I’m sure you’ve heard the term “cult movie” before, but do you actually know what characteristics are required for a film to obtain this status? Most films do not follow standard conventions of traditional cinema, have an eccentric style and attitude throughout the film, and have a devoted fan base outside of the mainstream crowd. Due to this notion that many cult movies can only be classified as such as long as they aren’t popular, leaves many good, if not great, movies unknown to most of the masses. Therefore, I will now introduce you to my top five science fiction cult movies.
5. Dune (1984)
In the far distant future of the 11th millennium, the planet Arrakis (or as the inhabitants, the Fremen, call it: Dune) is the only source for Spice, an element that is essential to space travel and commerce, and whomever controls the Spice controls the universe. The Emperor has sent Duke Leto Atreides and his family to Dune under the guise of ruling the planet when he really plans to have them all assassinated. They are seen as a threat, because the Duke is becoming very popular and his son, Paul Atreides, is suspected of gaining superhuman abilities. The Fremen have an ancient prophecy that the true messiah, a man from off world, will one day come and free them from the rule of the Emperor and Galactic Spacing Guild. With the Fremen and Atreides on one side and the rest of the major powers against them, the war begins.
I chose this movie because I love the book it is based off of. While this version doesn’t come close to explaining the book, it did a good job with casting and character portrayal. It also inspired the remake in 2000, which goes more in-depth and provides a better appreciation for Frank Herbert’s work.
4. Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
Coming up, in the year 2056, an organ failure epidemic devastates the globe allowing GeneCo, a biotech company, to supply new organ transplants to patients for a price. They sign a leasing contract and must make the payments otherwise as stated in the agreement; a Repo Man will hunt them down and “repossess” the provided organs. Grave robbing has also become a big career for outlaws, because Zydrate, the new street painkiller for surgery addicts, is extracted directly from the dead corpses. In the middle of it all, is a 17 year old girl looking for a cure to her inherited blood disease and answers about her family’s past. The mystery will be solved and all questions will be answered at The Genetic Opera.
When I first saw this I thought it was incredible. I normally don’t like musicals but this was a movie with opera. The live action scenes mixed with the comic book graphics to tell the backstory was genius. Instead of going through a lengthy flashback and possibly getting the viewer lost, animated graphics allowed the audience to “read” the saga that led to the current situation in the movie. It also allows breaks where there is no dialogue or singing and the viewer doesn’t become overwhelmed by the musical aspects of the movie. The costumes and designs were spot on and most of the performances were spectacular. The Grave Robber was my favorite character, but as the storyteller, he has to be charming; otherwise, the audience would be bored to death.
3. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie, a troubled teenager believed to have schizophrenia, is having visions of a large bunny rabbit named Frank who convinces him to commit several crimes around town. He stops taking his anti-psychotics and starts sleepwalking so he then meets up with Frank one night and inadvertently avoids being killed by an airplane engine that falls from the sky into his bedroom. After this strange and sudden incident, Frank begins to talk to Donnie about time travel, and Donnie makes friends with Gretchen, the new girl at school. Donnie begins having visions of Frank while awake and more strange things begin to happen. He doesn’t realize until it is too late that everything is linked together and tries to correct it.
I picked this movie because it shows the possibility that sometimes the “crazy” person might not be as crazy as you think. Just because someone is different or weird, doesn’t mean they have a mental illness or problem; it just means they see things through a unique perspective and mindset, in this case using time travel. The movie is very contemplative and introspective, showing how everything and everyone is connected in some way even if you don’t see it and even the smallest actions have consequences.
2. Tank Girl (1995)
This is a campy, post-apocalyptic movie based off a British comic-strip, where the heroine, Tank Girl, has to take on the evil, mega corporation, Water and Power, which has taken over the territory and is controlling all of Earth’s remaining water. Her allies are Jet Girl, former prisoner of W&P, and the mutant humans called Rippers.
I chose this movie because it was one of the first cult movies I had ever seen, plus it was feminist! I didn’t know what to think at the time other than it was awesome. Watching it now, I can definitely say this film and Tank Girl, herself, influenced my personality and behaviors as an adult. Since the movie was well written including humorous jokes and dialogue full of double-entendre, not to mention the song and dance number in the middle of it all, it is obviously supposed to be fun, silly, and not taken seriously. We need more movies with kickass, female, lead characters like this instead of burly, testosterone- pumping men.
1. The Fifth Element (1997)
Approximately two hundred and fifty years in the future, Earth and all life is threatened to be destroyed by the Great Evil. The Great Evil can only be defeated by the four elements, encased in stone, surrounding the fifth element, of unknown substance and origin. However, things don’t go as planned as usual and the fifth element, Leelo, must acquire the help of a former Special Forces Major, Korben Dallas, radio personality Ruby Rod, and her contact on Earth Priest Vito Cornelius. Together they rush to find the four elemental stones, travel to the temple to activate them, and annihilate the Great Evil before he reaches Earth. But things are never as easy as they sound when others working for the Great Evil are also trying to retrieve the stones… and kill you.
This is my favorite movie of all time because it does the one thing that most cannot: combine comedy, action, and romance seamlessly within the science fiction genre. The action is completely “in your face;” whereas, the romance plays a much more subtle role; and the comedy jumps in at random intervals and does both. The character development is amazing, because each character is so unique and yet the actors are attuned to the roles perfectly. Gary Oldman as the wealthy capitalist, Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg, is my absolute favorite character of the movie. He just emanates an arrogance and cold-heartedness that makes me immediately hate him so much as the villain, I have to love him for it. As far as the other characters go, Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas is my man; he will always be the fierce knight saving the damsel in distress. Milla Jovovich as Leelo was exceptional at speaking that ancient language and doing some great moves during her fight scene. Plus, having a woman being the savior of the Earth and all of civilization doesn’t hurt either. This is a movie everyone can enjoy, especially if you appreciate explosions and innuendo.