10 Documentaries About Dangerous Cults

by Timothy Kohut about a year ago in tv review

You're going to re-think your whole life after you watch these documentaries about dangerous cults.

10 Documentaries About Dangerous Cults

Call it human nature, nosiness, or just plain fascination—there is something inherently intoxicating about cult documentaries. While they are quite dark in nature, they are nonetheless intriguing; mostly due to the fact that they just appear so insane that you couldn't believe people ACTUALLY fell for that kind of a farce. But hindsight is 20/20, and these poor victims who fell pray to "drinking the Kool Aid," so to speak, made gruesome history in the process.

While we won't ever know all of the horrific details of what happened inside some of these brain control operations, there is plenty of information available, largely in part to the influx of documentaries about dangerous cults in recent years. So, without further ado, let's take a look into some of the source material that has only added to our intense obsession with notable cults of the past.

To this day, the Children of God, simply known as The Family, remains one of the most harrowing tales of cultism in recent memory. This documentary follows the story of a former Family member, who discusses the cult in gruesome detail while also providing viewers some context into the fanatical religious sex cult, as well as the lingering effects years after its 1994 disintegration.

Wild Wild Country is an incredibly jarring look into the Rajneeshpuram community, a sex-crazed cult formerly located in Oregon. This Netflix documentary series follows the story of Indian "guru" Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his group of loyal followers. The series begins with Rejneesh's reign as one of the most bizarre cult leaders the world has ever seen, before transitioning to his second-in-command, Indian-American-Swiss co-cultist Ma Anand Sheela. Regardless of leadership semantics, it remains one of the more perplexing tales in the history of fanatical worship.

Pedophilia in the Catholic Church is probably the worst-kept secret in regard to religious controversies. The Keepers gives viewers an in-depth account of just how corrupt (and cult-like) the church is, as it investigates the murder of Sister Catherine Anne “Cathy” Cesnik. While some might not consider the Catholic church an actual cult, this particular documentary might make you think twice. Or at least, when it comes to certain factions of it.

This 2016 documentary film by Will Allen, a former member of the Buddhafield cult, discusses the slow transition from the beginning stages of joining a cult, to the latter stages when you're fully engrained in its belief system. Following his 22 years of service, Allen quit, but as the main videographer of the community, he was able to capture hours of footage. He kept a mere 35 hours with him (a small amount, considering the amount of time spent there), and he used the footage to concoct this riveting documentary.

For those with a base knowledge of the tale of Adam and Eve, this chilling, real life documentary will show you what happens when you replace Adam with the devil himself. Back in 1929, a German couple decided to relocate to Floreana, a remote island in the Galapagos Islands, to start their own paradise. From there, other eventual cult members came to join the new society, and it resulted in disaster—and murder.

While many people consider Hasidic Judaism a closed society, not many non-Hasidics know the true ins and outs of the belief system. Although members rarely do leave for fear of ostracism, there have been a few exceptions over the years, and this documentary depicts just that. Three former members of the Hasidic faith go into detail about some of the horrors within the community, as well as their struggles after leaving it.

Some of you might associate the term "Witch Hunt" with our president's claims about the ongoing Russia investigations, but the true origins of the term comes from ACTUAL witch hunts throughout the 17th century. This documentary series is one of the more short-lived TV shows on Netflix, but the first season alone (which essentially serves as a two-part documentary), is able to adequately cover the bizarre occurrences that took place in early Britain.

No, this isn't a documentary on Tom Cruise, but it IS a documentary on the strange goings-on within the cult-like Scientology community. Filmmaker Louis Theroux does a great job of re-creating events based on former Scientologists' input, leading to some pretty interesting insights, to say the least.

There is, arguably, no more famous of a cult leader than Charles Manson. The musician-turned-villain was able to manipulate plenty of young women during the late 60s. Perhaps his most infamous crime was the murder of Hollywood starlet Sharon Tate, but that is merely scratching the surface of Manson's psychotic behavior. If you're looking to get more in-depth with Charles 'Mass Murderer' Manson and the Manson family as a whole, you should watch Manson: 40 Years Later, which looks at the murderous cult leader through a lens from the future.

If you, like many, consider Charles Manson the most infamous cult leader of all time, than Jim Jones remains a close second. Jones is responsible for the biggest mass suicide of all time, managing to convince 918 people (including 304 children) to drink Kool Aid mixed with cyanide, which led to their ultimate demise at his People's Temple. Jonestown: Paradise Lost explores Jones' heinous tactics in the days leading up to the Jonestown massacre. It is, without a doubt, one of the most eye-opening documentaries about dangerous cults to ever grace the screen.

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Timothy Kohut
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