7 best movies about cults to watch right now

Sasha Frolova and Joel Courtney in The Empty Man movie (2020)
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Cinema has long been a platform for exploring the darker corners of human nature, and few subjects evoke the same mix of fascination and dread as cults. These communities, often led by charismatic and manipulative figures, offer fertile ground for storytelling. If you’ve recently watched the documentary on Netflix called “Dancing for the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult” and want something similar, or you just fancy streaming cult movies, you’ve come to the right place. 

From pulse-pounding thrillers that keep viewers on the edge of their seats to introspective dramas that delve into the psyche of both cult leaders and followers, the cinematic experience has interesting portrayals of cults in all their complexity. Without further ado, here are the top movies about cults on Netflix, Hulu, Max and more of the best streaming services

'Martha Marcy May Marlene' (2011)

"Martha Marcy May Marlene" is a psychological thriller movie about a young woman named Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), who escapes from a cult led by a charismatic and manipulative leader. Struggling to reintegrate into normal life, she seeks refuge with her sister and brother-in-law. However, Martha's traumatic experiences in the cult haunt her, leading to paranoia and confusion about reality and memory. This movie can feel incredibly haunting, but it’s important for exploring themes of identity, trauma, and the difficulty of breaking free from a controlling and abusive environment.

Buy or rent on Apple TV 

‘The Invitation’ (2015)

"The Invitation" is another psychological horror-thriller movie that will have you on the edge of your seat. The story follows Will (Logan Marshall-Green), who attends a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband at the house they once shared. As the night progresses, Will becomes increasingly suspicious of the true intentions behind the gathering. The tension escalates as he starts to believe that Eden and her new friends have a sinister agenda. It’s a genuinely tense movie with an unsettling nature of cult-like behavior, and trust me when I say it manages to successfully deliver a suspenseful and shocking climax.

Watch on Peacock 

‘Midsommar’ (2019)

Directed by Ari Aster, “Midsommar” centers on Dani (Florence Pugh), a young woman who, after experiencing a devastating family tragedy, joins her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a trip to a remote Swedish village to attend a rare midsummer festival. What begins as a relaxing retreat soon turns into a nightmarish experience as the villagers' strange customs and rituals become increasingly disturbing and violent. So, if you want something that blends psychological horror with folk horror elements, “Midsommar” should be your next watch. But you might want to sleep with the lights on after. 

Watch on Max 

‘Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood’ (2019)

"Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood", directed by Quentin Tarantino, is a drama-comedy that pays homage to the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age. The movie follows Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a television actor, and his stunt double and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they navigate the rapidly changing film industry in 1969 Los Angeles. And yes, this movie does involve a cult, specifically the Manson family. You’ll see real historical events related to Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) and his followers, who were responsible for a series of notorious murders in 1969. While the main plot focuses on fictional characters Rick and Cliff, the presence of the Manson family and their cult activities plays a significant role in the narrative.

Watch on Hulu

‘Apostle’ (2018)

Another horror movie about cults to add to your list is “Apostle”. This movie follows Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) who travels to a remote Welsh island to rescue his sister, Jennifer (Elen Rhys), who has been kidnapped by a mysterious cult demanding a ransom. As Thomas infiltrates the cult led by the charismatic Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen), he discovers the community’s dark and violent secrets. “Apostle” combines intense suspense, graphic horror, and a deep dive into the psyche of a dangerous cult. If you’re looking for something a bit strange but engaging, this is the movie for you.

Watch on Netflix

‘The Empty Man’ (2020)

"The Empty Man" follows a former police detective named James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) who becomes embroiled in a mysterious series of events involving the disappearance of a friend's daughter. As he investigates, he discovers a sinister urban legend about a supernatural entity known as the Empty Man. According to the legend, the Empty Man can be summoned by blowing into an empty bottle while standing on a bridge and thinking about him. As if that wasn’t enough, Lasombra's investigation leads him to discover a cult that worships the Empty Man, and he realizes that the entity might be more real and dangerous than he initially thought. Anyone who enjoys existential dread and mystery should stream “The Empty Man” this week. 

Buy or rent on Apple TV 

‘The Babysitter’ (2017)

Want something a bit more comedic and fun? It’s worth giving “The Babysitter” a watch. This movie centers on Cole Johnson (Judah Lewis), a 12-year-old boy who has a crush on his babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving). One night, Cole stays up past his bedtime and discovers that Bee is the leader of a satanic cult that includes several of her friends. The group needs to sacrifice someone to complete a ritual for personal gain, and Cole becomes their next target after witnessing their ritualistic murder. This flick manages to combine comedy and horror without being too frightening, and it’s perfect for anyone who loves a good slasher. 

Watch on Netflix 

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Alix Blackburn
Staff Writer, Streaming

Alix is a Streaming Writer at Tom’s Guide, which basically means watching the best movies and TV shows and then writing about them. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for Screen Rant and Bough Digital, both of which sparked her interest in the entertainment industry. When she’s not writing about the latest movies and TV shows, she’s either playing horror video games on her PC or working on her first novel.