Show Mobile Navigation
 
Movies and TV

Top 10 Movies with Extraordinary Casts

John Thomas . . . Comments

Here are ten movies whose casts do not feature many actors, but stars whose cinematic appeal stems from their unusual talents or appearance, life stories, or involvement with non-film related projects. The films can all be said to blur the line between documentary and fiction in their utilization of these extraordinary individuals. All break the mold of traditional Hollywood casting, which is based on talent and socially acceptable appearance, sometimes to taboo breaking or experimental ends, but always to something far beyond what we would see otherwise. Please note that almost all of these movies are NSFW and further research should probably be done at home.

10

Invocation of my Demon Brother
Kenneth Anger (1968)

Invocation Of My Demon Brother

Kenneth Anger’s short film is a highly stylized depiction of the occult and drug culture prevalent in the late-1960s Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. The casting features members of the Church of Satan, including its founder Anton Lavey, an albino LSD dealer, and Bobby Beausoleil. Bobby Beausoleil was a musician and scene figure amidst the occult happenings circuit at the time the film was made. Less than a year after appearing in the film, he committed the first of a string of murders perpetrated by members of the Manson Family, a commune/cult headed by infamous sociopath Charles Manson that he had fallen into. The film is rightfully placed in the American avant-garde canon and features of bizarre minimalist synth score by Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

9

Heart of Glass
Werner Herzog (1976)

Many of German director Werner Herzog’s films could make this list, but two will do. Heart of Glass is the story a 18th century town that is consumed by madness after being unable to replicate the red ruby glasswork for which it became famous. The cast of the movie is extraordinary as they all underwent hypnosis at Herzog’s direction before each filming session. The results are trance-like and, well, hypnotizing, with many of the actors unable to produce much but sparse dialogue and unusual gestures. Yet, the performances never become tedious and the movie moves at a graceful, yet glacial, pace. Additionally, the film features master glassblowers doing their work, always an interesting sight. The ethereal score is by Popul Vuh.


8

Zabriskie Point
Michelangelo Antonioni (1970)

Zabriskie Point-11

Michelangelo Antonioni’s somewhat disappointing take on American radicalism and counterculture featured several non-actors. Perhaps most noteworthy is the appearance of Black Panther Party members, including Kathleen Cleaver, who’s indignation and well thought-out encouragement of white student leftism proved much more powerful than the performances by the two non-actors Antonioni had cast in the lead. These non-actors, Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin, were members of a commune founded by folk musician and occult writer Mel Lyman, a commune that was really more shady cult than utopian experiment. Both actors agreed to appear in the movie to finance Lyman’s operations, but their bizarre promotional appearances failed to stir much public interest in the film or further their acting careers. Frechette would later rob a bank in Boston in 1973, again for the financial benefit of Lyman, and die in a prison weightlifting accident two years later. The extraordinary cast is further augmented by the appearance of the avant grade troupe The Open Theater, who staged a controversial fake orgy sequence for the movie. Given all of these elements, it is still Antonioni’s worst film, notable only for the masterfully filmed opening sequence featuring the Black Panthers and the score by Pink Floyd.

7

Supervixens
Russ Meyer (1975)

Svod-L-Supervixens

All of Russ Meyer’s movies uniformly feature women with an unmissable, outlandish physical attribute: extremely large breasts. Throughout Meyer’s career, his obsession with this particular body part has landed his curvy wonders in quite disparate roles, from vicious motorcycle gangs to the Hollywood socialite scene. Supervixens is perhaps his masterwork, featuring many of his regular actresses (like Uschi Digard and Haji) in an epic journey through an American desert where all of the denizens are obsessed with sex and death. From Supercherry to Supersoul, each episode features the liberated sexuality and cartoonish disgust with violence and authority that are the trademarks of Meyer’s work. Nonetheless, lead actress Shari Eubank, who appeared in only one other movie besides this, steals the show with her playfully confrontational attitude and shocking transformation at the end of the movie.

6

What Is It?
Crispin Glover (2005)

Whatisit1

Crispin Glover wrote, directed, and starred in this very rarely shown film wherein every principle character besides himself has Down’s Syndrome. The condition is never mentioned in the movie, which focuses on the tormented psyche of Glover’s childlike character. More interesting casting choices include a couple of adult movie starlets who appear nude wearing animal heads. A strange film by a strange man.

