The Ten Best Cult Movies

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The Independent Culture

1 SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
Alexander Mackendrick, 1956

1 SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
Alexander Mackendrick, 1956

Mackendrick's defence of the artist and the individual, against a corrupt and malevolent press and its metaphor for corrupt government, remains ever pertinent. It's a bold film, made by a bold film-maker, one of the greatest films in the greatest era of cinema.

The hero changing destiny is the major simple utopian notion behind most American cinema. You don't have to have much insight to realise that more often than not, the opposite is true: the corrupt are in control of destiny. But it takes courage to make this your theme.

2 RESERVOIR DOGS
Quentin Tarantino, 1991

This film rescued cinema from the three-act tyranny that dominated the Eighties. During that decade, film executives thought they understood scriptwriting because they had read in Syd Field's book The Art of Screenwriting that hit movies such as Casablanca and Chinatown followed the three-act structure. This theory by numbers dominated the worst decade of cinema history. Tarantino's taut, intelligent and witty thriller bust this theory wide open and liberated cinema.

3 ODD MAN OUT
Carol Reed, 1947

Anyone lucky enough to have been around when the streets were still lit by gas lamps will remember that the world of night looked different before the ambient fallout of today that's taken the visual mystery out of all our lives. Reed brilliantly captures the world of shadows both physically and spiritually as James Mason, his haunted killer, stumbles through his own path to hell in the city at night.

4 BADLANDS
Terrence Malick, 1974

The American landscape has appeared as a character in many movies, nowhere more poignantly than here, in Malick's outstanding debut. The beauty of the land resonates a permanence - in sharp contrast to the downward spiral of the main characters, Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, as they go on a killing spree.

5 THE KILLING
Stanley Kubrick, 1956

With The Killing, Kubrick wrote the blueprint for the heist movie, nowhere has it been done better. Not just because the plot is tense, complicated and dangerous but so are the characters. Sterling Hayden, bringing a psychopathic dimension to his performance that inhabits real criminals, is a truly scary dude.

6 PERFORMANCE
Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg, 1970

One of the sexiest movies you'll ever see. A fading pop star, Mick Jagger, and a gangland enforcer on the run, James Fox, collide in a heady cocktail of drugs, sex and bullets.

7 SUNSET BOULEVARD
Billy Wilder, 1950

When the ageing Billy Wilder was asked at a pitch meeting by a 25-year-old executive, "So, Mr Wilder, tell me what you have done?" Wilder replied, "OK, you first." If Wilder was on the ropes at the end of his career he still had a long way to go to catch up with the screenwriter in Sunset Boulevard. Possibly the most brilliant of film noir movies, and a salutary tale of how brutal Hollywood is.

8 CASABLANCA
Michael Curtiz, 1942

A beautifully made film. You never feel that any of the characters are in real danger but it oozes with charm and nostalgia and suggests that we can still be cool and cynical and yet aim for our higher selves.

9 MY DARLING CLEMENTINE
John Ford, 1946

The best Western ever made. Not just because John Ford shot the gun fight at OK Corral exactly as it happened, but also because of the fantastic array of authentic characters.

10 IF...
Lindsay Anderson, 1968

The anarchy of the fun-loving demonic central character, Malcolm McDowell, gives us permission to turn our back on worn-out systems. A political movie that's fun.

The Stella Artois screen tour is running to November and will show classic films, including Roddam's 'Quadrophenia' in Brighton on 24 July ( www.stellascreen.co.uk)

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