25 Disturbingly Haunting Cult Documentaries

Cults have been around for centuries, brainwashing, abusing, and controlling vulnerable people. In recent years, interest in cults has spiked, and many people want to learn more about the history of cults and their presence in our modern world.

Cults unsettle and intrigue us, so documentaries chronicling their rise and fall are irresistible. However, cult content can also help people recognize the signs and protect themselves from falling victim to a compelling and charismatic leader. So, in a way, watching cult documentaries could save you.

1. Murder Among the Mormons (2021)

Murder Among the Mormons (2021) Brent Metcalfe
Image Credit: BBC Studios.

Murder Among the Mormons follows the activities of a notorious counterfeiter, forger, and murderer Mark Hofmann. This incredibly well-made documentary shows how large groups of people can be duped by an average guy and how people can dedicate their lives to myths.

2. Wild Wild Country (2018)

Wild Wild Country TV Mini Series (2018)
Image Credit: Netflix.

Whether you’re a long-time cult obsessor or brand-new to the creepy world of cults, Wild Wild Country is a must-watch. This gripping and unbelievable docuseries tells the story of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, his cult, and his closest advisor. This mesmerizing and disturbing series shows the true power of a cult leader and chronicles the first bioterror attack in the U.S.

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

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006) Jim Jones
Image Credit: Firelight Media.

Anyone who is into the history of cults knows who Jim Jones is. While there are several documentaries on the Peoples Temple, this one dives deep into the beginning, giving you an understanding of the cult’s vibe and modus operandi. The raw interviews from the few survivors will shock you.

4. Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (2016)

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (2016)
Image Credit: No Seriously Productions.

It’s easy to look back on the Peoples Temple and the Manson Family and distance it from the now, but Leah Remini’s intense documentary about Scientology highlights how real and ongoing cults are. Many people enjoy this documentary, in particular, because it reveals celebrity behavior and the underbelly of Hollywood.

5. Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey (2022)

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey
Image Credit: Netflix.

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is another documentary that looks deep inside the Mormon community, revealing dark secrets and nauseating behavior. It highlights the crimes of Warren Jeffs, who assaulted countless women and created a terrifying environment for all his followers.

6. Shiny Happy People (2023)

Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets Documentary Series (2023)
Image Credit: Prime Video.

The title of this series captures the creepy and fake happiness that cults show to the outside world. The Duggar family became famous on their TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, and is a divisive topic. However, this documentary reveals how this seemingly big, happy family is actually a small cult.

7. The Deep End (2022)

Image Credit: The Documentary Group.

The Deep End is about Teal Swan, a controversial spiritual leader who curated a massive following using YouTube videos. While many cult documentaries showcase how leaders take advantage of vulnerable people, none explain it as well as this docu-series.

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

Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults (2020)
Image Credit: CNN Original Studios.

As the title of this docu-series suggests, Heaven’s Gate is one of the worst and most notorious cults in history. Marshall Applewhite was the unhinged leader of this UFO-centric cult, which ended in mass death in 1997. Of all the emotional cult documentaries, this one might be the most raw and heartwrenching.

9. The Vow (2020)

The Vow (2020) Bonnie Piesse
Image Credit: HBO Documentary Films.

The Vow, the cult docu-series, not the Channing Tatu and Rachel McAdams movie, reveals the inner workings and sinister nature of the NXIVM cult, founded and operated by Keith Raniere. With several survivor and family interviews, the documentary gives you a genuine understanding of the terror that cult members experience.

10. Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God (2023)

Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God
Image Credit: HBO Documentary Films.

Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God is an exceptional docu-series that chronicles the life of Amy Carlson, a.k.a. Mother God. She built a cult on happiness and free love, but her erratic behavior and misguided practices led to tragedy, both for her and her devout followers.

11. The Way Down (2021)

The Way Down (2021) Natasha Pavlovich
Image Credit: Huntley Productions.

The Way Down tells the terrible story of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s religious cult, Weigh Down Workshop, which focused on weight loss in tandem with spirituality and the Remnant Fellowship beliefs. This unusual cult shows how modern interests can be harnessed to lure people into cults and how quickly things can go South.

12. Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence (2023)

Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence (2023)
Image Credit: Story Syndicate.

When many of us think about cults, we think about 100+ people gathering to chant and worship their leader. However, Lawrence Ray’s cult only consisted of a handful of college students, changing how we view and understand cults. The documentary highlights the brainwashing capabilities of cult leaders and the long-term effects on members.

13. Escaping Twin Flames (2023)

Escaping Twin Flames
Image Credit: Good Caper Content.

Escaping Twin Flames also gives us a new perspective on cults, as this group’s aim is to help people find their soulmates. While this initially sounds lovely, the group leaders’ motives are sinister and selfish. It explores the strange dynamic between the leaders, ​​Jeff and Shaleia Ayan, and their desperate-for-love followers.

14. The Source Family (2012)

The Source Family (2012)
Image Credit: Drag City.

This documentary uses archived photos, videos, home movies, audio recordings, survivor interviews, expert interviews, and family interviews to paint a picture of the deranged Source Family cult. Led by Father Yod (Jim Baker), this L.A. wellness cult has a dark energy that you have to dig deep to find.

