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12 TV Shows About Cults You Won't Be Able To Stop Watching

Cults have captivated audiences for years, as they tend to be shrouded in mystery and lies, making for the perfect premise to draw viewers in. They often take center stage, not just in the news, but also in Hollywood and the media industry at large. The more we learn about them, the more we want to know, although we are often left with more questions than we began with.

This premise also offers ripe and fertile soil for a range of genres, from true crime to drama and science fiction. There's no limit to what you can do with them, and countless possibilities for where they might take you. From "Yellowjackets" to "The Family," there's a plentiful pool to draw from if cults are your thing. Here are 12 shows about cults, both fictional and documentary-style, that will reel you in and send you down a seemingly inescapable journey of binge-watching.


"Yellowjackets" follows the story of an esteemed high school girls' soccer team whose plane crashes in the remote wilderness of Ontario. Freezing, hungry, and injured, every day is a battle of survival for the young women. Desperate, and spurred on by the seemingly psychic powers of one of their teammates, they turn to sinister, disturbing means to help them push through their treacherous journey.

It does appear as though their cultish rituals of sacrifice and worship paid off for them, though, as the show flashes back and forth between the crash in 1996 and the remaining survivors of the present day, who are still tormented by the tragic and traumatic experience. This past, shrouded in secrets, comes back to haunt them as a new mystery begins to unfold, pulling them back into the world they fought so hard to escape. Turns out, cults aren't such an easy thing to leave behind.

"Yellowjackets" combines a throwback coming-of-age narrative with gruesome supernatural elements, making for a brilliant retro-style horror series. It's "Stranger Things" meets cults, perfect for anyone who has a taste for nostalgia terror. It was recently announced that the series has been renewed by Showtime for Season 3 (via Deadline), even though Season 2 isn't even set to air until March 2023. Apparently Showtime didn't even need to see audience reactions before committing to another season, so you know it's got to be good.

The Vow

"The Vow" is a six-part true-crime documentary series that takes an unflinching look into the inner workings of the infamous self-improvement organization NXIVM, and its now criminally-convicted leader, Keith Raniere. While they may brand themselves as a self-help community, it becomes more and more clear as the series progresses that this is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill cult, complete with brain-washing, sex-trafficking, conspiracy, and near-impossible escape.

The first season, which aired in 2020, revolves around the testimonials of several ex-NXIVM members, alongside some of the journalists who initially began reporting on the groups' cultish crimes. Catherine Oxenberg is also featured in the series, stealing the spotlight as she recalls her attempts to rescue her daughter from the cult's clutches, a story which took center stage in another docuseries, "Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult." The second season, which aired in 2022, centers on the legal trial of leader Keith Raniere, as well as his band of die-hard supporters.

The Path

"The Path" is a Hulu drama series revolving around a complicated character by the name of Eddie Lane, a dedicated member of an intense lifestyle movement called Meyerism. However, whilst on a trip to Peru, Eddie has a disturbing vision that causes his dedication to waver, leading him on a journey of questions and doubt as to what exactly he's involved in, and whether he wishes to remain.

Meyerism is a fictional organization, a jumbled amalgamation of the various infamous themes of extreme cults and religions, but their founding doctrine is one of spiritual enlightenment. At the center of this enlightenment is the acceptance of one guiding principle: That most humans are damaged beings, and it is this damage that is the cause of greater world suffering.

Unlike many series revolving around cults, "The Path" doesn't necessarily paint them as evil or malicious. In fact, Meyerism has a lot of good values to offer. They believe everyone is equal, and they tolerate no forms of hatred or bigotry based on factors like gender, race, or sexuality. In fact, a lot of the members come across as genuinely nice people. However, it is still very much so a cult, with questionable and unhealthy veins running just beneath the surface. This is what makes the series so brilliant: The audience is placed in a state of confusion and conflict, tackling the same uncertainty of the show's central character.

