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"I am your father, and you are my children".

Roseanne: Edelweiss Corrections School? What's that, some kind of brainwashing camp?
David: No. It says right on the brochure - "This is not a brainwashing camp."
Roseanne, "Springtime For David"

The word "cult" has many slightly different uses in Real Life, some of which carry a weight of negative connotations and as such are controversial. (If you really want to go into detail, see the Analysis page.) Here's the short version:

As typically used in fiction, "cult" is a pejorative term for what is more objectively termed a "new religious movement". These groups, being religions of recent origin, struggle with small membership, low social standing (generally), and a nigh-unbreakable association with a single charismatic figure, which can be devastating if this person is still alive and capable of scandals and social missteps. All this, coupled with the understandable anger of established Real Life groups at being labeled cults, means that fiction is likely to stick to a tropable stereotype (which is interesting) over an accurate depiction of a new religious movement (which is likely to be offensive and/or boring).


You can expect a fictional new religious movement to fall under one of the following types:

TV cults will usually have one or more of the following notable features, regardless of origin:

  • Communal living, with members expected to remove themselves from their former lives (physical isolation).
  • Absolute secrecy (social isolation).
  • Meetings that take the form of a Secret Circle of Secrets.
  • A supposedly-healthy yet horrible (or at least unpopular) diet; beans of various kinds are popular, as well as other vegetarian/vegan options. The purpose of this diet is usually to either break members down or make them easier to controlnote , or to suppress "lustful," "violent," or "base" urges.
  • An authoritarian yet charismatic leader, who may or may not believe their own story.
  • Members who do manual labor for little or no pay, either to grow food, do construction work, or make money for the leaders through a business.
  • Members who are expected to turn their worldly goods over to the group.
  • Members who are not allowed to have any authority of their own — parents cannot determine what happens to their children; members cannot choose their spouse; women (and sometimes men) cannot determine who has (or does not have) sexual rights to their bodies; children may be sexually abused and/or punished in bizarre ways.
  • A group which is explicitly shown to be a Scam Religion.
  • The home, camp or compound which comes under siege by police or federal agents (needless to say, cults are popular bad guys on shows about police or federal agents).
  • Polygamy and/or pedophilia.
  • A large arsenal of illegal weaponry and adherents willing to wage war with the government.
  • Mass-suicide, either planned and foiled, or used as a Downer Ending.
  • Members being required to enter into a Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage, sometimes in a mass wedding, sometimes not; or, all women required to "marry" the leader.
  • Brainwashing (through psychological techniques or, in less realistic works, Mind Control technology or magic) that keeps the members faithful and dedicated.
  • Deprogrammers. Especially in the 1970s, when small Christian cults were rife, the deprogrammer was often portrayed as a heroic, knightly figure who rescues (kidnaps) attractive young women out of the cult and subjects them to hours of debriefing, encouraging them to question the cult's teachings. Some deprogrammers did do this, less so today; Joe Szimhart, a real deprogrammer, advises filmmakers on realistic portrayals.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory. Anything less is seen as lack of faith, or insufficient commitment to the faith. Especially when it happens in public.
  • Goals to Take Over the World, creating a Master Race, saving souls, etc.
  • Obsession with the End of the World as We Know It.
  • A strict delineation between who is "in" and who is "out." Sometimes members are forbidden to interact with non-members.
  • A very strict hierarchy. Sometimes, one's position in the hierarchy may change, other times, it is fixed.
  • Emphasis on fate and destiny.
  • Mandatory Motherhood, especially for women, generally with the goal of creating a master race, producing the Chosen One, producing endless "soldiers" for God (or a similar figure). Sometimes, these women will almost always be pregnant, or told that their only or primary purpose is making babies.
  • Rituals involving Blood Magic, sex, etc.
  • Incest, especially if it involves the leader(s).
  • Members who are not allowed to question or criticize any of the group's beliefs or practices, or who have been threatened with violence/ostracism/ridicule/financial ruin/etc. if they dare to do so.
  • Leaders who may threaten to sue anyone (insiders or outsiders, current members or former members, or people who have never been part of the group) who dares to criticize the group.
  • Leaders who are fixated on an Assimilation Plot, or with creating a Hive Mind. Emphasis on conformity; members may have to wear uniforms at all times.
  • A network of Culture Police or Church Police, who "observe" (read: spy on) members behind their backs, and report any (suspected or actual) wrongdoing or questioning to the leader(s). There is very much an undercurrent of "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, and if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide."
  • Cult leaders who do succeed in conquering the world (or at least a portion of it) setting up a theocratic government, usually with an Appeal to Force if citizens don't accept the new leaders/government/religion.
  • Very strict and rigid rules and dogma.
  • The group rejects some or all aspects of modern medicine, and someone (who really needs that medical treatment, often the Littlest Cancer Patient) ends up dying because they or their family refused to get them treatment because it's against the rules. Members putting Honor Before Reason.
  • Rituals involving risky activities, some kind of permanent mark (e.g. a scar, a tattoo, or a piercing), or Self-Harm in order to prove one's faith, or mark that person as a member of the group.
  • Rituals involving Human Sacrifice, especially of children, or young virginal women or girls.
  • Members being expected to radically alter their physical appearance, such as by shaving their heads.
  • The group preys on people who are vulnerable in some way. (Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life, recently divorced, grieving a loss, in a career slump, suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome, members of marginalized groups, etc.)

They show up in almost any show, from Crime Time Soap and Police Procedural to Speculative Fiction. In SF series, it's likely that what they worship is real, and at the very least more powerful than anything they have experienced before; see Sufficiently Advanced Alien and God Guise. In comedy, it's common to build one around something truly ridiculous.

A cult-like cabal is often at the center of an Ancient Conspiracy.

Many aspects of the standard depiction are drawn from real events, based on such incidents as Jonestown, the Heaven's Gate, the attack on the Branch Davidian home in Waco, Texas, and others. Expect there to be an element of Religious Horror. If a cult is being played for humor value, it will usually very closely resemble the Church of Happyology.

Subtropes including the following:

Don't confuse with the horror Role-Playing Game KULT, the Freeware Game Cult, the series Cult, or with the rock band, The Cult.

Even the most well-regarded cults should not be confused with Cult Classics, which are almost always entirely different. (Although in some cases, you'll get a Cult Classic that deals with an actual cult.)

Former Cult members are usually a Cult Defector, and are given to coming up with Religion Rant Songs once disaffected.

Although sadly, this is very much Truth in Television, Real Life examples are not allowed for obvious reasons; people would just start adding groups they didn't like.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Doma Organization in Yu-Gi-Oh! is half corporation, half cult, in that its corporate side is merely a front and financial supplier to its members' worship of the destruction of (to their eyes) a world filled with irredeemable evil.
  • Similarly, the Hikari no Kessha ("Society of Light") in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has corporate backing, but are just in it to destroy a world full of sinners. In both, the penultimate figure their beliefs are based on is an ancient, corrupting, semi-sentient influence from beyond the stars. Both Doma and the Society recruit their members by More Than Mind Control.
  • Yiliaster from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's is somewhat similar to the two mentioned above, but they don't recruit members and are hinted at being much more powerful.
  • The cult revolving around "Friend" in 20th Century Boys. This begins to change as the cult forms the Friendship Party of Japan and initiate a totalitarian takeover of the Japanese political system and, eventually, that of the rest of the world.
  • In King of Thorn, the Cold Sleep project was sponsored by a cult called Venus Gate. They planned to harness the power of Medusa to remake the world, only to discover too late that Evil Is Not a Toy.
  • The Lemures of Baccano!!, who worship the immortal Mad Scientist Huey Laforet. They believe that if they serve him, they may obtain eternal life for themselves. Huey is not actually capable of making others immortal, and regards them with amusement and scorn for believing this.
    • In the novels, there's SAMPLE, a cult that worships pain. They designate a child as their "sacrificial god," then brutally torture the child, supposedly as a means of having them take on all the pain the worshippers would be feeling instead.
  • Ai Kora has a truly bizarre example, the Church of Bluish-Purple, run by a loony with a fetish for bloomers (as in buruma, super-short girl's gym shorts).
  • An example appears in Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo, but it's hard to tell if it's a straight example or subversion. In one of the stories, a teenage delinquent is accepted into a group led by a woman claiming to be an Angel. None of the girls do anything wrong, as everyone says: they do community work, farming, visit the sick and elderly...the only law seems to be that the girls must give up their cellphones and never eat a bird. Suddenly, all of the girls drop dead, seemingly at the exact same time, and their leader is nowhere to be found. However, it turns out that they all died of grief after learning the food they ate was contaminated and accidentally mixed with chicken meat. They were so horrified that they ate bird, they all dropped dead at once. Count D says he firmly believes the leader was an angel who took the girls to Heaven.
  • One drives the plot of a Franken Fran chapter. A man comes looking for his missing daughter, having gotten a lead suggesting they might know something about what happened to her. It eventually turns out that she was kidnapped and ended up becoming their messiah figure, but she fell ill, so they brought in the eponymous experimental surgeon. Fran saved the girl's life by converting her into an enormous factory, with her physical body reconfigured to be hooked up to the facilities. The stereotypical low-pay work the cultists were doing was running the machines that stood in for her digestive, endocrine, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Yeah, reproductive. She's pregnant, at age ten, on top of everything else.
  • The Cult of the Sacred Eye plays a major role in Future Diary, as the Sixth Diary Holder is its leader. She is worshiped by them as an oracle, and has lived in the temple complex for almost all her life (she herself is well aware that she isn't an oracle, but plays the part because that's what she's done all her life). Revealed later to be a hoax started by her parents when she was a young child, and after her parents were killed in a car crash, the other leaders of the cult imprisoned her and used her as a Sex Slave. It's not made clear exactly how she regained control of her followers since then.
  • In the manga Arisa, the titular character's class has been sucked into a cult revolving around "The King" whose followers text him their wishes, and each "King Time" he selects one to grant.
  • Afterschool Charisma (aka Japanese Clone High) has a bizarre cult that takes root among the clones lead by a clone of the legendary 3rd century Japanese witch-queen Himiko who worship the spirit of Dolly the Clone Sheep. Yeah.
  • In Kotoura-san, Hiyori's family run one in the manga, named after their family name. The anime changed it into a dojo.
  • In Fairy Tail, Black Mage Zeref is worshiped as a god by at least one cult. Several characters were once slaves to a cult dedicated to reviving him never knowing that he wasn't actually dead. Dark Guild Grimoire Heart and Dark Guild Tartaros were cults in all but name dedicated to Zeref as well the former of which was led by a wizard who knew Zeref was still alive and wanted to use him to create a "Grand Magic World" while the latter was filled with his own genocidal demon creations dedicated to destroying mankind and reuniting with killing Zeref because that's his dearest wish.. During the Time Skip after Tartaros' defeat and Fairy Tail's disbandment, "Avatar", yet another cult of Zeref worshipers appears. Zeref seems to attract fanatical worshipers like honey attracts flies.
  • Dragon Ball GT had the Luud Cult, and alien cult that worshipped a giant machine.
  • The worldwide cult of Kira in Death Note. They did not know who Kira was, but believed him (just as he believed himself) to be The Scourge of God.
  • In Overlord (2012), this is how the denizens of Nazarick worship Momonga/Ainz and the other Supreme Beings. A lot of the amusing mistakes Momonga makes is not recognizing this, and how he tries to operate Nazarick like a corporation instead.
    • After Neia is brought back to life by Ainz, she unknowingly has new levels in classes that make her the leader of a cult dedicated to spreading the glory of the Sorcerous Kingdom.

