Top 20 Cult Film Directors

Celebrate the day! Being a long time follower of cult films over the years, I figured it was due time to create an appropriate Top 20 list of Cult Film Directors for readers who might “still” be seeking out worthy films to indulge in (Director collectives..that is). I knew creating this list that not every favorite cult director would make it on here (meaning in the public’s eye and that it was limited to 20). Though I fully support the choices made as ones that are worthy. It’s also important to note that “Horror” wasn’t necessarily used as a determinating factor but rather on the content of the films themselves.

It goes without saying that we have had some great talented Directors over the years that have contributed to the cult movie legacy greatly. These 20 particularly have created some pretty impressive collectives that have had their films labeled in the “cult” realms more than once. As part of our HorrorNews.net direction we’ll be sure to review as many as we can find time for.

(not in order of ranking)

01- Alejandro Jodorowsky
A cult director favorite, Jodorowsky released 3 primary highly regarded films that gained him critical acclaim.El Topo (1970)”, “Santa Sangre (1989)” and “The Holy Mountain (1973)“. While his other works are also of recommendation, these 3 really define his unique method of storytelling. (Just on a side note, I recommend you also talk a peek at the film “Fando and Lis (1968)”.) Really after 1989 Alejandro Jodorowsky seems to have turned his back on his film efforts taking on only a small offering of unrelated film projects. Though if you want the Jodorowsky experience…I suggest sticking to the greats.

02- Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone doesn’t “always” stick to cult directive. He tends to swing between projects that are specific to events, persons or culture. However, he also has created some of the most inspiring works of all time. Films like Natural Born Killers“, “The Doors”, “Talk Radio”, “U Turn” and “Wall Street” all hold a certain appeal that’s hard to place without citing the directors influence on them.. They were all outside the box “enough” to make them memorable and off the beaten path of the mainstream. Stone has also taken to political focused films like “Nixon” and “JFK” garnering him much acclaim.

03- David Cronenberg
A true original. Cronenberg like Lynch often has to compete between his personal interests and just simply making money on commercial films. Cronenberg has a unique style that is often categorized as organic and surreal. His greatest works have followed the concepts he held to heart and soul. Though like many of these Directors, these releases were often misunderstood and below commercial acceptance. If you want a true dose of Cronenberg, then stick in films like “VideoDrome“, eXistenz“, and “The Brood“. If you are willing to take on a total mind screw then see how you handle films like “Naked Lunch“. One of his underrated films “Crash” ranks among my favorites.

04- Stanley Kubrick
It was a sad day when this great director left the planet. Kubrick was an obsessive that really scrutinized every angle of his films. He left us with a collective of movies that stand among cinemas greatest achievements. Favorites for me include “Eyes Wide Shut“, “The Shining“, “A Clockwork Orange“, and “Full Metal Jacket“. Stanley Kubrick, to this day, is often discussed among film studies and extensive research novels. A film lover should always keep Stanley Kubrick’s collective nearby if ever aching for a proper approach to filmmaking.

05- David Lynch
David Lynch almost single handed defines the essence of cult filmmaking. Not entirely but enough to “always” place him among the cult filmmakers circuit. A David Lynch movie is not for everyone…in fact its his lack of commercial appeal that seems to ride against the grain that could make him a “much more” heralded director. Though, those who love the Lynch style always come back for more…myself included. If you really want to understand his work, you have to assume that not everything is always a character but rather an emotional facsimile. Then you can sort among the pieces to make a more cohesive whole. Favorites include: “Blue Velvet“, “Mulholland Dr.”, “Eraserhead“, “Wild at Heart” and the “Twin Peaks” legacies.

06- David Fincher
Fincher has the distinction of just being one “great” director. His work has not always been within the realm of cult films but with titles like “Fight Club“, “Se7en” and “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” you can’t help but admire his visions. Additional favorites include “The Social Network“, “The Game” and “Zodiac“. I believe we still have alot to see from Mr. Fincher in the years ahead. Like Stanley Kubrick, Fincher is a visionary that adds a special level of authenticity to every project he touches.

07- Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino is the embodiment of “his” interests. Each film feels like something from the past with a new modern twist added in. Of course we have to salute films like “Jackie Brown“, “Pulp Fiction“, and “Reservoir Dogs“. But we also have to embrace his “Kill Bill” movies and his writing for the films “Natural Born Killers” and “True Romance“. Tarantino “is” entertainment in a nutshell. Not every piece is a Pulp Fiction, however each seeps with his own identifiable touch of magic.

08- Roman Polanski
Polanski is in a class by himself. A more serious thinking man’s cult filmmaker, Polanski has created some truly original pieces that manage to stay with you long after viewing. Often viewers cite frustration with his work which can be ambiguous at times. Though many cult films take this path, so its no surprise. I was first impressed with the slow grind “The Tenant” from which I moved onto other greats such as “Chinatown”, “The Pianist” and “Repulsion“. “Rosemary’s Baby” is a shoe-in for this mans talent and much heralded by the genre. I’ll even cite “The Ninth Gate” as a worthy example of his style. Like it or not, it’s true Roman Polanski!

09- Takashi Miike
This guy has created so “many” films that he has crossed genres on a pretty regular basis. However any fan of Takashi Miike’s work knows that he is also one whacked-out bizarre film creator. While I’ll confess that I believe “not every” film from Takashi Miike is a winner, he has still managed to create some of the weirdest culty films on the planet. I’ll direct you to more appropriate titles such as “Audition“, “Zebraman“, Gozu“, “Ichi the Killer” and the really whacked out “Visitor Q“. I wouldn’t stop their though as a Takashi Miike film always seems to have some form of edgy content to it. There is alot to investigate from this director which is always a good thing (and recommended)

10- Yoshihiro Nishimura
Yoshihiro Nishimura bears the distinction of introducing a extreme-over-the-top style unlike many we have ever seen. His work in FX/Makeup seems to have crossed over into directing to the delight of his fans. Where a director like Cronenberg might dabble in organics, Yoshihiro Nishimura actually uses it to define his style of filmmaking into full overblown lunacy. Every film this man touches feels like an instant cult classic embodying the ways of the Asian market into the modern US fascination with gore and chaos. His directing efforts on the film “Tokyo Gore Police“, was a trendsetter inspiring gaggles of copy creations. Later releases “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl“, “Helldriver“, and “Mutant Girls Squad” all wear his remarkable identity on each of them. His earlier creation “Meatball Machine” was also deemed an important addition to his genre style.

11- Tim Burton
Burton wears the emblem of style on his sleeve. A Burton films has a flavor that is unlike any others. I would point to a style that is whimsical, off beat cartoony at times and very character-centered. Films such as “Cabin Boy“, “Beetlejuice“, “Mars Attacks!”,   “Big Fish” and “Edward Scissorhands” all share portions of his remarkable style. His animations stand out among others as masterpieces of animated cinema with “Nightmare Before Christmas” taking the award for most interesting stop motion realization.

12- Kevin Smith
Smith on the most part has stayed pretty focused on the comedic side of cult filmmaking. It was the debut of “Clerks“, that really alerted movie goers to the guys writing and directing talents. Soon to follow would be additional cult classics such as “Mallrats”, Dogma“, and “Chasing Amy“. Kevin would also lend his name to darker creations such as “Vulgar” (producer) and “Red State“. “Dogma” in particular served a strange hybrid purpose of darker comedic content with a twist on religion. In nay case, we love what the man does and look forward to more!

13- Sam Raimi
I don’t believe that intentionally sets out to be a cult film director. I think that his style is just so “Raimi” , that it by default comes across that way. Raimi is a favorite among horror fans, but you can’t argue that he has created some pretty off the way entries into horror. Ones that in my mind cross into a cult category very easily. The “Evil Dead” films (all 3) wear Sam Raimi’s comedic flair that seem quirky enough to “not” feel like “just” another recycle. Films like “Darkman“, “Drag Me to Hell” and “Crimewave” wear this distinction. I wouldn’t call the Spider-Man films cult films, but the “Evil Dead” lineage certainly are.

