“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” didn’t make much of a splash when it was released in 1975, drawing tepid reviews and few moviegoers.
But distributor 20th Century Fox started pushing for midnight showings of the movie, even letting attendees in for free if they came in costume. “Rocky Horror” developed a cult following from there, and has been in theaters ever since. Fans still show up in costume, and often act out scenes and throw — among other things — toast, toilet paper and hot dogs at the screen during certain moments in the movie.
While no other cult film has developed quite the same level of devotion as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” it’s not the only midnight movie to develop a fervent following. A (by no means comprehensive) list of some other examples:
The Room (2003)
Tommy Wiseau’s disasterpiece is probably the closest modern equivalent to “RHPS.” Maybe the best so-bad-it’s-good movie ever made, screenings of “The Room” typically feature fans in costume, the audience talking back at the film’s nonsense dialogue and a lot of spoon-throwing.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Once branded “the worst film of time,” Ed Wood’s bizarre movie about aliens resurrecting dead humans really has to be seen to be believed — which has made it a staple on the midnight movie circuit. Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic about Wood has likely helped its popularity endure.
Reefer Madness (1936)
A propaganda film about the many dangers of marijuana, such as (per the movie) skipping school, suicide, hallucinations and really fast piano playing. The movie became a cult classic in the 1970s when pro-marijuana activists began screening it at events.
El Topo (1970)
Best described as an “acid Western,” “El Topo” is generally considered to be the first midnight movie. The owner of a New York theater was such a fan of the film, he began showing it every night after midnight. Word-of-mouth spread quickly, with screenings typically selling out.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
John Waters’ incredibly gross exploitation film gained its cult following at the same New York theater where “El Topo” had its midnight screenings. Audience participation was, mercifully, limited to moviegoers quoting their favorite lines.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero’s zombie classic was already well-known after its release thanks to its (at the time) excessive gore, but that’s not what made it such a popular midnight movie choice. The film’s distributor neglected to put a copyright notice in prints of the movie, putting it in the public domain and making it available for any theater to screen free of charge.
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