Why you should care
Because these films were overlooked for major awards but could still go down in history.
Every so often, a film that was ignored in its own time by the masses but beloved by a few earns the title of cult classic years down the line. Take Swingers, Blue Velvet, The Big Lebowski, Dazed and Confused and They Live. They’re weird, they’re niche and they’re irresistibly great.
While it’s always hard to say in the moment what will blossom into a cult classic, we’re gazing into our OZY crystal ball. Here are the five films from 2016 that have the best shot at a legendary future. And yes, you should watch them in addition to the biggest Oscar nominees.
The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest efforts make for a gorgeous but messy movie. The visuals, while beautiful, are ham-fisted, the plot often borders on absurdity and the film overall seems to drag itself through the two-hour run time. However, as Refn’s project unravels into a show of filth, depravity and excessive shock horror, you realize you are watching something more akin to snuff than an actual movie. Cloaked in perversion and packaged with a spectacular electro soundtrack straight from an ’80s horror flick, this film is ripped directly out of the dark sexploitation era of Hollywood. For many, all this is enough reason for The Neon Demon to go down in cult-classic history. It’s so revolting that a select few will be unable to look away.
Viggo Mortensen is iconic in this film as a father raising his weirdo kids in the wilderness. When he finds out his wife has died, he sets off on a road trip with his wolfpack of children to her funeral, mixing in with civilization for the first time. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea — quirk runs rampant and it’s a bit pompous at points. For one, Mortensen’s character says his goal is to raise “philosopher kings.” Meh. But the script is tight and the ensemble of children is hilarious and touching at the same time. First screened at Sundance, Captain Fantastic screams its indieness from the premise. Those who embrace it will leave thinking about how they might raise their children or reflecting back to the norms of their own childhood. Down to the detail, the film is well conceived and colors pop on the screen.
Coen Brothers films often end up as cult classics, and this one may follow suit. Like many popular films this year (La La Land included), Hail, Caesar! is a love letter to old cinematic traditions. Allusions for every film nerd abound: South Pacific references, a Cleopatra-esque flopping blockbuster and more. The U.S.–Russia relations jokes may hit too close to home or might actually make the film more relevant than ever, depending on who you are. The film’s divisiveness stems from its meandering plot and expansive cast of characters, but for anyone who can put up with it, the stars are wonderful, including George Clooney, Channing Tatum and up-and-coming actor Alden Ehrenreich (the next Han Solo).
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
For many comedy fans, Taika Waititi is already a household name. His HBO original Flight of the Concords was a cult hit by the time it’d been and gone and his vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows garnered a similar niche following. For his third installment, Waititi has delivered yet again, creating a fast-paced adventure garnished with nonstop comedy and fantastic performances from veteran Sam Neill and newcomer Julian Dennison. A name to watch, Waititi will take a definitive step into the mainstream in 2017 as he helms Marvel’s latest Thor movie.
The Greasy Strangler
Described once as “Tim and Eric meets a John Waters movie,” The Greasy Strangler is such a niche display of absurdity that it was never going to win the popular vote. The plot: a son-father-girlfriend love triangle. And the father’s a murderer, covered in grease. Spooooky. While some will say the film tries a little too hard to garner cult status, many will come to enjoy it as a bizarre black comedy, filled with the kind of spectacle and characters you just can’t get from your average Hollywood blockbuster. With its indistinguishable style mixed with the fantastically strange and playful soundtrack, The Greasy Strangler is bound to find love somewhere. Director Jim Hosking’s first feature has blurred the line between disgust and charm.
Honorable mentions: The Lobster, Sing Street, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Swiss Army Man and Don’t Breathe.