Cult classic; noun.
Also known as a cult film which has acquired a dedicated and passionate fanbase, an elaborate subculture that engage in repeated viewings, quoting dialogue and audience participation that are usually shunned by the mainstream.
When the word "cult" enters into anything, it usually has a less-than-pleasant connotation to it, but fear not. I promise you there is no ritual, sacrifice or anything of the sort involved, and one person can most certainly be a part of several cult fan bases. More often than not, the box office for these kinds of movies leave something to be desired, but once it is released in VHS or DVDs, the cult forms surprisingly quickly.
Warning: I will be omitting The Karate Kid, Back To The Future, Ghost Busters, anything starring Bruce Lee, some Spielberg films, Star Wars and Tarantino films, because in my honest opinion, who hasn't seen at least one of these? (If not, shame on you and get binge watching this summer!)
1. The Shawshank Redemption
"Rehabilitated is just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit."
Kicking off the list is a movie adaptation of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, written by the prolific author Stephen King, starring Tim Robbins (not Matt Damon) and Morgan Freeman as the convicted banker Andy Dufresne and Ellis "Red" Redding, respectively.
Taking place in 1947 at Portland, Maine, this movie can only be described as a story of strife and hope. It portrays the friendship of the two men, as well as their struggle to survive in an environment ruled by a morally corrupt warden where true friendship is the rarest of commodities and even the smallest inkling of freedom has a price.
2. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
"Me and him, we're from different ancient tribes, and now we're both almost extinct. But sometimes, you gotta stick with the ancient ways; the old-school ways. I know you understand me."
A homage to the French film Le Samourai with Forest Whitaker portraying Ghost Dog, a hitman who considers himself a retainer for a mobster as he adheres to Bushido, the code of the samurai from feudal Japan. He often quotes a book called Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, which is basically his equivalent of the Bible.
Integrating the life of the gangster and the samurai is quite an interesting approach, and both have striking similarities. The soundtrack is quite a collection of music to behold as well, as it is produced by the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA himself.
3. Spirited Away
This one is a personal favorite dear and close to my heart as a kid that grew up watching this movie. Coming straight from the island country of Japan, it was created by Studio Ghibli and the one and only director Hayao Miyazaki. For those of you that are unfamiliar, think of Ghibli animations as Japan's equivalent of a Disney movie.
Spirited Away follows the protagonist Chihiro as she encounters the world of otherworldly creatures, facing challenges, overcoming them and growing as a character through each new obstacle, demonstrating how the role of women change. Just like Merida in Brave or Mulan, Ghibli movies have "strong female leads - brave, self-sufficient girls that don't think twice about fighting for what they believe with all their heart. They'll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man."
4. John Wick
"John is a man of focus, commitment, sheer will... something you know very little about. I once saw him kill three men in a bar. With a pencil. A fucking... pencil."
Baba Yaga. The man, the myth, the legend. While this is the most recently released movie of the list, the fanbase is exploding with numbers, especially after the sequel released this year. The action is sharp, crisp, and devoid of shaky-cam, demonstrating Keanu Reeves doing pretty much all of the fights without flashy kicks or wire-fu.
And unlike most action films, he reloads onscreen and runs out of ammo.
What draws the attention aside from the action is the aesthetic which directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch pay close attention to, having worked with big names like the Wachowskis. Rather than having John talk about himself (in fact he remains silent for the first five minutes), everything is shown rather than told like a well-written paper for an English course.
"No kid likes being yelled at, but it was precisely Harry's ranting and raving that gave Matilda the key to her power. All she had to do was practice."
Originally a book by Roald Dahl, a feature film of the same name was made in 1996 in America. Following the six-year-old prodigy Matilda Wormwood, she is one of the youngest heroes in this list. Being in a neglected environment at home and a hostile one at school, thanks to Headmistress Trunchbull, Matilda awakens to the power of telekinesis.
Along with her genius-level intellect, she uses this power to get back at her neglectful parents and abusive headmistress in order to save her teacher, who acts more like a mother than her real parents ever did.
