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30 Weirdest Cult Classic Films Ever Made

El Topo (1970)

This film is classified as a “Mexican Acid Western,” which is quite fitting because it’s insanely surreal. In it, the titular El Topo roams the desert while getting in gunfights alongside his naked son, and it somehow gets stranger from there. Fun fact: this movie was John Lennon’s favorite film.

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Thankskilling (2008)

This movie had only a $3,500 budget, and it shows -- big time. Basically, the movie follows a demonic, foul-mouthed, murderous turkey called Turkie. The whole film is intended to be a horror/black comedy, but the humor and horror both fall flat. It is, however, so unfunny that it’s kind of funny, which is why this film has become considered a so-bad-it's-good cult classic. After gaining an audience, the filmmakers launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the next film, confusingly titled Thankskilling 3, for which they were able to raise over $112,000.

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Death Racers (2008)

No, this isn’t the Jason Statham film. That’s Death Race, with no R —though it was released straight to DVD just a month after Death Race hit theaters. And no, it’s not the 1975 film Death Race 2000. It’s just the cheapest knockoff of these films you’ll ever see. It’s a pretty similar plot to both films, but with a fraction of the budget and with the Insane Clown Posse playing themselves as main characters. Violent J, a member of the Insane Clown Posse and an actor in the film, has said that they knew the film would be “basically garbage,” but they did it just for fun.

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Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Audiences weren’t sure whether or not this film was trying to take itself seriously when it was first announced, which led to a great deal of interest on the internet. This film was essentially a cult classic before it was even released, due to the large internet fan base anxiously awaiting something as ludicrous as Samuel L. Jackson battling venomous snakes on a commercial airliner. While critics weren’t entirely impressed, the movie became a phenomenon—even people who hadn’t seen it were quoting it—and it brought in nearly double its budget in the box office.

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Sharknado (2013)

Many films on this list were made with ignorance to their absurdity, but not Sharknado. This film wears its weirdness right on its sleeve, as shown by the ridiculous portmanteau of a title. People latched onto the absurdity of this self-aware B-movie, and since then, four other sequels were ultimately produced.

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Return to Oz (1985)

This film is an unofficial sequel to the Wizard of Oz we all know and love, though it is considered by many to be a better adaptation of Frank Baum’s novels than the more famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production. It’s markedly darker than the first film, however, as Dorothy returns to Oz to find its inhabitants on the brink of extinction under the rule of a new and villainous king. Audiences and critics alike were initially put off by the bleak and often creepy elements of this film, but it did perform well outside of the United States and has since gained a cult following.

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Hudson Hawk (1991)

Bruce Willis co-wrote this absurd tale about a cat burglar (played by Willis) who is forced to steal the works of Da Vinci for the CIA. The cast of this film never took it too seriously, but critics, unfortunately, did, leaving scathing reviews. Its humor was endearing to most of those who saw it, however, and it gained cult status following its release.

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Tremors (1990)

This might be the most widely known film on this list, as it has become a huge success on home media and enjoys frequent screenings on cable television. Those two things have led to this film becoming a cult classic, despite not making much money at the box office when compared to its budget. Kevin Bacon himself considered it a career low before the film was released, but he’s recently stated that his character in the movie is the only one he’s ever considered revisiting, so his tune has changed considerably.

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Ong Bak (2003)

Admittedly, this is one of the least weird films on this list, but it’s a cult movie that fans of action or fighting films should definitely see. The plot is pretty boiler-plate martial arts movie stuff: the sacred Buddha statue in the main character’s village is decapitated and has its head stolen. Ting, the main character, must track down the thieves and fight them and anyone in his path along the way. What resonated with audiences was the actual combat depicted. It’s pretty clear early on that these actors are actually making contact with each other and throwing punches that had to hurt. Muay Thai, the style of combat in the film, uses a lot of elbows and knees, so all of the bad guys have these ridiculous wigs on that are concealing helmets, just so the main character's elbow strikes didn’t cause serious damage. The film wasn’t immediately successful, but broader theatrical releases a few years after its initial run helped make the movie a financial success.

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Caligula (1979)

This may seem like more of an exercise in making the most depraved film ever and less like an actual movie intended to entertain, but it has a cult following nonetheless. The producer was the founder of Penthouse magazine, so it’s naturally risqué, but it also manages to cross pretty much every other line as well. There are hardcore sex scenes, infanticide, and incest, just to name a few of the taboos this film touches on. If you’re interested in knowing more, you can read about it online. That would probably be a wise decision before watching it in full, so that you know what you’re getting into.