    Comic Books 
  • Back during the Dan Jurgens-era of Superman, there was a cult of people who praised Superman like a God. It wasn't something he liked. After Superman died, they began seeing him as a more messianic light, waiting for the day he would rise from the grave. And when four people bearing the S-Shield rose, factions took hold, each one rooting for the four bearers. It got to the point where Maggie Sawyer started to worry that a gang war of sorts would break out between the four.
    • Another group of Superman worshipers would emerge years later, kidnapping and attempting to kill Lois Lane for marrying Clark Kent rather than Superman.
  • In the Nero album "De Boze Tongen" it is a sect that is the antagonist. Though the name is not known. All we know is that they want Nero to be their president. They would then carry out a collection of horrible actions under his name. Nero refuses and the sect attempts throughout the whole album to force him to become the president.
  • The 2 people from a small sect that appeared in Spirou and Fantasio in album #37, called Le réveil du Z, is this. Their name of it is not known at all and all we probably know else is that they greet with the term Kakebuke. They have aside from the belief that aliens landed on planet earth also the belief that the earth is flat, like a flying saucer. The reason that these 2 are in the album is to talk with Fantasio about the events that happened in the previous album, which was called L'horloger de la comète, in the hope that it proves that their beliefs are true. After they hear his story they find out that he is not useful enough to justify their beliefs and proceed to make him drunk.
  • Batman: The Cult deals with the Caped Crusader and his investigation into mysterious goings on with kidnapped vagrants. A cult ran by Deacon Blackfire captures Batman and breaks him before Jason Todd rescues him. They, then, proceed to take control of Gotham until Batman and Robin reclaim the city.
  • Dokuro: The Nirvana Church of Creation.
  • Judge Dredd: Far too many to count. Let's just say that in a city as big as Mega-City One, there are quite a few crackpot cults and religions led by wannabe godheads that the Judges have dismantled. The scarier examples aren't beyond human sacrifice or even worship monsters like the Dark Judges.
  • Robin Series: Tim and "Stephen" confront the last survivor of a cult that had been obsessed with the End of the World as We Know It and started a commune designed to be completely self reliant to survive such an eventuality only for just about all of them to mysteriously die over a possible connection to the Eldritch Abomination Tim stumbled across. While the connection is confirmed (the creature had posed as a human and had been in charge of getting the group meat, which eventually someone discovered was human meat cut from someone who it then immediately healed) it doesn't help Tim figure out anything further about the creature except that it seems to live a peaceful life between its violent transformations.
  • Kobra is the perennial Evil Cult in DC Comics. Originally the villains of a short-lived eponymous series by Jack Kirby, where the leader's brother continually thwarted them with the CIA's help, they've since appeared sporadically as enemies of the Outsiders or Wonder Woman.
  • IDW Publishing's 2006 Transformers continuity had an unusual case in the Circle of Light. Optimus Prime despised them and always referred to them as a "cult", partially because their leader Dai Atlas was such an abrasive Holier Than Thou sort that he accused Optimus of being not better than Megatron and undeserving of bearing the Matrix of Leadership. It didn't help that while the Autobot/Decepticon war raged, the Circle set up a Mary Suetopia where there was no conflict or energy shortage note , but refused to aid outsiders. Unluckily for them, this meant no one knew where they were when they came under attack, and as a result over 90% of their population were horribly butchered as victims of sadistic experiments.
  • The Ultimates: Thor has a cult of followers that consider him a messiah.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Golden Age Wonder Woman had two unrelated villains who started a cult in order to scam people out of money, though Zara is the more villainous of the two they're both murderers.
    • Comic Cavalcade: Prof. Plasm started a cult, which the willing members join and agree to serve him in return for his concoction that makes them feel happy, and obedient, while not being allowed to know the full secrets of the cult and attending meetings by going to certain locations and being blindfolded before transportation.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dogbert in Dilbert started his own cult on one occasion:
    Dilbert: I think you've taken this cult idea of yours too far.
    Dogbert: Who says it's a cult?
    Dilbert: You said it's a cult!
    Dogbert: That word has a bad connotation. I prefer to think of it as a bunch of morons who have nothing better to do with their lives.

    Fan Works 
  • Cult Stuck has a rare sympathetic example. The Sufferists are a little eerie and a lot fanatical, but they're also dedicated to bringing peace and nonviolence to an extremely brutal world, and look downright saintly compared to the totalitarian empire they're opposing. Karkat is worshiped by the titular Cult, as they believe him to be the Sufferer's reincarnation (which may or may not be true, though Karkat himself strongly denies it). He dislikes this- with good reason; they forced him to act as their messiah, and his duties involve spreading a lot of ridiculous propaganda- but admits that just being a normal cultist would be a pretty good life.
  • In Camp Nightmare, the alleged day camp is actually a front for a very wide-spread cult.
  • Ages of Shadow: The Shadow Walkers started off as secret society of shadow magic users, more interested in personal power and bullying villagers into submission than anything else. Then Jade found them and reorganized them into a proper Religion of Evil based on the worship of her "Yade Khan" persona, at which point they dedicated themselves to conquering the world in her name.
  • The Elements of Friendship has the Cult of Pi, from which the Pie family is descended. They worshiped Discord during his original reign, and after his petrification, they started preaching his return and how his enemies would be turned to stone themselves. Over time, this evolved so that they stopped worshiping Discord, and switched entirely to rocks.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): Adam's faction of the White Fang were always violent fanatics, but following the attack on Beacon (and Adam's death), the Albain brothers smoothly transition them into an insane cult worshiping him. The heroes end up allying with Sienna Khan, the leader of the mainstream White Fang who until recently was encouraging all of Adam's worst impulses, because at least she's not insane. Blake, Adam's ex-girlfriend, is especially annoyed when they have to infiltrate the cult and she keeps hearing people praising Adam with every breath. Ren exploits this to send her on a killing spree just by telling her "trust in Adam, and he will watch over you." When Blake kills the Albain brothers, some quick-thinking on Sun's part makes the cult think she's Adam's prophet. She is not amused.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Worshiping at the Altar of Knowledge is about how Twilight discovers she has a cult dedicated to her. Celestia and Luna are less helpful than she was hoping, and treat the whole thing like a fun milestone.
    Celestia: Dear Twilight, if you don't have at least one every decade or two you're probably doing something wrong.
  • The villains of Megami no Hanabira are the Flock, who manages to somehow combine Scam Religion with Religion of Evil: although their motivations (or at least those of Father Phillips) are self-serving and deceptive, they have genuine metaphysical backing from the Forces of Law, who figure that in the end, the Flock's endgame furthers YHVH's cause.
  • Becoming A True Invader: The faction of Heboadians led by Pel believe in a prophecy (that Tel made up to entertain his sister but she took seriously) that a living Gateway will come and summon the Great Boad, who will then purge all the condemned (with "condemned" here meaning anyone who doesn't abide by Pel's authoritarian rules).
  • Parodied in the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic Operation Golden Lotus, where Plagg, after getting tired of Adrien bemoaning that he is love with both Ladybug and Marinette and doesn't know that they are the same person, decides to conspire with the titular groupnote  to get the two together. Though in return for his plan, the girls must agree to become his Cheese Cult and worship him in various ways. These include offering him a cheese wheel each every week and naming their first-born child after a type of cheese.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Red State has the Five Points Trinity Church, a group of Fundamentalist Christians led by Sinister Minister Abin Cooper who lure in "sinners" to kill them.
  • Rosemary's Baby has straight-ahead Satanists.
  • Dagon is based on "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by H. P. Lovecraft.
  • MindHead from the Steve Martin movie Bowfinger, a blatant parody of Scientology.
  • The Wicker Man (1973), which gets bonus points for being a cult film that's actually about a cult.
  • Midsommar has The Hårga, an isolated community in Sweden performing a festival once every 90 years.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had the Thuggee.
  • Children of the Corn has a community of children who have killed everyone over 19 in their community and worship "He Who Walks Behind the Rows", who it turns out is quite real.
  • The 1989 movie Santa Sangre provides a surrealist example with Concha’s eponymous church(whose name means holy blood in spanish). The cult believes in the salvation of the world by the worshipping of a schoolgirl who was long ago brutally raped, dismembered and left to die in a pool of her own blood.
  • Silent Hill has a Manichean-type religion with Puritanical Christian overtones and apparently worships a goddess. It is not the same cult from the game series.
  • Mouth to Mouth is based on director Alison Murray's actual experiences with a cult made up of homeless teenagers who want to stop using drugs and seek to change the world.
  • The Children of the Yeti, from the Troma film Yeti: A Love Story.
  • Bubble Boy has a cult of cheery people led by none other than Fabio. The cult even has all members with the same name, similar to the King of the Hill example.
  • Lord of Illusions features a Cult led by an evil wizard named Nix in the Mojave Desert.
  • The Sacrament has journalists documenting their effort to save a coworker's sister from a Jonestown-like group.
  • Sound of My Voice is about two documentarians infiltrating (and getting sucked into) a mysterious cult led by a young woman who claims that she's from a post-apocalyptic future.
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene has a young woman escaping a religious cult and trying to reorient herself in the everyday world.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Moira informs Charles and Alex that cults began to sprang up after the public discovered the existence of mutants, and some of these secret societies believe those with special abilities are part of a Second Coming.
  • Can Ellen Be Saved from 1974 has John Saxon as a heroic deprogrammer hired by Leslie Nielsen and Louise Fletcher to kidnap their teenage daughter (Katherine Cannon) from The Children Of Jesus and its seductive leader, played by Michael Parks.
  • Sweetwater: Josiah formed a small one made up of a few men and his two wives after apparently leaving Mormonism in Utah. His men are unhappy they don't have wives of their own as he promised them yet though.
  • The Order of the Coagula from Get Out (2017). Its elderly white members seek immortality by transplanting their brains into younger, healthier African American bodies.
  • The Sisterhood of Night: The Sisterhood is accused of being one in the news media based on the accusations made against them.
  • The Endless revolves around two brothers, Justin and Aaron, who escaped what was described as a UFO death cult ten years earlier. When Aaron receives a tape from the cult that seems to indicate that they didn't kill themselves yet but might be about to do so now, the two decide to go to visit the group one last time. The commune seems a bit more sane than expected, and it eventually turns out that the version Justin has been telling the world and Aaron included lies to make the group sound bad. At the same time, there's definitely something strange going on in the area — something supernatural, but that might be seen as justifying the group's beliefs just as easily as indicating there's something wrong. Ultimately, it turns out Justin wasn't all that wrong when the thought there was something sinister going on and he needed to make up excuses to get them out of there: the group isn't suicidal in the normal sense, but they're caught in a long, inescapable "Groundhog Day" Loop at the end of which they always die and start again.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except: The main antagonists are a cult on a killing spree.
  • Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers: The main antagonists are a cult that stems to Ancient Egypt and worships chainsaws.
  • The Silence (2019): The main human antagonists are the Hushed, a doomsday Christian cult that believes the vesps to be a punishment from God unto a sinful world and that ritualistically removes its members' tongues.
  • The main antagonists of Keeper of Souls are a backwoods cult making sacrifices to a demon.
  • In The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, Cagliostro is the head of a cult who meet in a crypt under his castle. As his plan involves mating the Frankenstein Monster to an artificially created woman to bring forth a new master race, it is unclear exactly why he needs a cult. Nevertheless, they gather round to watch the Monster have sex with the woman.
  • Hallowed Ground: The main antagonists are a small town cult who believe the protagonist is destined to give birth to a body for their deceased founder to return in.