This movie is directed by Danny Devito of all people, and is definitely a great watch for kids. Like Spirited Away, the lead female role is a strong independent girl who don't need no boy to save her. The villains of this movie are essential the modern adaptation of the evil stepmother archetype, with the comedic factor cranked up to eleven.
The over-the-top ridiculousness is bound to fetch many laughs from parents and kids alike.
6. Drunken Master
"What does it mean when there's a picture of a skull?"
I know I said that I would exclude Bruce Lee films, but I did have to put in a Kung-Fu flick somewhere. Enter Jackie Chan! This man and his stunt team is every insurance company's nightmare personified, and for good reason.
To make a great movie, there are proportionate sacrifices to be made, and Mr. Chan does it quite literally on a daily basis, breaking most of the bones in his body, dislocating joints, suffering lacerations, head trauma, torn ligaments and even rendering himself a step just shy of paralysis.
As the title implies, it involves the art of the drunken fist, a form of Chinese martial arts imitating the movements of a drunkard, with erratic, eccentric moves to go with it which adds to the comedic factor of the movie. Wong Fei-hung, whom Mr. Chan portrays, is trained in this art.
Jackie was only 24 years old when this movie came out in 1978, so he is young and full of energy. The sequel in 1994 proves that he is a special breed of the human race that gets better with age.
7. Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade
"Archeology is the search for facts, not truth. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you got about lost cities, exotic travel and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever marks the spot."
The finale (in my opinion) of the adventures of Dr. Henry Jones Jr., although he is insistent on being called Indiana (which is the name of George Lucas' dog, surprisingly). Many would likely lash me to the stake to be burned for bringing this one up instead of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but this will always be my favorite Indiana Jones movie.
We get to see Henry Jones Jr. in his younger days before he became the badass archaeologist and how he got the trademark fedora, which is just as important as the Holy Grail.
And what could be better than one Dr. Jones? TWO Dr. Joneses! Indiana's father, Dr. Henry Jones Sr., is portrayed by none other than Sir Thomas Sean Connery, complete with a three piece suit and a bucket hat in contrast with his progeny's leather jacket and fedora.
The dynamic demonstrated between him and Harrison Ford, who are usually dramatic actors, are superbly comical at just the right moments, with positively glorious interactions as father and son of the same profession. Oh, if only they really were father and son...
8. The Sandlot
"You're killin' me, Smalls!"
A coming-of-age film focusing on nine kids playing baseball in the sandlot during the summer in 1962. Being the new kid in town, Scotty Smalls had no friends and was desperate to change that. In order to fit in, he learns to play baseball, a sport he had never played before, with the help of his stepfather and Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, and eventually earns a place as the ninth player on their team.
As the nine boys of the Sandlot grow closer, they move on to enjoy life together: camping out, going to the pool, defeating a rival team, going to the fair and even chewing tobacco.
While baseball may not be every viewer's favorite sport, it serves as a device in order to illustrate the importance and joy of having friends, a team that sticks together in doing everything: fun things, stupid things and anything else that is worth doing together.
9. Devil's Advocate
"Let me give you a little inside information about God: God likes to watch. He's a prankster, think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does he do? I swear, for his own amusement; his own, private, cosmic gag reel. He sets the rules in opposition! It's the goof of all times!"
Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) is a defense attorney who remains undefeated even in the most uphill court cases with all the odds stacked against him. Soon he was headhunted for a powerful and prestigious law firm in Manhattan by John Milton, portrayed by Al Pacino.
His salary is big, his house is big and he has a wife with whom he wants a family. Everything only seems perfect, but the cogs in Kevin's life actually starts going haywire from there.
As the title implies, this movie involves the devil, which is pretty obvious since Al Pacino's character has the name of the author of Paradise Lost. Is it better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven? At least Scarface thinks so, since in his eyes, God is a sadist.
And if we're truly made in His image, doesn't that make us inherently evil? Watch and find out!