20 crazy cult movies on YouTube that you need to see

We should hate ourselves for watching movies that were never intended for screens smaller than a microwave door, but there’s something exciting about revisiting cult obscurities of American cinema on YouTube. Just a click away, and, boom, experience avant-garde (and often NSFW) discoveries while in bed on your iPad or on the couch as a laptop burns the fur off your thigh. What can I say? It’s a special feeling. And, for when you don’t know which title to turn to, here’s a guide to further your film literacy with a concentration in unpopular and important classics.

1. Two-Lane Blacktop


Songwriter James Taylor and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson play two long-haired motorheads who haul ass across the U.S. in a ’55 Chevy street racer. Eventually, they bump into a middle-aged crazy drifter (Warren Oates) for a week-long drag race. Diner French fries and hipster soliloquies in between. [YouTube] [IMDb]

2. Putney Swope


One reviewer calls Robert Downey, Sr.’s satire “the greatest ‘fuck you’ movie of all time,” which is basically about a black guy who takes over a whitebread agency and turns it militant. Before you commit to the whole thing, have a taste of this cereal ad first. [YouTube] [IMDb]

3. Reefer Madness


Yes, this was a theatrically released propaganda film in the ’30s to try and convince the public that marijuana would turn you into a homicidal-suicidal maniac. You probably won’t want to watch the whole thing, but it’s worth scrubbing around for the mental parts. [YouTube] [IMDb]

4. Joysticks


Greydon Clark’s video arcade romp was a cultural touchstone for filmmaker Eli Roth, who hails “Joysticks” as a pioneer among the “Fat Guy/Cool Guy/Nerd” ’80s teen sex comedies. “An entire genre of movies sitting on the shelves at Blockbuster,” Roth told me in 2004, “and no one knows their origin. It’s a sad thing.” [YouTube] [IMDb]

5. The Nail Gun Massacre


Filmed almost 30 years ago in the tiny Texas towns of Seagoville and Combine, this nudie gross-out slasher somehow maintains a cozy, 8mm. home movie quality: The sound of the camera rolling is audible during indoor scenes, and its dialogue is regularly botched. Director Terry Lofton’s grandma is clearly reading her lines from a sheet of paper laid on the hardware store counter. “I bet. You ain’t. Never seen … Wild butterflies. In these. Parts.” [YouTube] [IMDb]

6. Humanoids from the Deep


Long before Japanese tentacle porn became a footnote in popular culture, B-movie magnate Roger Corman laced together a shoestring budget in 1980 to grab some of those hot “Jaws” and “Alien” dollars. The result? An accidental stroke of genius about mutated fish monsters in rubber suits that impregnate bikini-clad victims and wreak havoc on a sexy beach town. [YouTube] [IMDb]

7. Gayniggers from Outer Space


Morten Lindberg’s 1992 sci fi short must have been the inspiration for that one scene in Bob Saget’s “Dirty Work” when the boys pranked a crowded movie theater. [YouTube] [IMDb]

8. The Terror of Tiny Town


Starring none other than “Jed Buell’s Midgets,” this 1938 western-exploitation is 95 minutes of little people riding miniature ponies and wearing oversized hats. Much like “Reefer Madness,” this one will put you to sleep if you attempt to watch the entire thing. Just skip around and get familiar enough with this cautionary tale for the next time your friend pitches a Kickstarter for an Ewok rodeo. [YouTube] [IMDb]

9. Sisters


This was Brian DePalma’s first time to show his hardon for the suspense-thriller devices of Alfred Hitchcock. “Sisters” is DePalma’s ode to “Rear Window,” shortly followed by his oversexed Hitchcock copycats “Obsession” (“Vertigo”), “Dressed to Kill” (“Psycho”) and “Blow Out” (which is really more of a hat tip to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” and Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” but whatever). You should watch them all. [YouTube] [IMDb]

10. Shivers, a.k.a. They Came from Within


David Cronenberg’s feature debut is a cross between “Alien” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” except it takes place in a groovy ’70s Montreal condo building. It’s not pretentious or filled with crazy psychoanalytical subtext like his later films — just a bunch of people losing their minds after ingesting phallic-shaped parasites. OK, maybe it’s a touch psychoanalytical. [YouTube] [IMDb]

11. Black Dynamite


I’m really not sure “Black Dynamite” belongs anywhere near this crop of obscure titles, but every week I run into perfectly intelligent and well-cultured moviegoers who have still not sat down with this 2009 blaxploitation spoof. So, I feel it my duty to include before Crenshaw Pete comes after me with a coat hanger. [YouTube] [IMDb]

12. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia


Sam Peckinpah’s personal masterpiece places Warren Oates (“Two-Lane Blacktop”) south of the border as the alter-ego of our tortured director. After years of hard drinking and spinning complex morality tales on film (“Ride the High Country,” “The Wild Bunch”), Peckinpah sends our leading man on a quest to chase down rapist bikers and basically spit pages of boozy monologue to a decapitated Mexican for half the screen time. A must-see. [YouTube] [IMDb]

13. Blood Simple: Director’s Cut


The Coen brothers’ big-screen debut has M. Emmett Walsh (above) as a creepy private dick in a Texas town where wives cheat, guns fire and the Coens give Steve Buscemi’s death scene in “Fargo” a trial run. [YouTube] [IMDb]

14. River’s Edge


Just wait for the part when Keanu hits up his mom for a joint. Also, Taylor Negron’s in it! [YouTube] [IMDb]

15. Riding the Bus with My Sister


This one isn’t so much crazy as it is plumb dumb, but people love it. In the made-for-TV movie, Rosie O’ Donnell plays a mentally disabled version of herself, basically, and nudges bus drivers for 90 minutes. There’s no shame in making fun of this one. [YouTube] [IMDb]

16. Freejack


Hardly Mick Jagger’s best work on screen (look no further than his London mobster in Nicolas Roeg’s “Performance” for that), the Rolling Stones front man plays a foot soldier in a dystopian Brooklyn on the hunt for time-traveling Emilio Estevez. Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo co-star. [YouTube] [IMDb]

17. Return to Oz


So freaky. [YouTube] [IMDb]

18. A Bucket of Blood


Roger Corman’s $50,000 beatnik horror flick created the paradigm for which he’d base all his indie productions in the years to come — both finance- and nudity-wise. [YouTube] [IMDb]

19. Death Race 2000


Way ahead of its time! Paul Bartel’s 1975 black comedy is like “The Hunger Games,” only drivers get points for running over pedestrians. David Carradine (above) plays the scarfaced champion named Frankenstein, and Sly Stallone, who moons the camera in a gratuitous massage scene, is his nemesis. “Death Race 2000″ was re-released one year later so its producers could capitalize on Stallone after he found worldwide fame and won Oscars for “Rocky.” (Two years prior, at the time of casting for “Death Race,” Sly was a no-name who had dabbled in porn.) [YouTube] [IMDb]

20. Dolemite


“OK, Dolemite, the warden wants to see you.” “Oh, shit. What the hell does that rat-suit-wearin’ motherfucker want with me?” The breakout blaxsploitation title of Rudy Ray Moore’s (a.k.a. 1975’s black version of Andrew “Dice” Clay) is pure poetry. [YouTube] [IMDb]