When he wakes the next morning, he discovers that the day has started all over again and it continues to start over again every morning. The master stroke of this film is that it never attempts to explain why time is stuck, it just is. There’s also no clue as to how long Bill Murray’s character, Phil, is stuck. What happens to Phil as he gets to know the townspeople is that he is transformed by his understanding. It’s a warm, funny and wholly original viewing experience.
Friday the 13th
This however, is neither warm nor original but it is pure cult gold and the first strike of a seam that’s still being mined. Murdering teens had been a movie staple since the fifties but this film supercharged the formula in a way that audiences had never experienced before. A group of teens attempt to reopen the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake. A mad old man, Crazy Ralph, warns of a ‘death curse’ and sure enough grisly killing follows grisly killing. It’s a mechanical shocker but it works as neatly as a mousetrap. Like The Blair Witch Project is exploits our innate fear of the creepy outdoors, like Carrie it baits the trap with a little titillating sex and it turns up the gross meter by ensuring that axe and arrow deaths are by blows to the head. It doesn’t have character development, it doesn’t have a rich subtext and you’ll have seen plenty more gory stuff than this, but as an innocent tale of teen slaughter, you can’t beat it. You can see our overview of the series here.
This one is no low budget shocker, it’s a big budget art movie based on the cult novel by Chuck Palahniuk, but don’t let that put you off because it’s also a funny, intriguing and highly original film. I don’t want to spoil the story because it’s really one that you’re going to have to make up your own mind about, so let’s just say Edward Norton’s character meets Brad Pitt’s character and they form a Fight Club and from there things get weirder and weirder. It’s about a crisis in masculinity, it’s about consumerism, it’s about control by big corporations and it’s a very entertaining movie.
Law student, Matt Damon and ex con and hustler, Edward Norton, need to pay off a debt fast and so they go rounding, picking the high stakes poker games. They go head to head with Russian mobster, Teddy KGB, John Malkovich, in a lovely ott performance and …well watch it. Some pro poker players claim it was this film that got them into the game and it’s still cited as one of the best gambling films of all time.
The Big Lebowski
Pure unadulterated pleasure and one of the most quotable films of all time, this is the Coen brothers doing Raymond Chandler in their own inimitable way. A dream cast deliver a feast of hilarious characters set in a convoluted plot that really doesn’t matter. Jeff Bridges stoner character, the Dude, stumbles into a noir bad dream but never loses his cool, ‘the dude abides’. John Goodman’s war vet is a study in barely supressed anger and Steve Buscemi is an uncharacteristically submissive Donny. Pure cinematic escapism and a great soundtrack, it’s one to watch over and over.