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14 Best Cult Classics on Netflix Right Now

April 2, 2019
12 min read

Surely, there are a number of films that aren’t appreciated enough during their time, and have developed a strong, almost fanatical following over the years. The textbook definition of such films would include films that were appreciated by the critics but bombed at the box office, only to later garner appreciation by the audiences for what they were. The foremost example of such a film would be ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, currently the highest rated film on IMDb, and of course, ‘Donnie Darko’. Another school of thought would go on and involve critical consensus to include actually well made films that weren’t even appreciated enough by critics during their time, but critical stances on them loosened over time, and they got the appreciation they deserved.

Yet another school of thought would go on to involve several major modern classics that were venerated by both critics and audiences during their time, earned well at the box office too, and till date have a fan following that refuses to simmer down, the prime example of this category being ‘Pulp Fiction’, a film that has a legacy of its own and would go on to change cinema as we know it. Point being, there exists no fixed criteria for defining a movie with a cult following. Like the very essential definition of a cult, they just are, and are always open to deliberation, subjectivity and opining. That being said, keeping all criteria in mind, Netflix currently has a number of cult classics in their library. So, here’s the list of really good cult movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now.

14. The Raid (2011)

‘The Raid’ is straight up kick ass, and wastes virtually no time in bringing the action home when a group of 20 men are trapped inside a 15 storey building, who now must fight their way through waves altogether of highly trained and heavily armed henchmen, until they can face the big baddie. Knives, guns, bare knuckles, walls, brick bats, an axe, and even refrigerators, nothing is spared as a tool to kill in this brutal mano-a-mano. The fight choreography is a-rate, and the intense atmosphere of the film will catch hold of you refusing to let go until the final survivors emerge out of the building. This one holds a special place in the hearts of fans of Asian martial arts films and action films in general.

13. Dev D (2009)

Safe to say, ‘Dev D’ would be the film that cemented Anurag Kashyap’s place on the list of the best Indian directors working, with an appeal of his own. Don’t get me wrong, Kashyap was hailed as a force to reckon with since the days of ‘Black Friday’, but if I’m to temporally mark where Kashyap truly blossomed and his name went beyond only critics, it would be ‘Dev D’. The film is the fourth Hindi language adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic Bengali novel of forbidden love and a now immortalized tragic hero. ‘Dev D’ is an inherently modern take on the subject, and Kashyap makes sure it’s his own, significantly peppering the film with his own style and influences. There is visual flair, sex, debauchery, adultery, addictions, substance abuse, and some amazing, amazing music by Amit Trivedi to go with it. Go watch it if you haven’t already.

12. A Wednesday! (2008)

An extremely pleasant surprise, taut, thrilling, and exceptionally well made, ‘A Wednesday’ is also one of the rare Indian films to earn the distinction of being remade in Hollywood, while the reverse has blatantly happened more times than I can recount. ‘A Wednesday’ works, apart from the fairly obvious things that make up a good film, because it tends to an inert emotion that stems within all of us: that of dissatisfaction from the common man, accurately summed up in Naseeruddin Shah’s epic “I am the stupid common man” speech. Broadly resting on the shoulders of its two brilliant leads in Shah and Kher, and with an ending that will make you think long and hard, ‘A Wednesday’ is a narrative victory, and one of the most original Bollywood movies of the last decade.

11. Watchmen (2009)

Imbued with impressive, unmistakable visual character, ‘Watchmen’ is one of the best comic book adaptations ever in my opinion, one that didn’t perform too well when it opened, but has been recognized for a masterful work by comic book enthusiasts and fans of the original graphic novel. It is dark, violent, stylishly choreographed, it raises an important question about vigilantism in society, and all that while looking flawless and introducing (for non-fans) never heard of before characters. I will not comment upon his storytelling abilities, but Zack Snyder can make a fine looking film, I’ll give you that.

10. Kill Bill: Volume 1 and 2 (2003, 2004)

You seem to be missing the point of the ‘Kill Bill’ films when you start demanding things like character development or a sane plotline from the film. ‘Kill Bill’ is essential, unfiltered Tarantino, untethered in its total four hour runtime, and undeterred in his visual pursuit of creating an extremely relentless, ultra-stylistically ultra-violent martial arts revenge flick, giving us a heroine for the ages in Uma Thurman, playing the wronged Bride. It’s all of that and just that, quite simply put.

9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Performed by the legendary British sketch comedy group, Monty Python, the film turns the Arthurian legend and his quest for the holy grail on its head, instead making them encounter truly ridiculous obstacles and absurd conditions on their quest, which is where virtually all of the comedy stems from, apart from the obvious terrific timings of the comic artists Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, with Gilliam and Jones serving as directors. Widely regarded as one of the best comedy films ever made and the absolute best that the British had to offer in this arena, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ is silly and relentlessly fun, but extremely well performed: basically everything that you have come to expect out of Monty Python.

8. V for Vendetta (2005)

From the Guy Fawkes mask to the extremely quotable dialogues of the movie to its propagations against fascism, everything now has acquired the status of a cultural icon. Adapted by the Wachowskis from Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name, the film stars Hugo Weaving as V, and Natalie Portman in a pivotal role as Evey Hammond who is haplessly caught in V’s agenda. Stylishly shot action sequences, albeit violent and graphic, are among the film’s highlights apart from some great dialogues and numbing philosophies about freedom and totalitarianism. This is a film that indeed gets better with repeated viewings.

