13 Movies About Cults You Can Stream Right Now, From 'Holy Hell' To 'Messiah Of Evil'
Excitement's growing for the latest Netflix series Wild Wild Country, a deep look at the bizarre true story of the cult behind America's largest bio-terror attack. The series won't hit Netflix until March 16, so to get you primed and paranoid, here are 13 movies about cults you can stream right now.
Wild Wild Country's six episodes examine the incidents surrounding the Rajneeshee commune following its purchase of and resettling to an enormous plot of land in Oregon. The neighboring small town of Antelope suddenly had an entire adjacent population, with a compound that included its own mall and hotel. Locals weren't happy with their new neighbors' weird ways, campaigning and threatening to get them out of their area. When a bomb went off at the Rajneeshee hotel, everything escalated.
Fearful of further attacks, the Rajneeshee formed an ironically-named Peace Force, a trained and armed guard they claimed was necessary only due to constant threats of violence from the townspeople. Tensions increased as the Rajneeshee took over Antelope by outvoting locals, leading up to the aforementioned bio-attack.
Despite the phrase conjuring up images of films like Contagion or World War Z, the actual attack used salmonella, dumped in condiment stations, sprinkled over salad bars, and spritzed on surfaces. That's not to say it wasn't serious; 751 people fell ill, and 45 were hospitalized. Slate reports that when the government investigated the compound, they found a fully built bioterror lab, and discovered the original plan was to use Salmonella typhi, aka Typhoid Fever, a far deadlier strain.
What's truly frightening is several of the films here show other cults who planned similar, or even larger-scale attacks. Many were aimed at the cult itself, like the tragedy of Jonestown, or the morbid mass-suicide of Heaven's Gate. Each of these movies is a fascinating peek into the mindset of those willing to lose their identity to a larger mentality.
1. 'The Source Family'
The Source cult lived in Hollywood — you may have seen their real-life raw-food restaurant featured in Annie Hall. Mostly self-recorded footage gives a disturbingly close look at how an attempt at alternative communal living quickly degraded into personality worship.
Available on Amazon, Vudu, and TubiTV.
2. 'Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom'
Is it the most racist, sexist Indiana Jones movie? Yep. But is it also the only one with multiple sacrificial heart-rippings? Absolutely.
Available on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Epix.
3. 'Split Image'
Sometimes the cure is worse than the cause, as in this '80s tale of a young man lured into a cult by a charismatic leader (played by Peter Fonda), only to be deprogrammed by a sleazy scam-artist (James Woods) at his father's insistence.
Available on Amazon Prime.
4. 'Holy Hell'
A film made by and about a member of Los Angeles "spiritual group" Buddhafield, this is an intimate portrait of one man's 22-year journey falling into and moving away from a cult. It's more balanced than many of the other films on this lsit, showing the good the man gained despite nearly losing his personality.
Available on Netflix.
5. 'Lord Of The Universe'
TVTV were an early experimental documentary group, and in 1973 they followed child-guru Prem Rawat during his "Millenium '73" event, which drew in fanatics, the curious, and new members. Balanced by interviews with disillusioned ex-members and depictions of hypocrisy, but never overtly judgmental, this is a must-watch.
6. 'The City Of The Dead'
This chilling and claustrophobic thriller finds a young woman researching witchcraft coming much closer to her subject of study than she realizes.
Available on Fandor.
7. 'The End Of The World Cult'
A documentary following the Lord Our Righteousness Church takes a dark turn when allegations of sexual abuse surface.
Available on Netflix.
8. 'Holy Smoke!'
Director Jane Campion would later return to cults with TV's On Top Of The Lake, but this earlier film about macho cult deprogrammer Harvey Keitel falling for strong-willed recent convert Kate Winslet is a lot lighter in tone.
Available on FilmStruck.
9. 'Messiah Of Evil'
When a woman's painter father goes missing from a strange seaside town, she tries to find out what happened to him. She and a lothario investigator uncover the town's eerie, evil secret.
Available on Epix.
10. 'Prophet's Prey'
Leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) Warren Jeffs is now behind bars for his crimes of child sexual assault. Prophet's Prey interviews church members and victims in an attempt to understand how such a heinous abuser could lead over 5,000 followers for so long.
Available on Showtime.
11. 'The Thirsty Dead'
A death cult kidnaps young (and culturally "beautiful") women off the streets to use their blood to gain immortality.
Available on Amazon.
Ted "Black Lightning" Patrick waged a one-man crusade against cults kidnapping members straight off the streets. This documentary follows the history of his brand of deprogramming and its effects on him and the cultists.
Available on Netflix.
13. 'Sons Of Perdition'
Another documentary about the FLDS Church, this one focuses on young men banished from the only world they knew, voluntarily or by church leadership. Without an education or awareness of the society they've been flung into, many turn to crime or drugs.
Available on Amazon, TubiTV, and RealEyez.
The freedom of individuals includes freedom to hand over their free will to another, something these films show with terrifying clarity.