Nobody can predict which movies are going to be hits. While there are always factors that help a film’s chances (such as being part of a pre-established franchise such as the MCU), other successes seemingly come out of nowhere, such as the recent massive financial haul for Top Gun: Maverick. Studios try their best to green-light movies they think provide the best chance of positive box office results, but sometimes it does not go to plan.
While films may fail at the box office, that does not stop them from being successful. There are countless tales of movies flopping in theaters before finding an adoring fan base in the years that follow. Cult classic movies tend to attract some of the most hardcore fans, especially in the horror genre, and they regularly shout about their favorite film’s qualities online. It can be just as impossible to predict which films will attract this kind of audience, but the following films seem ripe to become modern cult classic movies that will still be discussed decades from now.
Updated on June 29, 2023 by Ty Weinert:
Every year sees the release of movies that either fail at the box office, receive mixed reviews, or are largely ignored by the public. Some of these movies score a second chance at life, however, eventually growing devoted fanbases and becoming cult classics. So which will be the best cult movie 2023 has to offer? Will it be the drug-fueled antics of Cocaine Bear, which is sure to delight the midnight crowd for decades, or perhaps it will be the sister-focused action-comedy Polite Society, which combines martial arts action with a relatable coming-of-age tale?
19 ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ (2021)
Presented as a gender-swapped take on John Wick, Gunpowder Milkshake stars Karen Gillan as Sam, an assassin who finds herself caring for an eight-year-old girl after a job gone wrong. Reuniting with her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) and a trio of experienced killers (Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Cugino) the women prepare to fight an army of goons to protect the child.
While Gunpowder Milkshake delivers the thrilling action fans expect, its main appeal is to see its stacked cast of leading ladies kick butt. Bassett and Yeoh recently delivered Oscar-worthy performances in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Everything Everywhere All At Once, and it is a delight to see them both savagely take down bad guys.
Watch on Netflix
18 ‘Malignant’ (2021)
James Wan is the modern king of horror, thanks to iconic franchises such as Saw and The Conjuring. His latest, Malignant, follows Madison (Annabelle Wallis), who begins to be plagued by nightmares that show her murders as they are being committed. As Madison sets out to unmask the culprit, she discovers the killer is closer than she thinks.
Malignant is a throwback to the horror movies of the ’70s and ’80s, where subtlety was thrown out the window and larger-than-life villains sliced through their victims like paper. It is a perfect midnight movie and is destined to join the leagues of new cult movies courtesy of its insane final act.
Watch on Max
17 ‘The Forest of Love’ (2019)
When a group of young men decide to make an amateur movie together, they cross paths with charismatic conman Joe Murata (Kippei Shiina) and are drawn into his web of deceit and abuse. As Joe takes control of their lives and their movie, a pair of women are also pulled into their destructive orbit, while a serial killer lurks in the background.
Created by cult filmmaker Sion Sono, The Forest of Love is a captivating and twisty tale anchored by Shiina’s delightfully slimy performance as the evil Murata. Each movie Sono directs becomes a cult film, and The Forest of Love seems destined to become another future cult classic in his library. For those seeking a more expansive experience, The Forest of Love: Deep Cut is an extended limited series that stretches the already hefty original story out for an additional 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Watch on Netflix
16 ‘Little Monsters’ (2019)
Falling on hard times, slacker Dave (Alexander England) spends his days taking his nephew to and from school. Upon meeting his nephew’s kind teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), Dave quickly jumps at the chance to be a chaperone on the class trip as a way to get close to her. His plans for romance are interrupted, however, as a horde of zombies invades the school excursion.
The zombie comedy is perhaps the most crowded sub-genre in horror, but Little Monsters sets itself apart thanks to its grade school setting and surprisingly wholesome story beats. Nyong’o is delightful as Miss Caroline, and creates a heroine worthy of a place among the best zombie slayers in cinema.
Watch on Hulu
15 ‘Spontaneous’ (2020)
When students in their high school begin to spontaneously combust in a shower of gore, teenagers Mara (Katherine Langford) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer) realize every moment could be their last. Not wanting to die with regrets, the pair begin a blossoming romance as their classmates continue to die around them.
