From the filthiest person alive to fantasy alien abductions, these films truly pushed the envelope. They achieved cult status because they weren’t like anything you’ve ever seen before and spoke to unique audiences. Here’s a compilation of queer films that are a prime example of cult cinema.
1. Pink Flamingos (1972)
Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as “The Filthiest Person Alive”. The film, at first semi-clandestine, has received a warm reception from film critics and the LGBT community, and, despite being banned in several countries, became a cult film in subsequent decades.
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
In this cult classic, sweethearts Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), stuck with a flat tire during a storm, discover the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a transvestite scientist. As their innocence is lost, Brad and Janet meet a houseful of wild characters, including a rocking biker (Meat Loaf) and a creepy butler (Richard O’Brien). Through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation: a muscular man named “Rocky.”
Today, the film has a large international cult following and has been considered by many as one of the greatest musical films of all time.
3. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
In a seedy corner of London, Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a young Pakistani, is given a run-down laundromat by his uncle (Saeed Jaffrey), who hopes to turn it into a successful business. Soon after, Omar is attacked by a group of racist punks, but defuses the situation when he realizes their leader is his former lover, Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis). The men resume their relationship and rehabilitate the laundromat together, but various social forces threaten to compromise their success.
4. Showgirls (1995)
Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) arrives in Las Vegas with only a suitcase and a dream of becoming a top showgirl. She quickly befriends Molly (Gina Ravera), who works at the high-profile Stardust Hotel, and lands a job at a seedy strip club. A chance meeting with Cristal (Gina Gershon), the Stardust’s marquee dancer, and her powerful boyfriend, Zack (Kyle MacLachlan), brings Nomi one step closer to realizing her dream. But, as she ascends to the top, Nomi begins to wonder if it’s all worth it.
Despite being consistently ranked as one of the worst films ever made, Showgirls has become regarded as a cult film, was released on Blu-ray in June 2010 and has been subject to critical re-evaluation, with some notable directors and critics declaring it a serious satire worthy of praise.
5. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
The Watermelon Woman is a 1996 American romantic comedy-drama film written, directed, and edited by Cheryl Dunye. It stars Dunye as Cheryl, young black lesbian working a day job in a video store while trying to make a film about a black actress from the 1930s known for playing the stereotypical “mammy” roles relegated to black actresses during the period. It was the first feature film directed by a black lesbian and is considered a landmark in New Queer Cinema.
6. Mysterious Skin (2004)
Mysterious Skin tells the story of two pre-adolescent boys who both experienced a strange event as children, and how it affects their lives in different ways into their young adulthood. One boy becomes a reckless, sexually adventurous male prostitute, while the other retreats into a reclusive fantasy of alien abduction.