Netflix provides plenty of movie and television watching experiences, but if you’re interested in learning about cults, you might find some of these movies make a great addition to your list. These include Holy Hell, Deprogrammed, Children of God, and Colonia.
A cult if often defined as an organization or group led by a leader that demands complete and total submission while discouraging freedom of thought and the expression of individualism. A form of mind control, cults frequently demand uniformity and submission and will use subversive techniques to ensure everyone obeys the group’s leader. While there are many different cults, most groups share similar traits. You can learn about cults and the tactics they use at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) Cults, An Outline Analysis. This is not a secular site, but the explanation of a cult is applicable to all.
First and foremost, in order to ensure that individuality is suppressed, mind-control methods are utilized to prevent free will, free thinking, creative ideas, and the use of logic and reasoning. One of the most common ways to suppress individuality is by breaking off relationships with friends and family members, changing the names of members and referring to them by a new name, and forcing them to memorize the group’s teachings that originate with the cult leader.
Many cults operate on hierarchy type systems within the group that essentially provide control over the group. The leader will promote group members to positions where they are monitoring the cult members behavior and looking for any sign that a member is not following the leader’s orders. Punishments are often used to bring members who exhibit their own personality traits back into submission to the group and the leader.
Once a person is involved in a cult it can be difficult to leave and the emotional damage that is done can last a lifetime. Leaving is not an easy process but part of a life-long journey.
The following cult movies on Netflix show what happened inside the destructive group as well as the fight for freedom outside. They are all currently available on Netflix, but movies are always subject to change. The movies tell the stories from real survivors who lived their lives inside the cult, as well as one fictional dramatization based upon accounts of life inside a cult.
Written, directed, and produced by former cult member Will Allen, Holy Hell is a 2016 documentary that chronicles Allen’s 22-year journey with the group. Holy Hell is an exceptional documentary because it consists of real footage from the group taken over the years. Allen was fresh out of college and a filmmaker when he joined the Buddhafield, a new age-based spiritual group that attracted beautiful and successful people across California. The documentary also details survivor’s accounts of the abuse and mind control they endured as well as how the cult ultimately imploded, causing Allen and many others to leave. Holy Hell was nominated for four awards, including two Critics’ Choice Awards.
In the 60s, cults sprang up across the United States. By the 70s, cults were a phenomenon that threatened the counter-culture seeking youth and the ugly side of cults began to make mainstream news. One man grew to prominence throughout this era for his bold (and often successful) attempts at kidnapping and deprogramming cult members. His name is Ted Patrick and he was known as “Black Lightning” because he would stake out cults, learn their behaviors, then as fast as lightning strikes, kidnap cult members and deprogram them with the aim of returning them to their loved ones and family members.
Not every deprogramming attempt was a success, but there were enough cases for people to appear in the documentary decades later and tell how their deprogramming saved their lives. Of course, there were accounts of people who remained loyal to their cults and others who never felt they needed deprogramming in the first place. Ted Patrick invented deprogramming based upon his first-hand knowledge of how cults worked.
For those who have an interest in cults, deprogramming is an interesting topic. It’s something that we don’t see happen anymore due to changes in laws that came to prominence in the 80s under President Ronald Reagan. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, and unfortunately, that means people who join cults have a First Amendment right to be brainwashed and held hostage to mind control, and they can choose to stay in cults if they want to. Ted Patrick was a voice that has argued over the years there truly is no choice in being held hostage to a cult’s doctrines, therefore, kidnapping a cult member and deprogramming them is the only way they can truly be free to determine whether they want to remain in a cult or not.
While we no longer see deprogramming sessions and kidnappings like those that happened during the 60s, 70s, and 80s with groups such as the Children of God, Hare Krishnas, the Moonies, New Testament Missionary Fellowship (Hannah Lowe cult), Love Israel, and Brother Julius cult, today’s psychologists are handling deprogramming through exit counseling. Of course, the internet has helped the spread of information and many people who are involved with dangerous cults now have resources to perform background checks, follow money trails, and research new doctrines, teachings, and questionable ideologies.
This is one of the reasons modern-day cults immediately cut off access to the internet. Even though deprogramming and kidnapping events do not occur today, the documentary is a fascinating look at what happened in America when cults boldly went after college students, and, in some cases, all that was needed to convert someone to an end-time death cult was one sermon preached by a charismatic cult leader.
Ted Patrick wrote the book Let Our Children Go! and is regarded as an expert who was on the forefront of rescuing people from cults. You may learn more about Ted Patrick and deprogramming at Cult Education. Here is a quote of Patrick describing deprogramming. You may learn more about the movie Deprogrammed at its official IMDb page.
“When you deprogram people,” he emphasized, “you force them to think. The only thing I do is shoot them challenging questions. I hit them with things that they haven’t been programmed to respond to. I know what the cults do and how they do it, so I shoot them the right questions; and they get frustrated when they can’t answer. They think they have the answer, they’ve been given answers to everything. But I keep them off balance and this forces them to begin questioning, to open their minds. When the mind gets to a certain point, they can see through all the lies that they’ve been programmed to believe. They realize that they’ve been duped and they come out of it. Their minds start working again.”
You can watch Deprogrammed on Netflix. Check out the movie trailer below.
Children of God
The Children of God cult has gone by many names since it was first created by David “Moses” Berg. Today, the Family International continues to downplay their history of free sex, flirty fishing, incest, rape of children, and multiple failed prophecies declaring the return of Christ. Although sex with children is no longer allowed, there are many adults who were born into the cult bearing the scars of their abusive childhood. Many of the Children of God’s activities were brought to light through the Ricky Rodriguez murder/suicide. Rodriguez was to be heir to the Children of God’s legacy and was the subject of child pornography guides (The Story of Davidito) distributed through the group under the guise of child rearing.
The Children of God documentary on Netflix doesn’t touch on some of the high-profile stories and cases that have come to light since Children of God: Lost and Found (available on HBO) garnered rave reviews. It does, however, give a unique perspective of life inside the cult as well as shows some of the aftermath faced by those who survived. Due to the blatant sexual abuse and sexually explicit lifestyle cult members and their children were exposed to, the Children of God is one of the world’s most notorious cults. Unfortunately, no one has ever been held accountable for the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse the children of the cult suffered and endured. The Children of God cult is the group that propelled Ted Patrick “Black Lightning” deprogrammer to take action and rescue those who had been ensnared in the group’s dangerous teachings and practices.
Colonia stars Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl in this fictional account of life in the real Chilean-based cult Colonia Dignidad, led by German and Nazi pedophile Paul Schafer. You can learn more about Paul Schafer, his crimes, and punishment in the Guardian expose “Fugitive NAZI Cult Leader Arrested”. As the film is a fictional account, we’ll save the spoilers and let you watch the trailer and then check out the movie on Netflix. There are survivors stories of the horror they endured at Colonia Dignidad, and many missing person’s cases have taken place around the cult’s former base. Today, Colonia Dignidad is the Villa Baviera hotel, restaurant, and bed and breakfast serving food with a German flair. You can read more about Villa Baviera and it’s cult history at “Villa Baviera: Chile’s Torture Colony Tourist Trap” by Bloomberg.
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