5

Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Shuji Terayama (1971)

Tumblr M492Ypbqxm1Ro1Dydo1 400

Shocking in its time, Emperor Tomato Ketchup remains so, particularly for director Shuji Terayama’s frank depiction of children’s interest in sexuality. The film details the character of a young boy, the eponymous Emperor Tomato Ketchup, who has led children in revolt against adults and taken over Japan. Given the plot, the cast consists almost entirely of children, who cavort in militaristic uniforms and destroy anything they find symbolic of the old parental civilization. These young actors were given very little direction. The film was met with criticism from conservatives for its attack on Japanese family values and by leftists who viewed the film as equating revolution with savagery.


4

October: Ten Days That Shook the World
Sergei Eisenstein (1928)

Eisenstein

Eisenstein’s masterpiece will forever be included in film-making textbooks for its innovative and exemplary use of frame composition, montage, and dramatic lighting. Additionally, first time viewers will quickly realize how oft quoted it is, directors from Carl Dryer to Brian de Palma have all paid direct tribute to the film. The film is of interest to this list as it cast many of the actual participants of the Russian Revolution, in effect recreating key events. Given that many of the events of the Russian Revolution were not recorded, this fictionalized account of is the closest we will come to witnessing world changing moments like the storming of the Winter Palace.

3

Sweet Movie
Dusan Makavejev (1974)

66966

Sweet Movie is perhaps the most fully realized of Czech director Dusan Makavejev’s works, an oeuvre wherein the values of both capitalism and communism are satirized and the exploitations practiced by both systems put on full display. The unusual casting here comes in a somewhat fictionalized portrayal of performance artist Otto Muehl’s Friedrichschof Commune. The Friedrichschof Commune was a German group that outlawed private property and monogamy and practiced an extreme form of group therapy based on both Muehl’s artistic practice and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s civic minded rejection of sexual repression. In Sweet Movie, a fictional Miss Canada briefly feels at home with the outlandish commune, whose real activities are depicted, before she rejects the group in favor of a modeling career.


2

Freaks
Todd Browning (1932)

Todd Browning’s Freaks is perhaps the most well-known movie on this list. A morality tale in which a good-natured, but deformed group of circus performers prove less monstrous than the “normal” circus performers who plot to murder sideshow midget Hans, deftly portrayed by Harry Earles, for motives of greed. The film is notable as it features actual sideshow “freaks” including sword swallowers, limbless individuals, transvestites, sufferers of Virchow-Seckel syndrome and microcephaly, and conjoined twins. The film was shocking and rarely screened at the time of its release and later gained cultural cache from its rediscovery by the 1960s counterculture.

1

Even Dwarfs Started Small
Werner Herzog (1970)

Evendwarfs

Werner Herzog’s anarchic portrait of an institution taken over by its prisoners features a cast composed entirely of dwarfs. No explanation is given for the reduction in size of the world’s inhabitants and they all struggle to perform normal tasks in a world made for the average sized. As if these images weren’t stirring enough, Herzog loaded the film with shocking stunts and incredibly odd skits that all culminate in a destructive conclusion. A nightmarish study in rebellion, yet a stirring critique of rebellion; a lucid critique of civilized institutions and a grand questioning as to whether anarchy serves as a proper replacement for even totalitarian order, Herzog is at his finest here. And the laugh of Hombre, played by Helmut Doring, is unforgettable.

Herzog has given some fantastic anecdotes about working with the cast of little people, including an unrequited infatuation held by the shortest actress for the tallest member of the film crew. Perhaps most legendary is a promise Herzog made to the cast after they kept getting injured during stunts. He said that if there were no more onset injuries, the cast could film him doing whatever they say. They rolled him off a hill into a thicket of cacti, a reel that is unfortunately lost.

ADDITIONALLY seek out Flaming Creatures (1963) by Jack Smith and Pink Flamingos by John Waters (1972) for more extraordinary performers committing shocking stunts.



  • Hhsssws

    IMHO, a poor list

    • Mob

      Agreed

      • Missy

        Double agreed, especially that Kenneth Anger rubbish.

        I take that back. It was the best sleep I ever had.