The Following

"The Following" is a thriller series starring Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, an ex-FBI agent set on re-capturing and jailing an escaped serial killer by the name of Joe Carroll. A former English professor inspired by romantic literature and the dark dalliances of writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Carroll was imprisoned for the brutal slaying of many of his female students. Upon his escape, he learns that he has gained a cult following of other murderous deviants with similar personal interests, who will do anything to help him complete his masterpiece.

While this series doesn't focus on the traditional cults of enlightenment and religion, it does share one primary characteristic: That of the charming and charismatic leader, whose powers of control and manipulation can influence followers to do unthinkable acts. While these are definitely willing followers, it does speak to the kind of brainwashing that occurs when one person commands an army of dangerously obedient soldiers. It's the perfect series for anyone who likes their cults with a splash of murder and mayhem, without all the been-there-done-that spiritual commentary.


"Waco" is a six-part mini-series that recreates the dramatic, world-famous standoff between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) against the cult of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. The standoff took place in 1993 at the Branch Davidians' Mount Carmel Compound and lasted approximately 51 days, eventually culminating in a tragically fatal shootout.

The show is a fair retelling of the tragedy, examining events from the perspective of key players on both sides. It's a surprisingly accurate depiction, drawing heavily on evidence such as photographs, news reports, and memoirs written by those who were actually present as things escalated and unfolded. The series is just as much about history as it is about drama, and it offers audiences a great way to add some knowledge to their mental library while also feeding their fascination with true crime.

Orphan Black

"Orphan Black" is a sci-fi thriller series that opens with Sarah Manning, an amateur criminal, watching another woman walk in front of an oncoming train. The deceased woman is eerily similar in appearance to Sarah, so she takes advantage of the situation and steals this woman's identity. However, it soon becomes apparent that this resemblance is no coincidence, and is in fact part of a much broader web of conspiracy and control.

What makes this show a great fit for the cult genre is that there is not one, but two cults at the heart of the story. There's the Neolution Movement, an organization dedicated to progressing the science of eugenics in order to alter the course of human evolution. At the other end are the Proletheans, an extreme fundamentalist religious cult who are adamantly opposed to the mission of Neulotions, as they believe that what they are attempting to do is an abomination to divine creation and Christianity.

This show has it all: The traditional cultish chaos of brainwashing, religion, and murder, but also supernatural and scientific elements of bioengineering and cloning. Not only is it an intriguing mystery, where one pull of the thread only reveals ten more to unravel and explain, but it also offers substantiative commentary on the existential ethics of eugenics and identity.


"Unorthodox" is a drama series revolving around the story of a young woman, Esty (Shira Haas), who flees her extremely controlling Hasidic community. After years of exhausting manipulation and servitude, Esty has found out she's pregnant, and, not wanting her child to be raised in the same toxic environment she was, she has no choice but to flee. They're not just going to let her get away so easily, though: Her husband and his relatives will try their best to drag her back, kicking and screaming all the while.

The show is fictional, but it draws on various real-life extremist religious sects, specifically those of the Haredi community. It's loosely based on Deborah Feldman's memoir "Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots," with specific references to the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg, NY. This community originated in Hungary in the early 1900s, but moved to the United States following World War II, and has since grown to be one of the most prominent and conservative Hasidic communities in the United States. The series is just as much a captivating thriller as it is a devastating commentary on extremist religion and the countless victims that it creates.

Wild Wild Country

"Wild Wild Country" is a documentary series that was released on Netflix in 2018, following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier that year. It's both artsy and accurate in its examination of the Rajneeshee cult, and their problematic Indian guru leader, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. While the organization and its teachings originated in Pune, India, they soon moved over to the United States and built a "utopian" commune in a remote, rural area near Wasco County, Oregon.

In the 1980s, following this move, the cult became extremely well-known across the country, mostly due to the extensive press coverage of their questionable dealings. Conspiracy, fraud, and abuse were just some of the many alleged offenses taking center stage in the media frenzy, and even now, decades later, people are still talking about it. The series itself is a mix of this news footage, as well as interviews with a few of the cult's ex-members. For those who like digging into dusted archives to uncover long-held secrets, this series has more than enough material to satisfy even the most intense investigative inclinations.

