For any cinephile, attending your very first midnight screening serves as a rite of passage. As the name implies, these “midnight” movies are shown just as the clock strikes twelve and are generally known to be cult favorites. Fans share the pleasure of bonding over the unique and sometimes strange themes that midnight movies have. At the same time, it encourages audiences to express themselves as they arrive in the theater dressed up like their favorite characters. No matter how many times you attend a midnight screening, there is no denying the almost spiritual feeling of belonging to something so intimate.
Not all cult movies become midnight favorites, and many have reached their full potential to land a slot in midnight but are overlooked by theaters. That said, the movies on this list are not just official midnight movies, but films that deserve their very own midnight screenings.
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1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Dubbed as the most famous midnight movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show hardly requires any introduction. This musical classic was released by Jim Sharman back in 1975, and it has built a legacy so great that the film continues to have its screenings up to today. People would usually arrive dressed as Rocky (played by the very talented Tim Curry) and know every line by heart.
The story takes place in Transsexual, Transylvania, and centers around a group of sweet transvestites as they perform in their annual convention. Amid all the elaborate costumes and dance productions is a young couple that comes across the group.
The Rocky Horror Picture is a perfect blend of horror, comedy, and a little science fiction, making it a staple figure in countless midnight screenings.
2. Lost in Translation
Set in a whimsical and neon-lit Tokyo, Lost in Translation tells the story of two individuals that find themselves in the crossroads of their lives. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray play the said characters, who form a bond over their shared loneliness. Their melancholic conversations about life are coupled with a set of misadventures and an inevitable good-bye.
Audiences can easily lose themselves in the movie as it does have its own fleeting moments. But the film does this without ever being too dull or dragging. Many of the touching scenes can be credited to the raw performances of both Johansson and Murray, who play their characters so well you may sometimes forget that it is only a movie. So take a trip to Tokyo in the comfort of your seat with this film, which is perfect to watch when the clock poignantly ticks at midnight.
3. Spirited Away
Hayao Miyazaki‘s Spirited Away is the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Spirited Away is an animated movie about a young girl who travels to a spiritual world. In a bid to save her parents and herself, 10-year-old Chihiro goes through a series of challenges and exciting adventures to return to the human world.
Spirited Away is filled with eccentric characters and a compelling story line. It is easily one of the most celebrated films that will be perfect to watch with a group.
Even after going through several cuts, the 1932 horror classic Freaks was banned in several countries throughout its theatrical run.
The movie starts with trapeze artist Cleopatra as she seduces the midget Hans in order to gain his inheritance. She then plots with strongman Hercules to murder him. The other circus “freaks” eventually find out about their scheme and plan a violent revenge.
Director Tod Browning found himself in hot water following the film’s release as it was deemed too grotesque to show in cinemas then. Eventually, the film found a spot during midnight screenings and is often regarded as the movie that gave birth to modern-day horror.
5. Donnie Darko
There won’t be a midnight movies list without the cult favorite Donnie Darko. This movie seems to tackle a ton of themes such as science fiction, supernatural, and can even be considered as a coming-of-age story. It is no wonder that it quickly rose to cult status, even after a less than stellar theatrical run.
The film follows the titular Donnie (played by a young Jake Gyllenhaal) as he travels through time while facing his own set of teenage problems along the way. The movie resembles a waking dream, with a pacing that is most suitable to watch at midnight. By the end of the film, you might want to assess your own reality as well.