It started as a trickle. Then it grew – swelling larger and larger. Finally, like some brain-slurping, machete-wielding radioactive beast, it enveloped the EW mailroom, sending our writers and editors fleeing pell-mell in terror. Right now we’re writing this under our desks. * Our goal was to make ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s Top 50 Cult Movies, which hit stands in issue #711 on May 16, as controversial and surprising as the movies themselves. Judging by your overwhelming response – several hundred letters, a good number with outraged lists of omission – we succeeded. We stand by our original selections. (Yes, even The Shawshank Redemption.) However, in the spirit of democracy and, of course, to honor the memory of overlooked master thespian Andre the Giant, here are EW readers’ top 11 choices for flicks that didn’t make the cut the first time around.
1 MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
As depicted in stories, the quest for the Grail is traditionally a quest for wisdom, inner strength, and self-knowledge. Good thing the Python boys did away with all that tedious mythic rubbish. Their unheroic anti-epic is a quest for nothing less (and definitely nothing more) than the absurdity at the heart of all human endeavor. But mainly, it’s just an excuse to be transcendently silly on the most basic level: a killer rabbit, a holy hand grenade, a chickenhearted hero named Sir Robin, a Frenchman who pitches livestock at hapless English knights. (That’s KUH-NIGITS to you, Yankee.) SIGNATURE LINE ”We are the knights who say…NI!” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT Omitting Grail was harder than cutting down the mightiest tree in the forest with…a herring! Though one of the funniest (and most quotable) movies ever made, it was a mainstream cultural phenomenon. A comedy classic, we thought, not a cult classic. You disagreed.
2 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) Stanley Kubrick
Old Stanley K. transforms Anthony Burgess’ bolshy novel for the sinny. A baddiwad malchick named Alex – played real horrorshow by Malcolm McDowell – gets cured of his brutal ways by being forced to viddy some most nasty films about the in-out in-out and the ultraviolence. In plain English: Clockwork is a movie about movies – and sex and power and music and Sovietism – that works as a head trip by driving for the gut. Consider it Kubrick’s most surrealistic feat. SIGNATURE LINE ”He’s enterprising, aggressive, outgoing, young, bold, vicious. He’ll do.” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT Clockwork was seriously considered but ultimately scrapped due to Kubrick’s widely accepted status as, you know, one of the giants of modern cinema.
3 MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) Frank Perry
Alex and his droogs may give you the heebie-jeebies, but they don’t hold a wire hanger to Faye Dunaway (as monster mom Joan Crawford) when she gets her hands on weapons of torment like a pair of scissors and a closetful of clothes. Based on adopted daughter Christina’s vengeful tell-all that posthumously redefined Crawford’s image, this (supposedly) true-life story of a totally effed-up Hollywood royal putting her kids through hell is the kind of Tinseltown train wreck you can’t help but gawk at. Still, it’s mostly in the Horror Show Hall of Fame for the skin-crawling moment in which the cold-cream-slathered movie star gives young Christina a rude awakening, bellowing… SIGNATURE LINE ”NO … WIRE … HANGERS … EVER!” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT A judgment call. This is what keeps us up at night. There. Now you know.
4 THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) Rob Reiner
It was a year crowded with slick yuppie comedies: The Secret of My Success, Baby Boom, Beverly Hills Cop II. Then this fantastical fairy story floated in. William Goldman’s script proved scandalously quotable, from ridiculous retorts (”No more rhymes now, I mean it!” ”Anybody want a peanut?”) to whooping one-liners (”Have fun storming the castle!”) to a single bon mot (”Inconceivable!”). Under all the witty repartee, however, lies a surprising sweetness. At its heart, Princess Bride is a funny valentine, anchored by three magical words: ”As you wish.” SIGNATURE LINE ”My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT In the interest of fairness, we limited each director to one movie on the original list. Reiner – bless his comic heart – was already represented at No. 1 with This Is Spinal Tap.
5 SWINGERS (1996) Doug Liman
Jon Favreau, struggling young actor in L.A., writes a movie about…struggling young actors in L.A. Cliche, right? But Favreau and Liman wound up doing for twentysomething men what John Hughes did for teen girls: Swingers nailed everything so well – from awkward pickup lines in bars to fistfights over videogames – that it was both hilarious and uncomfortable. It may have turned some of Hollywood’s finest watering holes into tourist traps and prompted untold thousands of young men to holler ”You’re money, baby!” at one another. But we’re willing to forgive it everything, if only for the scene in which Favreau goes through every stage of a relationship in a series of increasingly panicky answering-machine messages. SIGNATURE LINE ”You are so money and you don’t even know it.” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT It was ranked No. 51. We swear.
