Any best of list is personal and subjective so there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the fact that Nerve.Com’s list of the ‘Fifty Greatest Cult Movies of all time’ is so heavily slanted towards American films. The list does, however, ignore the world of cinema and misses the opportunity to celebrate cult directors like Alejandro Jodorowsky, Andrei Tarkovsky, Werner Herzog and Akiro Kurosawa. The lack of British entries is also unfortunate.
In order to prove that movies don’t begin and end in Hollywood or on the U.S. Indie circuit I have made a rival list of Fifty Greatest British Cult Movies.
As with the Nerve list, I have limited each director to one film. With regard to what is, or is not, a ‘cult’ , this is another relative question but generally implies some manner of what a Rough Guide to Cult Fiction calls a “lengthy and irrational devotion”. My rule of thumb guide is that the movie must have either generated such obsessive adoration and/or has otherwise achieved some measure of healthy notoriety.
The list also contains films that have won mainstream acclaim as well as others which have been unjustly ignored by the public at large and so have a small but devoted audience.
Here is my selection from 50 -41:
50. CARRY ON CLEO – Gerald Thomas (1964)
Bawdy, unsubtle and stuffed to the brim with cheap innuendos, the Carry On series are, for better or worse, a British institution. This is the tenth of 29 made between 1958 and 1978 with one ill-advised attempt at a revival (Carry On Columbus) in 1992 Cleo was marketed as the funniest film since 54bc. For me the choice of which Carry On to pick was between this and Carry On Screaming. What swung it was the memorable one-liner delivered by Kenneth Williams as Julius Caesar; all together now : “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”
49. FOUR LIONS Chris Morris (2010)
Cultdom and controversy often go hand in hand. Making a black comedy about Muslim terrorists operating from a London-based cell risks more than a few bad reviews. Comedian, Chris Morris is never one to be shy away from ruffling a few feathers and, while his debut film is not laugh out loud funny it merits inclusion here for its courage and obvious integrity.
48. MURDER, SHE SAID George Pollock (1961)
Forget the insipid TV series (Murder, She Wrote) this features an amateur sleuth of far greater substance. It brings to the screen the perfect personification of Miss Marple in the form of the peerless Margaret Rutherford. This is probably the best in a series based on Agatha Christie’s improbable heroine with a strong supporting cast . Utterly charming.
47. BRIEF ENCOUNTER David Lean (1945)
More classic than cult so it is probably a bit of a shoe-in to include this but it is certainly one that can claim a devoted following. Based on a play (Still Life) by Noel Coward it features the best cinematic use of plummy Queen’s English as bored housewife Laura (Celia Johnson) is tempted into infidelity but finds the will to resist. A real snapshot of post-war Britain and the still intact class system.
46. GREGORY’S GIRL Bill Forsyth (1980)
When I hit 16 my mom described me as “all arms and legs” and the awkward hero of this charming low-budget romantic comedy has similar issues. As innocent and affectionate rites of passage movie as you could hope to find.
45. THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY John Mackenzie (1980)
A bit dated now but this tough drama of small time criminals made quite an impact when it came out mainly because it wasn’t merely aping the American model. Bob Hoskins as a London gangster on the make is in his element.
44. THAT’LL BE THE DAY Claude Whatham (1974)
David Essex plays young rocker Jim Maclaine who wants to be Elvis (but would settle for being the next Buddy Holly). In pursuit of his dream, he falls in with some dodgy company that includes Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. The tagline for the equally excellent follow up (Stardust) ran “Show me a boy who never wanted to be a rock star and I’ll show you a liar”.
43. NIL BY MOUTH Gary Oldman (1987)
Uncompromisingly brutal movie set in an East London council estate where violence is ever-present and a film which includes 428 uses of the word ‘fuck’. It boasts a rabid central performance from Ray Winstone. and is apparently based on a world Gary Oldman grew up in. Not a pretty film but gritty and powerful.
42. COMRADES Bill Douglas (1986)
I was tempted to cheat and include Bill Douglas’ painfully honest autobiographical trilogy but settled on this largely forgotten depiction of the Tolpuddle Martyrs who formed the first trade union and were transported to Australia for their trouble. Great ensemble cast and a movie that oozes integrity.
41. RED ROAD Andrea Arnold (2007)
Slow moving yet thoroughly absorbing human-centred drama set in a bleak housing estate in Glasgow. Never likely be a blockbuster but deserving of a wider audience.
Stay tuned for the other 40…………..