'Sound of My Voice' (2011)
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Starring: Brit Marling, Christopher Denham
Sound of My Voice begins with two filmmakers being ushered blindfolded to meet the leader of a mysterious cult. Before long, Maggie appears, covered in a white cloth. She claims to be from the future and is gathering a small following to prepare them for the war and famine that lies ahead. Her claims are ludicrous, but are they? The film pivots on our disbelief.
'Martha Marcy May Marlene' (2011)
Directed by Sean Durkin
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy, Brady Corbet
One of the great thrillers of 2011, Martha Marcy May Marlene opens with the title character running away from her cult life. Martha, who had her name changed to Marcy May by the cult leader (Hawkes) before being indoctrinated through rape, is severely damaged and seeks out her estranged sister for support. She seems safe, but Martha keeps hearing things and knows she's been followed and is being watched.
'The Master' (2012)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Rami Malek
It's not officially based on Scientology, but The Master is essentially a fictionalized account of the beginnings of Scientology and the rise of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. In the film, a lost, ex-soldier (Phoenix) jumps a ship that happens to belong to Lancaster Dodd AKA "Master" (Hoffman), a Hubbard surrogate who uses a testing method to delve into members' histories
'Rosemary's Baby' (1968)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer
The cult aspect of Rosemary's Baby is a small part of the movie, but an important one. As Rosemary's pregnancy draws closer to her due date, strange happenings escalate and she starts to believe a satanic cult wants her baby for their own rituals.
'Kill List' (2011)
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Michael Smiley
As in Rosemary's Baby, the cult details of Kill List are hidden and a small part of the story. The movie follows two hit men, brought out of retirement by a strange client who gives them a list of targets. One by one, they do the jobs, but discover something isn't right.
'Wise Blood' (1979)
Directed by John Huston
Starring: Brad Dourif, John Huston, Dan Shor, Harry Dean Stanton
Based on the Flannery O'Connor novel, Wise Blood follows the extremist Hazel Motes (Dourif), an ex-soldier and preacher-turned-atheist who now touts his own religion: The Church of Truth Without Christ. It's a cult of one, but Motes is devoted and seeks out followers everywhere, although none satisfy him.
'The Wicker Man' (1973)
Directed by Robin Hardy
Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento
The 1973 horror classic finds a police detective on the hunt for a missing girl. The case takes him to an isolated island where he discovers a community of people all devoted to a special brand of paganism.
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé
A cult film in the other sense of the term as well, Suspiria's horrific thrills come when an American ballerina transfers to a German Dance Academy. She heads there alone and, when strange things start happening, she realizes the school is actually a cover for a satanic coven on witches. Watch out for the remake starring Dakota Johnson in 2017.
'Ticket to Heaven' (1981)
Directed by Ralph L. Thomas
Starring: Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, Meg Foster, Kim Cattrall
This Canadian film wasn't seen by many, but it's a surprisingly effective film about cults. It follows an atheist named David who joins up with a religious cult at their training camp. He watches everyone eat tiny meals, chant together, and not sleep. Slowly, he's turned to their side with help from the charming cult leader, and his family had to kidnap and deprogram him.
'The Path' (2015- )
Created by Jessica Goldberg
Starring: Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, Hugh Dancy
The Path concentrates on members of the cult of Meyerism, a fictional philosophy that combines aspects of Scientology, shamanism and others. Paul plays Eddie, a Meyerist whose faith is questioned after attending a retreat in South America.
'Waco: The Rules of Engagement' (1997)
Directed by William Gazecki
The authoritative documentary on the 1993 Waco Siege, a nearly two month standoff between the ATF and a cult known as the Branch Davidians who were led by a zealot named David Koresh. Koresh's "family" of over 100 people stockpiled weapons and refused to leave their compound, or their leader, who claimed to be of the line of King David and was on Earth to fulfill a spiritual errand. The siege turned tragic when a fire engulfed the compound and 78 cult members died, including many children.
'Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple' (2006)
Directed by Stanley Nelson
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple is a documentary account of cult leader Jim Jones and the "Peoples Temple." Jones led over 900 members of his cult to a settlement in Guyana called Jonestown, where he orchestrated a mass suicide with poisoned Flavor Aid in 1978.
'Prophet's Prey' (2014)
Directed by Amy J. Berg
An adaptation of the 2011 book Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, Prophet's Prey exposed the cult of Warren Jeffs as the child abuse haven it was. Jeffs convinced his Mormon followers he was a prophet and, among other disgusting acts, pledged underage girls to marry old men and even force families to give up their children to other families. Jeffs himself had 70 wives and his father, Rulon Jeffs, had over 60 children with over 20 wives.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief' (2015)
Directed by Alex Gibney
Again, Scientology is technically a religion, but watch this movie and tell us there's nothing cultish about it. Gibney's documentary exposes Scientology as a pressurized hierarchy where member's are summarily brainwashed and subsequently harassed if they decide to leave the church. Interviews with past members who have left the church paint a scary portrait of the secretive "religion."