30 Movies and TV Shows About Cults That Will Give You the Creeps

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

Mia Farrow And John Cassavetes In 'Rosemary's Baby'
Archive Photos/Stringer/Getty Images

Freaky yet fascinating, there’s no cut-and-dry definition of a cult. Most agree, however, that a charismatic leader, unwavering loyalty and isolation from society are common characteristics of these groups (extreme beliefs, psychological and emotional manipulation, and exploitation are a few more). Oh, and they’re also seriously sinister, which perhaps explains why so many filmmakers have chosen to make cults their subject.

From movies about the star-studded Church of Scientology and documentaries dedicated to the bizarre and tragic Jonestown Massacre to fictional horror flicks about Satanic worship, here’s our list of the very best movies and TV shows about cults for your viewing pleasure (or horror, as it were).

The 11 Best Books About Cults (If You’re Into That Sort of Thing)

1. Wild Wild Country (2018)

  • Who's In It: Follows controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh 
  • Run Time: 1 season (70-minute episodes) 

This docuseries about the tension between local Oregonians and members of the sannyasin cult—an Indian-born spiritual movement in the late ‘70s and ‘80s that culminated in the creation of an autonomous, “utopian” community in Oregon spearheaded by controversial spiritual leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh—features all the highlights of cult life, including orgies, salad bar poisonings and even attempted murder. Seriously bizarre and weirdly entertaining.  

2. Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults (2020)

  • Who's In It: Features interviews with former members and loved ones of the tragedy’s victims
  • Run time: 1 season (50-minute episodes) 

Here, another docuseries investigating an infamous cult—the new religious movement known as Heaven’s Gate, which was founded in the mid ‘70s and successfully recruited members for two decades after with its wild ideas about UFO invasion. Sadly, the cult paranoia led to mass suicide, the largest such event in American history to date, in a San Diego suburb in 1997. 

3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

  • Who's In It: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes
  • Run time: 2 hours 17 minutes

Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes star in Roman Polanski’s horror classic about an expectant couple, some seriously creepy new neighbors and a pregnant woman’s growing sense of foreboding. This one has less to do with the plotline itself (borrowed from Ira Levin’s namesake book) and more to do with the unrelenting suspense and eerie mood. With that in mind, you can count on being on the edge of your seat from start to finish and should have snacks and drinks within arms reach at all times.

4. The Wicker Man (1973)

  • Who's In It: Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland 
  • Run time: 1 hour 28 minutes

This British folk horror flick might not have filled the theaters when it was first released in 1973, but it has since risen to the well-deserved status of a genre-inspiring, cult classic. The storyline follows a puritanical Christian police officer who ends up on an island inhabited by a seemingly well-meaning Pagan cult whilst searching for a missing girl. There’s mystery, deep unease and plenty of eroticism, too, so be prepared for a titillating viewing experience.

5. Deadly Cults (2019-2020)

  • Who's In It: Features interviews with investigators, former cult leaders, and friends and family of victims 
  • Run time: 2 seasons (44-minute episodes)

If true crime is your weakness, then Deadly Cults fits the bill. This docuseries detailing cult-associated murders and crimes features dramatic reenactments of the horrific events and candid interviews from cult leaders and investigators alike. Overall, the (cheap) thrills are just what you’d expect from doc-block fodder, but the production is good and the entertainment value high.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

  • Who's In It: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw
  • Run time: 1 hour 58 minutes 

The second installment of the Indiana Jones franchise and packed with just as much adventure as the first, Steven Spielberg’s Temple of Doom doesn’t disappoint. This time, the eponymous archaeologist and his ragtag crew find themselves in the middle of a case of mass kidnapping and stolen treasure by a cult practicing human sacrifice. With iconic set pieces and an unforgettable climax, this one deserves a spot on your watchlist.

7. The Path (2016-2018)

  • Who's In It: Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, Hugh Dancy 
  • Run time: 3 seasons (50-minute episodes) 

This Hulu original series stars Aaron Paul as Eddie Lane, a father, husband and member (along with the rest of his family) of a controversial, new age religious cult called Meyerism. When Eddie has a vision about the cult’s founder that shakes his faith in the rapidly growing religious movement, some high-stakes drama ensues. Tune in for excellent acting and a gripping storyline that will keep you engaged from start to finish.

