number 3. The Family, led by former anchorman Jon Matthias in the The Ωmega Man, the reboot of the cinematic “I am Legend” franchise. The movie was made in 1971, so by this time everyone in the theater audience had heard about Charlie Manson’s “Family”. (And if you haven’t heard about them, check out the portion of the podcast “You Must Remember This”.) Manson’s Family was held together by sex, drugs, and eschatological flim-flammery. Things might not be the best now, Manson told his minions, but after the apocalypse foretold in this secret message in this Beatles song comes to pass, we’ll be the last ones standing. After a plague wipes out pretty much everyone in the world, the survivors are cursed with the terrible conditions of albinism and Luddite outlook on life. Matthias keeps his spooky family members together to survive in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. (Not to be redundant, but downtown 1970s Los Angeles plays itself.)
The meek have inherited the earth, and they’re free to rock sexy sunglasses and black robes. Too bad that cocky, murderous, legendary Charlton Heston wants to ruin everything.
number 2. Imagine you and your friends wanted to live forever, and not only live forever, but be a world-famous actor. You work out the science in your thirties and forties, but then for some reason wait another fifty or sixty years before putting the plan into effect. A charismatic silver-haired devil, one with a fixation on juices, keeps everyone on the golden path. On the face of it, the plan, to an outsider, might sound as crazy as everyone committing suicide to have your spirits hitchhike a ride on a passing comet. But it will work. It must work. Eventually a younger person shows up with her chimpanzee companion. And you all dive into the head of John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich.
number 1. Though there is a nice old church that these people attend, these hooded ne’er-do-wells aren’t necessarily churchy. They skulk through nocturnal gatherings and pull almost every string in town, and snip every string they can’t pull. They have infiltrated every decent stratum in the model village of Sandford. They thrive in secrecy, and they brook no alternatives to their plans. And why should they? They only seek to bring about the greater good.
The Neighborhood Watch Alliance, or NWA, is a creepy, well-meaning, murderous, wholesome, fascist army of busybodies. The movie, of course, is Hot Fuzz.
BTW, if you haven’t seen Edgar Wright’s list of his favorite 1000 movies, you probably should check it out.
Runner Up: The only reason this cult didn’t make my list is that we didn’t actually see any of the cultists. We only saw their works and read their words left after they were gone. But they, led by farsighted leader Ivo Shandor, built a beautiful building on Central Park West. It’s like they were the Masons crossed with the guys hanging out with Rosemary’s Baby. They believed that human society was too sick to survive (and, after witnessing World War One, why shouldn’t they?). They also successfully predicted that the dead would rise again, and a certain Sumerian god was going to come back to destroy the world.