The 10 Best Scientology Documentaries (Ranked)

I’m keeping track of the most watchable docs on Scientology (including videos and interviews).

“Leah Remini” shines with its intense, personal storytelling, reminiscent of a deeply personal diary.

In contrast, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” is a journalistic powerhouse with investigative rigor.

Three of the docs were so good that they made the cut in my 29 Best Cult Documentaries ranking.

I tried to include balance (check out “Scientology: The Science of Truth or the Art of Deception?”).

Enjoy!

1) Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

Leah Remini, formerly a prominent Scientology figure, unveils the truth in her docuseries “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”.

Spanning 5 episodes (464 minutes), it’s a long watch – start early…

But worth it!

At 46, Leah, a lifelong member of “The Church”, bravely confronts it. She brings to light hidden truths: stories of abuse and coercion.

She’s not solo in this. Ex-members join her, revealing more. The church’s reaction? Predictably incensed. Most gripping? The live confrontations. They’re edge-of-your-seat material.

I’m no expert on cults, but this series sheds light on a hidden world. It peeks behind the celebrity facade, revealing a darker reality.

The series is rich in emotional personal tales, complete with names, dates, and places. “The Hole” is a key focus – no spoilers, but it’s intense. Noticeably absent? The church’s perspective. They remain silent towards those they label “Suppressives”.

In the landscape of investigative documentaries, this one stands out for its raw, unfiltered honesty.

For those delving into Scientology’s shadowy aspects with Leah, be prepared for some unsettling revelations.

I was so into the Leah Remini docuseries that I created a whole page for it here including where to watch it for free (and for rental):

https://dailydoc.com/leah-remini-scientology-and-the-aftermath/

2) Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” uncovers the enigma of Scientology. 

Heavyweights like L. Ron Hubbard, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta are featured.

E-meter sessions are especially intriguing, probing the depths of personal transgressions.

Expect a deep dive into lawsuits, controversies, and Scientology’s unusual doctrines.

But what really boggles the mind? Their tax-exempt status. That’s a head-scratcher.

This doc will evoke laughter, shock, and maybe a facepalm or two. It’s a classic depiction of human quest, belief, and often, regret—a kind of cosmic cycle.

One oversight? The elusive Sea Org. It seems slightly overlooked.

Directed by Alex Gibney (known for “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “The Armstrong Lie”) and based on Lawrence Wright’s book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief” (2013), this is a collaboration of note.

It’s a bold, unsettling documentary, standing out in the exposé genre.

Here’s a thought: when a “religion” spins tales of galactic overlords, maybe give its credibility a second glance.

You can watch “Going Clear” on:

If you’re in Australia or New Zealand, support the folks at Madman who distribute Going Clear over there: https://www.madman.com.au/going-clear-scientology-and-the-prison-of-belief/

3) Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology (2010)

BBC’s “Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology” (Season 58, Episode 38) offers an incisive look into the church, led by journalist John Sweeney.

This is Sweeney’s second dive into Scientology, following his explosive 2007 encounter.

In this 60-minute documentary, Sweeney embarks on a deeper investigation. He revisits the aggressive tactics faced during his first report, including the infamous ‘exploding tomato’ incident where he lost his temper on camera.

Key moments include Sweeney’s interviews with high-profile defectors like Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former spokesperson. Their revelations about the church’s internal operations are startling.

Sweeney also explores the practice of ‘Fair Game’ – Scientology’s alleged policy of dealing with its critics.

He unveils how this policy played out in his own experience, showcasing intense surveillance and confrontational tactics used against him.

The documentary captures a chilling encounter with Tommy Davis, Scientology’s chief spokesperson at the time.

Davis’s intense interactions with Sweeney highlight the charged atmosphere surrounding Scientology’s public defense.

Sweeney’s exploration of ‘The Hole’ – a supposed punitive re-education camp for high-ranking members – adds a layer of intrigue and concern.

Watch “Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology (2010)” for free on YouTube by clicking the embed above or this link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gS4FC0Gq1N8

4) David Miscavige Nightline Interview

The ABC News Nightline interview with Scientology leader David Miscavige conducted by Ted Koppel on February 14, 1992, stands as a pivotal moment in the public’s understanding of Scientology.

It’s an Ali-Foreman matchup but with words replacing the boxing gloves.

This intense interview showcases Miscavige’s rare media appearance, under Koppel’s skilled and relentless questioning.

The atmosphere is charged as Koppel navigates through Scientology’s most controversial aspects.