Jonestown- Paradise Lost
Janson Media & Sony Crime Channel

8. Jonestown: Paradise Lost (2007)

  • Who's In It: Narrated by Ted Biggs 
  • Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes

A feature-length, made-for-TV movie, Jonestown: Paradise Lost centers around the five days leading up to the infamous 1978 Jonestown Massacre, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple cult died in a mass murder-suicide at the behest of their leader, Jim Jones. This documentary hybrid features dramatic reenactments as well as survivor and eyewitness testimony to tell one of the most chilling stories in cult history.

9. The House of the Devil (2009)

  • Who's In It: Jocelin Donahue, Greta Gerwig 
  • Run time: 1 hour 33 minutes

This indie horror about a pretty college student (Greta Gerwig) who takes a very bad babysitting job combines the satanic panic of Rosemary’s Baby with tried-and-true elements from haunted house and slasher films. Director Ti West’s knack for building tension delivers a nail-biting watch and the end result is plenty scary, even more so given that viewers are led to believe it’s “based on true, unexplained events”—a throwback filmmaking hook that’s still pretty effective.

10. The Master (2012)

  • Who's In It: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
  • Run time: 2 hours 17 minutes 

Joaquin Phoenix plays a drifting WW2 veteran who finds himself captivated by the charismatic leader of a new religious movement, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. That said, the cult-related plotline really takes a backseat to what is ultimately a complex character study in which both lead actors deliver captivating performances that are well-worth watching.

11. Get Out (2017)

  • Who's In It: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams
  • Run time: 1 hour 43 minutes 

Acclaimed director Jordan Peele’s foray into horror, Get Out follows a young black man, Chris, as he takes a trip upstate to meet his white girlfriend’s family. Sounds like many a movie you’ve seen before, right? Except this is no rom-com. Upon arrival, Chris witnesses some strange behavior on the grounds (think: blank stares of the domestic staff, Rose’s mother obsessed with hypnotizing him, and a stream of white people descending on the house). And, well, we don’t want to spoil it for you but let’s just say this unsettling horror-satire about race in America is definitely worth checking out (and while you’re at it, queue up Peele’s Us and NOPE too).

12. Apostle (2018)

  • Who's In It: Dan Stevens, Lucy Boynton, Michael Sheen
  • Run time: 2 hours 9 minutes 

Set in the early 20th century, a man travels to a remote island after receiving a plea for help from his sister. He infiltrates the island’s community and bears witness to their less-than-conventional gardening practices (hint: lots of bloodletting). Apostle mixes the best parts of a gripping cult drama and an atmospheric supernatural horror to great effect.

13. The Heretics (2017)

  • Who's In It: Jorja Cadence, Nina Kiri 
  • Run time: 1 hour 27 minutes

The influence of satanic cult classic Rosemary’s Baby is clearly at work in this 2017 horror about a girl who, having been kidnapped and forced to witness the ritual cult suicide of her captors, learns that she has a demon growing inside her. Alas, The Heretics falls short in just about every way that might set a movie of its sort apart. That said, it does make use of just about every horror trope in the book to ensure that viewers are, at the very least, never bored.

14. Waco (2018)

  • Who's In It: Michael Shannon, Taylor Kitsch, Rory Culkin 
  • Run time: 1 season (48-minute episodes)

This six-part dramatization of the deadly standoff between the FBI, ATF and the Branch Davidians, a religious cult led by David Koresh, unfolds from the perspective of those who were actually there, including the chief FBI negotiator (played by Michael Shannon) and survivor David Thibodeau (Rory Culkin). It’s a complicated and poorly understood story that this miniseries has been heavily criticized for telling with an excessive degree of sympathy for the cult’s leader. Still, it’s plenty engaging to watch, so we’ll let you be the judge.

15. The Leftovers (2014-2017)

  • Who's In It: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston  
  • Run time: 3 seasons (~60-minute episodes)

Many residents of a small New York community vanished after a mysterious, Rapture-like event wipes out two percent of the global population and the remaining community members are left trying to reassemble their lives despite the spookiness and uncertainty that persists in this supernatural TV series based on Tom Perrotta’s namesake novel. That’s the starting point, at least, but what follows is a grim and harrowing drama, featuring a religious cult and some very broken main characters. Surreal, suspenseful and, above all, profoundly human—this unique series is one of HBO’s most underrated creations.