Spontaneous is a mishmash of genres, combining elements of black comedy, coming-of-age, horror, and romance. Langford and Plummer are delightful as the lovebirds and share great chemistry in this highly underrated teen movie that deserves a place among the classics in the genre. Hopefully future audiences will recognize and fall in love with this confronting yet charming tale, as it deserves to blow up like a combusting teenager.
14 ‘Good Boys’ (2019)
Pitched as an elementary school version of Superbad, Good Boys follows a trio of 12-year-olds as they prepare for their first-ever “kissing party.” Of course, things get hilariously out of hand as the boys find themselves on a wild journey full of stolen drones, sex dolls, and drugs.
Infamous even before its release due to its subject matter and young cast, Good Boys seemingly came and went with little fanfare. Despite solid reviews, the film has rarely been discussed since release, but Good Boys is too entertaining to stay forgotten for long and is sure to join the ranks of new cult classic movies in the near future.
13 ‘Suspiria’ (2018)
A remake of Dario Argento‘s horror classic, Suspiria takes the story in a different direction as it becomes an epic saga set in 1970s Germany. When American Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) travels to Berlin to study at a prestigious dancing academy, she discovers the all-girls school is run by a coven of witches.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name, Bones and All), Suspiria was a failure at the box office and polarized both fans and critics. No one can argue the harsh beauty of the film, however, and its status as one of the most beautiful-looking horror movies in years has helped it find an audience since its release.
Watch on Prime Video
12 ‘Annihilation’ (2018)
Written and directed by science-fiction wizard Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Dredd), Annihilation revolves around a mysterious anomaly named “The Shimmer.” Determined to discover what the area contains, a team of explorers is sent into the zone, where they discover something that threatens both their lives and their sanity.
Annihilation is hard science fiction at its best, more committed to exploring questions surrounding grief and existence than it is creating mainstream appeal. Bolstered by a great cast that includes Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson, Annihilation is destined for cult status among the science-fiction community.
Watch on Netflix
11 ‘Pig’ (2021)
Nicolas Cage is the king of cult movies, often elevating lackluster projects thanks to his unhinged performances. Pig sees Cage at his most nuanced and vulnerable, playing Robin, a truffle hunter living in the woods who must venture into the city he left behind after his beloved pig is kidnaped.
While the synopsis brings John Wick to mind, Pig is a slow-moving drama concerned with exploring its complicated characters. Despite receiving critical acclaim, Pig was one of 2021’s most overlooked movies, but this powerful story featuring one of the beloved actor’s best performances should be remembered for a long time.
Watch on Hulu
10 ‘Sorry to Bother You’ (2018)
Sorry to Bother You follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a young Black man working as a telemarketer. After an experienced co-worker teaches Cassius that he will find more success by adopting a “white voice” when talking to customers, he quickly becomes a top earner, before falling into a corporate conspiracy.
One of the more unique comedies out there, Sorry to Bother You is as committed to highlighting social issues as it is providing laughs. Even though the film ventures more into fantasy the longer it goes on, it is one of the best satire movies of the past decade and will stay with you long after the credits roll, either to chuckle at one of its many jokes or to ponder its messaging.
9 ‘Pearl’ (2022)
The prequel to their slasher movie X, Pearl sees director Ti West and star Mia Goth reunite to explore the background of that film’s villain. Pearl (Goth) is a farm girl in 1918, stuck living with her overbearing mother while her husband is away at war. She spends her days dreaming of becoming a star and leaving her mundane life behind and will kill anyone who gets in the way of that dream.
One could argue that both Pearl and X have already become modern cult movies, as the new franchise has already drawn a passionate fanbase. What makes both films work so well, and especially Pearl, is the committed and mesmerizing performance from Goth, who switches from charming to terrifying effortlessly in one of the best cult movies 2022 has to offer.
8 ‘Heavy Trip’ (2018)
Heavy Trip follows four metalheads in a small town in Finland as they spend their days jamming as an amateur heavy metal band. Having not played a single gig in 12 years, the guys decide enough is enough and set out to crash the stage at a metal festival in Norway in the heavy metal movie. Along the way they find love, death, and the true meaning of metal.