14- Brian De Palma
De Palma might have more main stream films than other on this list however there is no denying the cult power of “Scarface” or the lasting impression of “Body Double” to the group. Brian De Palma will take on an odd script here or there which when directed correctly is quite an worthy achievement. A lesser celebrated film “Mission to Mars” adds to his collective which includes the cult classic “Phantom of the Paradise

15- Martin Scorsese
Scorsese has a knack for creating films that you don’t see coming. His career is quite impressive wearing his name on some of cinema’s greatest films ever created. I’ve always thought Scorsese to be a commercial artist who just drives things a bit different than others. Films like “Goodfellas“, “Shutter Island” and “Gangs of New York” are great examples of this style. Then you have the more obvious cult inclusions of “After Hours“, “Taxi Driver” and “Cape Fear“. A lesser heralded film “The Last Temptation of Christ” would prove to be his most controversial.

16- Ken Russell
A unique vision is probably an understatement here. Russell approaches film with emphasis on the hallucinogenic aspect of it. While Tommy (1975) was clearly built upon a drug culture stance, films like “The Lair of the White Worm (1988)” and “Altered States (1980)” took different approaches to the genres. “Altered States” examined science and the mind, while Lair took on the theme of a worm-worshipping cult. Others worth mentioning include “Gothic” and “The Devils (1971)”

17- Darren Aronofsky
I like to refer to Darren Aronofsky as a more intellectual cult film creator. This statement in some cases has also affected his commercial success in the market. “The Fountain” was way outside the box to really grab any traction in his arena. Though in all fairness, he regained it all back with the huge success of “Black Swan“. I was an earlier fan of his work in films like “Requiem for a Dream” and “Pi“. I think the only thing lacking from his placement in this list is maybe a need for “more” entries. Another one to watch out for in the years ahead.

18- Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle has created a handful of cult greats that while few, are still among some of the most regarded. I’m talking about titles such as “The Beach, “Trainspotting“, and “Shallow Grave“. Boyle also gave us the fantastic film “28 Days Later” which was more stylized that cult feeling. It kick started the fast zombie revolution to the delight of Horror fans.. While Boyle has taken on more “less” off beat films, he still manages to pull out a new entry here and there. “Sunshine” was 1 in particular that felt more like a quirky Boyle production.

19- Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Joel and Ethan Coen seem to do their best work in this tag team format. Upon release, each of their products always delivers an offbeat nature that demands deeper investigation. “Films like “Fargo“, Blood Simple“, No Country for Old Men” and ” The Big Lebowski” leave behind viewer legacies that evolve the longer they exist. What I’ve found most identifiable with them is their knack for writing dialog that lives on way after the credits have rolled. A Joel Coen, Ethan Coen script is something asking for more investigation simply enough. Once you’ve delved deeper, a whole new spectrum of ideas and thoughts begin to emerge. …pure genius.

20- Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam originates from the Monty Python crew. His vision is unlike any in this list. He seems to know how to encapsulate fantasy in weird and wonderful ways making his creations the most visual of the entire group. Stories seem to evolve and spark new colors under his direction. Should we understand everything completely? Take “Tideland” for instance…not a great film but still wildly visual. Other creations like “Time Bandits” and “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” are bonified classics. “Twelve Monkeys” takes a harder stab at scifi while still remarkably Gilliam.


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SPECIAL MENTIONS: (also great directors who didnt make “this” list)
Alfred Hitchcock
Dario Argento
Edgar Wright
Ed Wood
Frank Henenlotter
Jan Svankmajer
Jess Franco
John Carpenter
John Waters
Larry Clark
Lars von Trier
Lucio Fulci
Mario Bava
Robert Rodriguez
Roger Corman
Russ Meyer
Wes Craven

Top 20 Cult Film Directors

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32 Responses to Top 20 Cult Film Directors

  1. Josh Hadley says:

    What kind of a bullsh*t list is this? Tarantino, Stone, The Coens, Burton, Danny Boyle, Fincher? These are mainstream directors if there ever was one. Kubrick? Worked on mainstream movies his entire career. Scorsese? Outside of the Corman movies all he has made are blockbusters. Polanski? Another mainstream name if there ever was one. Does the person compiling this list even know what a cult film IS? Why not add Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg to the list?

    A cult director would be Bruno Mattei, Ovidio Assonitis, James Glickenhaus or Ed Wood. They are cult directors (I also like how Kevin Smith is on the list AND in the honorable mentions).