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No Holds Barred (1989)

These days, movies produced by the WWE, while not garnering any nods from the academy, are still decent movies that aren’t overtly advertising wresting. This wasn’t the case with their first attempt (produced by what was then called the WWF). In No Holds Barred, Hulk Hogan plays a professional wrestler named Rip. Strangely enough, pretending to be a wrestler was seemingly too much acting for Hulk Hogan, despite the fact that it was his day job at the time. Despite the failings of the film (heck, maybe because of them), the movie went on to gain cult status.

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Troll 2 (1990)

This film’s production story is a strange one. The film was conceived of and produced as Goblins, and the “troll” characters in the film are referred to as Nilbog, which is just the word Goblin backward. However, it was retitled Troll 2 before its release in hopes that fans of the completely unrelated 1986 film Troll, would flock to see the second installment. That’s right, the studio behind this movie just stole the name of a different movie—from a different producer, director, and production company—just to make this film more marketable. If that weren’t enough, the film itself is, by all accounts, terrible, but that’s the sort of thing that makes a so-bad-its-good cult classic.

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Re-Animator (1985)

This film didn’t make huge box office returns, but it immediately received praise from critics. The plot follows Herbert West, who figures out how to bring dead tissue back to life through his studies of medicine. Novels and films alike have proven that this never goes well, and this classic B-movie is no exception. While this film has its lighthearted moments, it ultimately goes into some pretty serious territory, so it offers the best of both worlds. Two sequels would follow the film: Bride of the Re-Animator (1990) and the much later Beyond Re-Animator (2003).

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Wild at Heart (1990)

A David Lynch film starring Nicholas Cage? This film’s a shoe-in for any movie list containing the word ”weird.” This film centers around a love story like any other, only this time, the couple is forced to run away from the woman’s (Laura Dern’s) mother and the gangster hitmen she hires to kill Cage’s character, Sailor Ripley. Initially, critical responses were mixed, but leaning toward the negative end of the spectrum. Later re-evaluations, however, produced more positive reviews than initially.

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Repo Man (1984)

This film stars a young Emilio Estevez, who reluctantly accepts a job as a repo man. How do you make a movie about a repo man exciting, you ask? Have him stumble into a corporate plot involving a radiation-emitting alien in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu, of course. While Repo Man didn’t make a huge amount of profit, it was immediately recognized by critics as a great film and is considered one of the best cult classics of all time.

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Donnie Darko (2001)

This film certainly belongs on this list, because “weird” and “cult” are the first words that come to mind when thinking about this film…  either those words or “freaky rabbit monster.” The science fiction film has an all-star cast, including Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, and Drew Barrymore, but that wasn’t enough to make it a huge box office success, likely due to its limited theatrical release. It was immediately praised by critics, however, and is now considered a cult classic.

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Pink Flamingos (1972)

Not a lot of people would give a seemingly crude-for-crudeness’-sake movie a lot of credit for being culturally insightful, but this film is an exception. In it, a drag queen named Divine has a reputation as the filthiest person alive—a reputation that she strives to uphold throughout the film. While this might not sound like a deep premise, it’s intended to show how far people will go for a little bit of fame, which is why it’s been culturally relevant every year since its release and has arguably become more relevant as it ages. That being said, it does have some truly disgusting scenes, so it might be hard to see the message past the mess.

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Zardoz (1974)

This film takes place in 2293, in a future where human beings are either Eternals or Brutals, with Eternals being the immortal ruling class as the Brutals live in squalor and grow food for the Eternals. A giant, floating, stone head called Zardoz hovers around—driven by an Eternal—and orders the Brutals to fight and kill each other, but Sean Connery’s character boards the vessel and takes the fight straight to the Eternals. It’s worth watching just for the hilarity of seeing Sean Connery (Zed, in the film) walk around in the most ridiculous outfit you’ve ever seen. He very seriously struts around with a mustache and ponytail, while wearing knee-high leather boots and some sort of speedo-style bottom with bandoliers for suspenders. Fun fact: the Zardoz head makes an appearance in the Rick and Morty episode, Raising Gazorpazorp, which takes place on an alien planet with a similarly divided class system

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Meet the Feebles (1989)

This film would have never made the list or even re-surfaced if it wasn’t for its director. This strange film about singing and dancing puppets from a children’s TV depicts those characters doing appalling things, including rape, drug abuse, and murder and was directed by none other than Peter Jackson. That’s right, the Lord of the Rings director had a few little-known works from his early days, and Meet the Feebles was one of them. After Lord of the Rings was released and his name became well known, fans unearthed this little gem from his past and gave it the cult attention it deserved, likely to Jackson’s chagrin.

