Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cult Films - defined

I’ve been thinking of my “cult film” confusion – the term seems to be double sided – it both refers to incredibly popular films that lots of people follow – but that makes sense because it’s a popular film – and it also refers to obscure films.

The problem with the popular “cult films” is that it doesn’t refer to every film that has a devoted following – why are the Star Wars films “cult films” and the Twilight films not? Star Wars has made more money than the Twilight franchise – and each has an equally obsessed fanbase. Why is Harry Potter NOT a cult film but the Lord of the Rings films considered a cult film – they both came out the same time – and both have huge followings – with one known for having fans dressing up as the characters to watch the films? Seems like Potter would be more the cult franchise with the dressing up – than Rings – but you saw that list – Rings! No Potter!

I’m wondering if the term needs to be updated in order for there to be clarity to the topic - here’s what I propose...

Cultural Film: These are the films have become ingrained into the culture of our lives. You can point to these films – and most anyone will know what you are speaking of. “We’re not in Kansas anymore” “Use the force” “My precious” – have all been used out of context enough that we know what people are speaking of when these lines are said. These films may have a larger impact on certain groups – who may follow the film more intensely than groups – but it’s safe to say the films are universally known.

These films could have started life as relatively unknown films – and been picked up on by the culture and later ingrained – or they could be blockbuster films. These films are generally regarded to as “classic” films.

Cult Film: Is a film that a much smaller group of people know of – and those who do know of the film follow it with great interest – with a cultish like following.

These films could have started life as flops and have gone mostly forgotten – or could have never been known to the majority of the mainstream film watchers – yet still hold a strong following with certain subcultures.


I know it’s not perfection as a definition as there might be a few holes – but it’s better to me than the amorphous blob that is the “cult film” definition that has been put out there. What do you think?

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