Metal fans owe it to themselves to check out Heavy Trip, which perfectly captures the feeling of being an outcast in your hometown because of how you dress and what music you like. The characters are memorable, and the laughs are constant, making this one of the most charming and funny comedies in years, with enough appeal to entertain anyone regardless of their taste in music.
Watch on Tubi
7 ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ (2018)
Resembling the kind of character-hopping action-thrillers that Quentin Tarantino cut his teeth on, Bad Times at the El Royale revolves around a cast of strangers who all arrive at a remote hotel on the same fateful night. Each with something to hide, it is not long before the characters begin to turn on each other with fatal consequences.
Bolstered by a fantastic cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, and Chris Hemsworth, Bad Times at the El Royale‘s mystery keeps audiences guessing until the end. It possesses one of the sharpest screenplays in recent years and is the kind of movie that warrants repeated viewings to pick up on every little detail.
6 ‘The Death of Stalin’ (2017)
Based on the passing of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953, The Death of Stalin is a political satire that revolves around the handful of contenders scrambling to replace the ruler. The ensemble cast of bumbling characters includes the likes of Steve Buscemi, Andrea Riseborough, and Jason Isaacs.
Upon release, The Death of Stalin was hailed as one of the funniest overlooked comedies in recent years and is regularly cited for its lampooning of real-world politics. Despite being praised by all that have seen it, its political setting has held it back from achieving mainstream appeal, making it a perfect candidate to become a new cult movie in the future.
Watch on Tubi
5 ‘Bullet Train’ (2022)
Professional assassin Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is given the simple task of boarding a Japanese bullet train and stealing a briefcase. Only the task is not so simple, as the train is also home to a variety of other assassins, each with their own objective as they battle throughout the tight corridors of the speeding locomotive.
Released to mixed reviews, Bullet Train was dismissed by most mainstream outlets. It is a highly entertaining action-comedy, however, packed with great characters, such as Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson‘s bickering twins who hand out Thomas the Tank Engine stickers. Audiences are already starting to come around on the film, with it destined to become one of the best cult movies of recent years.
Watch on Netflix
4 ‘Doctor Sleep’ (2019)
Making a sequel to one of the most acclaimed horror movies of all time, The Shining, is no easy feat, but Doctor Sleep is up to the task. Catching up with Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) thirty years later, he attempts to save a young girl who shares his power after discovering she is the next target of a murderous cult.
While Mike Flanagan is the master of horror on television, that same success did not transfer over to film as Doctor Sleep was a disappointment at the box office. That did not stop the movie from being praised, however, and it is considered to be one of the better adaptations of a Stephen King story.
3 ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ (2019)
Produced by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriquez, Alita: Battle Angel brings the Japanese manga to life. When Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) revives a battle cyborg named Alita (Rosa Salazar), he begins to raise the machine as his daughter upon discovering the unit contains a soul.
Alita was praised for its impressive visuals and action sequences, but it was a box-office disappointment. That did not stop a large group of fans from rallying around the movie though, and they still regularly post about it on social media using #AlitaArmy. While a well-deserved sequel looks unlikely, these passionate fans still petition for one online.
Watch on Hulu
2 ‘The Lighthouse’ (2019)
The second feature film from cult filmmaker Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as a pair of lighthouse operators stationed together on a remote island during the 19th century. While there, they experience strange happenings as the two men begin to resent each other.
A film presented in black and white, The Lighthouse is a throwback to the classic horror movies of decades past, favoring a moody atmosphere over cheap scares. Despite lacking mainstream appeal, the film quickly swept the internet and is still discussed by many as a highlight in modern filmmaking.
Watch on Showtime
1 ‘One Cut of the Dead’ (2017)
Resembling the kind of low-budget found footage horror movie one is likely to find on TV late at night, One Cut of the Dead follows a Japanese film crew as they are making a zombie movie. Things quickly get out of hand as real zombies attack the set, causing the director to force his cast and crew to keep filming amid the carnage.
To say any more of the plot would spoil it, but needless to say it is one of the most creative zombie movies ever. One Cut of the Dead has already attracted a cult crowd as more and more people beyond its native Japan discover it, and its reputation as one of the best modern zombie movies is set to only grow as the years go on.
Watch on Shudder
NEXT: Cult Classic Horror Movies That Found New Life After Bombing