    Ken Russell though? That drunken HACK? How does he get on ANY best of list, all he ever did was wreck other peoples books or screenplays. He directed drunk more than he didn’t and he changed scripts to suit HIM, even when it was a violation of the writers contract, all because HE thought he was that f*cking good, and what happened? Everytime he did that, the movie flopped. Funny how he died a penniless unemployable drunk huh? Yeah, he makes my list of great directors.

    • It’s funny because I get the feeling you’ve never picked up a cult film book. I own pretty much every one ever written. And within you find entire collectives from these directors. Please note that the list is a “top 20″, not a “top 20 no-ones ever heard of” list…I’ll leave that 1 to you. Your citing obscurities, directors who made films that most cant even rent in many cases not to mention more in line with B-grade films listing.
      (Scalps, Island of the Living Dead, Beyond the Door,Tentacles …really? – sounds like horror films, not cult films to me – and most of which are obsolete)

      Also you cite amount of money made or the persons personal life detail. Ya so what, how’s is that relevant to the products made which are pure genius, offbeat or inventive. Ed Wood wasn’t included as he wasn’t a favorite (hence not making the list). Corman, who I really like is also not a favorite, hence not top 20…)

      Folks pay attention here, before you make yourself sound foolish. Cult films are specific to a certain style and following. “Scarface” in particular even with a big budget and a-listers is cited as one of the top cult films of all time. While its true that directors like Stone and Martin Scorsese have made films that don’t fit the category, they’ve made alot that do

      In summary, if you don’t like the list make your own on your own site.
      However, I do suggest readers cite their favorites below so that other readers can explore on their own perspectives and objectives

      Thank you
      HorrorNews.net

      • Josh Hadley says:

        I don’t make lists, lists are to restrictive I feel but I might just devote next weeks column to debunking this particular list in it’s entirety (although you do have some legit names up there which will be pointed out).

        So you are basing what a cult film is on what Wikipedia says it is? You use examples like Scarface, which was not only a huge hit upon release has remained one to the this day, in the MAINSTREAM. That is HARDLY a cult film. Why not Transformers by Bay? It made a ton of money, is popular to this day and has a cult of people (using your definition of the term) that love it.

        A cult film (which I admit is a pretty overused and understated term) is something that is by definition NOT MAINSTREAM. So people that spent their entire careers making mainstream fair are cult directors? I think it is you that has no idea what a cult film is my friend. I am not trying to start a fight (I really am not) but I think you are using FAR, FAR to broad of a definition of the term Cult here. You are passing up actual cult directors like Mattei, Assonitis and Glickenhaus who have always worked outside the mainstream yet have MASSIVE audiences.

        Listen to the special I did on cult movies, it will illuminate just why this list is full of people that have no right to be on such a list.

        http://www.nightwatchuniverse.com/Radiodrome1/RadioDrome%20Episode-67.mp3

      • Bruno Marone says:

        What happened to Wim Wenders and Woody Allen?

  2. Steven Widow says:

    What the hell is with all the mainstream directors up here? When I think of a cult film director I think of someone who works on a shoestring budget and makes weird but original films with a cast of unknowns. I agree with Alejandro Jodorowsky, Takashi Miike, David Lynch, and Yoshihiro Nishimura. Here are some better for the other 16 Guissepe Andrews, Harmony Korine, Hershal Gordon Lewis, Chad Ferrin, Lloyd Kaufman, M dot Strange, Todd Sheets, Tito Brass, Jan Svankmajer, Passoleini, Paul Morrisey, Dereck Jarman, Russ Meyer, Jack Smith, Kennith Anger, Jim Jarmusch

    • no your referring to simply B-movies, not exactly cult movies.
      Even though I’m not a huge wiki fan – you could at least reference this page to get a clearer idea
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cult_films
      In any case though, cult films are subjective in many cases which makes it impossible from 1 individual to the next to entirely agree on choices.

      • Steven Widow says:

        I am referring to directors who have a small following of a devoted fan base. You know a CULT following. Also the majority of film directors listed here don’t make B-movies
        people like Jan Svankmajer and M dot Strange made art films you really show research these people you might actually see some good cult moves.

