A cult film is a movie that attracts a small but devoted group of obsessive fans or one that has remained popular over successive years amongst a small group of followers. Often the film failed to achieve mainstream success on its original release, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the audience response to a cult film is somewhat different to what was intended by the filmmakers, although usually a film that becomes "cult" started out with unusual elements or subject matter.
A film reaches cult status due to an audience's relationship to the film. This makes the designation of cult status to a film difficult, however continued success amongst a subset of moviegoers many years after the film's original release is a key defining factor. A hint of cult status is a sequence of midnight showings over a period of many weeks.
In most cases, these films tend to enjoy long runs on video, thus being issued in more video "runs" with more copies than other movies. Also, they are more likely to be the films that will be issued on any newer video technology in the technology's early days on the market. If allowable, these films may also enjoy more repeat screenings on cable, pay-per-view or network TV channels.
Many cult films are from such genres as horror, science fiction and world cinema. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which combines the elements of science fiction, horror—not to mention transvestitism, incest and homosexuality—and, amazingly, is a musical, is considered by many the first true and seminal cult film.
The construction of meaning within the cult film text, the nature and epistemology of cult film and its audiences is now studied academically.
An instance of how cults differ between societies include the elevation of the British comedy film actor Norman Wisdom into a cult icon in Albania during the years of Communism under Enver Hoxha, at a time when his family-friendly style almost certainly ensured that 'cult' would be the last term on earth to be applied to him in the West. Curiously, he and his films are now acquiring nostalgic cult status in Britain.
Selected list of cult film directors
Selected list of schools guided by cult film directors