‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’: How the 1999 Mockmentary Movie Became a Cult Classic

The 1999 comedy movie starring Kirsten Dunst, Drop Dead Gorgeous, wasn’t an immediate hit. How, over the course of several years, did it turn into a cult classic film?

How the 1999 movie ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ gained a cult following

Drop Dead Gorgeous cast
Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards in pageant in a scene from the 1999 film Drop Dead Gorgeous 1999 | New Line Cinema/Getty Images

In a 15th-anniversary profile of Drop Dead GorgeousBuzzFeed traced how the movie, released in 1999 to rough box office sales and middling reviews, ended up becoming a cult classic film. As the publication outlined:

For the most part, critics were merciless: The film currently has a 28% rating on Metacritic, Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it a ‘D,’ and Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote that Drop Dead Gorgeous ‘[makes] its audience wince through what may be a record number of miserably unfunny jokes.’

However, the comedy movie has stood the test of time.

” … audiences over the past decade and a half have come to appreciate the unfairly maligned Drop Dead Gorgeous as a searingly funny satire,” BuzzFeed reported. Part of that appreciation comes, ironically, from its lack of availability.

“In this age of total accessibility of everything, you can’t Netflix this movie, and you can’t download it off of iTunes,” the movie’s director, Michael Patrick told the publication. “This is the ultimate cult movie. You can’t see it.”

The movie isn’t streaming on any major platforms

While Drop Dead Gorgeous finally arrived on Hulu in 2019, the movie doesn’t appear to be available on any major streaming platforms currently (Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu). However, the DVD is still on sale.

The elusiveness of the film is part of what added to the cult-ish attitude surrounding it. As BuzzFeed confirmed, its legacy “didn’t end with its box office failure in 1999 — at least not for those who continued to find the film in the years that followed.”

With the onset of VHS and later, DVD rentals, young people watching — and re-watching — the film at home, it built up a cult following.

Over the past 2 decades, “teenagers who had missed its short theatrical run were discovering it at video rental stores and on cable.”

The movie’s cast has noticed the fervent fanbase, too. Allison Janney, who played Loretta in the film, told BuzzFeed: “Usually fans are pretty fanatical about that movie.” The publication reported on Janney:

… she is approached about Drop Dead Gorgeous more often than almost any other project she’s been a part of — even after winning four Emmys for her work on The West Wing.

Drop Dead Gorgeous
Amy Adams, Brittany Murphy, Denise Richards, and Kirsten Dunst in a scene from the film Drop Dead Gorgeous | New Line Cinema/Getty Images

RELATED: Kirsten Dunst Reacts to ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ Streaming on Hulu

The ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ cast thrilled moviegoers with the dark comedy

The content of the movie — whose comedy tends to get quite bleak — also contributed to the cult fanbase. Darren Stein, the director of Jawbreaker (another cult classic film), told BuzzFeed that many cult films “go to a place that regular studio films don’t go to that’s usually darker, edgier, and more forbidden.”

“It’s a truth-telling in a way that you don’t see in a lot of films,” Stein continued.

Not to mention — Drop Dead Gorgeous had a fairly celebrated cast — full of “star power” in “actors like Ellen Barkin and Kirstie Alley.” There is a lot of fun of seeing these recognizable actors “go so dark — and look like trash doing so.”

The studio producing the movie, New Line, wanted the film to have a lighter tone to attract a wider teen audience. However, those moviegoers were the ones who “rejected Drop Dead Gorgeous.”

“Its later success comes from the kind of viewers big studios tend to ignore,” BuzzFeed reported. The film director told the publication:

Success ordinarily means it met or exceeded your expectations. … And I think if you have your little 13-year-old goth girl alive in your heart, and you know that this is the movie for her, then this movie will exceed your expectations.