  • The Girls is a Roman à Clef about The Manson Family and the 1969 murders. Teenaged Evie is drawn into a cult led by a scruffy would-be musician named Russell. Russell lords it over a ragged collection of young women who worship him and sexually service him.
  • The cult of Ravinia in The Pendragon Adventure's ninth book, Raven Rise.
  • The cult led by L. Bob Rife (an apparent portmanteau of Ross Perot and L. Ron Hubbard) in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.
  • The Unspeakable Darkness from Valhalla and Ragnarök have all the hallmarks of a cult, though they may also qualify as the Eldritch Abomination most cults worship.
  • The Religion of Evil cults in the short stories "Under the Pyramids", "The Horror at Red Hook" and The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft.
  • Discworld:
    • The book-burning Star People in The Light Fantastic.
    • In Guards! Guards!, Ankh-Morpork is revealed to be rife with tiny little cults who are ostensibly trying to bring their dark god to power (so much so that a cultist actually gets about halfway through an extensive password routine before it falls apart and the guy behind the door realizes he's got the wrong address); most of them just wanted to add a little mystery to their lives to impress chicks, though.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. The renegades led by Jason Delandro, who worship the alien invaders.
  • The Christians are regarded this way by Marcus Didius Falco, a Private Detective in Ancient Rome.
  • In the first book of The Eldest Curses Alec and Magnus are trying to stop the Crimson Hand, a demon worshiping cult that uses Human Sacrifice. The cult was apparently founded centuries ago by Magnus himself, as a joke...
  • Fidelia of The Empirium Trilogy is a group of angel worshipers who aid the Undying Empire in their various experiments. They're ultimately the ones behind the abduction of countless women and girls.
  • The young adult book Leaving Fishers is about a cult with high-schoolers. They claim to be a religious group, but their methods are clearly abusive. (One character tells a cult-investigation group about them, and learns Fishers meets every single trait of cults.)
  • The Order of the Rings of God in Faye Kellerman's Jupiter's Bones.
  • When you get closer to its core membership, The Sharing in Animorphs is constructed much more like a cult than the all-ages scouting program it pretends to be. Of course, its actually a recruitment method for the Yeerks, but this is part of the way they lure people in.
  • Subverted in Maggody and the Moonbeams, where a reclusive all-female Christian sect is actually a front for a group of battered women in hiding, whose members are being exploited for cheap manual labor by their corrupt leader.
  • All over the place in Kraken, ranging from the Lovecraftian-but-relatively-benign Church of God Kraken to the dreaded Chaos Nazis.
  • The Naturals:
    • Lia reveals that she was raised in a cult and sexually abused by its leader. To avoid his unwelcome advances, she started a witchhunt within the cult. This was the beginning of her lies.
    • In the last book, the group investigates a murder cult that's been killing people for decades according to the Fibonacci sequence. Many familiar characters are revealed to be members or victims of this cult.
  • Petaybee: Shepherd Howling leads a doomsday cult that encourages pedophilia and other interesting forms of child abuse.
  • The Subject Steve: The Center for Nondenominational Recovery and Redemption could be described as a cult and a rest home, combined.
  • The Mysteries from Elantris are a cult that spun off from the benign Jesk religion- where Jesk worships a Force-esque life energy called the Dor, followers of the Mysteries seek to manipulate it to their advantage. The Mysteries is characterized by secrecy and bizarre rites that sometimes involve Human Sacrifice- as such, it's not very popular and tends to exist only in small, secretive groups.
  • A rare positively portrayed example in Octavia Butler's Parable series. The main character, Lauren Olamina, starts a cult called Earthseed which believes that God is change. They are persecuted by the Christian America sect, which probably fits more of the cult stereotypes.
  • In Bumped there is a Christian cult called Goodside. They are more or less like Amish people 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • In Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, it's clear that most people in-universe see the God's Gardeners as a cult. Whether or not it really is a cult depends largely on the reader's perspective, although parts of the latter book told by members of God's Gardeners provide a more nuanced view.
  • Black Lotus in the Sano Ichiro series.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
    • Doctor Who, of all things, has a spinoff relating to a cult worshipping paradox itself - Faction Paradox. Depending on the Writer, they're either dangerous madmen, or the only people who can see past Gallifrey's lies to understand how time really works. Or, of course, both.
    • There is also a New Doctor Who book, entitled Night of the Humans, which features a cult based around a horrible picture of a clown. The whole book is, essentially, a very paranoid and more than slightly creepy rant about religion (but specifically Christianity). The book's entire message is, literally, "Be very very afraid of what I imagine religion to be".
  • The followers of R'hllor in A Song of Ice and Fire throw people into fires as sacrifices and claim to see visions in fires. This is in total contrast to the very mainstream fantasy counterpart religions of Faith Of The Seven, also called the New Gods (Catholic/High Church of England) and worship of the Old Gods (a naturist religion).
    • However the Ironborn are quite similar to R'hllor worshipers. The Ironborn worship the Drowned God, and drowning people to the sea is an acceptable act of sacrifice to their god. Also the worshipers of the Old Gods use to conduct human sacrifices to the Godswoods.
  • The second novel in Taylor Stevens' Vanessa Michael Munroe series, The Innocent (2012) has Munroe infiltrating a cult called the Chosen of God to rescue a child who was forced into its ranks eight years earlier, and has since been subjected to brainwashing and repeated sexual abuse. This cult is a thinly veiled Expy of the Children of God, which Stevens herself was born into and escaped from, after which she completed her education and turned to thriller writing.
  • The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante is about Mount Blessing, which is a religious commune in Connecticut led by the charismatic leader Emmanuel. Agnes loves the cult, meanwhile her cousin Honey rebels against its strict rules. Their grandmother, Nana Pete, who isn't in the cult, takes them away from the cult when Emmanuel refuses to send Agnes' seriously injured brother to the hospital. The book is based in the author's childhood experiences in a cult.
  • The gradually revealed backstory of Piranesi features a small-scale, actually quite realistic cult under the control of a charismatic, sociopathic intellectual, who ran it as a kind of small-scale Mystery Cult, for his own amusement and benefit. Conveniently for him, he developed genuine quasi-magical powers, which helped him control the group. While he was a total Karma Houdini, it didn't end well for anyone else.
  • In Converting Kate by Beckie Weinheimer, the protagonist Kate was raised in the Holy Divine Church, but leaves it after her father's death.
  • The Survivors in the CHERUB Series are a cult that is an offshoot of Christianity, linked to an eco-terrorist group called Help Earth. They have a fortified and armed compound in the middle of the Australian outback, where they further brainwash the most intelligent children of cult members. This compound is destroyed at the end of the book.
  • The Luskentyrians in Whit or Isis Among the Unsaved by Iain Banks is a small cult based in a farmhouse in Scotland. Although the main character is a True Believer, she's also intelligent and insightful enough to recognise that, while the cult's founder (her grandfather) is obviously the Chosen of God, he's also a bit of an old rogue. It turns out he's much more of a rogue than she imagined, while at the same time less of a fraud than the reader might expect. He really did have a religious experience, and devoted the rest of his life to figuring out what it meant. It's her brother who wants to turn it into a Scam Religion.
  • Several in the comic neo-noir Get Blank. Mostly Satanist in flavor, with the First Reformed Church of the Antichrist, the Order of the Morning Star, and the Sons of the Crimson Gaze, but there are others including the Ordo Templi Orientis and the Rosicrusophists.
  • The Society of the Meek Ones in Scorpius is a mish-mash of various religious doctrines, and its true purpose is to produce suicide bombers for profit.
  • The Belgariad has the Bear-Cult, which is a schismatic offshoot of the Alorn Church, mostly focused on being manipulated by whichever villain is in the area that week. Its tenets range from the harmlessly ridiculous - wearing bear-skins and staggering drunkenly about the woods is a common manifestation of their faith - to a much less entertaining vein of overt racism; based on an ambiguous phrase in Belar's holy book, they believe the Alorns have to lead the other nations into the war with the Angaraks by subjugation, a plan which would embroil the West in a massive war and leave it wide open for Torak to conquer most of the world. Most of the characters treat Bear-Cultists as morons who are dangerous mostly because they're too stupid and ill-informed to know how counterproductive their approach would actually be.
    Barak: A good Bear-Cultist isn't thinking about fighting Angaraks, because all of his attention is focused on subduing Sendaria, Arendia, Tolnedra, Nyissa and Maragor.
    Durnik: Maragor doesn't even exist any more.
    Barak: That news hasn't reached the cult yet. After all, it's only been about three thousand years now.
  • Pact has protagonist Blake Thorburn being recruited by a cult while homeless, wherein sex was used by the cult leader to control his followers and food was limited. The experience left him with a instinctive negative reaction to physical contact, because he came to associate it with being manipulated and used.
  • In the Dred Chronicles, two of the six gangs on the lawless Prison Ship Perdition are basically cults. One, led by a guy just known as Priest, essentially worships its leader. The other is led by a woman called Silence, and they're essentially death-worshippers. The latter are considerably smaller, but turn out to be more dangerous.
  • In Burn Me Deadly, Father Tempcott's group are basically a dragon cult, believing that dragons are real and will return to burn the whole world apart from the few faithful. They're a little bit right, since dragons are real and eggs have indeed survived, but they're wrong about dragons being basically gods — they're just particularly smart animals, and wouldn't care about cultists.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novels, a footnote mentions that a cult worships Cain as the physical embodiment of the Emperor's will — something that would have horrified him if he ever found out, as they paint him in a considerably more heroic and Emperor-fearing light. For example, responding to a daemon princess' temptation with "Frak this!" gets transcribed by a witness as:
    Then the prophet spake: saying
    "Frak this, for my faith is a shield proof against your blandishments."
    Alem Mahat, The Book of Cain, Chapter IV, Verse XXI
  • Ben Snow: In "The Edge of the Year 1900", Ben spends New Year's Eve 1899 with a group following a woman who had vision that the world would end withe coming of the year 1900.
  • The Children of the Light in My Life With The Liars are a more realistic take on a cult. They live on a compound in the Arizona desert, are led by a corrupt man called Father Prophet, and raise children to believe they are doomed if they aren't formally inducted into the cult by their thirteenth birthdays.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, a fundamentalist Christian cult has managed to gain a stronghold in Eagleland, following a series of environmental disasters, Sterility Plagues, and social upheaval. They even took over the country, and managed to change its name to Gilead, and established a theocratic government there. Women are treated as second-class citizens and have been divided along the lines of their fertility and marital status: Wives (wives of the wealthiest and most powerful men of Gilead), Econowives (women who are married to less wealthy or powerful men, and also capable of having children without getting a Handmaid involved), Handmaids (women who can't get married due to being considered Defiled Forever, but are fertile, and so used to bear children on behalf of Wives who can't), Marthas (older or sterile women who work as household servants), Aunts (women who are too old to bear children, and instruct/brainwash women who have been selected as Handmaids, also the only women allowed any sort of education), Jezebels (women who have been sterilized, and who work in brothels that are sanctioned, or at least tolerated, in the Republic of Gilead due to a cultural belief that men cannot control their lustful urges, but aren't supposed to enjoy sex with their wives or with Handmaids) Daughters (virgin daughters of wealthy and powerful men, who will one day be given in Arranged Marriages to other wealthy men), and Un-Women (women who don't conform to Gilead's ideals, such as lesbians, feminists, and lesbian feminists, Jezebels who grow old and lose their sex appeal, or Handmaids who fail to bear healthy children for their masters, and who are sent to work camps to clean up radioactive sludge without any personal protective equipment.) Scientists, abortion doctors, Catholic priests, homosexuals, and people of color are executed, either by hanging, or by being sent to the aforementioned work camps.
  • Ward has the Fallen, a cult that worships the Endbringers. They had briefly appeared in Worm, but mostly as one-note villains who were easily brushed aside by greater powers. In Ward, in the aftermath of the Gold Morning, they have become much more prominent and powerful, preying on the numerous frightened displaced refugees and survivors. Their practices mirror many real-world cults in how they operate, such as religious indoctrination, ruling through fear and abuse, and Arranged Marriage within the "clan".
  • Hercule Poirot: Poirot runs up against one in his Labours, where they take the symbolic role of Geryon's flock. It's run by an extremely charismatic man who encourages his flock to find peace and tranquility away from a cruel and unjust world (something he should know about, as he was kicked out of Nazi Germany due to his mother being Jewish), with regular feasts where members feel the power to accomplish anything including fixing the world. Naturally, it's all a scam where he eventually entices older members to leave their fortune to him, then inoculate them with a virulent strain of disease they showed weakness to in the past (others get the euphoria-inducing drugs he uses to further their dependence on him), making his murders untraceable. Oh, and he made up the part about his mother being Jewish, in case you still had any sympathy for him.
  • Father Brown has an odd example in "The Eye of Apollo", where the cult appears to be limited to its leader Kalon, who bears all the hallmarks of a religious leader (Large Ham, magnetic charisma, claims that all diseases can be surpassed with a sufficiently strong will, argues with more established and supposedly repressive religion) and worships Apollo as the sun god. It's part of an extremely complex plot to get a very rich woman (the only follower seen) to leave her riches to him by deliberately encouraging her to go blind by staring at the Sun, then ensuring she falls down an elevator shaft because she didn't see it wasn't there. However, the woman's sister had secretly switched the victim's pen for an empty one to prevent the will from existing at all.
  • The One Who Eats Monsters: The Hidden One, the god causing most of the problems in the book, runs one. Ryn tells O'Rourke to follow one of the cultists in order to sweep up most of the conspiracy at once. O'Rourke says that they can't arrest people just for having meetings. Ryn says that the Hidden One still follows the old ways; they'll find something they can arrest them for. Apparently when the police arrived, the cultists were feeding people to a giant snake.
  • In Stray, Pufftail is attacked and forced into living in a feral cat community dubbed "the Commune". They act as a cult who worships their tyrannical leader, Tom-Cat. Cats are forced into staying in the Commune by threats and fear, with Tom-Cat saying that only he could protect them the Van which takes them to an Animal Testing facility. Eventually, most of the cats in the Commune end up taken into the animal testing lab.
  • The Deptford Mice trilogy and its prequels feature three violent cults. These include the rat followers of Jupiter, the Hobbers, and the Scale.
  • Wearing the Cape:
    • The Fellowship of Awakened Theosophy is a pro-Breakthrough cult that believes superhumans are a higher state of being, and once enough people have awakened then the rest of humanity will all gain superpowers at once. They offer meditation and counseling sessions which have an extremely low but still notable chance of causing a "soft" Breakthrough, without the horrific trauma most have to go through. Unfortunately, the Fellowship is just the front for the Ascendancy, which thinks all the meditation is too slow, and causes disasters to make Breakthroughs the normal way.
    • One government cape was part of a Christian offshoot cult with elements of Buddhism and emphasis on the "light of life." He broke through and gained powers based on these beliefs, letting him manipulate life energy in a variety of powerful ways... and was promptly exiled by the cult leader for being a threat. He's an atheist now, but his powers haven't changed.

