Analyzing Cult Movie Phenomenon, Part 1: Developing a Cult Index

What is a Cult Movie?

I love cult films! What’s not to love about Sam Jackson on a plane with a bunch of steroid-induced snakes unleashed on passengers? Yeah, the movie’s as weird as it sounds, and yet it leaves me with a yearning to discuss it, to quote it years after its release,  develop a weird fascination for Sam Jackson, and makes me curious about [the late] director David Ellis. I feel connected to any discussions around it and enjoy quips that reference scenes and dialogs in the movie. Others like me might even wear paraphernalia from the movie, years later. It’s an attachment – an agglomerate set of feelings and actions – that’s distinct from an appreciation of a really good indie movie.

What then, is a cult movie? Consider some literature from AMC’s filmsite:

Cult Films have limited but very special appeal. Cult films are usually strange, quirky, offbeat, eccentric, oddball, or surreal, with outrageous, weird, unique and cartoony characters or plots, and garish sets. They are often considered controversial because they step outside standard narrative and technical conventions. They can be very stylized, and they are often flawed or unusual in some striking way.

Wow, those are a lot of subjective measures. I mean it’s not like I can measure “quirky” in terms of milligrams now is it? Well played, interweb… it seems as if I must outwit you to try and study this phenomenon better; which brings me to the point:

The problem statement! I’ll break it into two parts…

  1. Figure out a good measure of what makes a movie a cult phenomenon. (this post)
  2. Knowing this, can I use a movie’s pre-release information to predict whether or not it will become a cult phenom? (near future)

Read More »