6 UHF (1989) Jay Levey
It is, perhaps, the most perfect expression of the ”Weird Al” Yankovic sensibility, probably because it was written by and stars ”Weird Al” Yankovic. (And true geeks know that it was directed by his manager.) That alone ought to earn UHF some serious cult credibility. We also have it to thank for alerting us to the talents of Michael (”I’m thinkin’ of somethin’ orange!”) Richards. But that’s giving short shrift to the movie’s brilliant conceit: Al plays a good-hearted loser who engages his rerun-saturated brain in the creation of pun-driven pop fusions like Conan the Librarian. SIGNATURE LINE ”Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers!” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT Because we’ve actually seen it. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
7 VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) Mark Robson
Susan Sontag notwithstanding, it’s hard to think of a better definition of camp than 20th Century Fox’s candy-colored adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s smash trash novel. (Dolls, you’ll remember, are pills.) With its scenes of addled vixens – alluring cosmetics queen Barbara Parkins, sultry softcore star Sharon Tate, and princess of perk Patty Duke – popping those little red jujubes and getting thrown into detox (or worse), Dolls winds up a mostly plotless melodrama that traps a troupe of otherwise accomplished thespians in a web of hammy overacting. Among the vict…er, ensemble: Susan Hayward, Lee Grant, Joey Bishop, Richard Dreyfuss, John Williams, Andre Previn, and Dionne Warwick. A studio production has never tried this hard to be so artfully good and wound up so deliciously bad. SIGNATURE LINE ”Boobies! Boobies! Boobies!” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT Seriously considered, but how many camp classics can there be on a single cult-movies list? (More, you told us.)
8 (1999) David Fincher
May 2000. Reunion weekend at an Ivy League school. Guy sees a friend and slaps him on the shoulder, receiving a wince in reply. Seems he and his boys got together the night before and…well, we’ll have to direct you to the signature line. Let’s just say, America, that your best and brightest are your black-and-bluest, and you may blame this adrenalized adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novelistic manifesto. That the story is juvenile scarcely seems to matter when the camera zooms so juicily, stylizing male rage against corporatism, the culture of victimhood, and every yuppie’s pending date with IKEA. Nihilism plus testosterone equals trouble. SIGNATURE LINE ”The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about its omission. EW staffers still almost come to blows over this misunderstood masterpiece.
9 DEAD ALIVE a.k.a. BRAINDEAD (1992) Peter Jackson
In olden times, giant rats hitching on slave galleys disembarked at Sumatra and raped the local tree monkey. Thus was born the Harryhausen-style ”rat monkey,” whose bite spawns a mess of zombies in an uproarious splatterfest proving that before The Lord of the Rings, Jackson was one cheerfully sick pup. Pliers extract teeth, Mum eats her own ear, gawky hero Lionel cleans up with a lawn mower, and enough blood is spilled in the showstopping haunted-house climax to transfuse two T. rexes. Everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Holy Grail is referenced, and every color-saturated shot looks like a panel ripped from a comic book. SIGNATURE LINE ”Your mother ate my dog!” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT We love this over-the-top gorefest. We just happen to think Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead II, and Re-Animator are more important. That’s right, important.
10 BETTER OFF DEAD (1985) Savage Steve Holland
A boy, dumped by his shallow steady, learns to believe in himself – thanks to the girl next door. What sounds like typical teen fare is actually a sharp satire that foreshadowed films like Heathers. After all, the boy (John Cusack) repeatedly attempts suicide, and the girl, a French exchange student, endures the advances of a Jell-O-y host teen (Rickyyyyy!). It’s a freak show that makes adolescence look as painful as you remember it. SIGNATURE LINE ”I want my two dollars!” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT This might have been first, but Heathers was better.
11 (2001) Richard Kelly
Imagine an underdog comic-book fantasy. Collect the rawest memories of high school. Write an acid tab of a script. Utilize Duran Duran’s ”Notorious.” Cast Jake Gyllenhaal as a 16-year-old kid who’s misunderstood and medicated for schizophrenia. You’ve created Donnie Darko. You’ve created a haunting teenage dreamscape that has already spawned jam-packed weekly midnight screenings. SIGNATURE LINE Says Donnie, ”Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit?” Responds hideous giant rabbit, ”Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?” WHY WE LEFT IT OUT Donnie’s deserving, but just too new to crack the top 50. It’s a shoo-in for our upcoming imaginary-six-foot-bunny-suit list, however. Just behind Harvey and ahead of, um…