    Live Action TV 
  • The 100: Sees multiple cults throughout the series.
    • The artificial intelligent ALIE creates one by recruiting people into the "City of Light". Mind control helps.
    • Octavia becomes the cult leader of the Wonkru survivors in the Second Dawn bunker, styling herself "Bloodreina". Six years in she has become completely Drunk with Power, and her followers obey her absolutely.
    • Season 6 and 7 introduce Sanctum and the Disciples respectively, who are full-on cult colonies.
  • Game of Thrones: Craster and his daughter-wives seem to worship the White Walkers as gods. He claims the Walkers will not trouble him because he is a "godly man" and even without him, his wives greet the birth of a male child as "a gift for the gods."
  • Stargate SG-1: the Goa'uld Seth, after spending a long time as a disembodied symbiote in a canopic jar, takes a new host and tries to found a new religion on Earth to worship him as in days of old. The cults he founds always end up either being disbanded by the police or committing mass suicide, with Seth escaping in yet another new host; this pattern is how SG-1 and Jacob find him.
  • Law & Order, during an investigation of a bombing, turned up a cult in the middle of Manhattan worshipping a con man as a new messiah. He was a semi-delusional fraud; as he was convicted, he used thumbtacks to give himself stigmata. His entire "flock" killed themselves hours later.
  • Between the original show and the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the good guys have encountered several cults; the SVU episode "Charisma" had a particularly heinous one. When a pregnant preteen girl is brought to the hospital, a path is traced to a cult she's a member of. During a standoff at the start of the episode, all the children in the compound are killed by its leader. In the climax of the episode the pregnant girl threatens to kill Olivia if she tries to stop him and cannot be talked down. A horrific ending (as Olivia might have to shoot the child to save herself) was barely averted because the leader claimed in a rant he was greater than God - the girl killed him instead.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch had a cult around a fake "witch" who also hoarded its members' worldly possessions. (And made them eat mungbeans.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Glory (the Big Bad of season five), being a god, naturally had a cult who worshiped her, even though she was an evil, de-powered and kind of obnoxious god. And her followers were mostly barely-competent minor demons.
    • "Lie to Me" included a cult of teenagers that worshiped vampires.
    • "Reptile Boy" had fratboys who serve (girls to) a demon.
  • In an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Robert gets suckered into a lame but loving cult, but is horrified to discover that they too like Raymond better.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a cult arises that worships the Pah-wraiths, the equivalent of demons in the Bajoran religion, its members think that the Pah-wraiths are the true gods of Bajor, who have been demonized by The Prophets. However, the fact that the cult leader is Gul Dukat makes it clear that the Pah-wraiths are evil.
  • Millennium:
    • The eponymous Millennium Group, at least in the second season and parts of the third.
    • Selfosophy, a Scientologyesque cult.
  • A subversion appears in the first season of Veronica Mars. Secrecy (sort of), organic diet, isolation, authority clash... and they're actually decent people, whose "secret crop" is Christmas poinsettia flowers. The kid Veronica "saves" is "deprogrammed" back into a jerk, though she learns about his real soft spots and he remembers her somewhat fondly from her time infiltrating the cult, making him a useful source of information in a later episode.
  • Neighbours had some of the characters drawn into a cult that was very much a Brand X version of Scientology, which turned out to be the work of a con-man who became a recurring villain.
  • Ryukendo has the whole town temporarily turn into a UFO-worshiping cult in one episode, complete with dancing and chanting. It turned out to be a trick by the Monster of the Week, but they weren't aware of that.
  • The X-Files had so many examples it would be best to designate between straight and subversion:
    • Straight: a Satanic cult made up of the members of a small town PTA ("Die Hand Die Verledzt").
    • Subversion: a vegetarian cult that believes in "walk-ins" (moments of spirit possession) that turns out not to be tied to the abduction, drugging, branding, and inoculation with extraterrestrial DNA of a group of small town teens ("Red Museum"). They were connected, though somewhat indirectly. The cult's founder was involved with the conspiracy, and enforced vegetarianism because the conspiracy was running a secret experiment involving the town's meat supply and they needed a control group.
    • Straight: a doomsday cult that believes in reincarnation and ends up taking part in a mass suicide ("The Field Where I Died").
    • Straight: a murderous cult that worships a slug-like parasite that they believe to be the Second Coming of Christ ("Roadrunners").
  • The Mentalist has the reoccurring cult "Visualize."
  • An episode of Cold Case dealt with a cult that preached a new beginning by eliminating the past; in a slight subversion, instead of a mass-suicide, the cult was planning mass-patricide, killing their fathers as a tribute to their "new" father figure, the cult's leader.
  • An episode of Monk had the eponymous OCD detective infiltrate and get completely sucked into a cult, whose charismatic leader is played by real life OCD sufferer Howie Mandel. Humorously, while Stottlemyer's partner Randy and several other characters were trying to deprogram Monk, Monk manages to convert Randy. In a plot twist double-whammy, Monk manages to both alibi the cult leader and break up the cult: the leader claimed that he was never, ever sick, but on the night in question he was secretly receiving cortisone injections to deal with back pain. The cultists, upon discovering their leader is a fake, simply abandon him. Even liars sometimes speak the truth. For some reason Monk seems not to have appreciated, afterwards, that however dishonest the cult leader might have been, he had more success than Dr. Kroger ever had had in helping Monk overcome his OCD.
  • Nina on Just Shoot Me! once belonged to a Moonies-like cult called the Church of the Rising Star. It has been suggested throughout the series that Nina has belonged to various other cults.
  • The Church of Synthiotics in Wild Palms, with its "New Realism" philosophy.
  • The Touched by an Angel gang encountered one and revealed themselves when the leader was about to commence a mass suicide in response to authorities arriving. Monica convinces everyone to leave instead; the deluded leader starts a fire in response. The angels rescue everyone but him, as he refuses to accept their help.
  • In Boy Meets World, Shawn joins a cult who convinces him to give up all his friends. He leaves when Mr. Turner is in a motorcycle accident, and the leader wants Shawn to not see him, so he rejects the group.
    • Other than that, it's very non-cultish. The Center isn't difficult to locate, there's no chanting or monetary aspect, and everybody appears well rested and nourished. They even have video games.
  • An episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had the team investigate a cult-induced mass suicide. The sole survivor found out the leader was a fraud (who founded cults, drugged the members and left with all the money they'd collected from their families before they woke up), but believed he was just testing her and killed him. Since she didn't realise that the "poison" would just knock them out for a while, she ends up getting something stronger to "make sure nobody suffers"...
  • Parodied on Strangers with Candy in the two-part episode "Blank Stare," where Jerri is lured into a "collective cooperative community service operation outreach program project." The leader/messiah of the cult ends up hating her so much that he forces her to leave despite her enthusiasm and willingness to assimilate.
  • Joey was a part of a cult but "Five hundred bucks to get to level 3? Forget it!"
  • Echo infiltrates a Branch Davidian style cult in the Dollhouse episode True Believer, with an outcome similar to that in Waco.
  • Home and Away has had a couple of cult stories. The one from more recent memory involved Tash getting involved with The Believers, whose leader had a prophetic dream involving her and her then-unconceived child. Which meant that the plan involved the leader's son getting Tash pregnant with her daughter Ella.
  • On Community Pierce insists that he is a Laser Lotus Reformed Neo-Buddist but the rest of the group keeps telling him that he is actually in a cult. Notable claims of his religion include that people's essences are stored in jars called "Energon Pods" until they develop the technology to give them new bodies (these jars bear a striking resemblance to lava lamps), and that its members can develop superhuman powers by advancing to high levels in the church.
  • In Volume Five of Heroes, we are introduced to Samuel Sullivan, who runs a carnival that is essentially a cult for "specials."
  • "The Ugly Ducklings" are the focus in two episodes on Kamen Rider Fourze lead by a ballerina who worships a Zodiarts known as Cygnus and where other students do good deeds which is valued on a point system. One of those members actually is Zodiarts and the cult—being stupid—forces him to transform into Cygnus. They disband after that.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "Bloodbath", Starsky is abducted by the followers of the memorably creepy Simon Marcus.
  • In the Mr. Show episode, "Heaven's Chimney," David has apparently joined a cult lead by "The Bob [Odenkirk]" and is planning on "going up Heavey's Chimney." Tom Kenny and a few other cast members have to deprogram him. The sketch was a Ripped from the Headlines reference to the Heaven's Gate cult. It also includes the cult's greeting "Terra-da-loo!" which fans of the show tend to quote frequently.
  • From The Following:
    • Serial Killer Carroll's titular following. He prefers to think of them as his friends. It begins to fall apart shortly after he escapes from prison and takes control of it, since it's members are all psychos.
    • Debra Parker, Hardy's new superior, keeps on telling him not use any word relating to the word cult, and doesn't want the FBI to label it a cult, noting the implications it carries. He later finds out she's the head of the FBI cult (Alternative Religions) unit. Then it turns out she was raised and abused in a cult herself.
  • Cult is, as you'd expect, all about this. Specifically, the cult seems to be composed entirely of obsessive fans of the titular Show Within a Show, which is also about a cult. Head hurting yet?
  • On The Listener the IIB investigates the death of a cult member. The cult itself turns out to be mostly benign and the killer turns out to be a crazy member of the group who took it's message way beyond what the leader intended. The leader even admits his insistence that his followers cut all ties to their past was a big mistake and works to make the group less insular.
  • The first season of True Detective is a police procedural about two mismatched cops investigating a cult over an extended period of time.
  • Orphan Black has the Prolethians, fundamentalist Christians who are against the existence of clones and try to eliminate them at every opportunity. In their initial appearances, they are portrayed as believing that Science Is Bad, but later they do in-vitro fertilization using Helena, so obviously science can't be that bad.
  • Played for laughs in the What's Happening!! episode "Rerun Sees the Light." They worship Ralph, a head of lettuce.
  • A running gag on The Colbert Report: here an interviewee asks Stephen Colbert if he's a cult leader. There's a pause of about two seconds where Colbert looks at the camera and this sinks in, and then the audience howls and starts a chant of "Stephen! Stephen! Stephen!" Way to allay suspicion, Nation.
  • The Flashpoint episode "The Farm" sees the team dealing with a rehab facility turned cult at the titular farm.
  • Criminal Minds sees the BAU tangle with a number of cults:
    • Season One episode "The Tribe" has one kill college students at a party and members of a racist group, using Native American war rituals. Reservation Police John Blackwolf is brought in and note that the murders are confused mishmashes of tribal rituals. It turns out they are actually racist white people stirring up racial tensions to start a race war. Hotchner and Blackwolf stop them from shooting up a Native American school while pretending to be members of the racist group getting revenge.
    • Season Four episode "Minimal Loss" features a cult that was once a libertarian compound before an exiled member returned and took over. Prentiss and Reid try to go in undercover, but end up as hostages and the rest of the BAU must negotiate for their release.
    • Season Nine episode "Persuasion" has a cult of homeless vagrants inhabiting the sewers. The leader Ceaser has them commit petty thefts while giving him a share, and is controlled by a mysterious man known as The Doctor. They are being investigated by the BAU for the drowning deaths of members who did not give their shares to the leader, as well as a man named Finn Bailey looking for his sister. The Doctor turns out to be Marvin Caul, the stage magician who introduced Finn to the cult.
    • Season Ten episode "The Forever People" has a cult that convinces people the world is going to freeze over, and that they must freeze themselves to prepare for this. The BAU believes them responsible for the freezing deaths of ex-members and they are half right as the murders are being committed by a member behind the leader's back.
  • Occasionally on Without a Trace, the trail of a missing person leads to a cult. This typically results in the team trying to rescue other members the cult has trapped.
  • An episode of Walker, Texas Ranger has Walker's female partner infiltrate a cult camp to rescue somebody's daughter, but then she becomes a prisoner herself that requires Walker to come to her rescue, leaving the fate of the daughter in question.
  • Played for laughs in the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Ass-Kickers United: Mac and Charlie Join a Cult", where Dennis starts the titular cult as an elaborate effort to make Mac stop eating his thin mints.
  • Legends of Tomorrow reveals in its third episode that Vandal Savage has his own cult which worships him as a god. In exchange for their loyalty and financial support for his Evil Plans, he shares with them the blood of Carter and Kendra each time he kills their latest reincarnations, as it extends their own lives significantly.
  • On The Office (US), Creed claims:
    "I've been involved in a number of cults, both as a leader and a follower. You have more fun as a follower. But make more money as a leader."
  • The Path: Meyerism, a New Age religious sect which is at the center of the series.
  • Barney Miller once dealt with an ordinary Middle America couple who wanted their daughter kidnapped from her cult, The Light of the East Temple and Herbarium. The cult has a Hindu-Buddhist ambience, while their leader Looks Like Jesus and seems reasonable. He reassures the parents that many young people are not up to the discipline required (no drugs, no tobacco, no alcohol, no sex) and the turnover at the temple is very high.
  • The Exorcist has the Friars of Ascension. A supposed Catholic charity organization, whose members include many "pillars of society", they're actually a collection of Satanists, who willing play host to demons in exchange for wealth and power.
  • On Orange Is the New Black, Nora reflects on how she joined a hippie cult back in The '70s, because its leader accepted her in spite of her shyness and severe stutter. She (and several other women) eventually got married to the cult leader, though as time went on, his other "wives" left the cult and left him. Nora was the only one left after the rest of the cult eventually disbanded, and he felt disillusioned. He told her to leave, like the others, and she promised him that she wouldn't, causing him to lash out at her. In response, she calls him a "son of a bitch" and pushes him off a cliff in a fit of anger. Later, while in Prison for manslaughter, she becomes the center of a cult, and shows herself to be not that different from her cult-leader husband.
  • This trope is one of the central themes of American Horror Story: Cult. It starts out as a group using serial killings and large-scale psychological warfare in order to tap into the public's fear and anger, in the hopes of overthrowing the corrupt system and bringing about an equal society. Except that's all a lie fed to its members — cult leader Kai just uses all that fear and anger to get himself a political career, at which point he shifts to far right-wing beliefs (racism, misogyny and totalitarianism) and works towards using his new influence to institutionalize all those beliefs.
  • Cannon: In "A Deadly Quiet Town", Cannon is hired to recue a girl from a Charles Manson style cult preying on the children of promient families in a quiet university town.
  • Carnival Row: The Faun sect, who whip themselves in the streets, sacrifice human bigots and try to kill the Chancellor while worshiping a mysterious figure they call "the Hidden One" (whether a deity or something else is not clear).
  • Supergirl (2015): "The Faithful" involves a man named Coville started a religion based around worshiping the Kryptonian god Rao, with Kara being their Christ (he and the original followers were all saved by her in the past). She's unnerved, disliking this false worship of her, but can't dissuade him. This wouldn't be so bad, misguided though it may be, but then she learns he's encouraging new members to endanger themselves so that Kara will rescue them, for a kind of initiation. However they can't do anything to stop him as he didn't explicitly order illegal acts. Later though he sets off a bomb under a crowded stadium to be their biggest ritual rescue thus far. Kara is weakened by the bomb containing Kryptonite, and convinces Coville he's wrong about her being divine, making him help defuse it.
  • The Outpost:
    • The Season 3 episode "Kill the Rat, Kill the Kinj" features a group of humans who worship the Lu'quiri as gods and sacrifice people to them.
    • Meanwhile, Season 3's main threat comes from the Blackblood priestess Yavalla, who gains control of the white kinj, which enables her to place people into a Hive Mind known as the United, in which they're enslaved to her will. In this state, the United venerate Yavalla as a goddess (a view she shares).
  • The titular character of The Mandalorian is part of a tribe that's quite different from what's been seen of Mandalorians in other parts of the franchise, having very strict lifestyle rules (most prominently never taking their helmets off in front of anyone, even each other). When he encounters more mainstream Mandalorians in Season 2, we learn that this is because he's part of a group called the Children of the Watch, religious fanatics who broke away from mainstream Mandalorian culture to try and reestablish ancient traditions. Din is understandably pissed to be told that he's been living in a cult his whole life.
  • The Walking Dead has several examples across the franchise:
    • The original show:
      • The Saviors are as much this trope as they are a gang, as Negan has built a Cult of Personality around himself as a messianic figure who will save and protect everyone so long as they obey him.
      • The Whisperers are built around Alpha's Straw Nihilist belief that civilization in any form no longer has a purpose and everyone should live in the wild, a belief she enforces on her followers through violence and sheer force of will.
      • The Reapers are the most clear-cut example, being Private Military Contractors who turned fundamentalist after managing to survive the chaotic early days of the Zombie Apocalypse, having become convinced that God chose to spare them specifically.
    • Fear the Walking Dead:
      • The Abagail compound becomes this under Celia Flores' leadership, due to following her firm beliefs that the walkers are the beloved dead returned by God and should be welcomed rather than killed.
      • The otherwise-unnamed "The End is the Beginning" group led by Teddy, who believe that due to death being part of nature's cycle, then the Zombie Apocalypse should be welcomed rather than fought, and thus any attempt to cling to pre-apocalypse civilization should be torn down even if that means using nukes to do so.
  • It all happens offscreen, but Liz and TJ apparently joined a cult during Gilmore Girls A Year in the Life. They thought it was an agricultural commune, but it turned out to be a "vegetable cult" that contracted them to a billion years of service. The reason Jess is in town is so that he and Luke can coordinate an extraction. Then the cult kicks them out for being too weird, so Jess can focus on Rory. Of special note: Liz and TJ have a ten-year-old daughter who should logically be with them, but she's never mentioned throughout the special. Was she in the cult? Is she still in the cult?

