Review: The immortality of cult classics

Ellie Myers 

emyers2@uccs.edu 

     Name that movie: “On Wednesdays, we wear pink”; “I see dead people”; “You like jazz?”  

     The quotes come from the movies “Mean Girls,” “The 6th Sense” and “The Bee Movie,” three very different films that all have something in common: They are well on their way to becoming cult classics.  

     According to Filmsite.org, a cult classic is an often offbeat, quirky movie that fares poorly at the box office during initial sales, but eventually gains a large following of specific fans who would ride-or-die for the film. This category includes films such as “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Clueless” and “Napoleon Dynamite,” to name a few.  

     These are not movies that have made their way onto the American Film Institute’s top 100, nor did they begin and grow into huge franchises like Star Wars or Marvel. They would have slipped between the cracks of the Hollywood Walk if their fan bases hadn’t grown steadily over time. So, what is it about these films that make us revisit them?    

     PremiumBeat claims that the popularity of cult films is “all about the audience. Many of these films find specific and fairly large audiences due to their campiness, sense of nostalgia, exploitive approach, and subcultural appeal.”  

      Cult classics become the movies that our parents show us because they remember watching “The Breakfast Club” or “Beetlejuice” for the first time, and they want us to experience the same shocked laughter they did. 

     Now even people who haven’t seen the movies know who Beetlejuice is, understand that a group of misfit students is meant to represent the Breakfast Club or have at least heard of the Time Warp. We have even seen sparks of unique appeal in modern movies as they become iconic over time, from the witty and slangy dialogue of “Mean Girls” to Cher Horowitz’s yellow plaid outfit, which was referenced in Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” music video.   

     PremiumBeat also said that some cult classics are just “so bad they’re good,” meaning that watching them is a treat just for the sake of making fun or nostalgia.  

     This concept applies to movies like “Twilight,” which many remember fondly due to its inception at the beginning of the YA romance wave. We also reference films like “The Bee Movie” because we grew up watching it and only now realize just how bizarre it was. 

     It’s important to note that several of the movies mentioned here are also adaptations of what are widely considered classic stories, reimagining authors such as Jane Austen and William Shakespeare.  

     “10 Things I Hate About You” is based on “The Taming of the Shrew,” Shakespeare’s creation detailing the fiery relationship between an angry, outspoken woman and the man determined to tame her into romance.  

     “Clueless” is a 1990s Californian reimagining of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” the account of a flawed but charming young woman who spends too much of her time matchmaking.   

     These stories teach us lessons about love, youth and the nature of imperfect humans that resonate with any audience. When seen through a relatable modern lens, the timeless nature of our stories only becomes stronger. 

     Many people have also been in situations they see on the screen, from being bothered by a persistent lover to being betrayed by someone they thought was a friend. Slap some lockers in the background, fling a period-appropriate outfit on your protagonist, serve with a generous helping of clever one-liners and you’ve got yourself a cult classic.  

     Even as fashions change and times shift our perception, will stories of who we are as people ever die away?  

     As if! 

Still from the movie Clueless. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.