25 Cult Movies You Must See Before You Die

What separates the hidden gems and the duds best kept buried?

The Big Lebowski
Gramercy Pictures

It is literally impossible to watch every film ever made. In fact, it's difficult enough to keep up with the new releases that come out every week. In each case, some films get a better chance of being seen than others; the big budget Hollywood productions have more marketing, and thus get more people wanting to see it, hence more showings.

So what happens to all the others who haven't got the advertising muscle, big-name stars or famous source material that gets the punters in for the guaranteed hits? Most of them fall through the cracks, never to be seen again except by those who caught them during their brief cinematic run. A select few, meanwhile, inspire cult followings.

Cult films are the sort whose fans are few but passionate, who will insist you watch their little-heard-of favourite film ever, who can quote the whole script to you. In the age of DVDs, Blu-Ray and Netflix, those films are even easier to access than ever before, when you'd hope to catch a re-run on TV or an art house running the old stuff.

Now the problem becomes, which of those lesser-known, passionately sold, indie or B-movies do you actually watch? Which are actually worth sitting down with, and which are simply guilty pleasures? Which are bona fide lost classics, and which are gems that probably deserve to stay buried?

25. Withnail And I

The Big Lebowski
HandMade Films

Bruce Robinson hasn't directed many films in his time, but when he does, they're worth watching. Often because they include powerhouse performances by Richard E Grant, as both How To Get Ahead In Advertising and the director's previous Withnail And I did. The latter is both a cult classic and also the worst possible film to drink along with.

Based loosely on the experiences of Robinson, the film follows Paul McGann's titular “I” and his squat-buddy Withnail (played by Grant), the latter of whom is a spectacularly melodramatic and histrionic hedonist who, over the course of the film, imbibes almost every fluid or illegal substance he can get his hands on. It's a barnstormer from Grant.

Not that it's just his character that drives the film. McGann's an ideal foil to Withnail's antics, and they both get put in their place when they go to stay at the country house of Withnail's rich relative – played by an amusingly amorous Richard Griffiths – who engages “I” in some Benny Hill-esque antics. The raucous, dirty, English version of a road movie.


Tom Baker is the Comics Editor at WhatCulture! He's heard all the Doctor Who jokes, but not many about Randall and Hopkirk. He also blogs at http://communibearsilostate.wordpress.com/