    Music Videos 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Kevin Sullivan's Army of Darkness was basically his own personal cult in the original run of Championship Wrestling from Florida. He would visit NWA Ring Warriors long aftere it's demise to preach about Political Correctness Gone Mad ruining the world.
  • Basically any stable ever run by Raven has been one of these, be it in WCW, ECW, or TNA. Some are more insane than others, such as the rather Narmy Serotonin.
  • Back during the Attitude Era, the WWF had The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness where Taker would go kidnap C-level guys on the roster and "convert" them into his followers with new names. There was also to a lesser degree The Brood, who were briefly part of the Ministry themselves.
  • In 2005, Cibernético started his own religion, La Secta Cibernética, centered around worship of himself and against AAA founder Antonio Peña. His main followers were Charly Manson, Chessman and the Black Family. While nursing a knee injury Cibernético's religion was usurped by Muerte Cibernética, who renamed himself Asesor Cibernético. Though Charly and Chessman remained loyal to Cibernético, they no longer believed he should be worshiped.
  • The Order of the Neo Solar Temple in CHIKARA. Led by UltraMantis Black, they've been known for brainwashing and converting enemies. The crowd usually bows to them when they enter, even.
  • WWE has had the Straight Edge Society, as led by CM Punk (incidentally, a former member of Raven's Impact Wrestling group the Gathering), and later The New Nexus, which seemed very culty with the whole "Faith" thing they were doing.
  • The Wyatt Family have some very creepy cult-like trappings to their gimmick, although the word "cult" has actually been used overmuch concerning them. Wyatt himself comes across like a mash-up of Azazel, Max Cady, and Charles Manson with his deranged promos, and he's accompanied by two devoted "sons" (Luke Harper & Erick Rowan) that obey him without question.
  • James Storm's Revolution, which involved him manipulating and sometimes outright kidnapping other wrestlers and "transforming" them in a backwoods shed lead to some viewers calling him a cult leader.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Everywhere. Most are devoted to the Chaos Gods, or are set up by Genestealers to call down the Tyranid hive fleets. But the "good guys" have them too - there are many cults dedicated to the Emperor in unorthodox but non-heretical ways, while Space Marine Chapters tend to incorporate their Primarch or the beliefs of their homeworld into their religious practices. Naturally, the Inquisition's Ordo Hereticus keeps a close eye on these tolerated cults.
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus worships a living machine for a god. But it's okay, really, because it's an aspect of the Emperor. They're probably not fooling anybody, but nobody wants to piss them off too much since they're pretty much the only ones who know how to use most of the machines and have their own in-house paramilitary forces to boot. The fact that they might actually be worshiping the Void Dragon and this being Warhammer, probably doesn't bode well.
  • In the skirmish game Necromunda, using a 40K variant and set on the eponymous planet, a player's force could belong to the Redemptionist Crusade, a sect that relates to the normal Emperor-Worshipping Imperial Citizens (you know, dogmatic, intolerant, heretic-burning, etc.) about in the same way that David Koresh-style sects relate to standard Evangelical Christianity. They are TOO fanatic even for Imperial Society, and hence are outlaws to be killed on sight.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy the two primary religions in The Empire are the Cult of Sigmar and the Cult of Ulric. Sigmarites worship Sigmar the founder of the Empire who ascended to godhood, while the the latter worships Ulric the god of winter. The two are more benign examples as they are dedicated in protecting the Empire, but the two groups often have a tug of war for power and influence over the Empires rule.
  • Also extant in Exalted. In its setting, the term "cult" is value-neutral, though. The makers even said in one book that if the word had the same negative connotation in Creation as it does in real life, many organizations normally calling themselves cults would vehemently deny that they were such.
    • There is actually a "Cult" background, which specifically refers to your character having worshippers. Some, most notably the Alchemicals, try to dissuade them. Pretty much everyone else responds with "w00t, free motes!" The main cults not directly related to worshipping Exalts are typically devoted to Yozis, local deities, or their ancestors, and one signature character - the deathknight known as the White Walker or Harbinger of the Ghost-Cold Wind - has dedicated his existence to forcing a fair arrangement on both sides.
  • The same applies in RuneQuest, older by about 25 years; practically every resident of Glorantha joins a "cult" of one of the hundreds or thousands of gods, and gains some magic from that god. Even the state religion of the Lunar Empire is technically a "cult".
    • The game uses the older, anthropological definition for a "cult", a tiered religion that teaches deeper mysteries of the cult's beliefs to those in higher positions than those in the lower ranks. Since religious understanding comes with very real supernatural power and responsibility, it makes sense for nearly all religions to form as cults — especially after the God Learners unintentionally demonstrated what happens when people try to collect as much of the knowledge as possible without giving a thought to the responsibilities.
  • Very common in Dungeons & Dragons (though evil gods who are actual gods—as opposed to demons or devils—tend to have organized churches). Most recurring Arch-Devils and Demon Princes have their own cults, as do certain powerful elementals and other pseudo-deific entities.
    • One of the very first D&D adventures, The Temple of the Frog, concerned a raid on the cult of an evil amphibian-god.
    • The 3rd Edition version of the Deities & Demigods Sourcebook, which contained guidelines for designing religions and godly pantheons, described the dwarven earth goddess Dennari, whose followers were described as a benign Mystery Cult.
    • Eberron has the Cults of the Dragon Below (everywhere) and the Blood of Vol (which has a couple of temples in most countries but is mostly kept secret), both of which fall under the heading of Religion of Evil in most cases.
  • A few pop up in the Freedom City setting for Mutants & Masterminds, mainly dedicated to Baron Samedi and the Unspeakable One.
  • The Mook level monster in Arkham Horror are Cultists, specifically Cultists dedicated to awakening whichever sleeping God is trying to wake up and destroy the world this session. They usually have a few extra rules that change depending on which Ancient One is in play. Examples 
  • Call of Cthulhu has a number of cults as furniture and backdrop as much as villains of a scenario.
  • New World of Darkness is filled with all kind of variants, with various books covering them:
    • Antagonists has an entire chapter dedicated to the various types of cults in the setting, how they work and how they can be used in your campaigns. These include sex cults, murder cults, frauds, secret societies and cults led by actual supernatural beings.
    • Mummy: The Curse has it as a core elements; most mummies have a cult surrounding them, serving as their anchor to the real world.
    • Leviathan: The Tempest likewise has cults as a core game element, as befits a game about playing creatures straight out of Lovecraft. There are even mechanics for defining exactly what kind of cult you have: whether it's an actual Religion of Evil with formal worship services and a priesthood, a secret society where everyone meets in masks and black robes, or a gated community with its own culture in which everyone is a member of the cult.
      • The game also specifically notes that a Leviathan's cult will almost always conform to most of the negative stereotypes associated with the word "cult". The Wake means that every single one of a Leviathan's Beloved is a mentally broken and psychologically dysfunctional individual, and only the iron-fisted control a sterotypical cult provides will allow the Leviathan to keep his Beloved pointed in the right direction and even vaguely stable.
    • In Princess: The Hopeful, mortals corrupted by The All-Consuming Darkness will often organize into cults to seek greater power and lure in more victims to corrupt. Most Dark Cults end up drawing the attention of the mortal authorities, but the few that are smart enough to operate concealed can make for terrifyingly dangerous opponents.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones "University" has come to mean "bloodthirsty, brainwashing cult" in the greater Sol lexicon after a scandal at Mars' first center of higher learning in which human-supremacist faculty tried to use the Master's Voice effect to start a Staged Populist Uprising among the Vector students. The novel Blood in the Mist centers around one such University that professes to bring Vectorkind to godhood, via ritual suicides.

