20 of the Best Midnight Cult Movies

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When a film doesn’t do well at the box office, and sometimes even when it does, the feature can fall into obscurity and be forgotten. However, while not initially well-received, some films have a certain quality that makes them an underground classic. Thus, the midnight cult film was born. Promoted primarily by AMC’s Midnight Movie Express, these beautiful, mutant children of the film industry have stood the test of time and scorn to live forever.

1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

The granddaddy of midnight movies—without Rocky Horror, late-night showings probably never would have taken off. Written by Richard O’Brien as a play, the story is a tribute to all things “B’ movies while acting as a springboard for attendees to accept themselves as they are rather than hiding behind a façade. The story is about a young couple, Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), who get stranded at the castle of scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and get pulled into his mad plan to make his own man.

2. Rock and Rule (1983)

Photo Credit: Nelvana.

In a post-apocalyptic world, humans don’t exist, but many animals now live like them, walking on two legs, socializing, and sometimes hoping for that big break in music. That is the case with Milo and Angel, who will do anything to make it big, even betray each other. But when Mok kidnaps Angel for his plan to own the world, they must work together to stop him.

3. Heavy Metal (1981)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

A collection of stories based on tales published in the magazine of the same name, Heavy Metal starts with a Corvette spaceship and never lets up. The stories of Harry Canyon, Captain Sternn, Den, Taarna, and more are tied together by the Loc-Nar, a green glowing orb that is the source of ultimate evil in the universe.

4. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Photo Credit: Laurel Group.

While George Romero’s original film in the Dead series, Night of the Living Dead, has enjoyed late-night success, neither it nor any others can compare to Dawn of the Dead. A group of survivors of the zombie plague holes up in an abandoned shopping mall. Everything goes great until a gang of bikers (led by special effects artist Tom Savini) breaks in, allowing the zombies to enter and overrun the stores.

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5. Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

Photo Credit: MGM.

Viewers either loved or hated it when it came out. Still, ultimately, The Wall ended up as a regular on the midnight circuit. It follows the career and mental breakdown of musician Pink (played by Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats) as he tries to navigate the neuroses his mother and teachers instilled in him.

6. Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Photo Credit: Cinema ’84.

What happens when you mix military industrial toxic waste, a graveyard and mortuary, and incompetent caretakers? Punk rock zombies, of course! This film that helped rewrite the zombie genre was destined for the midnight circuit and remains a classic. Send more cops!

7. The Thing (1982)

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

John Carpenter’s best-known film, The Thing, is a remake of another classic horror flick but taken to the next late-night circuit level. Scientists at a remote Antarctic survey station encounter something in the ice that can duplicate itself and take the form of any living creature. You’ll never look at blood tests the same way again!

8. Fritz the Cat (1972)

Photo Credit: Fritz Productions.

Combine Ralph Bakshi’s animation, an irreverent underground comic book cat, and an X rating, and you’ll understand why midnight is the perfect place for Fritz the Cat. This cool kitty may play the counterculture icon, but it’s all just a cover for getting pot and sex. The story is more profound, though, addressing the social issues of its 1972 release.

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9. Pink Flamingos (1972)

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

Rarely does a director consistently make films that seem destined for the midnight circuit, but rarely does the world produce a man like John Waters. Pink Flamingos is the seminal example. When Divine is named the filthiest person alive, her rivals, the Marble family, try to take the crown by out-disgusting her. Naturally, the film is filled with virtually any disgusting act as they try to eliminate each other.

10. Lust in the Dust (1984)

Photo Credit: Fox Run Productions Inc.

This raunchy send-up of classic Western films seems like John Waters should direct it, but the mental force behind it is actor/director/writer Paul Bartel, creator of the more popular but less midnight film Eating Raoul. Interestingly, Waters was asked to direct this “Everyone’s After the Gold” satire but refused because he didn’t write the script.

11. Flash Gordon (1980)

Photo Credit: MGM.

Originally a theatrical release that bombed, Flash Gordon received midnight status and a permanent cult following as a spoof and a love letter to the original Buster Crabbe serials. Between the bombastic acting from Max Von Sydow and Brian Blessed, a small part for Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien, and the magical soundtrack from Queen, was its future ever a question?

