Future Cult Classics Born in 2021

We predict which films from this year will become cult darlings in the years to come.

I’ve been looking into my crystal ball and I have seen the future. Nothing regarding the really important stuff, of course. I don’t know how climate change will play out, or if Omicron will send us back into super-lockdown. I’m not a miracle worker. What I can see is the cult cinema of tomorrow: the films that genre freaks and film school contrarians will use to enhance their Letterboxd favorites with the aura of obscure good taste. 2021 gave us a new roster of films that I believe qualify for cult status or, at least, will in ten years. Whether you’re into horror, comedy, or pig dramas, the following list is worth considering for your next midnight streaming session.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (dir. Josh Greenbaum)

Kristen Wiig as Star and Annie Mumolo as Barb in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, holding fruity drinks and wearing leis.
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

At this point, it seems clear that anything Kristen Wiig touches has some level of lasting appeal; Bridesmaids is still one of the clear highlights of the late aughts/early tens comedy boom, while The Skeleton Twins continues to pop up on favorites lists years after its quiet indie release. Her latest collaboration with fellow Bridesmaids writer Annie Mumolo is a straight-to-on-demand release featuring talking crabs, MDMA-laced fishbowl drinks, and Jamie Dornan-led musical numbers. A film that virtually emanates the smell of chlorine and Malibu rum through your screen, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar explores all that can go wrong on a vacation with your best gal pal. 

The premise of Barb and Star — that the eponymous leads are fired from their “dream jobs” at a Midwestern furniture store and decide to spend their last paychecks on a getaway trip — is deceptively simple. What you actually get is one of the strangest comedies ever released by an SNL alum. Following only a loose plot structure, we tag along with Barb (Mumulo) and Star (Wiig) as they hook up with Edgar (Jamie Dornan), who is really a supervillain’s henchman, and become embroiled in a plot to kill everyone in Vista Del Mar. The colorful sets and juvenile humor keep it from getting too complicated, however. Because of its quirky comedy style and low-stakes plot, many will probably not understand Barb and Star, but those that do will want to revisit the film repeatedly to catch little in-jokes that they may have missed previously. It rewards your full investment in a way most comedies won’t, and is a pure joy to boot.

The Fear Street Trilogy (dir. Leigh Janiak)

Olivia Scott Welch as Samantha and Kiana Madeira as Deena in 'Fear Street Part One': 1994, looking pensive over a coffee table with a newspaper that says MALL MASSACRE.
Image courtesy of Netflix

Fear Street presents something of a rare proposal in today’s horror landscape. It’s both a slasher and a teen film; a combo so popular in the 1980s that it oversaturated the market, eventually becoming repellent to audiences looking for something more sophisticated or inventive. Slashers have now become something treasured by dedicated horror fans, especially those that come to horror for campy levels of guts and gore.

If the above describes your tastes, look no further. Netflix’s foray into the high school slasher is surprisingly deft of hand, understanding the nasty appeals of the genre while still presenting interesting characters with complex backstories. As horror has become more of an A24-led space, I predict that the slasher will become more appealing as it provides an alternative to popular audience tastes. Fear Street is a fantastic three-film addition to the slasher sub-genre and is an even better jumping-off point for a new generation of viewers to acquaint themselves with different kinds of scares. Each film — 1994, 1978, and 1666 — tackles a different time period and its accompanying aesthetic, making the series easily applicable to various interests. If you want a neon mall gorefest, 1994 is the best fit, but if you’re looking for a traditional summer camp axe murder, try 1978. Fear Street has the power to steal the hearts of many horror fans, both new and old, through its versatility. 

Zola (dir. Janicza Bravo)

Riley Keough as Stefani and Taylour Paige as Zola in Zola; Keough obnoxiously leans over the demure Paige's shoulder to take a selfie with her.
Image courtesy of A24

When you think of crime cult classics, what do you think of? Spring Breakers notwithstanding, the genre has a tendency to center the lives of men; King of New York, Scorsese, Al Pacino. Well, let me introduce you to Zola. Originally written as a thread on Twitter, Zola chronicles a 48-hour girls trip down to Florida, but this one is much different from that of Barb and Star’s. Zola is a waitress who strips on the side. After meeting confident fellow dancer Stefani at her restaurant, she decides to dance down in Tampa for the weekend. As it turns out, the dancer double-crosses her, and chaos ensues.

Zola feels like a headrush. Each event bleeds into the next, shuffled along by thumping hip-hop tracks and a twittering score that samples the literal sound of sending a Tweet. Leads Taylour Paige and Riley Keough fully embody their roles, with Paige being the sympathetic straight man to Keough’s unhinged party girl persona. It will leave you fully engrossed all the way until the end. Much like Spring Breakers, the film’s appeal is in its lighthearted handling of controversial subject matter and ability to draw you into the intoxication of a criminal lifestyle. Though some may find its hyper-modernity to be headache-inducing, many of us are more than down for the ride and will be for some time to come.

Pig (dir. Michael Sarnoski)

Nicolas Cage as Robin in Pig, sitting on his doorstep with his pig in front of him. She eats from a pan while he chews on a pastry.
Image courtesy of Neon

When was the last time you saw a film about a pig? Babe: Pig in the City may have been the last true installment in hog-led cinema, but wait no longer; Pig is here to satisfy your cravings. To some, it will play like a bloodless John Wick rip-off. To others, it is an existential journey through our very human relationships with food, nature, and each other. Nicolas Cage plays Robin, a woodsman who relies on his truffle pig (named Pig) for emotional and financial support. When Pig is taken away by a mysterious truck, Cage must search the Portland, Oregon area to get her back.

Though it sets itself up to be more of an adventure film, the true journey at the center of the film takes place within Cage’s character. As Pig unfolds, so too does Rob’s backstory, drawing you into a tale of betrayal and grief. For a film that marketed itself on funny pig taglines, it’s surprisingly quiet. This is a thinking person’s pig film, one that leaves you rejuvenated by its end. If you leave your expectations at the door, this could end up being one of your favorite films of the year.

Old (dir. M. Night Shyamalan)

Aaron Pierre as Brendan, Vicky Krieps as Prisca, Gael García Bernal as Guy, and Abbey Lee as Chrystal in Old. The group stands on the beach, looking out at the water as Pierre points at something off-screen.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

You were beginning to think I’d leave out Old, didn’t you? Think again. The movie about the beach that makes you old won’t soon be forgotten, even if many came away from the film scratching their heads. Despite a cast with highbrow pedigrees (Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, and Alex Wolff to name just a few), Old is best taken as camp. Yeah, the concept of going to a beach that makes you old is hypothetically terrifying if you’re afraid of aging or dying; I imagine most of us are. But for a select few with dark senses of humor, is there not something a little funny about watching hot actors turning old and screaming about it?

What’s even funnier is that this isn’t even M. Night Shyamalan’s first film about the fear of the elderly. 2015’s The Visit, another gem that is best appreciated for its understated humor, tackles the age-old (ha) question: what if your grandparents were evil? I predict that The Visit and Old will become a comedy-horror double feature staple in the years to come. Despite Old being mostly a meme now, some memes are able to age with grace. Old might not afford its characters such a fate, but I think it will beat the odds. 

These are the films I found in the mists of my orb— do with this information what you will. It did once predict that the Beatles musical Across the Universe would become a beloved cult film, and unfortunately, I’m still waiting on this. But you never know what might eventually come true! Do you want to have missed the boat when you start seeing art house showings of Pig in twenty years? I won’t be taking those chances and neither should you. All of these films are currently available to stream or rent, so get cracking! Your future coolness depends on it.