Cult Classic

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Zardoz explains: "The cult is good. The popular is evil. Go forth...and kill!"
"Cult" is a word that people were saying... a cult is popular as well, of course. You can't have a show that's just weird, that no-one watches. That's not cult, that's just... maybe a bad show that no-one wants to watch.
Chris Barrie, Red Dwarf A to Z

The air that every Geek breathes, a Cult Classic is a film or other work which has a devoted, even if sometimes small, fanbase. Some Cult Classics are obscure commercial failures at the time of their premiere which have since then successfully attracted a fanbase, even to the extent of becoming moneyspinners. Although this is the common public perception to a Cult Classic, some Cult movies were in fact box-office successes at the time but maintained a cult following long after public interest has moved onto the next flavour of the month. It's probably for this reason that some films with a strong cult following (eg The Blues Brothers) are sometimes wrongly assumed to have been unsuccessful at their time of release.

Cult classics have an unusual shelf life, and seemingly avert the Popularity Polynomial completely. Rather than receiving a short but large burst of popularity before ultimately fading completely into obscurity, cult classics receive a marginal amount of attention almost indefinitely. It's a good bet that a show or movie considered a cult classic 30 years ago will still be such today.

Though some movie studios have intentionally tried to position releases as Cult-Classics-To-Be (like Mirror Mask and Snakes on a Plane), perhaps hiring a bunch of Cult Actors and funky music, it is not usually successful. A true Cult Classic is as rare as capturing lightning in a bottle.

Note that not all cult classics are actually good. Although many of them are, or at least, are remembered as such. In fact, many cult classics are hilariously bad—which is why their fans adore them. These are sometimes called "Camp Classics".

See also Too Good to Last, though this extends to every medium. See also Critical Dissonance when the critics hate it, and Critic Proof when...the critics hate it, also. If it's a critical darling on the art-house circuit, but has no following beyond that, that's the other kind of Critical Dissonance. Contrast Quality by Popular Vote, which is the inverse trope. Compare Stoner Flick and/or B-Movie.[1]

Often the term "cult" is (perhaps) inaccurately applied to anything that is both old and has a devoted fan following, even if it was popular at the time. If the devoted fan following is rooted in it being both old and critically-acclaimed, and thus popular with fans of classic works in general (e.g. The Marx Brothers), it probably doesn't count.

Also note that "cult classic" is an affectionate English expression for a work of this type, and does not mean that it's a "classic" in the same sense of, say, a "classic novel" or "essential work". Unless the fandom are surrounded by a sea of indifference, such usage is too broad to be meaningful, so works such as Star Wars don't count. Otherwise, the phrase would be meaningless, as Roger Ebert has noted in lamenting its misuse, since it does carry certain genre-specific connotations.

The word "classic" may also be seen as an intensifier of sorts, implying works that have become seen as cult over the years, similar to a Sleeper Hit—due to factors such as Audience Participation, Notable Quotables, or other engrossing aspects that attract a select audience who proselytize fervently and disdain non-believers.

One good measurement to use when in doubt, is critical consensus. If a work is commonly described by critics as quirky, fringe, bizarre or off-putting to newcomers, and therefore "cult", then that meets the definition of the trope. If this is actually used as a selling point, then that is a good sign. An even better sign is if critics debate whether or not it's still cult.

On The Other Wiki, "something of a cult classic" (exact words, always; see for yourself) is a well-worn Justifying Edit.

Note that most of these cult classics have their own pages already.

When a cult classic actually does become popular, expect geeks to complain It's Popular, Now It Sucks.

A standard guide in the cult film genre is Danny Peary Cult Movies List.

When listing works by the same author, please don't list, say, the entire filmography of a director with a cult reputation. A cult classic should have a small but devout following in the absence of widespread current popular acclaim, in addition to the work itself meeting the definition of the trope. Only list those works by a given author for which the label is justified.

Examples of Cult Classic include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

The Bowdlerized 4Kids dub itself is probably more of your standard Camp Classic since its compellingly awful quality makes for good entertainment. See the comparison.

Fan Fics[edit | hide]

  • The Tamers Forever Series could be seen as a Cult Classic among Digimon fan fiction circles. It's not as well known as some other Digifics out there, But it is absolutely adored by those who have read it. (Just look at the reviews Silent Sorrow recieved)

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

Burns suppers may be either formal or informal. Informal suppers typically include haggis (a traditional Scottish dish), Scotch whisky and the recitation of Burns' poetry. Formal dinners are hosted by organisations such as Burns clubs... and occasionally end with dancing when ladies are present. However whether they are single sex or not, the formal suppers follow a standard format.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]


Music[edit | hide]


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

Many tabletop RPGs are a cult within a cult following, including;


Theatre[edit | hide]


Theme Parks[edit | hide]

  • The Pirates of the Caribbean ride on which the film franchise is based is so cult, it attracted a fandom backlash before the movie was released over Johnny Depp and his gold teeth. The resulting kerfuffle only helped sell the film, of course.
  • Although it was closed after eight years of operation for scaring the pants off of too many little children, the Extraterrorestrial Alien Encounter at Walt Disney World has a loyal following who admire the attraction for its dark humor and rich atmosphere.
  • Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is a bit cult, to the point where Disney made a film based on the ride instead of the book (The Wind In The Willows). There are shrines to the attraction years after it closed down.
    • Disney's film The Wind in the Willows was based on...the book. It came out in 1949, while the ride (and Disneyland itself) are from six years later. The 1996 adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's book was then titled Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in the US, presumably so people would make a connection to the Disney ride.
  • The Great Movie Ride.
  • Drachen Fire was a steel roller coaster at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. The ride was infamous for being very rough and encountered many problems during its lifetime. It opened in 1992 and closed in 1998, the park attempted to re-open the coaster in 2002 but failed and ended up demolishing it. Despite the ride's many problems, it had/still has a cult following by coaster enthusiasts and fans of the park.


Video Games[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Entire Media[edit | hide]

  • Tokusatsu
  • Video Games used to fall under this, being seen as the exclusive domain of children and nerds. In the last decade, however, the success of products like the Nintendo Wii and iPhone App Store, as well as franchises like Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Madden NFL, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, have made video games a much more commonplace and socially acceptable pastime. Still, most games apart from big-name franchises remain relatively obscure in mainstream popular culture.
  • Gamebooks have a small, but incredibly devoted following of readers, authors, bloggers, and programmers who kept the medium alive and thriving to this day.
  1. Not all B Movies have a cult following; see page quote. Stoner Flicks are usually considered cult, however
  2. (namely for its female protagonist, appeal to both genders, and it was one of the few dubs made at the time that wasn't Macekred.)
  3. At least two live-action films from the 1950s were rated PG on video release.
  4. At least two live-action films from the 1950s were rated PG on video release.
  5. (and is even somewhat competitive with fans of the latter, the two shows having very little [dead link] in common)