The Other Cult Classics

Matrix, Blade Runner and T2 all have their classic box-office place, but these films challenged reality without the fanfare. Dark City is my all-time favourite.

Matrix, Blade Runner and T2 all have their classic box-office place, but these films challenged reality without the fanfare.


Dark City
Strange beings make a whole city sleep and change who the people are. Factory workers become CEOs, policemen become gangsters. When they wake up, they don’t remember who they used to be. But one night a naked and confused Rufus Sewell does…. Noirish and surreal, with a gorgeous Jennifer Connelly and mad Kiefer Sutherland, this is one of my favourite films of all time. It’s a reminder that Alex Proyas once made great, not just good, cinema.


Lawnmower Man
Simple but kind gardener gets transformed into evil super-brainiac by Pierce Brosnan’s computer technology. It’s like a twisted Flowers for Algernon on acid. Definitely cheesy and overblown, there’s still something spookily watchable about Jeff Fahey giving it to all those aresholes who treated him like shit when he was dumb. Morale of the story: Don’t tease the stupid people.


12 Monkeys
They say this film didn’t do well at the box office because Brad Pitt plays an ugly lunatic and Bruce Willis plays a nervous dork. Still, it’s oddly intriguing and highly watchable. Madeleine Stowe (her last decent movie) is the empathetic beauty who tries not to believe her patient’s story about a killer virus wiping out humanity. Think love story meets time travel meets insane asylum meets apocalyptic future.


Strange Days
In the days of pre-millennium uncertainty, this film captured the nihilistic hedonism of the times – we’re all fucked anyway, so let’s party. With virtual reality devices the drug of choice, a killer soundtrack (Ray Manzarek goes trip-hop with the title track), and Ralph Fiennes in leather pants, it’s like Escape from New York for the 90s.


Donnie Darko
How does anyone describe this film? Donnie wakes up on a country road and walks home to find an aeroplane engine has fallen from the sky into his bedroom. He goes off his medication, hooks up with proverbial naughty Catholic schoolgirl, Jena Malone, and starts having visions of a giant white rabbit. Eric Roberts is brilliant as a man with a dark secret. The ending has a massive twist but still leaves you wondering what it was all about. Brilliant.


Genetic engineering has led to society being divided into Valids and Invalids (also known as ‘God children’). Ethan Hawke is an Invalid so determined to reach the stars that, despite a chronic heart condition and severe myopia, he manages to feign being a Valid at the Gattaca space centre. This film gave us a first glimpse of Jude Law, back when he was “one to watch” and not nanny-shagging tabloid fodder. Uma Thurman is ice queenly majestic too.


Before Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Christian Bale was a gun-wielding agent in a frightening future dystopia where emotion is outlawed. Emily Watson is passionate and flawless, as usual, and the fight scenes are the most enthralling since The Matrix. Best moment: When Bale’s character sees the rain and experiences feeling for the first time (he’s also shirtless).


28 Days Later
Genuinely terrifying, and without (much) gore or over-the-top stunts, Danny Boyle gave us nightmares with this tale of survivors trying to escape from rage-infected hordes. Sustained suspense keeps your pulse elevated throughout. The most surreal moment is when Cillian Murphy wakes up in what appears to be a deserted London. Brilliant theme music too, full of fear and desperation. Goosebumps.

4 thoughts on “The Other Cult Classics”

  1. Nick says:

    Nice list. Loved most of ’em.

  2. Rian says:

    Great list, agree with all of them. Haven’t see Equilibrium but will check it out. I also have to say I liked 28 Weeks Later a little more than “Days”, but they’re both great.

    I also thought 30 Days of Night was surprisingly good, but it’s definitely too gory to make it onto this highly refined list 🙂

    One movie I would add to the list is “Let The Right One In.” It is a Swedish film with English subtitles, and the best vampire movie I have ever seen. Not gory, but it will leave you with creepy chills for days. Definitely worth seeing.

  3. amanda says:

    I’ll definitely look for that. It’s interesting you preferred Weeks. I really enjoyed it, especially Robert Carlyle, but I thought Cillian Murphy was simply outstanding in Days. It’s a pity he hasn’t hit the big time, such an unusual actor.

  4. Garg Unzola says:

    Here’s another 2 that challenge reality:

    Brainstorm (1983) and Brainscan (1994).

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