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12. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Photo Credit: Vortex.

One of the earlier and more famous slasher horror films, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was so successful that it can be credited with spawning the genre. Unsurprisingly, its life was extended once midnight showings became popular, and the story of a group of teens who accidentally come across a family of cannibals has spawned numerous sequels and remakes.

13. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Photo Credit: Craven-Maddalena Films.

Partially inspired by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Wes Craven wrote and directed The Hills Have Eyes, launching the career of Michael Berryman as Pluto, the son of Papa Jupiter, who leads his family with an iron fist and a taste for human flesh. The inevitable move to the late-night circuit makes the Carter family a midnight snack.

14. The Warriors (1979)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

New York City gangs go to war with the title characters when they’re wrongfully accused of killing the leader that was going to unite them all against the law-abiding citizens of the city. The Warriors’ late-night escape through the city parks, subways, and rival territories is the stuff of midnight legends and launched James Remar and Deborah Van Valkenburgh’s acting careers.

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15. Reefer Madness (1936)

Photo Credit: George A. Hirliman Productions.

Once a public service announcement about the dangers of marijuana, the dark, brilliant cinematography, overacting, and extensive exaggeration about all the troubles that smoking pot will cause in your life made this film a classic fifty years after its release. Be careful. It might make your kid like jazz music!

16. Repo Man (1984)

Photo Credit: Edge City Productions.

Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez star in Repo Man, a movie about two car repossessors pursuing a $20,000 bounty. Unbeknownst to them, it isn’t the car their client wants but the otherworldly contents of its trunk. The political satire made a midnight run inevitable.

17. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

While he had something of a career before, A Clockwork Orange launched Malcolm McDowell to international success. The plot is about a violent gang member who undergoes conversion therapy and then struggles to function in the world he used to thrive in. As a counterculture film, it still enjoys status as a cult classic.

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18. Eraserhead (1977)

Photo Credit: American Film Institute.

Before Twin Peaks, David Lynch conceived Eraserhead, the black-and-white film about Henry Spencer, his mutant baby, and the other residents of his industrial-based world. The film is so bizarre that it belongs on the midnight circuit. While some take issue with the story and pacing, the cinematography and sets are outstanding.

19. Repo: The Genetic Opera (2008)

Photo Credit: Twisted Pictures.

From Terrance Zdunich’s and Darren Smith’s twisted minds comes Repo: The Genetic Opera. Like Rocky Horror, it was originally a play that became a modern late-night cult sensation. It follows Shiloh, the daughter of an organ repossessor, as she becomes entangled with the Largo family for which her father works. With its futuristic setting, catchy music, and exceptional cast that includes Paul Sorvino, Anthony Stewart Head, and Alexa Vega, it is a strong contender in the genre.

20. Shock Treatment (1981)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

“It’s not a sequel, it’s not a prequel, it’s an equal.” This was the declaration for Shock Treatment, Richard O’Brien’s follow-up to Rocky Horror. Bringing back five actors and five characters from Rocky (but only two are the original actors), O’Brien’s efforts weren’t initially well-received. The film started on the midnight circuit, which probably affected its success. It follows the now-married Brad and Janet into marriage counseling, broadcast live in an eerie prediction of reality television. Like Rocky Horror, many viewers needed to see it more than once to understand it truly.

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20 Timeless Black and White Films That We Absolutely Love

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

So we’re sharing our top black-and-white films with you today! From the contained drama of 12 Angry Men to the eerie Nosferatu and the heart-achy Casablanca, we’re rounding up 20 of the myriad old films that have made it to the status of legends; whether they’re can’t-miss classics or films with a niche cult following, they’re all excellent in some way.

20 Timeless Black and White Films That We Absolutely Love

21 Movies Everyone Should See at Least Once in Their Life

Photo Credit: Pandora Cinema.

More films are available to watch than anyone could see in a lifetime. With so many options to choose from, finding a suitable movie can be a daunting task. However, some of these films have transcended time and culture to leave a critical mark on the world of cinema.

To help viewers on their journey of film brilliance, we have cultivated a list of films we believe everyone should see once. From heart-wrenching dramas to irreverent comedies, this list provides some of the best entries the world of film has to offer.

21 Movies Everyone Should See At Least Once in Their Life

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