Visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the first exhibit you walk through pays tribute to the pioneers of music — my favorite being Woody Guthrie, brandishing a guitar telling the world “This Machine Kills Facists.” Without Woody Guthrie, there would be no Bob Dylan. WIthout Bob Dylan, there would be no Ben Harper, Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, John Mayer or The Wallflowers, but that’s on a biological level.
My point is, everything has a precursor; building blocks, a foundation. Everything in the creative world finds inspiration from something else — whether it’s music, movies or literary works. There are very few truly original ideas, and if there are, they stand out… they will inspire a whole new generation.
Cult classic movies stand out. Whether for an innovative new idea… or a really terrible concept. For great, groundbreaking banter… or a dumpster fire of dialogue. But these classic movies help inspire and appreciate the art form.
Low budget cult classics had limited theatrical release and found a following on video sales. Blockbuster was the outlet for these movies to take off. Today, it’s Netflix and Amazon Prime. I’m sure we’ve all wasted plenty of time watching complete dross on streaming services. Ultimately giving it one star, or a thumbs down by today’s awfully designed rating system, which could inspire an essay on it’s own.
The millennial generation may watch a movie like Clerks and not get it. And that’s understandable. Clerks is black and white, gritty, and dialogue from a slacker Gen-Xer. I understand. But watch a movie like Clerks for the foundation of cinema that it is. I don’t know if a movie like Clerks would have found the same following on Netflix if it was released today. But without Clerks… no Superbad… no Role Models. Check out some Cult Classics of the ’80s and ’90s. They may not be your cup of Crystal Pepsi, but try appreciate them for what they are. It may win over some coworkers when you get some random quote from a random ’90s movie. At work, I once said ”Yeah… 220, 221… Whatever it takes” in a conversation with a coworker. Our prior relationship was less than friendly. After I dropped this classic line from the 1983 film Mr. Mom, we actually became friends. It just took a little Michael Keaton in our lives to bring us together.
So give it a try. Watch some cult classic movies. You may find that some of your favorite movies found some inspiration from a little piece of cinematic brilliance that happened 35 years earlier. But hopefully you’ll find a little inspiration of your own. It may pop up in the place you least expect. You may find a connection with a complete stranger, or finally understand a t-shirt that you passed over a dozen times before. Because it’s clearly stated in the genre title. Cult classics are just that — classics.
About the Podcast
Tom and Jim’s Top 5 is a weekly podcast led by two grown children with a passion for pop culture. Tom and Jim each attempt to argue their top five picks in an endless array of categories that leave every generation feeling nostalgic. What’s your top five?
About the Author
Jim Doutt works in the video production field in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up in rural Illinois in the Quad Cities and attended Western Illinois University. His job has also taken him to Tulsa and Phoenix, where he met and married his wife. Jim has always loved pop culture, especially music, movies, TV, books and comics. He loves collecting just about everything from comics to vinyl records. Follow his personal Instagram account @jimdoutt.