The Best Cult Classic Movies of the 21st Century (2023)

By David L Tamarin

Cult classics usually take some time to develop a reputation, but these movies from the past 20 years are more than likely to grow a cult following.

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It is not easy to identify modern cult hits, as cult films are traditionally granted that status after a long time. However, if a cult classic is defined by a film largely outside the mainstream, or one which appeals to a very specific niche audience and delves into topics most people would shy away from, then these 21st century films are the most likely to have a modern cult following.


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10 Martyrs

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Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs is one of the most violent of all the New French Extremity films, and because of this it has a strong loyal cult following. The movie begins with a violent home invasion and things just degenerate from that point, as we learn of two friends who were abused as children. They are caught by a sinister organization where one of girls is taken and tortured for an extended time, only to end things in an indescribable fashion that is quite a shocking surprise. Martyrs is a bold, violent film that holds nothing back. Like others in the French movement, it retains a cult classic status as a horror movie.

9 Human Centipede: First Sequence

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Human Centipede: First Sequence is a bizarre film by director Tom Six about a mad German scientist, played by Dieter Laser, and the three people he is experimenting on. He surgically attaches them together in such a way that it is as if they have one large intestinal tract, as if they were just one animal. This is a wild, disturbing, and extreme film with nihilism at its core and a very negative, bleak ending. It very quickly developed a huge following due to word-of-mouth and even more outlandish sequels, simultaneously reviled and adored.

Related: Film Noir: The Best Neo-Noir Movies of the '70s

8 Kill Bill

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Originally, writer/director Quentin Tarantino conceived of Kill Bill as an epic film, however, because of its length, it was divided into two films, both fast and furious, full of shootouts, sword fights, chase scenes, action, and gore. In Kill Bill Volume 1, Sonny Chiba, the legend behind the Street Fighter films, has a role as an expert sword maker who agrees to make a sword for the Bride, who was shot in the head while pregnant at her funeral where everyone else died. After waking up from a coma, The Bride (Uma Thurman) goes on a killing spree, hunting down and killing everyone responsible, traveling the world to achieve her objective.

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There are amazing Western-style scenes and others based on Asian martial arts films, highlighting the many movies Tarantino took from to makeKill Bill. Like the first installment, Kill Bill Volume 2is a revenge film filled with eye gouges and other instances of ridiculous gore and highly stylized violence, done in an artful way that does not detract from how intense the film gets. Arguably more than any other Tarantino films, these two movies serve as an homage for cult classics, becoming one themselves. Audiences are really hoping that Tarantino makes his third Kill Bill.

7 Wolf Creek

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Wolf Creek is an extreme Australian horror movie directed by Greg McLean about a trio of young people who make a trek out to an isolated place called Wolf Creek. For the first hour, we get the feeling that they are being watched, but we don’t know by whom or what. Then they encounter Mick, played by John Jarrat, an old man who has lived in the bleak outback his entire life, periodically killing strangers who came by and getting away with it. This time however, he meets his match, and the trio fights back hard.

Wolf Creek has genuine moments of horror and suspense as Mick toys with their lives, killing whoever he can. This is a classic, visually stunning horror film about survival, from both the outdoors and from a deadly human predator. The killer (and the film) both have a very dark sense of humor, which at times is more scary than humorous; this, combined with its very specific Australian desert landscape, make it a great cult classic. Wolf Creek is fascinating entertainment. The killer was never found, leaving the door open for a sequel.

6 Wolf Creek 2

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John Jarrat returns as Mick, a stalker of strangers to the Australian outback in Wolf Creek 2. This time, though, the results are just as hilarious as they are terrifying, like when Mick questions one of the kids about Australia, impressed with how much the kid knows. The two form a strange bond, even though Mick could kill him at any moment, and it is this bizarre relationship that makes Wolf Creek such a great cult classic film, and ups the ante on the original's violence. The ending of the film is essentially the same as the ending of the first film. Wolf Creek 3 began filming last year, and the movie has also been developed as a television series. Jarrat next showed up in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and remains an underrated cult actor.

Related: Wolf Creek 2 Featurette: Aussie History Exclusive

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5 Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)

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While the first film claims to be medically accurate, this entry in the series is 100% medically inaccurate. Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) is much viler than the original and with much more obscene activity, so it should be seen with some caution. Tom Six returns as writer and director. Laurence Harvey plays the lead character, Martin Lomax. The plot involves a man, Martin, obsessed with the film Human Centipede, and he abducts enough people to start his own sequel in this gritty black and white film. The man is an insane killer, and he is obscenely disturbed with bulging eyeballs. In many ways this is even darker, more violent, and more disturbing than the first film, and is one of the more depraved cult classics.

4 Life and Death of a Porno Gang

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When A Serbian Film came out, it became an immediate international sensation. However, when Life and Death of a Porno Gang came out around the same time (also hailing from Serbia), it got only minimal attention and, as a result, most people do not know about the film. In some ways it is very similar to A Serbian Film, in that it deals with snuff and brutality. A group of strange 'adult film' actors and mentally disturbed individuals travel around from small town to small town, staging adult shows, engaging in extreme sexual and violent activity. Life and Death of a Porno Gang is extremely disturbing, as much so as A Serbian Film, but it also has great moments of humor and identity. Its cult following will definitely grow as more people see the film

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3 A Serbian Film

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When A Serbian Film came out, everyone was talking about, and more than a few people objected to the movie as disgusting trash or otherwise just totally inappropriate. It remains an incredibly controversial movie, including within the horror scene, where many think the film is too extreme and exploitative, if not downright illegal (it is banned in several countries). Milos, a retired 'adult film' star, accepts a job from Vukmar, for whom he begins making movies. Vukmar brainwashes him by constantly feeding him unknown drugs that turn him into a violent fiend, and he engages in brutal nightmarish acts and snuff for the camera.

The list of horrific things he conducts while under the influence of Vukmar is quite large, and he ends up losing his mind as he commits murder after murder. He loses control and at the end of the film, we have one of the most pessimistic, nihilistic, and violent endings in movie history, making a devastating statement about Serbian politics.

2 Oldboy

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Oldboy is a revenge movie that succeeds above most others with an amazing, shocking, and blood-soaked climax. The lead character is imprisoned in a small room for 15 years with no interaction with humanity and no explanation for why this is being done. Gasses come in at night that knocks him unconscious. He awakes each day in his empty room with food provided and the room cleaned. Then one day he is set free, in pursuit of pure vengeance, ut he must rethink everything when he learns something about himself that derails his extremely violent murder spree. This is a film you will not forget, from the great Korean director Park Chan-Wook.

1 House of 1,000 Corpses

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House of 1,000 Corpses is one of the greatest tributes ever made to 1970s grindhouse, sleaze, and exploitation films. Four young people are driving around when they discover an out-of-the-way gas station with a Murder Ride, which they take, where they learn of the local legend Dr. Satan. In an homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and some other films, the four teens end up hostages of the Firefly Family, in particular the killer Otis Driftwood, played incredibly by Bill Moseley. Director Rob Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, is incredible as a sexy but homicidal vixen, and the soundtrack is dark and menacing, Sid Haig is Captain Howdy, who runs a gas station, chicken shack, and Murder Ride, always painted up as a terrifying clown, in this homage to '70s horror cult classics.


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