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Comparing Cults as Seen in Film

How do you start a Cult Comparison in Film research paper? Our expert writers suggest like this:

For generations, Hollywood has tried to depict a glamorized perspective of American life, including both the good and the bad. In the earliest days of film, movies depicted rags-to-riches tales and stories of criminals that beat the system. However, there has been one element of film that has persisted from the beginning of Hollywood– the cult. In actuality, a cult is a group of individuals with fanatical beliefs that are willing to go to dramatic extremes to ensure they are continued. Some of the most famous cults of recent memory centered around one powerful figurehead, such as Jim Jones of the People’s Temple and David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. The recurring theme in many of these cults is religion: nearly all start out as a branch of a legitimate faith, then devolve into something catastrophic or socially unacceptable.

The following are a few Hollywood films about Cults that you can use to compare:

  • American Jesus
  • The Master
  • The Fake
  • Oh My God
  • Machine Gun Preacher
  • Red State


Cult Comparison in Film

Comparing Cults


In film, cults are pictured in a number of different ways, some of which are perceived as being accurate. When a cult tries to recruit a new member, they are shown as being wholesome and appealing, as they must be seen by new members in the real world. Over time, though, the leader is shown in Hollywood to have a weaker and weaker grasp on reality, with insanity clearly not being far behind. While this may be the case in true cults, our understanding of these organizations is somewhat limited. Eventually, in Hollywood, the new recruit comes to his or her senses, sees the danger in remaining in such an organization, and does anything necessary to save themselves or their families from the group. This is where Hollywood’s perception of cults is dramatically different from reality. In truth, few individuals break out of cults, particularly when the cult is of the doomsday variety. Jim Jones and David Koresh were responsible for the loss of not only their own lives, but the lives of many of their followers; this, however, is rarely seen in Hollywood’s depiction of cults. Instead, leaders are seen as getting their rightful punishment and the followers largely come to their senses. The portrayal of cults in American films is yet another example of the sharp divide between fiction and reality in this particular medium.

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