500 Essential Cult Movies
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Drama - Top 10
There is so much going on under the surface, so many lines taut with subtextual meaning; if Touch of Evil is about the evil that men do, then this film is its foil, covering the evil that women do and the underhand, elegant ways in which they do it.
Amidst stunning set pieces and the expected witty script, powerhouse directing/writing/producing team Powell and Pressburger brings us a mystical, exotic tale, which Powell considered the most erotic film he'd ever made. And it's true; considering the film is about a bunch of nuns on a religious mission, there's a surprising amount of sexuality simmering beneath the surface.
Blackboard Jungle is the original "crusading teacher against cynical and usually violent students" film. It reflected a new era in the fifties when kids were becoming more independent and less likely to honor their parents, which scared the hell out of the Depression generation. It's no less relevant today; in fact, one could call this film prescient, tapping into a zeitgesit of teenager fear that's only gotten worse in the fifty-plus years since it was made.
Easy Rider is often credited with beginning the New Hollywood era of filmmaking, in which a younger, hipper generation invaded the film industry and used Hollywood money to make films about gritty, realistic, and anti-establishment themes that were previously regulated to the independent stream. But beyond its importance to the Hollywood establishment, this film is just a great movie.
Harold and Mause is the ultimate unlikely relationship film, a seriously dark black comedy that also happens to be heartwarming and romantic. The film did badly on its release, both financially and with critics; despite this it's a clear product of its era, documenting the clash of an older WWI and WWII survival generation with aimless, Vietnam-bred children and grandchildren.
The Lost Weekend won four Oscars, all well deserved; this film is not an easy film to watch, probably because of its gritty, relentlessly truthful portrayal of alcoholism. This is harrowing and surprisingly modern filmmaking: brave, honest, and ugly.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, based on the novel by Ken Kesey, is inspired by Kesey's time working in an actual mental ward and is a damning indictment of the treatment of mental patients; in fact, it goes so far as to criticize the presribed nature of mental ilness itself, implying that such a designation is reserved for society's misfits rather than those truly chemically imbalanced. The superior acting and up-close-and-personal directing style only serve to carry this point home on the back of a heartbreaking and beautiful story.
The Outsiders covers the gamut of young adult themes: growing up too fast and not fast enough at the same time; the injustice of being judged on things you have no control over; and the seeming futility of wanting to change yourself and the world. It's the complete lack of condescension in treating these themes that has made the film so popular not only with teenagers in 1983 but today as well. The story has a timelessness about it, a universal relevance; Coppola once again showed his talent by leaving the heart of the story unchanged. And by casting lots of pretty young men!
In their performances Robbins and Freeman just exude dignity and quiet intensity, as if they drank too much of it the night before and are sweating it out through their pores during each take. But that they shine so brightly is due to their relationship and the story as a whole being so expertly crafted- though the film could very well cross the line into melodrama or sentimentality, the two leads and their bevy of funny and tragic friends keep everything firmly in drama territory.
Burt Lancaster (as Ned Merril, titular main character) delivers the poetic script with solemnity, his vulnerable character clad only in a pair of swimming shorts and his heart upon his metaphorical sleeve. What's most fascinating is the lack of a sense of time- one can easily imagine Ned time-traveling as he slips into the icy blue waters of each pool until he arrives home again at an unspecified future date.
Drama - Best of the Rest
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Work in progress
From the book 500 Essential Cult Movies.
"Whether it's today's box office winners that keep us on the edge of our seats or all-time favorites that no one ever gets tired of seeing, this is the definitive guide to some of the best cult classic movies ever filmed."
I'm trying to update this so it is a little more original than just copying the book. We'll see how that goes.
**To see any notes on the movies under "best of the rest" you can change the list order at the top left to alphabetical (or anything really). Not all movies have notes yet, however.
**Trois couleurs trilogy is listed as one entry in the book, but 3 different movies here on Listal, hence the 502 items
**Steven Spielberg's Duel is listed as a TV movie, but I included it here anyway
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