20 Documentaries About Cults That Will Not Restore Your Faith in Humanity

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I’m addicted to documentaries astir cults. I’m mostly

fascinated by

utmost beliefs, and the information that the genre provides america with filmed grounds of

the mode adjacent the astir obscure swami’s followers consciousness driven to immortalize their

Chosen One’s enlightened teaching

provides affluent penetration into our inherent tendency to belong—to consciousness accepted.

These 20

films are packed with a treasure

trove of footage of cult leaders projecting their hypnotic, often inexplicable charisma onto

their credulous followers. It’s illuminating. It’s entrancing. It’s informative. It’s

just large cinema.

The Source Family (2012)

This hippie cult ran a palmy wellness nutrient restaurant, dressed successful nice, cleanable robes, and made psychedelic euphony that is really good. Plus, determination was nary wide execution oregon termination involved—although their person Father Yod’s “I tin bash anything” attack possibly shouldn’t person been combined with hang-gliding.

Where to watch: Prime, Vudu

Wild Wild Country (2018)

Unlike the Source Family, Rajneeshpuram were decidedly not a affable hippie cult; they were heavy equipped and terrifying, plotted murders, and poisoned radical astatine random. This documentary series’ extended interviews with cult leaders and ex-followers and its wealthiness of footage marque it a must-see for fans of cult documentaries.

Where to watch: Netflix

The Way Down (2021)

Religious person Gwen Shamblin deed connected a cleanable content look successful contiguous time America: Combine value nonaccomplishment with Jesus.

The Way Down often leans heavy connected ex religion members pointlessly gossiping, but Shamblin’s astonishing hairsbreadth and a peculiarly satisfying ending marque this doc worthy the watch. Plus, you tin inactive articulation the Remnant Church if you privation to suffer value and possibly surrender your volition to an authoritarian radical that has advocated for genuinely unspeakable behaviors, including beating disobedient children with glue sticks.

Where to watch: HBO Max

5 / 22

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults (2020)

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults (2020)

It’s hard to judge this UFO cult was adjacent real. This bid exhaustively documents Heaven’s Gate, from its humble opening of UFO lectures to its tragic, matching-track-suits-and-Nikes end. It manages to makes the group’s unusual members and leaders sympathetic, understandable, and yet adjacent likable—which makes the information that they fell into cult behaviors each the much terrifying.

Where to watch: HBO Max

6 / 22

Children of the Stars (2012)

Children of the Stars (2012)

The Unarius Academy of Science is simply a mostly benign UFO radical that was founded successful 1954 and is inactive around. This documentary explores its colorful leaders and their condemnation that a fleet of Space Brothers volition soon get connected Earth successful souped-up UFOs. The clips of the special-effects dense films Unarius made successful the 1970s are unreal.

Where to watch: Prime

Holy Hell (2016)

If you similar your cult members charismatic and fit, you’ll emotion Holy Hell. Buddhafield is simply a “new spiritual group” whose imaginativeness of cleanable humanity includes mostly buffed-out folks recruited from yoga classes and Hollywood gyms successful the 1980s. Directed by the group’s longtime videographer Will Allen, this movie has an “axe-to-grind” benignant and a ton of astonishing footage.

Where to watch: Prime

Let the Fire Burn (2013)

A terrifying found-footage chronicle of the confrontation betwixt extremist separatist radical MOVE and the metropolis of Philadelphia, Let the Fire Burn documents the worst imaginable result erstwhile afloat committed zealots conscionable an overly authoritarian section government.

Where to watch: Apple TV

9 / 22

Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray (2016)

Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray (2016)

This fantabulous documentary astir James Arthur Ray’s travel from Oprah-approved motivational talker and self-help guru to ex-convict takes you heavy wrong an infamous sweat-lodge incidental successful which 3 radical died. Ray’s monied, educated followers beryllium that anyone tin autumn unfortunate to a charismatic, irresponsible leader.

(That’s a abbreviated video from Verge astir the radical embedded above, since I can’t find the existent trailer for this movie online. How precise unusual that a movie chronicling the deaths caused by a rich, connected businessman would not person an easy-to-find trailer.)

Where to watch: YouTube, Vudu, Apple TV 

The Vow (2020)

The sordid communicative of NXIVM captured the nationalist imaginativeness with its chaotic tales of enactment slavery, Hollywood stardom, and the endless games of precocious nighttime volleyball that dorky cult person Keith Raniere enjoyed. This is an exhaustive documentary (nine hours long!) astir the group, but it focuses heavy connected 3 ex-leaders of NXIVM, truthful the subtext of “We’re not the criminals; we’re the victims here!” is apparent, and the pretentious, creator flourishes meant to “elevate” this potboiler communicative are tiresome—just archer america astir the branding ceremonial already!

Where to watch: Hulu 

11 / 22

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult (2020)

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult (2020)

In my opinion, this is the amended (and importantly shorter—though that’s a fact, not an opinion) of the competing NXIVM docu-series. Told from the constituent of presumption of India Oxenberg, erstwhile a higher-up successful the religion herself, Seduced is faster-paced than The Vow, and delves deeper into the crimes and perversions of person Kieth Raniere. To me, Oxenberg is much sympathetic than the “stars” of The Vow. She truly seems to person gotten successful implicit her caput without realizing it, which is what makes cults genuinely scary.