15. Bad Vegan (2022)

Image Credit: Netflix.

Bad Vegan is a fascinating story about a modern cult experience. A successful restaurant owner and raw food enthusiast goes off the rails when she falls in love with a strange man, Shane Fox, a.k.a. Anthony Strangis. The docu-series does an excellent job of showing the blurred lines between a con artist and a small cult leader.

16. Jonestown: Paradise Lost (2007)

Image Credit: Cineflix Productions.

You may think that you know everything after seeing one Jonestown documentary, but the story of the Peoples Temple is far too complex to understand in just a few hours. The Jonestown: Paradise Lost documentary specifically shows the final days of the cult and the state of despair and chaos members found themselves in.

17. Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator (2019)

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator (2019) Bikram Choudhury
Image Credit: Netflix.

While many people still practice Bikram’s hot yoga teachings, this yogi guru has a dark history. He assaulted countless women, mostly students, and abused his staff and students. Whether or not Bikram’s teachings were, in fact, those of a cult leader is up for debate, so watch this sensational documentary and decide for yourself: creepy yogi or vile cult leader?

18. Life After Manson (2014)

Life After Manson (2014)
Image Credit: Women Make Movies.

This short documentary is perfect if you want some bite-size cult content. A former Manson Family member, Patricia Krenwinkel, recounts her time in the cult, her relationship with Charlie, and the horrific events that made the cult famous. It shows the influential power of Charlie and the complex people who joined such a violent group.

19. Blessed Child (2019)

Blessed Child (2019)
Image Credit: Topic.

Hearing from survivors and experts is educational and emotional, but this documentary discusses a cult through a slightly different lens. The movie is about Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church or the Moonies cult. A child of devout Moonies followers unpacks her trauma and challenges assumptions about life in a cult.

20. Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997)

Waco The Rules of Engagement 1997
Image Credit: Somford Entertainment.

Debate surrounds the massacre in Waco in 1993. The Christian Branch Davidian sect hid out in a compound in Waco, Texas, for 51 days with the FBI waiting outside. While many believed the massacre was necessary to prevent violence from this apocalyptic cult, the story is not as black and white as people think.

21. The Family: Inside the Manson Cult (2009)

Image Credit: Jeremy Benning – History Channel.

If you want a comprehensive overview of Charles Manson’s life and time as a cult leader, this documentary is ideal. It discusses Manson’s mind-control tactics, strange beliefs, erratic personality, vulnerable followers, and more, revealing how it all led to tragic murders.

22. Q: Into the Storm (2021)

Q Into the Storm (2021) Cullen Hoback
Image Credit: HBO Documentary Films.

Not everyone saw QAnon as a cult, but this documentary peels back layers of this dangerous world of online conspiracies. The rise of the internet has made way for unorthodox cult formats that don’t involve a church or compound. And this cult’s leader isn’t front and center, although many believe it is Michael Protzman.

23. My Scientology Movie (2015)

My Scientology Movie (2015) Louis Theroux
Image Credit: Altitude Film Distribution.

This Scientology documentary has a more humorous tone to it, but that doesn’t negate the intensity of the Church of Scientology’s outrageous energy. The filmmakers capture the church’s hostile tactics and secretive behavior, all while the church does its best to prevent them from seeing their world.

24. Behind the Curve (2018)

Behind the Curve
Image Credit: Netflix.

It’s easy to dismiss flat-earthers as uninformed people, but their steadfast beliefs go beyond scientific opinions. The Behind the Curve documentary is an astonishing look at the flat-earth community, showing how stubborn these people are in their very wrong ideas. You’ll giggle one second and experience jaw-dropping disbelief the next.

25. Deprogrammed (2015)

Image Credit: Eye Steel Film.

Amazingly, Ted Patrick created a cult by trying to stop cults. Patrick was a cult deprogrammer, meaning he tried to save people from cults, but his illegal and destructive tactics only caused more damage. The underground community of anti-cultists ended up creating their own sort of cult.

20 Crucial Supplies for Surviving a Societal Collapse

glass of water
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

In the face of uncertainty, being well-prepared gives you at least some degree of control and security. The thought of a societal collapse, while extreme, prompts us to consider how we might endure without the conveniences of our current lifestyle. Here’s a list of 20 essential items that could prove indispensable in such a scenario. This guide isn’t about succumbing to fear but embracing preparedness and resilience.

14 Essential Canned Goods for Your Emergency Pantry

selection of canned goods
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

I firmly believe in keeping a well-stocked emergency pantry. While fresh food is ideal, in a survival situation, we may not be that lucky. So, for my family, even though we grow a lot of our own food, canned goods play a crucial role in emergency preparedness. They offer a reliable source of nutrition when access to fresh produce may be limited. The goods you stockpile should be affordable, easy to store, and full of nutrition.

Best Regions in the U.S. to Escape to When Society Collapses

Alaska skyline
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Choosing a refuge in the event of societal collapse involves weighing the pros and cons of each location against your personal preparedness goals and abilities. Whether you’re drawn to the solitude of the desert or the protective heights of the mountains, the key is finding a place that offers safety and the opportunity for growth and renewal.

+ posts

Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.

Leave a Comment