A film reaches cult status due to an audience's relationship to the film. This makes the designation of cult status to a film difficult, however continued success amongst a subset of moviegoers many years after the film's original release is a key defining factor.
Many cult films are from such genres as horror, science fiction and world cinema. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which combines the elements of science fiction, horror—not to mention transvestitism, incest and homosexuality—and, amazingly, is a musical, is considered by many the first true and seminal cult film.
The construction of meaning within the cult film text, and the nature and epistemology of cult film (and also its audiences), however, are now studied academically.
An instance of how cults differ between societies include the elevation of the British comedy film actor Norman Wisdom into a cult icon in Albania during the years of Communism under Enver Hoxha, at a time when his family-friendly style almost certainly ensured that 'cult' would be the last term on earth to be applied to him in the West. Curiously he and his films are now acquiring nostalgic cult status in Britain.
Selected List of Cult Film Directors