      • greensmurf

        boring as hell

        • Doobie

          This is very poorly written. Painful to read.

    • Ni99a

      Now do you guys agree on my”Criteria of good list”?

      Criteria of good list:

      No weird stupid movies or songs.

      No American or any other country ‘s civil war.

      No European dark ages or renaissance period list.

      No specific country’s history(because we don’t care).

      Must be contemporary culture and history.

      World War 2 is always fine.

      Capiche?

      • maf17

        Sorry, I like historical lists, and so do a lot of other people, judging by the feedback on those I’ve submitted. If you dont like them , you dont have to read them, but I’m going to keep submitting them.

      • Pauly

        I beg to differ. I saw that Crispin Glover film while huffing ether, and I saw God.

        “What is it?” gets a thumbs-up for that.

    • Annabelle Lecter

      Everyone’s a critic.

  • Travis

    Agreed

  • Mob

    Why did Jamie accept this? This is by far the worst list on this site.

    • Kelli

      AGREED. The comments about this shit list are far better in terms of entertainment and time spent than the actual list contents.

  • Arkon

    Not good!

  • Johan Houseburger

    Terrible

  • Arkon

    My top ten poorest list.

  • Steve From Long Island

    “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is by far the best cast movie of all time.

    And this may be the worst list of all time.

    • Steve From Long Island

      Yes i read the opening bit too, I would say the title of the list is misleading. When people check out this list they want to see movies with a huge cast, not movies that they have never heard of.

    • Ni99a

      If you guys like this type of movie, I suggest you watch Gerry.

      Despite its triple A cast of Casey Affleck and Matt Damon, it still has some extraordinary cast. Namely, rocks, sand, bushes and dried up salt lake.

  • Dogmatix

    WTF is this?….

  • James

    John Thomas? Any relation to Ryan? The quality of the writing would suggest so, still a better list than any we have seen from Ryan! Actually quite enjoyed it!

    • Brilliant…

      Yep, all Thomas’ are related. Just like you must inhabit a giant peach…

  • Miss Lippy’s Car Is Green

    Crispin Glover= whole extraordinary cast………

  • Will Trame

    I have heard of only a few of the movies listed, most of them in passing. “Zabriskie Point” was also reputed to include the Doors’ “L’America” on the soundtrack but Antonioni rejected it.

    “Lucifer Rising” was also a bust; Bobby Beausoleilel (or Bummer Bob) was rumored to be a principal candidate to join the cult rock band Love even though Arthur Lee denied it.

    I noted a mention of Russ Meyer so I think “Faster Pus.sycat Kill Kill” rates a shout out.

  • Armin Tamzarian

    Quite a good list, imho. I don’t have much knowledge on the subject, but these casts are genuinely extraordinary.

    • Not Being Fresh

      I agree with you! An interesting list.

  • Missy

    Aussie Josh, one of these movies has boobs.

    • Aussie Josh

      BOOBS YESS finally if it wasnt for number 7 this list would have been shit. But since there were bewbs (even though they were fake ones) i have to upgrade this list to bad. But still boobies makes the world happy.

  • Salo Hes

    These movies are really really really old, did ya get them from the history channel? If not where can I get blinked number 7.. Err movie number 7

    • Salo Hes

      BOOBIES BOOBIES BOOBIES NUMBER 7….auto correct failed me

      • Pauly

        Check out Total Recall for an unusual pai…um…triplets?

  • Mr

    What rhymes with shit?
    List.
    Doesn’t work? Neither does this article.

    Yours sincerely,
    (you’ll never know)

  • Arsnl

    Who’s Carl Dryer? If you’re doing some name-dropping at least spell the names correctly.

    PS: is the plural of name-dropping, name-droppings?

    • PS: is the plural of name-dropping

      It should be names-dropping, following the pattern set by mothers-in-law, passers-by, and attorneys-general (just to give 3 examples)

      name-droppings

      That would be the end result of name having completed the digestive process ;-)

      • Arsnl

        “It should be names-dropping”
        Oh, you spoiled my fun S. :-(
        I’ll still say name-droppings under the excuse that English is not my first language.

        • Sorry Arsnl, you’re funnier (and more accurate) in your 3rd language than many others are in their first…and the thought of name-droppings brings to mind an entire possible Monty Python skit (How could they have missed doing that one?)