7. In Bruges (2008)

‘In Bruges’ has all the makings of a film that would go on to develop a cult following: an absolutely crack plot withwhack characters, and a zany, twisted sense of humour, regularly venturing into the no bounds kind. As a fan of dark comedies, I adored director Martin McDonagh’s ‘In Bruges’ and laughed at scenes I shouldn’t have. The performances by especially Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are top notch too. However, if you need one reason to watch this one, let it be the expletive mouthing eccentrically angry boss, Harry, played by Ralph Fiennes. He is absolutely terrific in his bits.

6. Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

A Hindi language comedic goldmine, with punch after punch and gag after gag to tickle your funny bone. ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ bombed at the box office when it released, but today remains revered as one of the most popular Indian films, over the nation and abroad. It isn’t some cinematic tour-de-force, but I can account for it being one of the best Indian comedies, maybe ever. Some of the scenes in there are absolutely bonkers and laugh out loud funny: its quirky dialogue immensely quotable and part of Indian pop culture to date, and its buffoonish acts truly chuckle worthy. Probably one of the few films that fit into the mould of every definition of a cult classic I stated in the introductory paragraph, ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ is a revered comedy classic, and one of my favourite films. Trying to decipher its popularity is like trying to stomp inside a sinkhole: eventually you will find yourself a part of it.

5. Enter the Dragon (1973)

There is a reason that ‘Enter the Dragon’ is known as possibly the most definitive martial arts film, influencing virtually every other martial arts film that follows it, and even action films. Starring the legend that was Bruce Lee playing a martial artist who agrees to spy for the British intelligence on a crime lord, Han, by entering a tournament held by him on his island, ‘Enter the Dragon’ has respectable fight scenes for today, but the best of their time. The influence of the film, as I said, is unmistakable even today when it comes to pop culture, and while I can agree that the film may seem dated now, given the sheer number of martial arts films out today that you obviously would have seen before this, it would be tough to deny that at 100 minutes, this is a solid film and a total Lee knockout.

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4. Boyhood (2014)

A beautiful, philosophical coming of age film, fourteen years in the making. That Linklater filmed this over a course of fourteen years, sensitively documenting the years in a regular boy’s life is a testament to sheer perseverance and the man’s commitment to his craft. Viewing the film with that fact in my mind raises the appreciation bar for the film manifold, but even without that, ‘Boyhood’ remains a sensitive, true to life study of what boyhood quite literally is.

The film encompasses everything, from a son’s relationship with his parents, to the unbridled joy of childhood, high school, your first drink or smoke, your first kiss, and your first free thought. Everything is portrayed with remarkable sensitivity, and true to the period attention that naturally comes as a result of the film being shot during that time. While I agree that for audiences across the world, the film may not be relatable always, owing to cultural and social differences, but that’s what the film’s inherent victory is. Even if you see a little bit of yourself in Mason, ‘Boyhood’ wins.

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3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

One of the most wildly original love stories of our time, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is an ethereal watch, and one of Charlie Kaufman’s best written films, and that’s really saying something. Starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, the film is the story of two lovers who try to have each other’s memories erased from their minds by a medical procedure, and how desperately they gravitate toward finding their way back to each other. The concept of predestination in love is not a new one for films by any means, but it is the treatment it receives here, marginally even venturing into the sci-fi category and currently the flag bearer of popular high concept cinema, that sets it apart from its contemporaries or any of the ‘regular’ romantic films. I highly doubt that you wouldn’t have watched it already, but if you haven’t by any chance, you are doing yourself a disservice.

2. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The first thing that probably comes to mind when asked to describe this film in one word is ‘disturbing’. The only film on the list I dare revisit, I caught myself flinching multiple times while watching this film. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is social commentary at its most uncompromising, providing stark imagery that one may never recover from. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and it doesn’t provide redemption for those seeking it in a film with probably the bleakest rendition of a dystopia in societal terms. And therein, I believe, lies the film’s success in driving a disturbing message home.

Unconventional in any way you can imagine, it provides us with protagonists that are spiteful to the core and indulge in acts of “ultraviolence” and rape; it comments on the socio-political state of things in the most harsh way you can imagine, puts you in a state of confusion as Alex DeLarge (played by a charismatic Malcolm McDowell) is subjected to inhuman ways of reconditioning and ends leaving the audience in a farrago. Truly, a work of Kubrickian proportions.

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1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino’s magnum opus, there is nothing more that I can add to what’s already been said for this groundbreaking film. Even when you view it today, every bit of it is as iconic as it was when it first released more than two decades ago. ‘Pulp Fiction’ announced the arrival of the force that was Quentin Tarantino to the world in glorious fashion: gloriously violent and gloriously eccentric.

There is so much that you can credit the film for when it comes to modern films: non-linear narratives that converge towards the end, that has developed into a sub-genre of its own by now, stylised violence and long drawn over the top dialogue mouthed by quirky characters that could only belong to Tarantino. The accomplishments of this film can take up another article, but here I close concluding that ‘Pulp Fiction’ is possibly the most widely accepted cult film of all time. Its unmistakable impact on cinema itself and pop culture is testament to that.

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