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10 Scariest Cults In Horror Movies, Ranked

In recent years, Ari Aster has mastered creating scary and deadly cults in his horror movies, but this genre goes back to the beginnings of cinema. Now, even streaming services are getting into the act, with Netflix releasing the horror series Midnight Mass in 2021 and Peacock releasing a different type of cultist movie with They/Them in 2022. In both cases, the stories showed how cults try to turn people into something they aren’t.

Horror movies are not all about monsters and creatures, and sometimes the evilest characters are regular humans. Most times, it is a group of people with shared beliefs creating a cult that puts everyone around them in danger. Whether worshipping the devil or as a cult based on folk-horror traditions, there are plenty of scary cults in movies that will keep viewers from sleeping at night.


10 Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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The movie that brought the theme of the cult back to horror movies was Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Mia Farrow starred in the movie as a woman living in a new apartment with her husband, who learns she is pregnant.

This is for a good reason. Her husband made a deal with the devil, and a cult living in her building ensured Rosemary’s baby was born because it was the child of Satan himself. Before this movie, cults in films were often kitschy, but this movie proved cults could not only be scary but exist in critically acclaimed releases.

9 Midsommar (2019)

Streaming Now On Showtime

Ari Aster’s Midsommar delivered a movie following a young couple heading to a midsummer celebration in Sweden. They soon find that there is more to the celebration than meets the eye, and they found themselves at odds with a cult.

The movie worked because it remained grounded in realism, showing how a strained relationship could make them ripe for the cult’s mechanisms. It also showed how even a decent person could give themselves over to a cult that has dark plans for them.

8 Children Of The Corn (1984)

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Fritz Kiersch’s Children of the Corn, based on the Stephen King story, was successful and spawned a massive franchise, none of which matched up to the original. While it does show its age at times, it still had a very terrifying cult.

In this case, what made the cult so frightening in the movie was that it was all children. They even killed their own when they reached adulthood in the worship of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. The Stephen King adaptation also remains notable for Linda Hamilton in an early role as one of the cult’s targeted victims.

7 The Wicker Man (1973)

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The Wicker Man followed Rosemary’s Baby by five years and took the idea of a scary cult to another level. A police officer heads to an island in search of a missing girl, only to find her as part of a cult that worshipped a pagan god. What he then learned was that he was going to be the next sacrifice to this pagan god.

While Polanski’s movie had the cult playing in the background before springing the truth on Rosemary, The Wicker Man had the cult in the forefront the entire time. Much like Rosemary’s Baby, this movie proved that cults in movies were a great source for serious horror movies dealing with dark issues. There was also a Nicolas Cage remake, but it is the folk-horror movie original starring Christopher Lee that remains the horror classic.​​​

6 Hereditary (2018)

Streaming Now On Fubo And Showtime

Ari Aster also directed the horror movie Hereditary, which left the viewers squirming and panicked for almost the entire movie before springing the fact this was about a cult on them in the end. However, Aster set up the movie to allow viewers to see from the start that the cult was always there.

A mother suffers the death of her daughter in a horrific accident, and then slowly believes she is descending to madness. By the end, she learns the cult caused her daughter’s death, and their new goal is to take her son as well. The movie shocked viewers and delivered a horrifying look at a family falling apart thanks to a cult, and it remains a notable movie showing how a cult can destroy anything it touches.

5 The Black Cat (1934)

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It is fair to say that Universal revolutionized horror movies. While most fans remember the Universal Monster movies such as Dracula and Frankenstein, they also had a movie with a cult as the villains. This was The Black Cat.

The Black Cat starred Bela Lugosi (Dracula) as a man trying to save a woman from the clutches of an evil cult intent on sacrificing her, with Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) as the cult’s leader. For movie buffs, this is the horror movie about cults that really started it all, and for that reason alone, deserves a watch.

4 Martyrs (2008)

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Martyrs is about a young girl tortured by a relentless cult that returns as an adult and slaughters what looks like a normal family. However, this family was the front for the cult. Viewers soon see that this scary movie cult tortures people to create “martyrs,” believing it will give them a view of the afterlife.

The movie is one of the most disturbing horror movies ever made involving a cult. It was part of the New French Extremity film movement and had some of the most intense torture scenes, many of which push even the limit of horror movie fans.

3 The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

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While it may not seem like a movie about a cult, The Cabin in the Woods is clearly a movie about a dangerous cult, and in this case, they brought about the apocalypse. Unlike many cults in movies, this one featured people working in a lab and wearing suits.

The movie started off with kids heading to a cabin in the woods where a global cult kept actual monsters imprisoned to sacrifice people to stop the return of the Old Gods. For anyone looking for a movie about cultists that avoid every cliché and trope from cultist movies, Cabin in the Woods is one of the best for originality.

2 Mandy (2018)

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Nicolas Cage has made some massively underrated movies over his career, many of them independent features. One of these hit in 2018 with the horror movie Mandy. This is a revenge movie where Cage plays a man seeking vengeance after a scary cult called the Children of the New Dawn kidnaps his wife, Mandy.

What is even better is when the scary cult summons a demonic biker gang called the Black Skulls, which are even scarier and extremely horrific horror movie villains. This is a cultist movie for people who want an over-the-top gore-fest and the acting of Cage just adds to the entire allure of the movie.

1 Apostle (2018)

Stream Now On Netflix

Apostle was a Netflix movie that was very similar to the classic, The Wicker Man. In both movies, a man heads to a mysterious island in search of a missing girl. In this case, it is a man trying to find his missing sister, who a cult is holding for ransom.

Both movies are also engrained in the lore of pagan gods, and here the leader reveals the island remains lush and plentiful after years of remaining barren thanks to blood sacrifice to the pagan gods. This movie is a throwback, and it is the closest a recent movie has come to replicating what made The Wicker Man so great decades ago.

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