8 Cult Documentaries to Stream on Max

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Why do cults fascinate us so much? Maybe it’s because it’s incredibly easy — and terrifying — to imagine being sucked into one. The line between a “normal” life and suddenly deciding to devote every hour and dollar to a charismatic leader or fringe cause might be thinner than we think. Brrr.

If you’re looking to explore more, head over to Max where there’s an enviable range of documentaries about all kinds of cults — from religious to sex. Here are eight you can binge right now.

The Vow

The NXIVM cult was founded by pyramid schemer Keith Raniere, initially as a self-improvement workshop, but it quickly devolved into something waaaay more sinister. Members were allegedly brainwashed, abused, branded, and used for sex. This HBO Original docuseries offers riveting behind-the-scenes footage courtesy of the group’s former historian.

People Magazine Investigates: Cults

The celebrity publication produced two seasons of this news magazine, each focusing on a notorious cult organization, from the Manson family to Jonestown. For the time-strapped, each of the 12 episodes, which feature interviews with survivors and journalists, is a crisp 43 minutes.

Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed

The church, which once counted bold-faced names Kevin Durant and Justin Bieber among its adherents, was also allegedly a breeding ground for exploitation and abuse. This acclaimed docuseries dives into the sordid backstory with extensive interviews from former members.

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults

You know how the phrase “purple Nikes” has become shorthand for a cult? Blame these people. In this Max Original, director Clay Tweel explores perhaps the most infamous modern collective, Heaven’s Gate, whose members believed in a bizarre UFO-based ideology and committed mass suicide in 1997.

My Daughter Joined a Cult

Was Swami Nithyananda a legit holy man or simply a conman who used his charm to exploit the vulnerable? That’s the thorny question explored in this three-part series, which centers on the controversial Indian figure who was charged with rape and kidnapping.

The Way Down: God, Greed and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin Lara

This Max Original series tells the incredible story of Lara, a big-haired dietician who launched several questionable diet programs in the 1980s before founding a controversial Tennessee church. Claims of abuse followed. There’s even an interesting postscript to the tale, as Lara died in a mysterious 2021 plane crash.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

In this HBO Original documentary, filmmaker Alex Gibney takes a deep dive into the controversial church founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Through interviews with former Scientologists, the film explores the church’s inner workings and how it kept a hold on so many — including Hollywood A-listers like Tom Cruise.

“Prisoner of the Prophet”

This three-episode docuseries focuses on Briell Decker, the 65th wife — yep, you read that right! — of Warren Jeffs, the former leader of a polygamist cult called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jeffs eventually landed on the FBI’s most wanted list and was convicted of several sex crimes.

Content retrieved from: https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/documentaries-about-cults-to-stream-on-max-49213648.

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