A film will be dubbed a cult classic when it achieves a following that is fanatical. Of course, in the world of film the most appealing genre to generate a cult following would be the musical.
So we thought we would spend some time discussing ten cult classic movie musicals with hopes that you will be inspired to check a few of them out.
1. Streets of Fire
Diane Lane plays Ellen Aim, a performer and rock star has come back to her old neighborhood to play a show. A gang by the name of the Bombers kidnap her.
Reva, sister to Ellen’s ex-boyfriend Tom Cody, hires him to find the singer and return her safely. With another ex-soldier name McCoy, the duo heads to a part of town called the Battery, where you anyone is lucky to make it out alive.
They get Ellen back after a series of fights but the tension between Tom and Ellen is evident. Even to her current boyfriend and manager Billy Fish, played by Rick Moranis.
This tale of bad boys and rough neighborhoods plays along to a series of musical numbers that will really have you wanting to jump out of your seat.
Still, this cult classic didn’t do great at the box office and was beat out by Brewster’s Millions in its opening weekend.
This 1980 cult classic stars Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. Using the music of Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, The Tubes, and Cliff Richard this musical was a serious failure at the box office.
The story centers around artist Sonny who dreams of success. He takes back a job painting large album covers and is assigned to do one for a group called The Nine Sisters. He notices that one of the women on the cover resembles a woman he had seen earlier.
Sonny is fixated on finding this lady and when he does she is allusive to who she really is. He is unaware that she, along with her sisters, came to life from a mural at the local beach. In essence, she is one of the many muses.
Gene Kelly plays Danny McGuire who had a connection with the muse in his earlier days and lost her. Of course, he realizes that Kira resembles that same woman.
Danny and Sonny become friends and Kira convinces them to open a night club together. When they do they call it Xanadu and host a large opening. The muses all appear that night and dance for the attendees.
One memorable scene is the roller skating choreography with Kelly and a large group of dancers grooving to Electric Light Orchestra’s song “Xanadu.”
3. Grease II
This cult classic is a sequel to the legendary musical Grease. Yet this time, the Romeo and Juliet like story is between a girl, Stephanie, who is considered too cool for the British boy who is new to town, named Michael Carrington.
Michael falls in love with Stephanie and will do anything to win her over, even if it means nearly breaking his neck learning how to ride a motorcycle. Of course, Stephanie’s ex-boyfriend and leader of the T-Birds, Johnny Nogerelli, refuses to let her go.
It is a law that all Pink Ladies must date T-Birds and Stephanie is a Pink Lady. Still, when Michael disguises himself as a “cool rider” Stephanie is enamored with his mysterious persona and riding abilities.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Stephanie, Maxwell Caulfield is Michael, and Adrian Zmed plays Johnny.
There is a good deal of uniquely cheesy musical numbers in this cult classic. You either love it or you hate it. We are hoping you love it.
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
This film is the epitome of cult classic. Since its release in 1975 this movie has played yearly at midnight in theaters around the world. Attendees dress up as the characters and they bring along props. There are even times when the audience stands up and throws toast at the screen when one of the characters initiates a toast at dinner.
Brad and Janet, who are engaged, find themselves with car trouble and knock on the door of an old house. This home turns out to be the residence of Dr. Frankfurter, a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania. Frankfurter is played by the charming Tim Curry.
The pair are subjected to the Time Warp and Rocky, Frankfurter’s human creation.
Of course, as nice as Brad and Janet seem to be, they both commit infidelity with Dr. Frankfurter when he seduces each in the bedrooms he gave them for the night.
Brad and Janet also find out that Frankfurter and his entourage are not from Earth at all.
5. Rock & Rule
In 1983 this Canadian animated musical classic features music from Cheap Trick, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
The story is set in the United States after the apocalypse. Humans have become mutants. We meet Mok, a rock star of legend. He is on the lookout for that perfect vocal quality that will release a powerful demon from another dimension and make him immortal.
Once he gives up and goes home Mok attends a show and hears Angel sing with her band. She is who he has been looking for and he tries to woo her. Angel, not knowing what Mok really wants, refuses to abandon her bandmates.
This cult musical never released a soundtrack and some of the songs never made it past the B-side of following released singles. The sections depicting drug use, devil worshipping, sex, and profanity made marketing of this film difficult.
The movie never did well because an overturn in authority at MGM resulted in a lack of enthusiasm for the project and it wasn’t promoted well.
Starring Johnny Depp as the title character, the king of cult classics, John Waters, makes his way on our list with Cry-Baby. Dubbed a teen musical about rebel Wade Walker and his friends who are no good. They call themselves the “drapes” and their dealings with the town “squares.”
Just as with Hairspray, Waters bases this in Baltimore, Maryland. He also utilizes the classic Romeo and Juliet twist when he has Walker, a drape, fall in love with square Allison.
The box office earnings for the release of this musical poor yet the reviews it received were positive. Still, that seems to be the norm with the cult musicals on this list.
Movie critic Roger Ebert gave Cry-Baby three out of four stars and Rotten Tomatoes is quoted stating, “John Water’s musical ode to the teen rebel genre is infectious and gleefully camp…”
It goes on to say that Depp was given the best “vehicle” to make fun of his heartthrob image.
7. The Wiz
Released in 1978, this musical production featuring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, takes the original 1939 film The Wizard of OZ and cults the heck out of it.
With other famed performers like Lena Horne and Richard Pryor, this African-American version of its lily white predecessor, is arguably the coolest musical on this list.
The songs were a collaboration of works from Charlie Smalls, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Anthony Jackson, Luther Vandross, and the legendary Quincy Jones.
Joel Schumacher, ironically a white man, gives us a rendition of a classic tale with a great deal of funk and cool.
Nipsy Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, and Thelma Carpenter add to this all African-American cast to give us a musical worthy of the title cult classic. Watching this film more than once is necessary. Viewing it more than ten times gives it that cult status.
This British-American musical fantasy film was written by Eric Rattray and produced by Jim Henson. Starring the king of cult image David Bowie this cult classic was also a box office disappointment pulling under thirteen million during its entire run in the United States. With a budget of twenty-five million it’s easy to recognize the loss.
Labyrinth’s cult following began when it was released on video. It garners new fans every year with Bowie and fellow performer Jennifer Connelly mentioning that they still get recognized by younger and younger fans due to this film.
Connelly plays Sarah, a teenager who is left home to take care of her brother Toby. While trying to get the baby to sleep, Sarah inadvertently summons the Goblin King Jareth played by Bowie.
Jareth kidnaps the baby and plans to make him into a goblin too. To save him Sarah must spent thirteen hours in the Labyrinth, which is a maze that continually changes.
Other actresses to audition for the role of Sarah were Jane Krakowski, Yasmine Bleeth, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marisa Tomei, Laura Dern, and Ally Sheedy.
The part of the goblin king was originally slotted to be a puppet, but Henson realized the strength a big star would bring to the role. He felt a musician would be perfect for the part. While searching other stars that were considered for the part of Jareth were Sting, Prince, Mick Jagger, and Michael Jackson.