  3. Exactly who wrote this hype, anyhoo? Announce yourself so I can ignore your work from here on in.

    Oh, well, I guess it just goes to show there are two kinds of “cult directors” in this world: those we know to BE cult, and the ones bloggers BELIEVE to be cult.

    • Better yet, how about commenters who believed they know what cult films are and those who obviously haven’t done their research? Sounds like you’ve spent too much time with B-Movies??

  4. KashimaYuki says:

    I thought the list was pretty bad ass. You’ve even put down some honorable mentions, very nice.
    The things that make cult films so great, are the very reasons why no one can ever agree on who’s best. The people listed here should be celebrated for making entertainment that people love. Maybe you don’t love it, but someone else does.
    Quityourbitchin’ & all that

  5. Alex Jowski says:

    Perhaps this should be Top 20 Most Popular Cult Film directors? While each person on this list has at some point directed a film that’s obtained a cult following, they’re not really a “Top” director. I mean, Kevin Smith is a great, witty screenwriter – but he’s a mediocre director. Quite a few of your honorable mentions have directed more films with larger cult followings than the directors on your list. A majority of the directors on your list are people that directed a unique film or two early in their career which developed a cult following and have since moved on to bigger, more mainstream projects (Sam Raimi, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton) while many of your honorable mentions are creative directors whose entire body of work has been made up of cult films (John Waters, Ed Wood, Russ Meyer). Is your basis of what makes the list of the Top 20 Cult Film Directors a personal preference of that director’s style? An overall look at that director’s body of work beyond whatever few cult films they’ve done? I’m not quite sure.

  6. Mike White says:

    While I don’t think that having a mainstream “hit” should disqualify someone from being a cult director (Straight Story was probably as close to a hit as David Lynch has ever had) but I just can’t see a lot of these choices like Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky etc. Perhaps a film or two that they’ve directed may be considered “cult” (Pi for Aronofsky, not sure what Stone’s “cult film” could be). I tend to think of a “cult film” as something that would play well at midnight and gather a good crowd of devoted fans. The film may be a “B-film” or may not but I think something that plays on TBS or TNT should not be considered “cult”.

    Perhaps I’m mixing up the idea of a “cult director” a “cult film” and a “cult film director”. Certainly, I don’t think that a cult film and financial or popularity have to be mutually exclusive but it seems that there area a lot of other filmmakers making edgier films with a truly visionary voice than some mentioned above.

    Rather than just bitching about it, however, I think I’ll have to make my own list.

    Thanks for spurring some interesting conversation.

  7. While I appreciate the arguments, cult films to me are styles…simple enough
    off the beaten path
    Films like “Edmond”, After hours”, “Tank girl”, Barton fink” …etc – all cult films. While I believe a statement needs credibility, I only point to the published books on the subject, the other cult lists on the internet, and what the majority of the cinema culture regards. Not using that as my basis but rather additional validation.
    The list pays tribute to the fine directors who created these films, not the poor and lonely independents who managed to gain a small interest in a few art house films or B movies for that matter. Everything Kubrick touched was a cult film……..it was just his style as with Lynch or the Coen Brothers. Now it also can be said that not every project “felt” like a cult film (in the instance of Coens) but the majority of their work does. Darren Aronofsky created one the best cult style films of all time last year – “black swan”…..and so on

    In any case this list was not meant to convert a few non believers, rather it is a statement about our top 20 picks

    • Louis Friend says:

      Please cite your:

      Published books on the subject,
      the other cult lists on the internet,
      and what the majority of the cinema culture regards.

      • I’d love to, however that’s a big todo list with 1000 movies to review and staff/site to run.
        Better yet, do a book search in Amazon, pick up or purchase maybe about the first 10 or so books and get backto me. Cult Book authors can’t all be wrong? can they

        • Well, that explains pretty much everything about this list– the first 10 books that pop up on Amazon are almost uniformly books that refer to films like “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now” as “cult” films.

          You should really do more digging and read more than just these quick list books on the subject, especially since most of Peary’s “Cult Movies” books were written 20 years ago– again, when some of these directors may have been viably referred to as “cult” directors.

          All film books are not created equal, and quality of writing and research do matter. So does timeliness!

  8. Iason Skullsaber says:

    Is this some sort of internet Gag at how out of touch and pretentious internet “Culture” Writers can be? IF so, then mission accomplished .