The Leftovers

"The Leftovers" is a supernatural drama that takes place in a world that has just suffered a strange global phenomenon, known as the "Sudden Departure," in which 2% of the Earth's population has simply ceased to exist. Following the unexplainable tragedy, and the loss and chaos that ensues, many of the world's major religions fall apart, with an upcropping of extreme cults rising to take their place.

The central characters of the show are members of the Garvey family, all of whom managed to avoid obsolescence, but must still navigate the newly empty and terrifying world they find themselves in. The family is fractured, as several members leave their loved ones to join some of the major cults that have emerged, including the silent nihilists of The Guilty Remnant, and the cult of Holy Wayne, led by an unhinged leader who promises to rid followers of their pain in exchange for sexual favors.

It's a fictional show based on a far-fetched premise, but it does speak to the truly malicious characteristics of cults. These extreme organizations take advantage of vulnerable people, lost and searching for answers, with empty promises of support and community. This series exposes the devastating ways in which lives are destroyed and families are torn apart, so it's perhaps not the most cheerful watch, but it's a necessary one.


Marvel's "Runaways" centers on a group of teenagers who come to realize their parents just might be bona fide cult members. They don't actually call themselves a cult — they're more formally known as The Church of Gibborim — and they pose as your average public community church. However, if you look a little deeper, something sinister is going on behind the altar, with abduction, ritual sacrifice, and even alien worship happening on the regular after the service.

While there are some religious and true crime themes running along the show, it's actually more science-fiction-oriented, and even has some superheroes thrown into the mix. It does take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so that shouldn't come as a surprise. It's the perfect series for anyone who wants to watch a show about cults, but doesn't want to get too bogged down with the seriousness or tragedy that typically accompanies these shows. While "Runaways" has its fair share of darker moments, for the most part, it's content with being simply a good time.

Sacred Lies

Based on the novel "The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly" by Stephanie Oakes, "Sacred Lies" is a drama series centered on a teenage girl, Minnow Bly, shortly following her escape from a religious cult. Twelve years prior to this escape, her cult, known as the Kevinians, freed themselves from the restraints and judgment of society by moving into the remote wilderness to practice their beliefs. Bly is somehow able to tear herself away from the tight grip of the Kevinians, emerging from the woods in a desperate and disoriented state. For reasons which are initially unclear, she brutally assaults a young man whilst in the process of this escape, and soon finds herself in juvenile detention.

The series is riddled with secrets and questions as to what exactly has happened to this girl, and she herself seems to be unable to find answers. The cult she claims to have fled from is nowhere to be found, and their leader has been apparently killed, so it seems the truth is just out of grasp for everyone involved. The audience must wait, along with Bly, as the mystery is slowly unraveled, layer by layer. In addition to uncovering this past, Bly must work to readjust to society and non-cult living, which is a painful process that many cult survivors have had to navigate upon escape.

The Family

"The Family" is a fascinating and disturbing documentary series that shines a light on the inner workings of the extreme fundamentalist Christian organization known as The Fellowship, aka The Family. This is an intense organization with wide-reaching connections to some of the most powerful and influential figures in the entire world, and this series reveals just how deep those ties run.

The Family is centered on religious principles, and one of its missions is to groom young men to take on powerful positions, with the ultimate goal of creating a country that is led by God-fearing fundamentalists. While the organization is conservative-leaning, and this does bleed into a lot of their principles, they have associations with powerful people and politicians on both sides of the aisle, with the only requirement for indoctrination being a strong belief in God, and preferably a Christian background.

The show was executive produced by Jeff Sharlet, who has written extensively on the organization, all in an effort to expose just how many pots this group has their hand in. It's a mind-bending documentary series that will shake you to your core, especially if you live in the United States, where the political ramifications of the group's efforts can be seen most clearly. After you watch it, you'll be left in a perpetual state of paranoia, lending suspicious eyes to every big-name person or organization that crosses your mind. The truth can be hard to face up to, but this series won't let you look away.