    Video Games 
  • The Cult of the Black Goat in Night in the Woods, a group of townspeople who worship the Black Goat they believe dwells in the mines. They believe that unless they sacrifice people to the Black Goat, it will strike the town with disasters and eventually cause the surrounding area to dry up, with the town fading away in the end.
  • The Cabal in Blood, and 100 years later Cabalco (essentially the same cult disguised as a multinational coporation).
  • Corruption of Laetitia: There's a mysterious cult of cloaked figures who are publicly unaffiliated with the Elysian order, but they're being manipulated by Marian to protect a demon-weakening stone. One of them suicide bombs a bridge to prevent the party from getting to Ostburg due to his hero worship of Marian. They are also responsible for killing Celeste's human mother and Riliane's mother, and this is implied to be part of Alfredus's agenda.
  • The ancient Pagan-Supernatural-Judeo-Christian-Kabbalistic mishmash cult from the Silent Hill series. Though it's rather overlooked in the second game, the first game explains it in great detail, and in the third game, being a chronological sequel to the first, that same cult becomes a very important part of the storyline.
  • The cult in Guardian's Crusade screams of evil but never actually does anything bad... until a certain point later in the game. From this point, the player can (optionally) return to towns from earlier in the game to stop the cult members that have transformed into optional bosses.
  • Thief II: The Metal Age revolves around the apocalyptic Mechanist cult which has schismed from the Pseudo-Catholic Hammerite church.
  • Breath of Fire II's Church of St. Eva.
  • Spiderweb Software's Exile/Avernum III allows you to join an anti-magic cult. If any of your characters have magical abilities, they give up their use permanently. This choice makes the game a bit more difficult, and in particular prevents you from stopping a plague of cockroaches, since you can't cast a fireball spell. However, you can always do that quest before joining the cult. The Anama appear again in Avernum 5.
  • The Happy Happy Religious Group headed by Mr. Carpainter from Earthbound, which kidnapped Paula and was obsessed with the color blue. The quest that involves them would also mark the Start of Darkness for Pokey, which would ultimately see him becoming The Dragon to Big Bad Giygas, and later becoming a major villain in Earthbound's sequel, Mother 3, as well.
  • Resident Evil 4 had Los Illuminados, essentially a cult of Puppeteer Parasites.
  • Camp Sunshine, a 16-bit survival horror game, has a cult that put demons into the killer when he was a child, which is why he kills in the first place.
  • Eternal Darkness had at least one cult worshipping the Ancients. The main branch was run out of a French cathedral, and used a made-up Christian relic to lure in human sacrifices.
  • Warcraft III:
  • The Brotherhood of Nod, led by the man named Kane, started out as a secret society/cult whose members believed Kane's prophecy Tiberium will allow humanity to achieve ascension. When Tiberium actually arrived on Earth in the 1990's, Nod gradually went from a secret society to a global terrorist movement to something resembling the Islamic State in terms of reach, influence and ability to field armed forces. In Tiberium Wars, Kane uses Tiberium to summon an Alien Invasion. In Tiberian Twilight, he and his followers use a portal left behind by the aliens to actually ascend.
  • Indigo Prophecy (known as Fahrenheit in Europe) has not one but two cults that are MacGuffin organizations. At least one reviewer, Yahtzee from The Escapist's Zero Punctuation, has labeled the combination of a cult trope with the sudden emergence of superpowers as "Indigo Prophecy Syndrome"
  • Fygul Cestemus from SoulCalibur, who were responsible for the creation of Astaroth, and for turning the Spartan warrior Aeon Calcos into Lizardman.
  • The Fellowship in Ultima VII. The entire cult is modelled after the Church Of Scientology, from the founder and leader who bears more than a passing resemblance to L. Ron Hubbard, to the obviously rigged personality test the Avatar receives early on.
  • The Brotherhood of the Dark Rapture from Clive Barker's Jericho, a cult dedicated to unleashing the malevolent Firstborn unto the world.
  • Team Aqua and Team Magma of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, to the point where they are thought to actually be a cult villainous group.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl's Team Galactic, whose leader wishes to remake the universe in his own image, and whose primary targets are essentially the Pokemon version of gods, are actually more closely related to the thug like Team Rocket than cult like Magma and Aqua. Most of the Mooks you encounter are unaware of Cyrus's goals. In contrast, every member of Teams Magma and Aqua are aware that succeeding in their plan will result in the world being flooded/dried up.
  • The Children of the Atom in Fallout 3, a group of people in the Town of Megaton who worship the giant unexploded bomb the town is named for. Their essential belief is everytime a nuke explodes a new universe is created. They're obviously crazy, or at the very least completely unaware of exactly how the bombs work which isn't surprising considering there aren't many people left who can properly explain how an Atom bomb works to them. Despite their obviously nutty beliefs they're quite harmless and the residents of Megaton tolerate them, even if most of them think they're nuts. The even gather round at times to watch Confessor Cromwell, the Church's leader, preach about how the bomb is so great! Probably because its good entertainment or they're one of his followers. Even if you effectively disable the bomb Cromwell continues to preach about its gloriousness. Of course, blowing up the bomb and killing him and everyone else, according to him, would probably be a blessing to everyone.
    • Lampshaded in-game, where the sign that points to the Church building in Megaton reads 'Local Cult'.
    • The Children of Atom take a nasty twist in the DLC Broken Steel, when one of the high-ranking members starts Stealing the Aqua Pura destined for megaton, and then irradiating it to lethal levels.
    • The original game had the Children of the Cathedral, a front for that game's Big Bad. The second game has Hubologists, a cult the player can either join or massacre.
      • One of the many bits of unimplemented content in Fallout 2 was a quest to procure fuel for their incompetently rebuilt two hundred year old space shuttle which they intended to use to return to their "Sky Father". A fully voiced epilogue for them exists in the game's code, apparently if the player character got them their fuel they would take off shortly after... and find out that they failed to make the hull airtight. Not getting them fuel would result in them concocting a fuel-analogue and blow the shuttle to hell during takeoff. Too bad it wasn't implemented because it'd be pretty damned funny.
      • Sounds like this idea influenced a quest in Fallout: New Vegas. In this particular quest, you can choose to aid a group of ghouls in their quest to use an old rocket in order to reach space and leave behind the racist human oppressors. Their leader is more or less a cult leader, though he's much nicer and decidedly not psychotic. If you get them the fuel, they take off successfully (unless you deliberately sabotage the launch). Amazingly enough, if their flight goes off without a hitch, the epilogue states that they actually survive and return to Novac in order to help defend it from Caesar's Legion.
      • The Hubologists return in the Nuka-World DLC of Fallout 4, now lead by the descendant of the cult's founder. They believe a UFO ride to be an actual spacecraft and wish to use it to travel to space. Depending on how much power you give the UFO, they either survive with or get die from the G-force.
    • Also in New Vegas, Caesar's Legion fits many of the hallmarks of a cult, albeit a highly militant one that has conquered/assimilated much of the American Southwest. Several people recognize in-game that the Legion is entirely built atop Caesar's personality and will quickly crumble after his death.
  • Fallout's spiritual predecessor Wasteland and its sequel has a few cults of its own.
    • Similar to Fallout's Children of Atom, the Servants of the Mushroom Cloud refer to radiation as the "Great Glow" that guides them while worshipping Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer. In Nevada they have a radical offshoot of the cult known as the Mad Monks who worship a nuclear missile and ensure peace by threatening to use it on the region if they're attacked.
    • The God's Militia is a cult in Los Angeles based around a violently militant interpretation of the King James Bible that wants to take over Hollywood.
    • The Children of the Citadel are a cult led by the Big Bad that believes turning people into cyborgs is the next step in human evolution.
  • In Secret Files: Tunguska, the cult in the game believes that they were descendants from aliens. They are also responsible for your father's kidnapping, but turns out to be the good guys, kidnapping him to protect him from the evil corporation trying to create mind-control machine from the remains of The Tunguska Event and silencing anyone related after they have outlived their usefulness. The sequel has a more traditional doomsday religious cult who's responsible for all those disasters.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has a variety, mostly falling under one of the sub-tropes, including Apocalypse Cult (Mythic Dawn, the Thalmor from a certain point of view), Religion of Evil (Sixth House, Dragon Cults, certain Daedric Cults, Hackdirt), and Scary Amoral Religion (most other Daedric Cults). Breakdowns are available on those trope pages.
  • Spaghetti Cultists, who worship a Flying Spaghetti Monster from Kingdom of Loathing, the Evil Counterpart of the game's Lawful-Good Pastamancers.
  • The Church of Unitology in Dead Space is a very large, very successful cult by the time the games take place, but it is still a cult. One that seeks to control over an artifact of evil that turns people into necromorphs, and spread it through out humanity.
  • The Tarronians from a particularly creepy mission in SWAT 4 are part Church of Happyology and part batshit insane apocalyptic Cult. Especially toward the end where you find the child graveyard in the basement and learn that they've murdered their own kids in preparation for the end.
  • The Gaians and the Messians in Shin Megami Tensei.
  • Halo:
    • The Covenant, a multi-species theocratic hegemony whose leaders don't even realize they're running a suicide cult.
    • The Covenant's more religious remnants, like the one introduced in Halo 4, are often referred to as "cults" by the UNSC.
    • On the human side of things, there's the Triad, which teaches that every human has three lives, with spiritual transcendence only occurring when you linked all three. Its leader is the rather sinister Dasc Gevadim.
  • The Cultist faction in UFO Aftershock.
  • Dr. Wood in Die Anstalt starts one among the patients partway through his therapy. He takes their most precious material possessions from them, and in return gives them little ravens-claw trinkets and goes through a little "faith-healing" routine with them. He never does anything with the items, only taking them to bolster his own percieved self-importance.
  • The Cult of Kefka from Final Fantasy VI, which was formed after Kefka became a god over the ruined world, and worshipped Kefka for no other reason than possibly fear. Also referred to the Fanatics. They also have a theme song that has ominous chanting.
  • The first Neverwinter Nights had the "People of the Eye", who worshipped, and were attempting to resurrect, the Creator Race. It's stated a few times that many of the cult's lower-ranking members had only a vague idea of the cult's actual goals, which might explain why they were working to ressurect a race of creatures that despised all warm-blooded races and were planning to kill or make slaves of them the minute they came back.
  • The Freeware Game Cult, obviously, revolves around the protagonist infiltrating one. It's not made clear what they worship, but it seems to involve meditation and the Bible.
  • Borderlands 2
    • The Children of the Firehawk, who worship Lilith as a fire goddess. Lilith herself is mostly ambivalent towards them as they're mainly obsessed with setting themselves on fire but keeps an eye on them in case they do anything particularly bad, such as human sacrifices. Similarly, the Bloodshots have come to worship arms dealer Marcus Kincaid as "The Gunbringer" after he sends them a shipment of complimentary weapons in an attempt to sell to both them and the Crimson Raiders, even erecting a massive six-armed statue of him that spits out guns in exchange for human sacrifices.
    • The Player gets a cult after the end of the Firehawk cult questline, where you save people from the Children of the Firehawk. Lets just say anything and everything can possibly create a cult on Pandora.
  • Woodruff and the Schnibble of Azimuth: The Schnibble Cult.
  • There is a rather disturbing one called Black Circle in the sixth game of the Carol Reed Mysteries.
  • Metal Saga has the Gluteus Maximus cult, which is a cult of bodybuilders. You can even join this cult and get one of the bad endings, in which your party comes out with Heroic Builds. It doubles as a Non Standard Game Over since you also get this scene if you lose any battle while in the church.
  • In the Grand Theft Auto series, references are made to the Epsilon Program, a Church of Happyology-esque group, mostly in passing on the radio. In Grand Theft Auto V, the Epsilon Program takes a larger role in a series of side-quests for Michael, asking him to perform various tasks in order to advance through the Program's ranks, a lot of which involves paying increasingly higher amounts of money.
    • The Altruist cult is malevolent cult that disconnected society and all members had so happened be mainly mentally-ill Baby Boomers believing younger generations are 'creating' all world problems.
    • Children of the Mountain is therapy-like cult that Franklin could be member if he wants and also happens that one of two Frankin's safehouse happens be living beyond their headquarters.
  • In Dishonored, the Abbey of the Everyman is a slightly creepy, but otherwise perfectly normal religion with a number of harsh penalties for sin. Probably doesn't even count as a Religion of Evil. Their biggest problem is probably that they're too eager to blame things on the Outsider, the local devil analogue. The Outsider in turn strongly dislikes them (he's too old to really hate), and flippantly refers to them as "that cult dedicated to hating me." In Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, it is revealed that the Abbey is descended from the cult that originally created the Outsider by murdering an orphan boy in a profane ritual. The most high-ranking members of the Abbey always knew that the Outsider was not the ultimate evil they claimed he was. This makes the Outsider's comment more true than it seemed at the time; all of the Abbey's power comes from using him as a scapegoat.
  • The Sengoku Basara series has Xavism, a Parody Religion of Christianity with Happyology elements that worships founder Pontiff Xavi. While extorting money from people does play a role in the religion, Xavi it seems is a genuine Love Freak who does actually believe in his silly dogma. For the most part, the Xavists are largely the comedic relief of the series and even have a talent for getting other characters to convert, most notably Motonari, AKA "Sunday Mori".
  • RuneScape has Humans Against Monsters, who are technically more of a religiously-motivated hate group but have a rather cult-like ambience to them all the same. They believe that humans are the chosen race of the God of Order Saradomin and are thus entitled to do whatever they please to nonhuman races, which is rhetoric fairly close to a number of Real Life racist organizations. Despite the unfortunate acronym of "HAM," they aren't played for laughs at all and have a number of rather disturbing deeds to their name, including reviving the Ogres' dead with magic to wipe out the living Ogres and attempting a mass drowning of the Goblins.
  • Dragon's Dogma has Salvation, a cult that worships Grigori, the dragon, and prays for him to come and bring destruction to all of Gransys.
  • The Cult of the Eternal End in Endless Legend, they are led by malfunctioning Endless robots, who's main goal is to destroy all traces of the Endless in Auriga. Their faction specialty is the ability to forcibly convert neutral villages into their faction, and get free units from them.
  • The Disciples of Ragnos are the antagonists of Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. The cult's goal was to try to resurrect the ancient Sith Lord Marka Ragnos, with their leader being the last game's Dragon, Tavion.
  • Assassin's Creed: Both the Assassins and the Templars qualify, to an extent, and outsiders often identify them as such. Both have a somewhat sinister ideology (Assassins believe in ensuring humanity's freedom by... well, the name is a clue; Templars believe that the truly enlightened- themselves- should have absolute control of humanity's government), induct members with spooky rituals, and so on. They don't publicly advertise themselves, unlike many cults, and many of their more far-out beliefs (like the one about Precursor aliens) are actually completely justified.
    • They're outdone by the Instruments of the First Will, a group of weirdoes devoted to Juno, the setting's Greater-Scope Villain, and who are fanatically devoted to them. Even the Templars are weirded out by these guys.
  • The Divine Ascension in Pandora: First Contact, its a combination of Scientology, North Korea, and Facebook. When people enter it all information about them used to blackmail them into obeying the groups orders, or they could face being sent to a reeducation camp in Siberia. Its leader Lady Lilith Vermillion started the whole thing as a started to believe she was a god, after surviving a bullet to her head. When Pandora is discovered she sets her sights to it, with the intent of claiming the planet for her own.
  • Each and every one of the Elder Powers from the Nexus War series had one in the first game, which were even directly called Cults. They mostly advocated killing followers of other cults that their god didn't like, and once you joined one, you could never leave. The Powers mellowed out a bit by the time of the second (current) game, and now ask for dedication through Guilds that offer fewer rewards to the faithful but that it's possible to leave for a price.
  • Cultists can show up anywhere in Darkest Dungeon. The front-line berserkers mostly spam "Rend for the Old Gods", which can leave your adventurers battered and bleeding, while the Acolytes mix Stress damage and pushing heroes around the battleline to screw with your plans. When you get to the Darkest Dungeon itself, you find that the Heart of Darkness has mutated some of its most faithful cultists into new, horrible-looking forms with Lovecraftian Superpowers. And now, their brawlers spam "Rend for the New God".
  • In Verdict: Guilty!, there's a cult dedicating to waking the people up through chaos and destruction, and Yohan is a foot soldier in it. Actually, it's a tool of the Big Bad, who's out for money and power.
  • Far Cry 5 deals with a doomsday cult that is obviously inspired by the Branch Davidians that has somehow managed to take over an entire county in Montana.
  • Fallen London and Sunless Sea feature a cult that worships an Eldritch Abomination. An uncontrollable Horror Hunger that compels them to eat everything in sight (and sometimes feed themselves to each other) isn't even the worst thing that happens to those who pursue this too far.
    • There's also a growing movement that believes in 'Judgements', deities who decide what is real, and how everything weird that goes on in the Neath is because they have trouble judging what they can't see. They're right; the Judgements are the stars in the sky, and they are all soul-devouring jerkasses.
  • Part of Cultist Simulator is starting one, based on whatever your chosen bit of eldritch lore is. You can turn acquaintances into cultists, and from there into exalted cultists - as long as they line up with the principle of your cult.
  • A rogue group of machine lifeforms in NieR: Automata break off from the network to find religion, which eventually ends in a mass murder-suicide that 2B and Pascal must escape from while machine fanatics swarm the building helping the few reluctant members of the church follow the example of the church's recently deceased founder and "become as gods".
  • Brother Lightbeard's cult from Broken Age is a rare fictional example of a merely controlling and manipulative cult. Most of the members are people in the middle of a mid-life crisis or some other state of emotional vulnerability who were recruited via promises of a healthier, more enlightened way of life and pulled the rest of their families with them while cutting all ties to their former lives. They donate their money to the cult leader (who routinely breaks all of his own sacred commandments, a fact which is accepted by the cult-members since he's believed to be beyond human flaws), use aggressive psychological warfare tactics in order to break hesitant subjects into conforming to the rules (using an implied "spiritual scoring system" with "demerits" for such things as bad hygiene resulting in punishment), and eventually even get to the point of physically preventing anyone from leaving their community (claiming that it's so perfect that if anybody wishes to leave it, it must be a problem with them).
  • Yakuza 0; One of Majima's sidequests involves a woman asking him to check on her daughter after she's been swept up in a cult. The cult leader has his followers perform a variety of bizarre rituals peppered with gibberish to make it seem more spiritual, and scams his followers out of their money while also grooming young female members for sex. Majima plays along long enough to get close to the daughter and jog her memories before he beats the shit out of the cult leader, leaving him whimpering in agony while his cult tries to heal with their special healing ritual instead of calling an ambulance.
    • Decades later in Yakuza 6, Kiryu comes across a revival of the same cult in Onomichi, now scamming pensioners instead of impressionable young folks. Kiryu is asked by the original founder of the cult to help him take it down so he can save the woman he's fallen in love with, and eventually Kiryu beats the shit out of the new leader when he finds them out, leaving him whimpering in agony while his cult tries to heal with their special healing ritual instead of calling an ambulance (which the old leader finds oddly familiar).
  • In Red Dead Redemption 2, by a lot of measures, the Van der Linde gang are this with Dutch as the cult leader. Dutch cultivates himself as an authoritarian leader who is the most important person in the gang who had "saved" members from desperate situations. Arthur privately describes Dutch as "something else", Tilly straight up calls Dutch the closest thing to a perfect person, various other characters such as Bill and Javier express an almost religious devotion to him. Dutch repeatedly invokes this by stressing the importance of faith and calling out and complaining about Arthur, Hosea and John for being "doubters". The gang begins to fall apart once they start seeing that Dutch is undeniably human, selfish and fallible while Dutch attempts to rein them in more and more. It's telling that Dutch doesn't have an issue with John until mid-way through the story when John starts becoming a better husband and father to Abigail and Jack. Dutch sees this as Abigail "poisoning" John against him and John having more loyalty to his family than to him.
  • Atris' splinter of the Jedi Order in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is a frighteningly realistic example. Atris' handmaidens are raised in the order, worships Atris as a perfect savior who can do no wrong, and are taught to have no critical thinking skills whatsoever. During their conversations with the Exile, they will handily dismiss any and all inconsistencies in Atris' plans for rebuilding the order.

