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Seduction and Control: 11 Docuseries About Cults to Stream Now

Don't be next.

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  • Photo Credit: Kasbe Films

You can’t open a streaming app these days without another show popping up about cults. It might seem strange. After all, cults aren’t exactly a new phenomenon.

But with the rise of social media, we can now see inside these mysterious organizations with more clarity than ever before. And with an online reach, it’s easier than ever for these nefarious individuals to tap into algorithms and find a much wider audience willing to listen to their message.

Whether it’s for the promise of true love, self-growth, or finding others to build a new way of life, cults have a knack for targeting our deepest desires and exploiting them. Which is both fascinating and terrifying.

Here are 11 cult documentaries and docuseries that are guaranteed to feed your cultish obsession.

The Vow — HBO

NXIVM began as a group offering self-improvement. But Keith Raniere never cared about improving anyone’s life but his own.

Told through footage from events and meetings along with first-hand accounts, The Vow shows how Raniere gained people’s trust and used it to abuse, coerce, manipulate, and exploit women for his pleasure.

Wild Wild Country — Netflix

Controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela bought 80,000 acres in Wasco County, Oregon in the early 80s to start a new way of life.

But their extreme behavior soon puts them at odds with the local ranchers, sparking a war that ends with the first bioterror attack, a massive wiretapping case, and an assassination conspiracy. 

Escaping Twin Flames — Netflix

Jeff and Shaleia Divine want you to find your Twin Flame. They’re so passionate about true love, they’ve devoted their lives to teaching anyone how to find their happily ever after—for a price.

Even more conveniently, they can tell you who your Twin Flame is. And exactly how far you’ll have to go to fulfill your destiny. 

The Synanon Fix — HBO

What began as a religious movement to rehabilitate individuals struggling with drug abuse, quickly devolved into sessions of attack therapy, otherwise known as the “Synanon Game”.

Through violent and dangerous methods, Synanon rose to considerable power only to eventually fall after charges of financial misconduct, terrorism, and attempted murder.

Dancing for the Devil — Netflix

Known as the “TikTok cult”, Dancing for the Devil focuses on Los Angeles management company 7M.

Run by Robert Shinn, who also leads the Shekinah Church—which talent has to participate in—7M targets dancers, signs them to perform on TikTok—and takes steps to completely control their lives.

The Program — Netflix

What should a parent struggling to discipline their child do? Some decided that allowing an organization to kidnap their child and take them to a corrective boarding school was the right choice.

But these schools have a terrifying dark side. Survivors of Academy at Ivy Ridge and other disciplinary schools take viewers through their harrowing experiences.

Love Has Won — HBO

Amy Carlson, known as Mother of God, led a small religious group called Love Has Won. Her mission was to save the planet from people determined to control the world by keeping them in a state of low vibrations.

With a mix of New Age spiritualism, conspiracy theories, and wild health claims, Carlson manipulated and abused her followers all the way until her death.

Stolen Youth — Hulu

In 2008, Larry Ray lived with his daughter Talia on the campus of Sarah Lawrence College.

Through extremely manipulative and guilt-driven methods, he slowly recruited and then terrorized roughly half a dozen of Talia’s dormmates resulting in isolation, financial control, forced labor, and sexual exploitation.

The ramifications of Ray and the cult he created are still unfolding today.

The Deep End — Hulu

Teal Swan is no stranger to controversy. She was treated by Barbara Snow, a leading figure in the 1980s Satanic Panic crisis, leading to Swan alleging years of childhood ritual abuse.

The case was dismissed for lack of evidence and Swan has since devoted her life to healing. Though no formal charges have been brought against her, Swan has been accused of exerting ritualistic control through manipulative behavior as a spiritual influencer. So is it cult?

That’s up to the viewer.

The Way Down — Max

Gwen Shamblin Lara was the founder of the Weigh Down Workshop, a diet program designed to use spirituality as a way to eat less. She also founded the Remnant Fellowship Church.

But her empire was built on nothing more than lies prompted by greed that for some followers, had irreversible consequences.

The Garden — Discovery+

Another group that went viral on TikTok, The Garden looks at a mysterious community that lives entirely off the grid.

Their survival tactics are extreme, and while they profess that their collective is leaderless, there are unspoken rules you have to live by.

For some, this enticing way of life may be more than meets the eye. 

Featured still from “The Deep End” via Freeform