  • Bama Bhai

    I don’t see how it is bad. I liked it and plan on seeing some of these. But the titles is a bit misleading. It could have been “10 Controversial Films” or something like that.

  • everyone is ripping on how shiitty this list is, but it’s not *that* bad. if this list had been titled “ten extraordinary movies with non-actors” or “ten movies with extraordinary cast members”, then 75% of you wouldn’t have said shiit. the problem l.v. has in general, is this list is going to go in the archives with this title, and everyone is always gonna hate it, because the title is misleading, and no one who clicks the link expects to read any of this. but like i said … it isn’t bad.

  • Izzy

    The title is really misleading, I really didn’t see a coherent theme throughout the list. Not the best, listverse.

  • oouchan

    A mediocre list at best and yet odd choices. I\’ve not heard of one of these and the descriptions don\’t give me a reason to watch them at all. I guess this wasn\’t what I was expecting from the title.

    Not a fan of this list.

    • Ni99a

      You are not a celebrity. Nobody cares what you think.

      • Truth-Monger

        Pot calling kettle black^

      • oouchan

        True….so why did you respond again?
        :D

  • skeeter1971

    “avant grade”…that’s actually kinda funny.

    • Yeah, that’s what you get before you get your final grade…maybe mid-term (or a stern warning?)

  • DanInIowa

    Pshh… No Jackass 3D? I thought this site was sophisticated.

    • Pauly

      Freddie Got Fingered=best movie ever!

  • No George Cukor? This list is EPIC FAIL on its own, besides mot showing any “extraordinary casts”. Did I say “EPIC FAIL”? Throw in “false advertising” and “the list author is an idiot”. Sheessh!

  • Elmer

    What about that one movie with those famous people?

  • Kyuwer T.

    When I saw this article from my rss feeds, I thought it read “Top 10 Movies with Extraordinary CATS”

    • Dogmatix

      I would actually like to see a list like that.

  • krypto092108

    You didn’t remember to add Faster, Pussycat! Kill, Kill!

  • S

    Yawn.

  • Agent119

    I liked this list. Anything unusual is interesting.

    • Evan

      I thought it would be a list of great performances by a large, maybe unexpected variety of cast members (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Dinner at Eight, You Can’t Take It With You, Airport, etc.)… this is just some guy’s list of his favorite films under a unrelated title so he could see it published on this site.

      • Ni99a

        “this is just some guy’s list of his favorite films under a unrelated title so he could see it published on this site.”

        My favorite comment on listverse because it explains practically all the stupidities of the list on this site.

  • Vincent

    An odd list, interesting though. I’ve actually met Russ Meyer, back when he was getting his autobiography printed at our shop (Chatsworth, CA).

  • spc1979

    Absolutely one of the greatest lists on this or any web site ever! Thank you fro creating. This is the reason I will always visit Listverse!

    • Mob

      Everyone is entitled to his / her opinions. But you are just drunk.

  • CatChick

    Another “Top 10” list that purely conjectural. Although “Freaks” not only belongs on this list but should be #1. I don’t that fact to be conjecture to anyone.

  • David Hopkins

    *****! I don’t know any of these.

  • odaltyr

    The only movies I’ve seen in this list are Freaks (of course) and Russ Meyer’s Supervixens.

    I actuall have Supervixens on VHS… got it from the local video store when they transitioned from VHS to DVD. The guy running it freely gave me tons of old VHS he couldn’t sell.. cool guy. It’s actually a pretty fun s*xploitation film. Nice and old school. Pretty funny. Basically, it’s about some guy who constantly gets into trouble because he meets random bombshells who desperately want him, but he doesn’t.

    • Arsnl

      “The guy running it freely gave me tons of old VHS he couldn’t sell”
      Darn what’s his address? Maybe he’ll have to change soon from DVD’s to Bluray :-)

  • Goran

    Makavejev on number 3 is Serbian director, not Czech.

  • Martin L

    This was a fairly good list, although I think the writer needed to proofread before he posted. But then again, quite a few (million) people all over the Internet should do the same, to avoid obvious grammar and punctuation mistakes. And yes, it does matter.