    Web Comics 
  • MAG-ISA — The antagonists are part of a fictional cult known as ''The Order''. Their belief system is a mixture of Christianity and New Age beliefs.
  • In the Back Story of Last Res0rt, Arikos's crimes stem from leading a cult of Talmi who believed that he could turn them (back) into humans. In truth, Arikos used the cult as a means to produce his Celeste offspring, and not only killed off any "failed" offspring , but also any members of the cult who had outlived their usefulness (specifically older members who could no longer work / bear children) throughout the process.
  • In Templar Arizona there is a cult of people founded by 'Jake', whose core beliefs revolve around theft, polygamy, and breeding, and refer to themselves as 'Jakes' or 'Jakeskin' (Jake's kin).
  • The demon K'Z'K has its own cult in Sluggy Freelance, complete with a leader who plays fast and loose with her interpretation of scripture. Very much a Religion of Evil.
  • A group of cultists shows up on a couple of occassions in direct opposition to the Light Warriors in 8-Bit Theater. It's name is never mentioned as it "cannot be said or written without driving you mad." The cult is a good example of a Religion of Evil and appears to worship beings similar to those found in H. P. Lovecraft's works.
  • In Our Little Adventure, the group comes across a poster for 'Angelo's Kids', and since Julie wasn't there, Rocky had to explain to the others that 'Angelo's Kids' is both a youth cult and a pyramid scheme.
  • Nutritionists form a cult around a “Lemonade” soda sticker in Romantically Apocalyptic.
  • Timothy/Camellia in But I'm a Cat Person spent a couple of his teenage years in a doomsday cult focused on one of the series' resident Mons.
  • The world of Drowtales has several groups who are seen in-universe as cults:
    • The Kyorl'solenurn clan is the largest, with the most direct influence on the politics of the world. Originally a more zealous branch of the religion of Sharess, ever since the mainstream religion began it's decline several centuries ago, they've grown increasingly isolationist and extreme. They are somewhat tolerated since they gladly hunt demons for the other clans. They're secretly run by Light Elves (who order their Drow subordinates to persecute and exterminate their former brothers and sisters), and seek to turn Demon Summoning into a secret elite privilege. After Anahid takes over they mellow out, but are still Church Militant zealots.
    • On the opposite end are Nether Cults like the group that eventually became the Vloz'ress, which started as a fairly harmless group who kept to themselves but still faced persecution for their beliefs. Once Sene'kha took it over and killed most of the mode moderate members, including the original leader, things went From Bad to Worse, ending as a literal Apocalypse Cult seeking to summon a demon overlord who could brainwash everyone into submission. note 
    • The Nidra'chal are a horde of demon summoners who created a mutant army of demonically-possessed Drow to try and take over the nation. Little is publicly known about them beyond their straightforward desire for conquest. They're the creation of the Sharen royalty, who used the clan as a diversion to assassinate their Empress-mother and take over Chel. Over the next three decades, they infiltrate multiple clans to influence politics, with the ultimate goal of turning the Drow race into half-demon multiversal conquerors with Snadhya'rune as their God-Empress.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the man known as "Tengu" enslaves minds one by one and makes them physically identical with no sense of personal identity through a magic enchantment. The process took him months the first time he did it but in a magic saturated area he was able to do it in a single night. He refers to his victims as his flock and thinks of himself as a shepherd.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Robot S13 has started a cult that worships Kat as an angel (which might be a symptom, or a cause, of Kat having some Eldritch Abomination traits). It's implied it's not his first time, this tendency is why Antimony found him disassembled in the first place.
  • In Meaty Yogurt, a possible alien landing prompts the creation of an alien-worshiping cult called The Smile Time Cosmic Farm Co-Op.
  • In Lackadaisy, Serafine leads a cult that practices a corrupted form of Voodoo and worships the loa Maitre Carrefour. She invites Mordecai to join, and forcibly carves a Voodoo symbol into his chest when he refuses.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: The comic for 2014-09-10 shows the appeal of joining a cult:
    "Excuse me. Would you be interested in living for free on a country farm where you get to work with your hands every day and have 100% job security?"
    "What's the catch?"
    "You have to believe in a very simple cosmology with clear rules, which was designed to make you feel good about yourself."
  • Ennui GO!: In the "Crisis on Two Comics" crossover arc, Izzy works with Diana Nox to take down the Gardeners: a magic sex cult that sprung up on Key Manati. Additionally, several other cults are mentioned at the beginning of the arc.
    Izzy: Key Manati has a cult?
    Renee: Another cult, yes.
    Izzy: We got MORE?
    Renee: Quite. There is the Apostles of Ape-Shaving, the Church of the Eternally Suspended, the Fidget-Men, Followers of the Great Milky Mommy, Bobby's Guys, Latter Day Disco Revival, Smellnothingans, and American Christianity.

