Cult movie

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Cult Movies are movies, to a loyal following a Fan - cult operates, often years or decades after the premiere in theaters. This is expressed, for example, through regular viewing (e.g. Dinner for One on New Year's Eve), through rites during the performance ( The Rocky Horror Picture Show , sometimes with live performance in front of the screen, Blues Brothers or Die Feuerzangenbowle ), through the Quoting text passages ( The Godfather or, with Monty Python , e.g. The Life of Brian ), up to the adoption of entire philosophies, artificial languages ​​or uniforms ( Star Trek and Star Wars ). Sometimes costumed fans meet at so-called conventions , with actors and other film participants taking part as guests of honor.

Cult film as a subjective feeling

The only decisive factor for a cult film is the reaction of the audience, which has to go beyond a "normal" identification and therefore changes from generation to generation and differs in the individual countries, which is why the creation of a list of cult films hardly because of the individual relationship of the individual to the film is possible. The fact that a large part of the audience rejects the film does not prevent this, but often leads to the lover's special relationship with the work.

Die-hard fans of the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange see them as groundbreaking and groundbreaking ( in Space Odyssey, for example, with regard to the trick technique and the combination of space travel with waltz sounds), others find these films simply boring or repulsive.

The economic success or failure of a film alone does not represent a measure of cult status. The term cult film was often used to delimit the film tastes of the mass audience. It is not uncommon for cult films to be films that were not originally commercial successes and were only rediscovered later thanks to the cult, such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show , A Night at the Roxbury , Citizen Kane or Blade Runner , all of which flopped in the cinema, but achieved cult status in video rental and DVD sales.

Independent films are therefore generally considered to have “cult film potential” than Hollywood films. Pulp Fiction is an example of a hugely successful cult film that found its way into mainstream cinema through its significant influence on subsequent gangster films . Other works by Quentin Tarantino enjoy a comparable reputation. Russ Meyer's films are often given cult status and are pioneers in their genre.

Sometimes these are relatively cheap productions ( B-movie ), which with their trashy aesthetics and involuntary comedy attract a post-modern audience who discovers unexpected qualities in these films at first glance. Since this trash aesthetic was used deliberately, some film scholars speak of a cult film genre of its own . A classic example in this context are the films of the American film director Ed Wood , who was posthumously voted “ worst director of all time ”.

In the end, however, many cult films borrow their dramatic structure from other genres, and some can rightly claim unchallenged status as works of art .

A repetition rate or series broadcast, as the hype surrounding the television film Ijon Tichy: Raumpilot has shown , also seems to stimulate cult formation . Not being able to see enough is probably the main diagnosis.

Cult film as a symbol of the zeitgeist

Above all in the course of the zeitgeist of the decades, films advance - also retrospectively - to cult films.

So the films with the actor James Dean such as ... because they do not know what they are doing from 1955 because of the plot of the films, because of the actor and his early death, became cult films. At the beginning of the 1970s, the filming of Schoolgirl Report: What Parents Don't Consider Possible - accompanied by massive criticism from conservative circles - became a “cult film of enlightenment and freedom of movement”. At the global height of the disco era, the film Saturday Night Fever became a cult film for many young people thanks to the film's theme, the actors and the music.

Cult film by film genre

Every film genre also produces cult films for certain groups of people.

Thus, among the many Western film Once Upon a Time in the West or noon twelve o'clock viewed as a cult film. The film adaptations of the Karl May stories of the Apache chief Winnetou also became “cult films of German cinema” in the 1960s.

Under Crime , lovers which are frequently Edgar Wallace - and Alfred Hitchcock movies as cult films.

In the road movie genre , Thelma & Louise became a cult film, also because of the female characters shown.

A very clear classification as a cult film often take the fans of certain bands in music films (z. B. Beatles films, ABBA movie , The Doors movie ) and fan groups of comic figures or cartoons (z. B. The Peanuts , Asterix , Werner ).

Differentiation of the terms cult film and film classics

It is difficult to differentiate between the two terms exactly. For certain groups of people, a film can be both a cult film and a classic film at the same time.

Films that were premiered at least 30 years ago, that had a very high number of visitors in the cinemas, that set standards in film production, that have won several film awards or are still measurable today are often considered classic films.

Well-known examples are city ​​lights , King Kong , Casablanca and the great white shark .

The successful film adaptation of a literary bestseller can lead to a classic film (such. B. In 80 days around the world , Quo Vadis? , Ben Hur or Gone with the Wind ).

Use of the term as a targeted marketing tool

Today the term cult film is used to an inflationary extent, regardless of the definitions that were previously valid. It is being used more and more frequently by film studios / distributors as a marketing element, and films are referred to as “cult films” even when they are shown for the first time with large advertising expenditure, in order to attract as many viewers as possible to the cinema.

Even with the private television stations, old and well-known films are regularly advertised as "THE cult film" in order to increase the audience. Here it is always forgotten that the viewer alone decides on the status of “cult film” and not the dictates of the film distributor or the television station.

In addition, some films spark a hype in the course of their first exploitation , which later turns out that this excessive identification was then flattened again or was premature. These films are not to be regarded as cult , but rather as blockbusters . Only later generations of film viewers can decide whether one of these films will succeed in establishing itself in the long term and later being called a “cult film”, but not the current producers or film distributors.

See also


  • Adolf Heinzlmeier , Jürgen Menningen, Berndt Schulz: Cult films. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1983, ISBN 3-455-08751-5 .
  • Ronald M. Hahn , Volker Jansen: The 100 best cult films from "Metropolis" to "Fargo". Heyne, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-453-86073-X .
  • Georg Dallmeier: Look me in the eye, little one ...: The 100 best cult films from Casablanca to Titanic , Compact, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-8174-3466-9
  • Rudi Steiner, Frank-Burkhard Habel , Arno Löb : The Lexicon of Cult Films . Classics, curiosities, catastrophes: cinema phenomena with eternal fascination, Lexikon-Imprint, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89602-216-4 .
  • Steven Jay Schneider (Ed.); Stefanie Kuballa-Cottone (translator): 101 cult films that you should see before life is over , Olms, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-283-01164-2 .