The Best and Worst Cult Movies of All Time Exposed

In addition to the predictable numbers generated by megabuck-grossing films like The Matrix and Titanic (see related story), we figure that SGHT readers might also be interested in what's at the opposite end of the list. After rummaging around, we discovered the website for The Amazing World of Cult Movies, self-described as "the Internet's definitive reference source for the celebration of alternative cinema."

For its part, AWCM has named the 1975 musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the Cult Movie of the Century. Directed by Jim Sharman and starring then-unknowns Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, and Meat Loaf, The Rocky Horror Picture Show enjoyed an extraordinary resurrection on the midnight movie circuit after its dismally brief first-run release.

Robert Firsching, editor of AWCM, says that "This film deserves to be considered as the Cult Movie of the Century for transcending its initial failure due to an obsessive grass-roots audience of devoted repeat viewers who turned a throwaway box-office flop into a genuine cult phenomenon. For many years thereafter, the biggest party on Friday nights wasn't at a disco or someone's house, but at a midnight showing of this film at the local theater. As a result, this 'flop' went on to gross over $130 million—some sources estimate closer to $250 million—and became the very definition of 'cult movie' in the public consciousness."

Mr. Firsching praises The Rocky Horror Picture Show for its unique mix of rock music, horror-film parody, and pansexual plotline: "The film was daring and edgy for its time and it offered what the most popular cult films always do: something unusual, transgressive, and ultimately liberating." Although available on video and broadcast on television, Rocky Horror is still the midnight show at many cinemas nearly a quarter-century after its debut.

At the other end of the celluloid spectrum, the 1995 horror romp Zombie! vs. Mardi Gras was named the Worst Film of All Time—the single worst cult production ever forced on unsuspecting moviegoers. AWCM reports that Zombie! vs. Mardi Gras, filmed in 8mm for $5000 and directed by Mike Lyddon, Karl DeMolay, and Will Frank, presents a bizarre and semicoherent tale of someone recently dead who is raised by a New Orleans occultist and pursued by a documentary film team, a fat ninja, and the astronomer Galileo.

Firsching explains the film's dubious award by stating that "This is no one's idea of a cult movie! This dreadful dungheap may be the worst piece of garbage I have ever seen. The film appears to have been pieced together out of loose ends of home movies shot on a cheesy black-and-white camera. It's an incoherent, senseless mess which does for independent cinema what the dodo did for birds. I seriously considered retiring from film criticism after viewing it because I couldn't think of any adjectives obscene enough to adequately describe it."

Zombie! vs. Mardi Gras was never theatrically released; those wishing to endure it can download it via The Sync's website.