16. Charles Manson: The Final Words (2017)

  • Who's In It: Narrated by Rob Zombie
  • Run time: 2 hours 

Has the Charles Manson story been told to the point of becoming boring and trite? Yes…but hear us out. This documentary, narrated by Rob Zombie, provides a decidedly fresh perspective—namely, Manson’s own—using never-before-seen case files and interviews with the infamous cult leader himself. And let’s just say, the aforementioned interviews are so chilling, it may be enough to renew your interest in one of the genre’s most familiar figures.

17. Midsommar (2019)

  • Who's In It: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor
  • Run time: 2 hours 27 minutes 

Struggling with the tragic loss of her parents and sister, Dani (Florence Pugh) travels to Sweden with a group of friends to attend a midsummer festival. Things quickly go from comforting to concerning when the so-called festivities take a turn towards the cult-like. Florence Pugh delivers a powerful performance in this disturbing horror (with clear influences from The Wicker Man) and the end result is scary enough to make a devoted Burner re-think their summer plans.

Silent Hill 2006 Cult Movies
Sony Pictures

18. Silent Hill (2006)

  • Who's In It: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden 
  • Run time: 2 hours 7 minutes

Based on the video game of the same name, Silent Hill is a grisly horror movie involving a missing girl and a small town with a terrible secret (and some very deranged residents). The atmosphere is overwhelmingly creepy and the violence is quite graphic. Unfortunately, that’s about all Silent Hill serves up, as the plotline is pretty lacking. Still, fans of the game or anyone looking for a scare without substance can get their fix with this one.

19. Holy Hell (2016)

  • Who's In It: Directed by former Buddhafield cult member, Will Allen 
  • Run time: 1 hour 43 minutes

Will Allen’s documentary chronicles his experiences as a member of “Buddhafield,” a bizarre Hollywood religious cult that has been on the receiving end of abuse allegations. Allen was basically disowned for coming out as gay at the age of 22, at which point he joined the cult and, being a film school graduate, came into the role of videographer. It was this first-hand footage that he used to create his documentary after parting ways with Buddhafield 22 years later. Brace yourself for a sad and strange story of manipulation, mind control and deceit.

20. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

  • Who's In It: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes 
  • Run time: 1 hour 41 minutes

A young woman flees a cult and tries to assimilate back to normal life, but finds herself haunted by flashbacks of the abuse she endured and tormented by escalating feelings of paranoia and fear in this psychological thriller. Viewers will be mesmerized by Elizabeth Olden’s performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene and the story of lasting trauma is powerful, chilling and (fittingly) memorable.

21. The Empty Man (2020)

  • Who's In It: James Badge Dale, Stephen Root 
  • Run time: 2 hours 17 minutes 

Satanic cult vibes reign supreme in David Prior’s debut horror flick. The storyline bears resemblance to The Wicker Man—an (ex)cop on the trail of a missing girl becomes entangled in a mysterious cult’s mission to summon a terrifying supernatural being—but is actually loosely based on a comic book series of the same name. Suffice it to say, there’s nothing comical about this one, though, since despair and terror lurk around almost every corner.

22. The Sacrament (2014)

  • Who's In It: AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg 
  • Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes 

Remote commune with fanatical leader? Check. Man looking for missing woman on said commune? Check. Yep, the story is quite familiar—but what sets The Sacrament apart is that it’s a mockumentary horror cobbled together with the (fictional) found footage of the “news team” accompanying the main character on his mission. In other words, it’s a familiar cult narrative with a Blair Witch Project-esque angle to amplify the fear factor.

23. Going Clear (2015)

  • Who's In It: Interviews with former members by filmmaker Paul Haggis 
  • Run time: 2 hours

Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary is a two hour deep dive into Scientology, a pseudo-religious sect that has attracted numerous high profile celebs (Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Elisabeth Moss, to name a few) and is sometimes described as a cult. The film features interviews with eight former members, as well as a thorough review of the history, culture and practices of the Church of Scientology in order to help viewers gain an understanding of this Hollywood phenomenon and arrive at an answer to the question of whether or not Scientology is indeed a religion…or maybe something else.

