Apr 19, 2016

PREPARE TO BE CONVERTED: THE TOP 10 MOVIES AND SHOWS ABOUT CULTS

PREPARE TO BE CONVERTED: THE TOP 10 MOVIES AND SHOWS ABOUT CULTS

By Kayla Cobb
April 13, 2016

Photos: Everett Collection, HBO; Photo Illustration: Jaclyn Kessel

We’re not going to lie; though we may be staying for the brilliant acting and storytelling, star power and cults are what initially drew us into The Path. Perhaps it’s because cults are the ultimate form of community or because most of them are genuinely insane to outsiders, but cults are always fascinating. Also, they’ve been dominating our pop culture long before Hulu made them oh-so-sexy.

The Path follows Eddie (Aaron Paul), a member of the fictional Meyerist Movement who is starting to have doubts about his dedication to the movement. Eddie has to balance his dedication to the truth with what’s best for his family, resulting in an equally gripping and smart drama. The series also stars Michelle Monaghan and Hugh Dancy. In celebration of our latest cult obsession,The Path, we’ve compiled a list of some of our other favorite religious outskirt stories on streaming. From in-depth explorations of the religious movement you want to know about the most, Scientology, to dramatized reimagining of famous cult murders and fictional cult comedies and drama, there’s a lot to be obsessed with on this list. Just try not to get too hooked. 

1

'Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief' (2015)

If you’ve ever wondered what the appeal of Scientology is but don’t want to pay the money, you need to see Alex Gibney’sGoing Clear. This is perhaps one of the most important and eye-opening documentaries that has been created in recent years. Going Clear doesn’t merely offer an insider look into this ominous and historically legal-happy religion. The documentary surprisingly humanizes its members, helping viewers to better understand why Scientologists exist.

[Where to stream Going Clear]

2

'The Master' (2012)

A down on his luck Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) still struggling from the trauma of World War II meets the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and the rest is mind-bending cult history. This drama is especially great because it focuses on chronicling a cult experience we often gloss over — what causes people to join these counterculture movements. Also, it’s not hard to imagine Joaquin Phoenix in a cult.

[Stream The Master on Netflix]

3

'Children of the Corn' (1984)

There are two kinds of Stephen Kingadaptations: killer King and camp King, and Children of the Corn falls hard into the campy territory. But forget the movie’s countless sequels, and focus on the first time you encountered the deceptively peaceful Gatlin, Nebraska. After a young couple agrees to help a boy looks for his parents, they soon find themselves in the middle of a nightmare filled with child preachers, sacrifice, and corn gods. This one will make you even more distrustful of children.

[Where to stream Children of the Corn]

4

'Jesus Camp' (2006)

Photo: A&E Indie Films

Perhaps the scariest things about cults is how close to reality they are, at least that’s the case with this documentary. Jesus Camp blends all the elements of a good horror movie — intense religious values, indoctrinated children, a political message — except it focuses on the real-life children of one of the most popular religions in America, Christianity. One thing is for certain: Religious extremism is horrifying.

[Where to stream Jesus Camp]

5

'The Institute' (2013)

If you’ve ever signed up for something without fully reading the terms and conditions, you’ll be able to relate to this documentary. Focusing on an alternate reality game in San Francisco called the Jejune Institute, this organization enrolled more than 10,000 players over the course of three years. Filled with cryptic narratives and an interesting look into an underground organization, The Institute will definitely increase your mistrust of the world or at least flyers.

[Where to stream The Institute]

6

'Helter Skelter' (1976)

Photo: Lorimar Entertainment; Courtesy Everett Collection

There are a lot of documentaries and movies out there about the notorious Manson murders, but we’re going TV miniseries for our pick. Based on the true crime book of the same name, Helter Skelter, this one was co-written by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. However, what makes this miniseries stand out is Steve Railsback’s perfectly disturbing portrayal of Charles Manson. We’re still shuddering.

[Where to stream Helter Skelter]

7

'Martha Marcy May Marlene' (2011)

Oh, look who’s in another fictional cult account. Hugh Dancy, of course. This thriller follows a former cult member, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), just as she escapes to live with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and her sister’s husband (Dancy). But as Kimmy Schmidt taught us, escaping isn’t the same as making it, and Martha soon finds herself tormented by flashbacks.

[Where to stream Martha Marcy May Marlene]

8

'Rosemary’s Baby' (1968)

Photo courtesy Everett Collection

Sometimes you need to treat yourself to a cult classic, and few are better or more horrifying than Roman Polanski’s horror masterpiece. When a young pregnant woman (Mia Farrow) comes to the realization that her baby is not of this world, she has to turn to secret religious cult to determine the father. Get ready to watch one of the most terrifying cases of “Who’s the daddy?” around.

[Where to stream Rosemary’s Baby]

9

'The Sacrament' (2013)

Directed by Ti West, this found footage horror film is a modernized take on the scary movie trend of stumbling upon cults. When three friends learn about a spiritual commune inspired by the infamous Jonestown Massacre, they decide to create a documentary. However, there’s a darker side to this seeming utopia.

[Where to stream The Sacrament]

10

'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'

Sure, this Netflix Original doesn’t deal with the day-to-day problems of being a cult member, but Kimmy’s incessantly optimistic attitude nails what it’s like to live after being in a cult against your will. Amidst the many musical numbers and pop culture quips, the series actually works as an interesting reflection on what forms repression can take and how different people can respond to the same trauma. Plus, it’s hilarious.

http://decider.com/2016/04/13/top-movies-and-shows-about-cults/

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