As cult docuseries become more prominent on streaming services, interest in religious and intellectual cults has never been higher. The subject is less prevalent in fictional television; however, a handful of series stand out from the rest as the most compelling.
While definitions of what a cult is vary, these programs highlight groups with many of the main traits of a cult. From miniseries that explore the more extreme beliefs of Mormon cults to shows whose main characters are fictional charismatic leaders, there have been plenty of shows about cults that are highly rated on IMDb.
ten Aquarius (2015-2016) – 7.0
Set in late 60s Los Angeles, Aquarius centers on fictional detective Sam Hodiak as he investigates crimes revolving around Charles Manson. As the show progresses, it becomes clear to the detective that Manson’s influence grows as his cult becomes increasingly aggressive.
The show ran for two seasons, during which it was praised for being more than just a retelling of the exploits of the Manson family and for exploring broader themes of the time, including racism, war and poverty. corruption. Directed by David Duchovny, the main cast included Gray Damon, Gethin Anthony and Claire Holt.
9 The Way (2016-2018) – 7.2
Focusing on the fictional cult of Meyerism, The path, starring Aaron Paul, follows a family at the heart of the organization. However, after returning home to upstate New York from a spiritual retreat where he experienced a revelation, the family man begins to question his faith.
With a solid set of performances led by Aaron Paul in one of his best roles, The path tackled topics of faith, family and spirituality throughout its three seasons, and deftly explored the conflicts that arise between members of alternative religions.
8 The Sequel (2013-2015) – 7.4
A tense psychological thriller, What follows follows an FBI agent’s attempt to rule an escaped serial killer whose assembled cult carries out his will. As the show progresses, more charismatic serial killers enter the fold even after the killer’s initial threats begin to fade.
Starring Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent and James Purefoy as the main serial killer, the show has been hailed as one of the scariest shows on a broadcast network. While its premise was noted as over the top, Bacon and Purefoy’s grounded performances elevated the show above many of its counterparts.
seven Under the Banner of Heaven (2022) – 7.5
One of the most underrated miniseries according to Reddit, Under the banner of heaven investigates the murder of a Mormon woman and her baby through the lens of a Mormon detective who begins to question his faith. Set against the backdrop of 1980s Utah, the show explores what it means to be a modern-day Mormon, warts and all.
While the show drew criticism from some members of the Mormon community, it was generally praised for its exploration of the complexities of the Mormon religion and how individuals personally struggle with their faith, especially at through Andrew Garfield’s performance as a man in crisis.
6 Big Love (2006-2011) – 7.6
Great love, set in what is now Utah, tells the story of a fundamentalist Mormon family that practices polygamy. The show revolves around their lives in and out of the public sphere and their associations with a local fundamentalist complex.
From its third season, Great love had found its place, going from a mixed reception at the beginning to an almost universal recognition. Despite critics of the Mormon Church, the show has been praised for its rich family tapestries and serious examination of religion and morality.
5 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015-2019) – 7.6
One of the rare comedies with a protagonist who was part of a cult, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt delves into the aftermath of rescuing the titular character from an apocalyptic group. Not wanting to feel like a victim, Kimmy, uninitiated to most of modern society, moves to New York to find a new life.
Praised for its quirky and quirky premise, the show’s ability to highlight feminist perseverance through the use of humorous situations created one of the first popular streaming comedies. Co-created by Tina Fey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt raced for four seasons before getting a final special in 2020.
4 Waco (2018) – 7.9
A dramatization of the 1993 clash between the ATF/FBI and Branch Davidians, waco details events from a variety of different perspectives on both sides of the dispute. However, the main focus is on David Koresh, the cult leader, and Gary Noesner, the main FBI negotiator there.
Led by Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon in one of its most underrated roles, the show was able to capture the tension of the complex situation and humanize many of the members who fell victim to the incident. As critics argued over the effectiveness of wacoof execution, they generally agreed that performance elevates the material.
3 The Leftovers (2014-2017) – 8.3
A supernatural drama set in Mapleton, New York, Leftovers comes three years after an event called the “Sudden Departure”, where 2% of the world’s population disappeared without a trace. As a result, mainstream religions faltered in the aftermath of the event, and many cults sprang up.
The main cults that appear in the series are The Guilty Remnant, a group of white-clad nihilists who chain smoke, and the followers of Holy Wayne, who claim to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Initially criticized for its dark tone, the series became more focused in later seasons.
2 Black Orphan (2013-2017) – 8.3
From Toronto, black orphan begins by following Sarah Manning, a con artist who discovers that she is a clone created by Neolutionists, a scientific cult aimed at artificially advancing human evolution. Manning soon realizes that she is also wanted by the Proletheans, a cult that believes clones are an abomination.
Directed by Tatiana Maslany, who played several different clones during the show, black orphan burst onto the Canadian television scene and found an international audience. Thanks in part to his worship, black orphan is expected to have a series of sequels that will air in 2023.
1 The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-) – 8.4
Set in a dystopian theocracy, The Handmaid’s Tale follows June Osborne, a fertile woman who, due to extremely low infertility rates around the world, was subjected to sexual slavery by Gilead commanders. Determined to reunite with her husband and daughter, the show depicts her attempts to achieve freedom.
Applauded for its haunting depiction of a totalitarian and sexist society, The Handmaid’s Tale won numerous awards for its first two seasons. While later seasons were considered gratuitous by some critics, the show’s messages continue to resonate and expand from episode to episode.
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