The Source Family (2012)
Drag City & Gravitas Ventures

24. The Source Family (2012)

  • Who's In It: Directed by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos 
  • Run time: 1 hour 45 minutes

This 2012 film is a documentary about a charismatic leader, Father Yod, and the LA-based spiritual commune he founded in the early ‘70s. Ultimately this “Aquarian tribe” would attempt to turn sex, drugs and rock n’ roll into a religion, but there were plenty of highs and lows along the way, which The Source Family highlights in a gripping fashion.

25. The Believers (1987)

  • Who's In It: Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, Robert Loggia 
  • Run time: 1 hour 54 minutes 

Here, a neo-noir horror starring Martin Sheen as a NYC psychologist and father who discovers his young son has caught the eye of a twisted Brujerian cult with a penchant for child sacrifice. A little supernatural, very psychological and brimming with disturbing imagery—this 1987 gem will satisfy your appetite for cult scares.

26. The Ritual (2017)

  • Who's In It: Rob James-Collier, Rafe Spall
  • Run time: 1 hour 34 minutes 

Once again, grieving Swedes have it rough. Here, four friends take a hiking trip in the Swedish wilderness in tribute to their friend who was killed after intervening in a robbery. Things go from bad to worse as they venture further into the woods, which so happens to be the domain of an ancient horror. With tense build-up and satisfying reveals, this psychological horror is a must-watch for monster lovers.

27. The Void (2016)

  • Who's In It: Aaron Poole, Kathleen Munroe
  • Run time: 1 hour 30 minutes 

This lower budget indie horror flick has grabbed the attention of H.P. Lovecraft fans all around. A police officer discovers a bloodied man and rushes him to the hospital, only for the building to be swarmed by figures in white cloaks shortly after. The staff proceed to bunker down as the cult attempts to summon unimaginable horrors upon the world. Expect lots of gore and special effects (and mixed reviews from those unfamiliar with the famous horror author).  

28. Doctor Sleep (2019)

  • Who's In It: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran
  • Run time: 2 hours 32 minutes 

In this sequel to The Shining novel series, which also pays homage to Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation, we follow an adult Danny Torrance (tricycle boy) and a young girl with whom he’s formed a psychic connection as they hone their abilities and evade a cult of soul-sucking psychics. In an age where sequels rightfully produce skepticism with regards to their necessity, Doctor Sleep is a breath of fresh air, maintaining its own identity while also tastefully acknowledging its predecessor.

29. The Endless (2017)

  • Who's In It: Directed by and starring Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson
  • Run time: 1 hour 51 minutes 

Years after leaving the commune they grew up on, two struggling brothers decide to revisit the past after receiving a cryptic VHS message by taking a one-day trip to Camp Arcadia. Of course, their trip inevitably gets extended as they slowly uncover the mysteries of their old home in this mind-bending sci-fi horror.

30. Ready or Not (2019)

  • Who's In It: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody
  • Run time: 1 hour 35 minutes 

Ever suspect your in-laws of being Satan worshippers (or just sent from Hell)? If so, this 2019 black comedy horror film is for you. Join newlywed Grace as she plays alongside the Domas family in a seemingly innocuous and silly game of hide-and-seek that turns into something far more sinister.

50 Classic Scary Movies Guaranteed to Put You in the Spooky Spirit

Want to know which buzzy products are *really* worth buying? Sign up for our shopping newsletter to uncover our favorite finds.

Why You Should Trust Us

PureWow is the best friend you never had when it comes to finding the best, most useful lifestyle products online. Founded in 2010, our company’s editors and writers have spent more than a decade shopping online, digging through sales and putting our home goods, beauty finds, wellness picks and more through the wringer—all to help you determine which ones are actually worth your hard-earned cash. From our PureWow100 series, which sees each and every item we test being ranked on a 100-point scale of awesomeness, to the painstakingly curated lists our fashion, beauty, cooking, home and family editors create as vertical experts, you can trust that our recommendations include some of the greatest items you’ll find on the internet. Whether you're looking for travel-size hair dryers you can take on-the-go or women’s walking shoes that won’t hurt your feet, we’ve got you covered.

purewow author

Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...