Lord of the Rings and Star Wars share many characteristics. They are stories, have richly developed worlds, and are backed by thousands of fans. Beyond the normal fans, you have nerds who can speak Elvish, or list the systems of a galaxy far, far away. But what do you call a story with such a following? What is a word for a story so popular that it can claim nerds amongst its followers, and interest in it only increases during a 32 year gap?

I would like to ask a question on Writers SE about if there are any tips for generating such a following. However, I would like to know what to call the kind of story I'm asking about. Hence this question.

Some example sentences (I've included two because the word could be a noun or an adjective):

  • Star Wars is a ___ (story so popular interest never dies).

  • Star Wars is a ___ story (one so popular interest never dies).

Note: In the event that there is no single word, I'm open to suggestions on how best to describe such a story.

  • 1
    How about phenomenon? Or perhaps cultural phenomenon? Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 23:29
  • @RogerSinasohn That might be along the right lines... Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 23:31

3 Answers 3


I think the following best matches your described meaning: -

Star Wars is a story that has been elevated to cult status.


Star Wars is a story with a cult following.

Both of these sentences convey the meaning you've described of being able to inspire an almost fanatical fanbase. Some owing to the emotional attachment they place in the fictional worlds, actually merging their own reality with that of the book/film/franchise etc, by for example learning elvish as you've mentioned etc.

Cult status (dictionary.com)

A popular person or thing having strong enduring appeal and elevated to worship by some


Cult following (Wikipedia)

A cult following is a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a work of culture. A film, book, musical artist, television series or video game, among other things, will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fanbase. A common component of cult followings is the emotional attachment the fans have to the object of the cult following, often identifying themselves and other fans as members of a community. Cult followings are also commonly associated with niche markets. Cult media are often associated with underground culture, and are considered too eccentric or subversive to be appreciated by the general public or to be commercially successful.

Many cult fans express a certain irony about their devotion. Sometimes, these cult followings cross the border to camp followings. Fans may become involved in a subculture of fandom, either via conventions, online communities or through activities such as writing series-related fiction, costume creation, replica prop and model building, or creating their own audio or video productions from the formats and characters.

The Wikipedia entry goes on to list both of the franchises you refer to in your very question: -

Franchises such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Clueless and Mean Girls attract mass audiences but also have core groups of fanatical followers


My suggestions:

cultural phenomenon:


2 A remarkable person or thing.

‘the band was a pop phenomenon just for their sales figures alone’


or perhaps



1 An unrivalled or matchless person or thing.

‘a great player, Britain's nonpareil of the 1980s’


I will admit not ever having encountered that definition of nonpareil before -- to me it was always "A flat round confection made of chocolate covered with white sugar sprinkles."


Simply a blockbuster.

blockbuster noun informal:

​ a book or film that is very successful: a blockbuster movie/novel

[Cambridge Dictionary]

  • I feel like blockbuster could be used to describe any movie or novel that is successful; not one that is specifically so successful that interest in it never wains. To me there is a difference between Star Wars and, say, Hunger Games. Both were blockbusters in their time, but only one maintained interested for 32+ years. Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 23:29
  • Yes absolutely agree Thomas, blockbuster completely ignores the idea of inspiring a fanbase "Beyond...normal fans...who can speak Elvish, or list the systems of a galaxy far, far away..." Blockbusters are also usually measured in the income they generate not the enduring fanbase they develop.
    – Gary
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 22:28

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