The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83
25. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION II: THE METAL YEARS (1988)
Most of the headbangers in Penelope Spheeris' doc never made it, but Metal Years showcases their big-bucks dreams in a way that's far more memorable than their songs.
SIGNATURE LINE ''I'm the happiest sonofabitch motherf---er there ever was.''
23. SUPERSTAR: THE KAREN CARPENTER STORY (1987)
Hard to imagine that a dissertation on everything from anorexia to the Vietnam War in the guise of a biopic performed by Barbie-like dolls could be so moving. Todd Haynes' short has never been commercially available, so how can you see it? EW would never steer you to a site like illegal-art.org. Never.
SIGNATURE LINE ''I will not wear that hip-hugger thing, Mother. It makes me look really fat.''
22. LOVE STREAMS (1984)
Just brutal. Rarely did John Cassavetes' raw talk and tense hysterics produce such a softhearted wonder. The director stars as a drunken, oversexed pulp novelist whose just-divorced sister is no less a crack-up. They wail; you wince; it's the emotional equivalent of a slasher film.
SIGNATURE LINE ''Life is a series of suicides, divorces, promises broken, children smashed, whatever.''
They Live (1988)
The movie's homeless protagonist John Nada (Roddy Piper) uncovers the truth behind our society with a pair of shades apparently plucked from the Risky Business set. They show that most people are actually aliens and subliminal advertising is taking over. Duh! In today's current state of product placement pollution, Cruise's Ray-Bans would be useless.
15. THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998)
To a casual viewer, it might come across as a tangle of slapstick metaphysics and ad hoc wackiness. Fair enough. But for the Coen Bros. faithful, The Big Lebowski is a masterpiece of anti-storytelling. Jeff Bridges' Dude is a cinematic curio, the hero as placeholder: a detective who doesn't detect, an agent without agency. Plus, Tara Reid's near-cameo as the kidnapped Bunny ''Logjammin'' Lebowski may prove to be the highlight of her career.
SIGNATURE LINE ''The Dude abides.''
14. RE-ANIMATOR (1985)
It sure as heck ain't your run-of-the-mill slasher-horror flick — a point that becomes painfully obvious sometime after the titular mad scientist resuscitates a pissed-off dead feline that's missing half its body, and long before some dude's frothing, severed head starts to molest a naked blond chick. With outrageous and wildly over-the-top performances, Re-Animator resides high in the pantheon of zombie films, thanks in part to the fact that the whole schlocky — though, we have to admit, unusually well-crafted — enterprise makes a strange kind of sense.
SIGNATURE LINE ''You steal the secret of life and death, and here you are trysting with a bubbleheaded coed!''
Hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when anime — Japanese animation — was a rarity on American screens, especially anime for an adult audience. But this violent, post-apocalyptic tour de force was the film that paved the way. Director Katsuhiro Otomo adapted his own manga and created a lush, nightmarish look at a futuristic Tokyo beset by motorcycle gangs, a corrupt military-industrial complex, and mutant teens.
9. PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985)
Amid the vendetta-fueled Stallone stories and the teen-makeover movies of the '80s came the surreal world of Pee-wee, a weird boy-person with an extensive lawn-ornament collection and a dark side (''I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel.''). Tim Burton's directorial debut is genuinely winsome, never ironic, and always gloriously juvenile.
SIGNATURE LINE ''I know you are, but what am I? Infinity!''
RANDOM POP-CULTURE REFERENCE Pee-wee pours Mr. T cereal on his flapjacks.
3. REPO MAN (1984)
Beer-swigging suburban punks and blue-collar repo men collide as they track down a 1964 Chevy Malibu — which, by the way, just might be from outer space. Exec-produced by an ex-Monkee (Michael Nesmith) and directed by onetime Oxford law student Alex Cox, Repo Man was destined for weirdness. But the movie found its audience in rebellious high schoolers and alienated Reagan-era hipsters, who grooved to its surf-punk soundtrack and memorized its riffs on society, space aliens, and, of course, shrimp.
SIGNATURE LINE ''Let's go get sushi and not pay!''