8 Documentaries & Film About Cults On Netflix UK That'll Shock You To Your Core

From Wild Wild Country to The Invitation.

Originally Published: 

Cults. The word alone makes me simultaneously curious and terrified. And the public's morbid fascination with cult leaders, their members, the goings on inside these organisations, and just how people manage to get drawn in, makes for endless discussion. Whether it's documentaries or totally fictional, I'm there. And, luckily for me and all my fellow fascinated friends, the best TV shows and movies about cults on Netflix UK are just a click away.

According to the Guardian, there are three defining traits to a cult. They are:

  1. "A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power."
  2. "A process [of indoctrination or education is in use that can be seen as] coercive persuasion or thought reform [commonly called 'brainwashing']."
  3. "Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie."

Right so basically a whole lot of seriously scary stuff. And it's so easy to think "meh that would never happen to me!" But that's what everyone thinks at first... which is why these stories are so darn fascinating.

Read on for my pick of the best TV shows and movies about cults on Netflix UK.


'Wild Wild Country' — 2018

Oh my days this Netflix cult documentary is the kind of one you marathon in one sesh because it will make you no longer care about sleep. The story of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (AKA Osho) and his organisation, who took over a small rural town called Antelope in Oregon, will shock and fascinate you.

This group had a lot of parties, dancing, matching garms... oh, and they allegedly threatened and poisoned a heap of people. What? Yes.

The members of the group, sannyasins, as they were known, lived a simple life on a huge ranch in Antelope. However, it was reported that Rajneesh lived a pretty insanely luxurious life, owning an estimated 90 Rolls Royces, the BBC reports.

This is one of those series that will have you shouting "OMG!" every now and again.

Watch here


'Three Wives One Husband' — 2017

Is there actually anything more fascinating than people who are part of polygamist organisations? How about adding onto that the fact that they also live in houses carved into cliffs? I know, right?

This series is about the lives of fundamentalist Mormon in polygamist relationships, their families, and how it all works.

Sam Wollaston over at the Guardian hit the nail on the head when he described it as "pretty much one long OMG WTF."

This is one of the more lighthearted among the range of shows about cults on Netflix.

Watch here


'Aquarius' — 2016

Aquarius is a fictional crime drama set in '60s America during the rise of Charles Manson and 'The Family.'

David Duchovny stars as an L.A. police sergeant who is investigating Manson and his control over his followers.

Based on The Family and real-life their deeds, this makes for a very interesting take on a very well-known story. Sadly the show has now been cancelled, but both of the first seasons are available for your viewing pleasure right this minute on Netflix UK.

Watch here


'The Family' — 2019

Gosh where do I begin. This Netflix cult documentary series is fairly new and brings to the front a terrifying organisation that appears to have its finger in some of the most powerful pies across the world.

And breathe.

Half documentary half dramatisations, this is the story of a group described as having "tentacles around the world." Featuring interviews from both former members and experts on the matter that will leave you reeling.

Perfect for those who love a conspiracy theory.

Watch here


'Inside The Criminal Mind', Ep 3 — 2018

–OK so this episode isn't just about one cult but about a whole bunch of them. Looking at leaders from David Koresh of the Branch Davidians, to Charles Manson, to Jim Jones of Jonestown.

An interesting mix of expert commentary, archival footage, and looking at what makes a person become a maniacal cult leader.

Watch here


‘Children of God’ - 1994


Perhaps no other cult documentaries on Netflix can compare to the weirdness of this one. The documentary takes an in-depth look into the California-based cult known as The Family International (later renamed The Children of God, and a few rounds of name changes later, back to The Family International).

One of the Family International’s more controversial methods of evangelicalism was something known as ‘Flirty Fishing’, in which sex was used for proselytizing purposes. The cult is also marred in controversies surrounding abusive sexual practices and abuse of minors -- so anticipate some dark stuff. At its peak it had more than 15,000 members around the world, and strangely, have counted River and Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan as former members. Fleetwood Mac founding member Jeremy Spencer left the band to join the cult.

Watch here


‘The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness’ – 2021

If you’re obsessed with true crime and love learning about cults, perhaps this is one for you. This movie centres around David Richard Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam, who killed eight people during a wave of shooting attacks in the summer of 1976 in New York City.

This four-episode series investigates Berkowitz, as well as the theory that his actions were motivated by his involvement in a Satanic cult. It is partly based on journalist Maury Terry’s point of view, who interviewed him multiple times during his incarceration and who is convinced by the Satantic cult theory.

Watch here


‘The Invitation’ – 2015

For some, the idea that strange and peculiar cults operate in our world around us is scary. If you’re one of these people, perhaps it might be better to turn to fiction to satisfy your fascination with cults. The Invitation might just be for you.

Starring Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard and Michiel Huisman, The Invitation takes a dark turn on your usual dinner party. A cult that masquerades as a grief support therapy and plan to commit mass murder ensues. Scary - but hey, at least it’s fictional.

Watch here