Leave Your Life Behind and Watch A Bunch Of New Movies About Cults
If you’ve ever dreamt about getting swept up by a mysterious stranger and leaving your life behind to live in a secret compound in the middle of nowhere, we’ve got good news. It looks like cults may be the next big pop culture obsession, and we are definitely here for it—and that’s not just because we secretly want a man who looks like Father John Misty to invite us to find eternal light and take Molly. Well, actually that’s a large part of why we’re so excited. When you’re facing the prospect of having to say “President Trump” for four years, drinking potentially poisonous Kool Aid on a ranch naked with sixty people starts to sound like heaven.
The word “cult” began when Bernie Sanders was born in the 17th Century, but it originally meant “worship” in the vanilla sense of the term, not the batshit crazy way we see today. It took a few egocentric dudes who wanted people to make them feel like Gods for “cult” to really become associated with the negative aspects of worship, like brainwashing and mass suicide. The marriage of cults to pop culture were a slow trickle that turned into a flood of intrigue when they put the “cult” in counterculture during the 1960s and 1970s. From the Hare Krishnas and Charles Manson’s “Family” to the Unification Church and Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, cults were more prominent than SoulCycle instructors in Manhattan.
This year, pop culture is revisiting cults. It isn’t all that surprising–while yes, a lot of cults are horrifying, they are highly entertaining. In their heyday, cults featured everything we love to see play out in overdramatic fashion: mass murder, brainwashing, nudity, beautifully mysterious leaders, and exchanging sexual favors for induction into the club.
Cults also tend to bring back enough 70s flair to send liberal arts students diving desperately into thrift shop racks to find the perfect velvet blazer. It’s a new golden age for cult worship, and since we can’t throw out our student loan payments and give up all earthly belongings to hop on board the crazy train straight to the nearest compound just yet, the next wave of cult-focused pop culture will have to do.
Picking the best pop culture cult to jump into is no easy task given the wealth of options, but we’re here to help indoctrinate you. There’s no shortage of content coming up from some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Next year, American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis is taking on the story of a group of cult escapees as they try to leave their pasts behind in in The Deleted, and the power duo who brought us American Psycho, the film version, director Mary Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner, are taking on Charles Manson and three brainwashed girls who committed gruesome murders for him in The Family.
Even Jared Leto is getting into the cult craze at the end of May with Holy Hell, a documentary he helped produce about a real 1970s cult called The Buddhafield, directed by a former member, Will Allen. If you like your cults mixed with scifi, Michael Shannon’s drama Midnight Special is out now, featuring children with supernatural powers and a cult called “The Ranch.”
If you can’t wait for all of these projects to drop your into crazytown, it’s time to get acquainted with some of the best cult-themed shows and films, available a click away. We’re personally obsessed with watching Aaron Paul go from struggling meth dealer to cult member on the Hulu show The Path, but we also admittedly spend most of our time fantasizing about Hugh Dancy guiding us into his inner light.
If you need to focus your newfound fascination into a smaller commitment than a full-fledged TV show, time travel back to 2011 and check out two of the best cult movies in the last decade, Elizabeth Olsen’s Martha Marcy May Marlene and Brit Marling’s The Sound of My Voice. Waiting for your subway to show up? Check out Radiohead’s new Wicker Man-themed video for “Burn The Witch.” There’s no shortage of occult media, so drop what you’re doing and put the “cult” back in pop culture.
Images via Vogue, Getty, and Hulu.
Stay tuned to Milk for more cults.