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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! (1984)

This film follows Dr. Buckaroo Bonzai, who is a neurosurgeon and physicist, as well as a test pilot and rock musician. His special blend of skills helps him save the world by defeating a group of aliens from another dimension. Many critics shrugged off the film as strange and didn’t leave the best reviews, but some appreciated just how unique it was. The film has since gained a cult following and has done well in home video sales.

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Freaked (1993)

Alex Winter, of Bill & Ted fame, made this black comedy with a budget of $11 million, and it only brought back a dismal $29,000 at the box office. This was due to 20th Century Fox considering the film “too weird” for widespread distribution, but that’s the stuff cult classics are made of. Its ensemble cast includes the likes of Randy Quaid, Mr. T, Keanu Reeves, and Brooke Shields. Not a bad cast for a film that only made back less than 1% of what it cost to make.

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Cherry 2000 (1987)

This film is an action adventure to be sure, but that description doesn’t do it justice, as it includes social commentary and satire that aren’t often found in these sorts of films. It went straight to video without the wide theatrical release that many films receive, so critics and audiences alike overlooked the feature altogether. It wasn’t until it began airing on cable television that it started to garner a cult following of sorts, and began receiving praise for being such a unique work.

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Starship Troopers (1997)

Now, this film is seen as one of the best films the '90s had to offer, but it wasn’t always that way. It’s strange to think that this classic was ever anything but beloved, but it was initially met with negative reviews upon its release and barely made back its budget at the box office. If you’ve yet to see this classic about mankind’s struggle against an insectoid alien race, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

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BASEketball (1998)

A year after the first season of South Park was released, its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone starred in this B-movie, and if it weren’t for their part in the film, no one would have paid it any mind after its release. Fans of the duo have given it life past what it deserves, as even Parker and Stone have dismissed the film as terrible. The two leading actresses in this film were both nominated for worst actress awards, though neither of them took home the honor…or dishonor.

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The Room (2003)

This is one of the more well-known movies on this list, but for all the wrong reasons. Countless publications have recognized The Room as the worst movie ever made, but it was put best by Ross Morin, an assistant professor of film studies for Connecticut College, who said the film was “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” The producer/director/star of the film, Tommy Wiseau, told people the film was a black comedy after the fact, but audiences and most of the cast and crew were pretty sure it was just a really poorly made drama. Of all the so-bad-it's-good movies to ever become cult classics, this film is certainly king.

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Trainspotting (1996)

This film is an exception on this list, as it was both critically and commercially successful upon its release. It does fit the bill, however, in the sense that it has a huge cult following and that it’s really weird at times. It’s an insanely surreal and dark dive into the lives of several heroin addicts, though it focuses on one: a character named Renton played by a young Ewan McGregor. To convey the disconnect from reality that these addicts experience, the film shows them in many surreal and exaggerated settings, where metaphorical ideas like “sinking into the floor” or “diving into the toilet to retrieve your drugs” are shown actually happening to them. It’s a black comedy that succeeds in being humorous, dark, and insightful, so it’s worth a watch for those that aren’t faint of heart.

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Super Mario Bros (1993)

Video games turned into movies rarely ever work, but they rarely ever fail this bad either. That’s why this film gained a cult following; for being a standout in a genre that’s already amusingly bad. Though the technical effects in the film were pretty cutting edge for the time, there wasn’t much else the film had going for it. The plot didn’t make much sense, and just the idea of a live-action Mario Brothers movie was just a bad one to start with. Thankfully, the filmmakers ignored those red flags, powered through, and gave us this cult classic.

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Eraserhead (1977)

Filmmaker David Lynch was strongly inspired by Franz Kafka’s "The Metamorphosis" before producing this film, and it shows. It’s strangely dark and surreal, much like Kafka’s work. As the first feature film David Lynch ever produced, it would set the stage for his catalog of surrealist work to come in later years. Though the film was not a commercial success at first, repeat runs as a “midnight movie” eventually developed the work a cult following and garnered much critical acclaim.

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Mars Attacks! (1996)

Though this film made over $100 million at the box office, it was seen as a disappointment both commercially and critically. But that doesn’t stop movies from becoming cult classics. Sometimes, it even helps. Though the film had an insanely talented cast and was directed by Tim Burton, the film Independence Day came out the same year, so most sci-fi fans turned their attention to that film rather than this campy sci-fi comedy.

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The Monster Squad (1987)

For fans of classic monster movies, this film might have everything you’re looking for. The monster squad is comprised of Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Gill-Man, and a Mummy. They fort the films main characters, a group of nerdy pre-teens, must defeat in order to save the world. Despite how goofy it sounds, it’s actually a good film and still holds up today.

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