Where to watch: Hulu

The Secret (2006)

This isn’t a documentary astir a cult, but alternatively a movie astir the kinds of beliefs cults are built on. The thought of “The Secret” is that hidden cognition has been passed down done the ages that volition let you to person thing you want, from love, to money, to idiosyncratic fulfillment, but almighty forces person been preventing its dissemination—until now! The Secret’s operation of almost-history with testimonials from supposedly palmy Secret adherents was effectual capable to person many, galore radical to bargain the book.

(Spoiler: The Secret is fundamentally “wish for things and they volition happen.”)

Where to watch: Netflix

Holy Ghost People (1967)

This early, influential cult-documentary tells the communicative of immoderate Pentecostal beatified rollers successful Scrabble Creek, West Virginia whose religion services see handling snakes, speaking successful tongues, and different esoteric and exotic expressions of Christianity. Though we cognize a batch much astir them these days, weird cults are decidedly thing new.

Where to watch: YouTube

Synanon (1965)

I can’t marque a database involving cults without including my precise favourite cult of each time, Southern California’s astonishing Synanon. Founded successful the 1950s arsenic (perhaps) the archetypal residential attraction halfway for cause addicts, Synanon devolved from a radical of hep Jazz musicians similar Art Pepper trying to footwear heroin into a cabal of shaved headed cultists wielding axe handles and attacking their enemies with rattlesnakes. Sadly, nary documentary astir Syanon has been released widely, but you tin ticker the fictionalized communicative of its founding connected YouTube for free. It stars Eartha Kitt.

Where to watch: YouTube

Children of God (1994)

The Children of God (aka The Family International) is simply a very, precise atrocious group, according to ex-members. Started during the “Jesus Freak” question of the 1960s by cartoonist David Berg, the Children of God has been accused of a raft of crimes, including intersexual maltreatment of children. This documentary explores each abhorrent detail, and is perfectly heartbreaking and terrifying.

Where to watch: Netflix

Kumare (2011)

This is not an wrong look astatine an existing cult, but alternatively a movie astir filmmaker Vikram Gandhi trying to commencement his ain cult. Adopting the sanction Sri Kumaré and a fake Indian accent, Gandhi preaches a doctrine helium marque up retired of bladed air, and manages to pull a flock of believers successful Arizona. It’s a small similar Borat, but astir religion, and not played for laughs.

Where to watch: Prime

Q: Into the Storm (2021)

I find the online improvement of “Q Anon” to beryllium tiresome and depressing. Most cults astatine slightest start with a sincere tendency for spiritual fulfillment. Not this one. It’s conscionable made up of mean radical and gullible radical who are being manipulated by unspeakable radical manipulating for their ain ends. But Q is by acold the astir palmy modern online cult, truthful examining the radical down it is simply a worthwhile exercise. Still, it each makes maine privation to instrumentality a agelong shower.

Where to watch: HBO Max 

Welcome to Leith (2015)

Since I’m doing Q Anon, I mightiness arsenic good constituent to this documentary astir racist influencer and neo-Nazi Craig Cobb’s effort to instrumentality implicit a tiny municipality successful North Dakota. The fearfulness and isolation of the tiny town’s residents is truthful visceral it’s practically a fearfulness movie—although the footage depicting the results of Cobb’s DNA trial plays much similar acheronian comedy.

Where to watch: Apple TV, Prime

Betting connected Zero (2016)

Herbalife mightiness not beryllium a cult exactly; it’s either a morganatic concern oregon a pyramid scheme, depending connected who you ask, and that favoritism is astatine the bosom of Betting connected Zero. Bill Ackman, a affluent investor, made a monolithic marketplace abbreviated play successful 2012, betting connected Herbalife to fail. It mightiness person worked too, if rival Carl Icahn hadn’t past invested heavy successful the company. While the 2 billionaires locked horns, the employees (I guess?) of Herbalife were caught successful the middle.

Where to watch: Google Play, Vudu, Prime

20 / 22

Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People’s Temple

Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People’s Temple

PBS’s even-handed instrumentality connected the astir notorious cult of each clip charts the emergence and autumn of Jim Jones’ People Temple from its commencement arsenic altruistic non-profit serving the mediocre of the Bay Area, to its Grand Guignol finale successful the jungles of South America, “Kool-Aid” and all. This is an indispensable cult-documentary for its deficiency of sensationalism and sympathetic, relatable cognition toward Jones’ victims.

Where to watch: Watch Documentaries

Deprogrammed (2015)

After each these cult movies, possibly you request immoderate deprogramming? This documentary details the beingness “cult deprogrammer” Ted “Black Lightning” Patrick, whose anti-cult activities day backmost to the 1970s. Patrick is simply a analyzable guy, and Deprogrammed offers nary casual answers for whether cult deprogramming is amended than the cult-indoctrination it is meant to combat.

Where to watch: Vudu