    Because Obviously Directors that have been Popular since there beginning , who Direct nothing but huge release movies that are well received since inception belong on a list about Cult movie Directors…Right? Thats the gag isn’t it?

    If this list is not a Huge stab at the internet, it is the most disgusting slap in the face of REAL Cult movie makers and fans i have ever had the misfortune of witnessing .

    I really hope this is a Joke. i just REALLY can’t believe that someone who could be so out of touch with a staple of SUB CULTURE ( yes, that’s what cult movies are, Sub Culture ) could be in charge of writing this kind of list. Did you even show this list o anyone before you posted it?

    Just Disgusting………………………..( but if it IS a JOKE, Then Brilliant!!)

  9. Vinny Smith says:

    I don’t quite think you have a good grasp on what a cult film is. It is a film that has a strong fanbase and following despite it not being a mainstream success and is appreciated years after its time even if it wasn’t originally. Something like “Scarface” is an almost polar opposite of this. Something more along the lines of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” would be a more accurate example. Hell, even “The Room” is somewhat a cult film. Directors like Tim Burton and Sam Raimi had directed movies early in their careers that were considered cult but by now they are so mainstream it is ridiculous to give them that title.

    Every one of these directors apart from a couple are easily among the most famous, notable and appreciated directors in film history and almost all are practically household names to people with even the most meager of film knowledge.

    I’m sorry, but this list should be re-titled “20 Film Directors I Really Like”

    • I wont argue “20 Film Directors I Really Like” as my favorite directors “are” cult directors

      • Vinny Smith says:

        correction. Half of your favourite directors used to be cult. The other half were never cult to begin with

      • Iason Skullsaber says:

        You are as out of touch with the meaning of “Cult Film” as an 80 year old Jazz fan is to Deathmetal

        and everything you have said to try and Justify this list has only Shown Everyone who reads this and the universe how Pretentious you are about your “Opinion” on what “Words” mean. instead of going out and trying to embrace sub-culture, you spit on it’s head, then write about it on the internet.

        Your parents should smack you , and i Know that REAL Cult movie Fans are about to eat you alive, so i at least have solace in that

        • I guess then we’ll have to agree that I disagree. “Shown everyone”? – Yes that would be my point and objective. Hence running a website, creating articles and “it” sitting within the top of the search engines for years to come (not pretension, just instinct, and reality). Glad we understand each other.

          Though I won’t say that it is being “pretentious” since I truly believe the words I wrote as a “true” statement. There is no spitting on anyone when the article writer is out buying the films that they (the directors) produce, supporting them, and taking the time document his findings for others to read. It always amazes me when commenters will spend all their time bashing and not contributing or producing anything on their own. How bout a link to your article on this?….oh right, there is none…so sad.

          Well if you have something to “really” say, be a contributor on the subject in a intellectual professional way…..not a drive-by idealist

          …….sorry man, I’d love to stay and chat but got horror films to watch ;)

          In any case, its still glad to hear others voices and opinions

  10. Iason Skullsaber says:

    I’m so Mad I missed a “T” in “to”, Dammit!!

  11. Ted Newsom says:

    I’m afraid you really, truly don’t understand the esence of what makes a “cult.” A “cult” is a small band of followers of a non-mainstream religion– in this case, worshippers of releatively obscure cinema gods. You’re clearly a practicing Catholic. No way you’re going to convince me that the Pope is a crazed Manson-like nutbar.

    A cult gathers after the fact, rediscovering a film– not lining up en masse for the latest George Lucas /Jim Cameron 100 billion-dollar beached whale. SCARFACE, a “cult” movie? TACI DRIVER? TOMMY? MARS ATTACKS?

    What exactly makes NATURAL BORN KILLERS a “cult film? You see conventions of NRK fans lining up by the thousands with their “We Love Woody” T-shirts? Nope.

    Marx Brothes fans are a cult; Adam Sandler fans are not.

    As for how Wikipedia defines “cult”– who cares? Wikipedia is written by volunteers who may or may not understand a blessed thing about the subject they like.

  12. John Sohn says:

    Where’s George Lucas and Spielberg on the list. They fit the definition of cult directors as well as Kubrick and Burton do.

