10 Cult Films That Found Fame as VHS Bootlegs

Psst . . . hey kid, wanna buy a movie?

The 1986 documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot turns 30 this year and has been restored for a June screening at Anthology Film Archives. The 17-minute short is exactly what it sounds like: heavy metal fans tailgate outside the Capital Centre in Maryland before a Judas Priest concert. Nirvana reportedly watched it on their tour bus in the ‘90s. VHS junkies traded the film on bootleg for years.

As serious film buffs of a certain age (pre-internet) will tell you, snagging a copy of a talked-about film was often a game of roulette. If you couldn’t obtain a dubbed tape from a friend, movie nerds turned to zines and flyers that advertised underground films with a mysterious P.O. Box, beckoning for cash. After that it was a waiting game to see if it would actually show up. But bootlegs turned up everywhere. According to tapeheads like Rubber0Cement, San Francisco’s Le Video used to hand out copies of Mr. Show. Psychic TV sometimes sold tapes of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain at shows. And bootlegged Hollywood movies helped defeat Communism in Romania.

Past the break, we highlight a few other bootleg favorites that became cult classics.