    Web Original 
  • The Hymn of One in lonelygirl15, which was actually a front for an evil organisation. The Hymn of One also appears in KateModern, which portrays it in a slightly more sympathetic (though still villainous) light.
  • Here one more sinister assembly is revealed in the best tradition of Cult Investigation (and they use the dandelion as their symbol!).
  • Homestar Runner: Marzipan runs a kindergarten program she calls "LURN": "Life-blossoms Undergoing Re-programming Naturally". The "children" (actually dimwitted grown men Homestar, Homsar, and Strong Mad) are referred to as "life-blossoms", the crayons all have politically correct names ("dermal discoveries" instead of "skin flesh", or "blue" instead of "black") and can't color ("so that no one life-blossom outshines the others. That way, they're all special!"), and the grades are renamed things like roots and grass to give an eco-friendly image even though they still map to letter grades in concept. Strong Bad is somewhat incredulous.
    Strong Bad: Marzipan, what kinda cult you runnin' here?
    Marzipan: Oh, pretty standard.
  • In the Neopets plot "Spooky Food Eating Contest", during the catacombs phase, you can encounter three kinds of cultists; Evil, Indifferent, and Friendly. Depending on your actions, they can either reward you with an item or curse you, no matter what kind you bump into.
  • Gail from Deagle Nation may be a part of one, considering she reads from and follows the teachings of a "Forgotten Bible".
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared has the Cult of Malcolm, a cult led by a butterfly named Shrignold that worships a sick version of love.
  • In X, there is a cult, heavily implied to be The Klan, who summon Adolf Hitler out of Hell.
  • Spectacular Organic is, in fact, run by a cult with unknown motivations. They appear to worship scarab beetles, and want to initiate viewers into their rank through their videos.
  • The Landover Baptist Church is a long-standing parody on the excesses of American religion and skewers the idea of a toxic blend of right-wing politics, prescriptive religion and authoritarian leadership working from inside a remote security-fenced compopund in Leasehold, Iowa. the Church website is well worth a visit.

    Western Animation 
  • Infinity Train introduces a cult primarily composed of children called the Apex in Book 2. While everyone trapped on the eponymous train is supposed to work to get a number on their hand down to zero (the higher it is indicates the further you are away from solving the personal issue that got you on the train in the first place) the Apex is instead dedicated to jacking up their numbers as high as possible. Due to the way the train works, this means the children cultivate their numbers as high as possible by ignoring their personal problems and wreaking random havoc on the train, which they see as their "right." The object of their worship is the mysterious Conductor, the one on the train with the highest number—who turns out to be an old woman who, as Book 3 shows, was completely unaware and uncaring such a thing existed.
  • On Family Guy, Meg is drawn into a cult based almost completely on the Heaven's Gate. Although she's got no idea it's a cult. And then there's Peter founding his own, though short-lived (and more benign), cult.
  • The Movementarians on The Simpsons drew the titular family, and most of Springfield, into a collective based on worshiping a UFO. (They made them eat lima beans, although a diet of low-nutrition gruel was used to break down hard cases. Homer compensated by eating an entire month's supply.)
    • It turns out the writers based the Movementarians mostly on Scientology. They managed to do this as Nancy Cartwright, a Scientologist, doesn't believe it's a cult. Go figure.
    • Although it is also a combination of other religious groups, such as osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) or raëlism.
    • In the episode "Lisa's First Word", Homer mentions that his cousin Francine (originally Frank) joined a cult: "I think his name is Mother Shabubu now."
  • One episode of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers had Gadget (as part of a 10-Minute Retirement) join the "Cola Cult". It worshiped TV commercials for soda ("Come along, you belong, feel the fizz of Coo Coo Kola!"), and instead of mass suicide, it had the followers give up their worldly possessions, where they were secretly hoarded by the cult's brutish second-in-command. In a mild subversion, the leader fully believed in the commercial's rather upbeat message, though the Cult was still broken up at the end.
  • Stroker and Hoop were targeted by a cult of "enlightened cannibals", who drug people and surgically remove their vestigial organs for the group's consumption.
    • Though they did commit mass suicide via poisoned appendixes to ascend to a comet, so not that enlightened.
  • Wait Till Your Father Gets Home had an episode in which the daughter joined a cult. It was a relatively benign cult in the sense that the leader was simply scamming for money— sort of like the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh without the bioterror attacks.
  • On King of the Hill, Luanne gets caught in a cult whose members all take the name of Jane.
    • And guess what happens when Peggy tries to get her out?
      • "You're thinking of Blonde Jane and Old Jane."
  • Rocko was set to confront his archnemesis Dingo but he had joined a cult led by a unicorn.
    • Don't forget the Schnitzel Club, which Heffer falls into.
  • Metalocalypse had one posing as a P.R. firm, whose founder had already created several other different cults, all of them destructive.
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades has one being led by Tomax and Xamot, with some Applied Phlebotinum brainwashing.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, the Flamekeepers' Circle is a cult that worships an alien named Dagon, whom they believe uplifted early humanity. The Circle believes that Dagon will return to Earth one day and bequeath more alien technology to humans and transform Earth into a paradise. In the meantime, the Circle promotes the use of alien technology to improve life on Earth via modernization of schools, hospitals, etc. — this aspect of the Circle is what draws in Julie. All in all, a fairly benevolent cult. Too bad Vilgax's One-Winged Angel form looks exactly like Dagon... And when Dagon does return, he transforms everyone on Earth into his Faceless Goons.
  • Parodied on Recess in the episode "Swing on Thru to the Other Side", where Spinelli develops a cult devoted to following the teachings of Swinger Girl.
  • Parodied in Brickleberry, Woody's new girlfriend has him join a cult and they are going to jump off a cliff and be taken by a spaceship. Malloy asumes its a suicide cult and grabs him in time,then its revealed that there really was a spaceship and Woody gets left behind and blames Malloy.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic season 5 premiere has the settlement known as Our Town. It's populated by ponies who thought something was missing from their lives and thought they found it in this commune, led by a charismatic leader called Starlight Glimmer. She preaches that individuality and differences — in this show's context, ponies' cutie marks and corresponding special talents — lead to disharmony, and to reach true friendship, everyone should have their cutie mark and individual magic removed via magic, replaced with a = sign for a cutie mark and bland mediocrity. The settlement itself and the ponies there have a dull, uniform look (relatively anyway, for the ponies), at first sight everyone's always smiling suspiciously broadly, and under the happy surface any trace of individuality or longing for a different state of affairs is heavily policed against. Oh, and they also try to use actual old-fashioned Hollywood brainwashing when necessary, locking ponies in a room with propaganda constantly playing on a loudspeaker.
  • In Bojack Horseman, Todd is feeling lonely and considers joining Scientology, only to get distracted and join an improv group instead. Said improv group turns out to be a cult with high membership fees, a hypocritical leader who lives in luxury while forcing the others to live in squalor, and a cruiseship that they use to isolate and recondition their members. BoJack also mentions that he learned a lot about cults while he was a Scientologist (he happened to read a book about cults during that time).


Video Example(s):


Jesus Ranch Cult

The Jesus Ranch Cult are all Christian hippies that believe that one parts with a piece of their souls when they defecate, and that they need to bury their deceased bodies with all of their feces for their souls to be whole. Their leader Liggaguie admits that they are a cult and they spend time through singing and talent-shows. While generally peaceful and probably not the kind to brainwash, they do keep guns around and board up their doors when ask to leave by the County Health Department.

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Example of:

Main / Cult

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Main / Cult