When it comes to watching a film based on a religious cult theme, there is a natural tendency in most of us to at least try and get a taste of this genre of cinema. The pull towards such films is natural! Call it the excitement and thrill that comes with this genre or the inquisitiveness to get a bit psyched, only to recover stronger later.
As one's heart is often in his mouth while watching a religious cult film, simultaneously his mind begins to question the very existence of occult practices, the talks surrounding the paraphernalia and its relevance. For a brief period of time, the dark elements that are often represented in such films connect us to the theme, so much, that we keep coming back to it, every time another version of the film is released. That's what a religious cult can do!
In this post, we have deeply researched some of the best religious cult films that have succeeded in capturing our attention over the years and made us talk about them. Here are the top 10 highly recommended films in the religious cult genre.1. Wicker Man (1973)
Robin Hardy's 'The Wicker Man' is unquestionably the mother of religious-cult movies. The British film is an ultimate representation of folk horror and offers a terrifying experience. The film deals with the subject of Paganism and throws light on its multiple consequences. One cannot ignore the uniqueness of the film and the artistic touch it offers.
The film stars Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, and Christopher Lee in lead roles. 'The Wicker Man' is inspired by David Pinner's 1967 novel 'Ritual' and depicts how Police Sergeant Neil Howie leads to his own death while investigating the case of a missing girl. The film is believed to be the 'Citizen Kane' of cult movies!2. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Over the years, film-makers have debated the relevance of Roman Polanski's Oscar-winning film 'Rosemary's Baby'. However, the film has remained a phenomenon and a popular choice under the horror and religious-cult genres. As one tries to delve deep into the hysterical world of Polanski's creation, it only gets more complicated.
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) ultimately loses her baby to Satan as her husband (John Cassavetes) and neighbours plan terrible things for the mother. The film offers sinister twists and keeps one glued to the couch. Polanski's masterpiece is largely entertaining and succeeds in creating sheer psychological terror.3. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)
Stanley Nelson's widely acclaimed documentary 'Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple' is a detailed analysis of the mass murder (led by Jim Jones) that happened on the 18th of November 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. The documentary film is a collection of archived reports and real accounts of the survivors and previous members of the Jim Jones' Peoples Temple.
Jim Jones, an American religious cult leader created an organization for the social good and persuaded many to be a part of it. With more power, he became addicted to drugs and even abused many of his followers. He ultimately persuaded them, a group of one thousand people to move to the remote jungle of Guyana in South America, and promised them a utopian life. Jones was obsessed with the idea of revolutionary suicide and in a final ceremony; he served his people with a fruit punch spiked with cyanide which eventually killed most of them. He later shot himself.4. Hereditary (2018)
Hereditary can be termed as the scariest movie of this decade, but not to be forgotten that the film is inspired by demonology at large. Toni Collette gives a tour-de-force performance in Ari Aster's directorial debut which has already become a horror phenomenon. The film revolves around the lives of the members of the Graham family and narrates how a cult leads to their sinister fate.
There are scenes in the film which display the highest form of cult practices including the one when Annie (Toni Collette) performs séance and another one when Joan's occult paraphernalia comes to light. The film is physically exhausting to watch and is deeply terrifying, it is one of the best religious cult films that have ever existed.5. Children of the Corn (1984)
Nothing could be more terrifying than kids killing an entire adult population of a town, as a result of a ritual. 'Children of the Corn' is one religious cult film that has inspired film-makers to keep coming up with more refined horrific versions of it, however, the original has established a huge following over the years.
Based on Stephen King's 1977 short story, the film has scared the audience and made them understand the fact that a religious cult practice can eradicate not just families but a whole town!6. The Master (2012)
Joaquin Phoenix delivers the performance of a lifetime in Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master', a film that combined Scientology with philosophy. Unlike others, this film is free of supernatural, horror, mystery elements and throws light on much deeper subjects.
Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix), a World War II veteran finds himself incapable of dealing with the post-war conditions and seeks help from 'The Cause', a religious movement. The film had performances from heavy-weight actors including Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Even after much criticism from various Scientology groups, the film was nominated for multiple Academy Awards.7. Don't Deliver Us from Evil (1971)
Directed by Joël Séria, 'Don't Deliver Us from Evil' is a French film loosely based on the Parker–Hulme murder case of 1954. Anne (Jeanne Goupil ) and Lore (Catherine Wagener) friends at a boarding school dedicate themselves to evil and seduction, ultimately leading to self-destruction.
The film was banned in France due to its disturbing nature, however, it was later screened at Cannes Film Festival. The film's controversial theme gave it much highlight, the unsettling ending can't be ignored!8. Suspiria (2018)
Suspiria (2018) is inspired by the 1977 film of the same name. The film stars Dakota Johnson (Susanna "Susie" Bannion) and Tilda Swinton (Madame Blanc / Mother Helena) in lead roles and is directed by Luca Guadagnino. The screenplay of the film weaves motherhood with the cult and gives it a display of psychological horror.
The film takes the audience back to the cold war affected Berlin, and appears more like a stage play. Susie enrols herself in Tanz Dance Academy run secretively by witches, only to find out that she is Mater Suspiriorum, one of the three witches. The highlight of the film is witches performing 'Volk' followed by the Sabbath. The film is powerful enough to leave one disturbed! It is nauseating. Let us tell you that Dakota Johnson had to go through therapy after filming 'Suspiria'.9. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
'Martha Marcy May Marlene' is a grim expression of the fact that a cult may haunt you forever, even if you want to get rid of it! Martha (also Marcy May/Marlene Lewis) finds herself delusional and paranoid after she makes her way back to her family.
After spending some time under a cult, she tries to make her way out, however, fails to do so. The film outlines the ruinous effects of a coordinated cult hovering over the central character. The movie is highly engaging and was named the best film of the year by Associated Press in 2011.10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Steven Spielberg became more experimental with his themes surrounding the Indiana Jones franchise. 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' remains one of his most discussed and controversial films ever.
Set in colonial India, the film features Amrish Puri (Mola Ram), a savage priest who worships Kali in a cult practice and performs various harrowing cult rituals. The film was banned in India as it majorly clichéd people of brown skin. Heavily criticized for its child unfriendly graphics, the film still remains one of the most watchable cult films on the planet.