  13. When you refer to “Cult Movie” books, are you literally referring to the “Cult Movies” series by Danny Peary? Because that would explain a lot about the list here– those books feature profiles on films like “Altered States,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Body Heat,” “Taxi Driver,” “Blue Velvet,” etc. If those books are your primary source for defining “cult film,” then this list makes perfect sense.

    However, there are many other books that detail and define “cult film” in a much different way, and most serious film fans tend to define “cult” in a much different manner than Mr. Peary. I’m thinking particularly of RE/search’s “Incredibly Strange Films” book, which was a seminal work on “cult” film. The concept of the “cult” film is generally accepted to be that of a film that gathers a devoted following outside of mainstream cinema; the definition of a “cult” director follows, in that a particular director is considered a “cult director” if he (or she) has a rabid fanbase despite a lack of mainstream recognition or success.

    As suggested above, if this list had been labeled “Top 20 Cult Directors Who Went Mainstream,” there would probably be very little debate going on here. As repeatedly stated above, this list is packed with commercially successful filmmakers, some of whom started off making “cult” films but who are now popular mainstream directors. And that is one of the biggest problems with the list, if the aims of the list are to inform readers about filmmakers to look into if they’re looking for something new.

    I imagine you would be hard-pressed to find a dedicated film fan who hasn’t heard of every one of these directors– again, except maybe Nishimura. And even more casual filmgoers may be familiar with the other “obscure” names on the list. Jodorowsky is certainly a “cult” director, but his status as one of the pioneers of the “midnight movie” is legendary. Miike started out as a “cult” director, but now he’s making high-profile films that register on mainstream radar like “13 Assassins,” which was released in the States last year and garnered him a lot of attention.

    The other major problem with this list is that it skews very hard toward white male American directors who have been working as recently as the last 15 years or so. Aside from Kubrick and Russell, all of these directors are still alive and active (more or less– God only knows what Lynch is up to these days). Put simply, giving most of these directors the label of “cult” gives the impression that whoever made the list watches primarily American films of the last 20 years or so. It just makes it look like the list was made by someone who hasn’t watched all that much international cinema, or any classic cinema, unless you count the “Honorable Mentions.” That list certain has some issues, but at least it indicates a more traditional understanding of the idea of a “cult” director.

    In closing, here are a few excellent books on independent, “cult” film and paracinema that may help explain the rancor of some of the comments here:

    “Incredibly Strange Films” by V. Vale (ed.)
    “The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film” by Michael Weldon
    “The Cult Film Reader” by Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik (eds.)
    “Unruly Pleasures: The Cult Film and Its Critics” by Xavier Mendik (ed.)
    “Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style and Politics” by Jeffrey Sconce (ed.)
    “Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents” by Stephen Thrower

    • Just want to add one other crucial book that should be required reading on the subject that I forgot to list above: “Midnight Movies” by J. Hoberman & Jonathan Rosenbaum.

    • You make some good points, and thanx for taking the time to do so.
      Your not necessarily incorrect, but your assuming the spectrum of our audience, which has a huge foundation of consumers. Not all mind you, but its a pretty good guess.

      For instance owning every one of “Jodorowsky’s” releases and none of say “Edgar Wright” releases wouldn’t prompt me to place Wright on this list (per example)

      No, not isolated to Danny Peary’s book, but he’d be one source of reference. and while the deeper subculture of cult films which range from obscure to international exist, I don’t really believe the current majority of cult movie enthusiasts are based in that realm. So perhaps the title could get a few extra words in it. But as you and I know that’s not how the consumer base “searches” for things.

      There is a separate honest agenda attached to it, which is probably the air of confusion.

      Going from obscure (or poor) to mainstream wasn’t a variable for me in this case. Moreso product focused.
      Hope that helps!

  14. Kameko says:

    I believe one person who needs to be mentioned is definitely Guillermo del Toro because he produced such movies as: El Orfanato (The Orphanage), El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone), Splice, Los Ojos de Julia (Julia’s Eyes), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and of course his latest work, Mama, and many more (Kung Fu Panda as well :3)

  15. cKenze says:

    theyre all mainstream. you need to check out true cult filmakers like gyorgi feher or graham jones

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