15 Unsettling Documentaries About Cults


If you’re drawn to mysterious and eerie things, you’ll be captivated by the stories of famed cults told through documentaries. Filmmakers and directors pull you into a world of secret rituals, charismatic leaders, and devoted disciples to uncover the extremities at their core. Here are 15 chilling documentaries about the strangest cults in the world.

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)


Filmmaker Stanley Nelson unravels the frightening narrative of the Peoples Temple, a religious movement led by their manipulative Founder, Jim Jones. The documentary shows the rise of the cult, the mass migration to Guyana, and their tragic end at Jonestown, where over 900 disciples died in a mass murder-suicide.

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

Madman Films/Facebook

This documentary dives into the dark side of Scientology, exposing terrifying details about its origins, practices, and the alleged abuses within the organization. The documentary unveils the church’s secretive nature, coercive tactics, and the disturbing influence it wields over its followers through interviews with former members.

The Cult of the Family (2019)


‘The Family’ gives an in-depth look at a secretive religious cult led by Anne Hamilton-Byrne, who brainwashed her devotees to believe she was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Anne and her accomplices stole children through illegal adoptions and subjected them to harrowing manipulation while convincing them they were destined for greatness in a post-apocalyptic world.

Holy Hell (2016)

Holy Hell/Facebook

‘Holy Hell’ gives a disturbing insight into the mental, emotional, and physical harm of joining the Buddhafield Cult. What makes this documentary terrifying is its first-person perspective. The film was directed by cult survivor and filmmaker Will Allen, who gave viewers a glimpse of what 22 years in a cult feels like.

Wild Wild Country (2018)

Wild Wild Country/Facebook

‘Wild Wild Country’ is a six-part documentary on Netflix that tells the story of a cult in Oregon led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. It explains the clash between Rajneesh’s ideas and traditional American beliefs. This documentary highlights life in the cult, its conflicts, how people get brainwashed, and the role of the media.

Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo (2019)

Sundance Now Canada/Facebook

In 1969, Tony and Susan Alamo founded the Alamo Christian Foundation, transforming from televangelists to leaders of a secret cult. They managed to attract disenchanted youth and thrive while evading law enforcement. This docuseries unveils the Alamo empire, using archival footage and interviews with survivors and the FBI agent who brought them down.

The Vow (2020)


NXIVM initially posed as a self-improvement group but degenerated into an organization charged with sex trafficking and racketeering. This HBO series throws light on the cult and the manipulative strategies that its sinister leader, Keith Raniere, used to influence followers. This remarkable documentary shows original footage shot by the cultists themselves.

Children of God: Lost and Found (2007)

Timesuck Podcast/Facebook

The Children of God Lost and Found cult is also known as the “Family International” cult. This documentary was directed by a second-generation cult member, Noah Thomson. He showed his journey out of the cult and examined the lives of other ex-members who suffered trauma from the cult’s extreme ideologies.

The Source Family (2012)

The Source Family: A Documentary/Facebook

‘The Source Family’ is a captivating look at an unconventional spiritual group founded in the 1970s. This documentary, directed by Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille, depicts the cult’s unorthodox lifestyle overseen by the priest, Father Yod. It also explores the sociological complexities of the cult’s existence through archive footage and heartbreaking interviews.

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


In March 1997, this religious group got the attention of the world after 39 of them were discovered dead in a mansion in San Diego. They believed an extraterrestrial spacecraft was following the Hale-Bopp comet, ready to take their spirit to another dimension.

Deprogrammed (2015)


Mia Donovan’s film shines a terrifying light on the contentious process of cult deprogramming. This film looks at Ted Patrick’s life and career, who is known as the “Father of Deprogramming.” He dedicated his life to rescuing people from the clutches of various religious organizations, using harsh means such as kidnapping and interrogation.

Prophet’s Prey (2015)


The ‘Prophet’s Prey’ shows the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) under their former leader, Warren Jeffs. It brings you face-to-face with the desolation wrought by a cult-like belief system. The sexual, financial, and spiritual abuses suffered by its followers are expertly revealed in this compelling documentary.

The End of the World Cult (2007)


This documentary is branded as one of the most shocking of its kind. It takes you into the world of the ‘Strong City’ cult. The leader, Michael Travesser, claimed to be the son of God and prepared to lead his disciples into an apocalypse. The film showcases the unsettling reality of life within cult walls and the delusion of absolute loyalty.

Join Us (2007)


This documentary, directed by Ondi Timoner, shows the lives of four families who were part of a church cult. ‘Join Us’ offers its audience a window into the insidious coercion, control, and fear instilled by dangerous leaders. It shows how straightforward biblical teachings can be twisted by people sworn to maintain control.

The Cult Next Door (2017)

The Cult Next Door-Documentary by Jake Youngman/Facebook

In ‘The Cult Next Door,’ famous documentary filmmaker Vanessa Engle retold one of the most bizarre and extraordinary stories recently in London. The producer managed to capture the horrors in a brutal regime of lies, indoctrination, brainwashing, threats, violence, and terror, all to ensure that members were too terrified to leave.


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