    A movie John might have included: “Hell’s Angels on Wheels” (1967), directed by Richard Rush and starring Jack Nicholson as well as some genuine Hell’s Angels — not least of them HA founder Sonny Barger himself, playing a rank-and-file Angel while an actor played him. (He also received technical consultant credit.)

    • Truth-Monger

      “This was a fairly good list, although I think the writer needed to proofread before he posted.”

      ^You used a comma where you should have used a semi-colon (dividing two complete thoughts); what we have here is called a comma-splice. Should be:

      “This was a fairly good list; although, I think the writer needed to proofread before he posted.”

      Also, this is an example of a sprawling sentence:

      “A movie John might have included: “Hell’s Angels on Wheels” (1967), directed by Richard Rush and starring Jack Nicholson as well as some genuine Hell’s Angels — not least of them HA founder Sonny Barger himself, playing a rank-and-file Angel while an actor played him.”

      ^WAY too many clauses going on there.

      “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.”

      I suggest you drop your fu.cking rocks.

      Check and mate.

      Your life is meaningless.

      • Mob

        You are the greatest man who ever lived. Thank you for blessing me with this greatness.

  • Blahtwit

    wheres flamehorse when you need him?

  • empress tomato ketchup

    I love your taste in film.

  • WilfredfromOz

    It was Anton La Vey. not Lavey. And according to everyone who met him in a non-proffessional setting, ie when he wasnt being a Satanist, a thoroughly warm & charming guy.

    • Ni99a

      Same way people always stereotype Muslim as a violent religion because they did not study about the Islam religion; the Satanism religion is also a peaceful one but people shun it because they don’t know much about it.

  • Elmorris

    Too much hipsters complaining about this list either because “writing issues” or the films reviewed. I found it interesting.

    • Hipster Alert

      What are you a hipster? Only hipsters make complaints like that…

  • skywatcher

    Just dropped in to go totally off-topic. A few days ago, we had some confusion when a listwriter referreedd to the “Where’s Waldo?” books as “Where’s Wally?” Like everyone else, I assumed it was a screw-up. It must have stuck with someone though as they later referred to the tallest man in the world (deceased) as Robert Waldo instead of Robert Wadloe. Hehehe. Anyway, I just found this:

    http://demotivationalpost.com/52

    It’s the third picture down, and I invite you to peruse the title of the book the guy is reading…

    • Stilllookingforwally

      Hey, can I just say, it’s called ‘Where’s Wally?’ in the uk…I’ve never even heard of Waldo :L

  • Pauly

    I have to include Johnathan Demme’s masterpiece “Swimming To Cambodia”. Two hours of Spalding Gray’s one-man show. I never thought I could watch a man at a desk for two hours and be soooo interested and entertained.

  • Annabelle Lecter

    How many of you A.O. Scott wannabes understand the meaning of the word “extraordinary”?

  • Calypso23

    Ugh get over yourselves, this list was great! It kept me entertained and I learned something new.

  • GK

    I found the list interesting. My only remark, is that Dusan Makavejev is a Serbian, not a Czech director.
    Thumbs up!

  • 123

    I found the list interesting thank you.

  • damn- i haven’t heard of most of these!

    • Mob

      Lucky you. They suck.

  • Kelli

    This is the worst list I have ever seen on this website. I’ve been a long time fan of this site too, Two thumbs WAY down on this one. :-(

  • harryharry

    it wasnt what i was expecting, but a good list with lots of information. and after i looked up a couple of the movies its stuff a lot of critics pay attention to and they are all important movies.i watched sweet movie, INSANE, great stuff. its seems like a lot of the angry people here didnt read the list, but just skipped through the titles and got frustrated not seeing love actually. its the realm of the extra-ordinary not maudlin.

  • Bernie

    Steven Soderbergh’s “Bubble” should certainly make the list. The non-professional cast gives devastating and harrowing performances.

  • jhug74

    This is one of the best lists I’ve read on here in a long while! I’d almost given up on the site but this gives me hope.
    And it took me all day because, as a good list should, it gave me enough new information that I spent half the day learning more.
    Great job!

  • Extraordinary is putting it mildly.

  • Aunt Jemima

    I’d also recommend the Shunji Iwai film Swallowtail for its cast.

  • robert

    The Oceans movies didn’t make the list…?