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Women-led cult classics generate committed fandoms

Collegian | Preston Box

While there are countless cult classic films out there, there aren’t many that focus on women’s stories. Generally speaking, cult classics tend to be films that aren’t incredibly well received upon their release but are enjoyed ironically or have simply gained a significant audience following despite their lack of box office success. Another aspect of what makes a cult classic film is its quotability. The one-liners and recognizable phrases help fans connect with each other.

While some women-led cult classics have been given their flowers, some haven’t. Here’s an overview of some of the greatest women-led cult classics, both of this generation and those previous.



The original “Heathers,” starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, is an ’80s classic with a twist. It was the first of its kind with a high school popular girl clique that inspired numerous other classics like “Mean Girls.”

“Heathers” initially may not have been received well by critics and audiences alike, but since then, it has risen to cult classic status and currently has a critic score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Offbeat, humorous and dark, “Heathers” is a staple in ’80s cinema, and its musical adaptation while differing from the movie in numerous ways — doesn’t fall short of the movie’s sensational popularity.

‘But I’m a Cheerleader’

But I’m a Cheerleader” stars Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall in this campy 1999 satire. It’s a quintessential queer movie with a satirical conversion therapy setting. An incredibly heavy topic is wonderfully transformed into something fun while not taking away from the significance. The incredible use of color symbolism and an invigorating performance from none other than RuPaul creates a fun cult classic that celebrates queerness. 

‘Mean Girls’

Almost everyone has seen “Mean Girls” or knows about it in some capacity. Rachel McAdams’ portrayal of lead mean girl Regina George is nothing short of iconic. One might even say that it’s “so fetch.” The 2004 original movie became such a cultural staple that there have been multiple other iterations of it; there’s a second movie from 2011, a musical adaptation and a recent movie-musical adaptation starring Renee Rapp, which received mixed reviews.

Nonetheless, “Mean Girls” has stood the test of time and for good reason. Wonderful performances combined with memorable jokes and comedic moments have made the film a pop culture phenomenon. 

‘Jennifer’s Body’

While not always at the top of a list of best horror movies, “Jennifer’s Body” should be. Starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, it is just scary enough to be considered a horror movie, but it balances absurdity in a way that creates a very nuanced experience.

Often considered to be ahead of its time, the writing of Diablo Cody is attention grabbing and enthralling in a way that keeps viewers captivated until the end. It also balances predictability and surprise in a way that is fun, absurd and exciting. Additionally, Jennifer and Needy’s relationship is incredibly nuanced and complex, which adds another layer to the film.

Reach Aubree Miller at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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