Koppel challenges Miscavige on several fronts.

He questions the validity of Scientology’s religious status and its related tax exemptions, leading to a tense exchange where Miscavige’s defensiveness is apparent.

Miscavige lands punches of his own including questioning how thorough ABC News, Koppel and correspondent Forrest Sawyer were on the story.

Miscavige says he gave Sawyer and the research team multiple Scientology supporters to talk to and that Sawyer didn’t contact any of them.

A striking moment occurs when Koppel confronts Miscavige about the church’s alleged practice of ‘Fair Game’ against critics and defectors.

Miscavige’s response is a combination of denial and justification, reflecting the church’s often-criticized stance on dissent.

The interview delves into the mystery surrounding L. Ron Hubbard’s death, with Koppel pressing Miscavige for clarity on the circumstances and aftermath, including the handling of Hubbard’s estate.

Koppel also probes the church’s aggressive legal strategies, particularly its numerous lawsuits against detractors. Miscavige’s justifications reveal much about Scientology’s combative approach to criticism.

This Nightline episode, a critical piece in understanding Scientology, offers an unfiltered glimpse into the mindset of its top leader.

Miscavige’s interactions with Koppel are revealing, providing a rare insight into the inner workings of the church’s leadership.

I do have to admit. Koppel landed some punches on Miscavige…but didn’t knock him out.

Available through ABC’s archives and various online platforms, this interview remains a key resource for those researching or studying Scientology’s public and legal strategies.

Watch the David Miscavige Nightline Interview for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu4LlKGKZz4 or on Archive.org at https://archive.org/details/scientology-news-special.

5) My Scientology Movie

Celeb reporter Louis Theroux.

Known for gutsy probing. He courageously presses the Church here.

Rehashes their dubious ways. He stages recreations using ex-adherents. Disconcerting yet captivating stuff.

And watching Theroux court risk intrigues millions. His antics exude playfulness yet he confronts grim reality.

Outspoken ex-inspector Marty Rathbun features prominently. His revelations unnerve. Chilling Church warnings like “We don’t fool around” make that clear.

What scene stands out most? Theroux tries a shock-inducing E-meter. True to its name – an alarming electrification transpires.

Most exciting? The confrontational clashes. Irate existing devotees collide with Theroux’s prodding inquiries. Uncomfortably tense and unpredictable.

“How does he pull this off?” sheerest audacity? Recklessness? Likely both.

Theroux’s wit provides comic relief. Society and human foibles – gently mocked but no real injury done there.

But one opportunity for illumination seems missed – deeper insight on leader David Miscavige. Endlessly fascinating that controversial figure.

Still, even for those exhausted of Scientology exposes, Theroux’s signature offbeat flourish enthralls anew.

Watch it for free on Kanopy (with library card or student ID) at https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/my-scientology-movie-1 or at https://archive.org/details/Scientology_Stories/My+Scientology+Movie+2016.mp4. HBO Max subscribers can stream it at https://www.hbo.com/movies/my-scientology-movie

6) Scientologists at War

“Scientologists at War,” released in 2013, is a revealing documentary directed by Joseph Russell.

The doc delves into the internal strife of the Church of Scientology, focusing primarily on Marty Rathbun, a former high-ranking member who left the organization.

Key aspects of the film include:

  • Marty Rathbun’s Defection: Rathbun was a senior executive in Scientology. His defection and criticism of the church are central to the narrative.
  • The Squirrel Busters: The Squirrel Busters, a group of Scientologists who harass Rathbun at his home. They film him continuously, claiming to be making a documentary about “squirrels” – a term used by the church to describe those who practice Scientology outside its official framework.
  • Marty Rathbun’s Blog: Rathbun’s blog, where he criticizes the church and its practices is a significant factor in the ongoing conflict.
  • Internal Conflict: The film explores the internal power dynamics and conflict within Scientology, particularly after Rathbun’s departure.
  • The film touches upon Scientology’s history, including its battle with the IRS to gain tax-exempt status as a religious organization.

“Scientologists at War” offers an insider’s view of the church’s internal conflicts and the lengths it goes to control and contain dissent within its ranks.

Watch Scientologists at War by renting it on Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube or Google Play (see here for options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/scientologists-at-war). You can stream it on Vimeo for $2.99 here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/scientologistsatwar

7) Jenna Miscavige Hill Nightline

Jennifer Miscavige Hill’s April 24, 2008 interview on ABC’s “Nightline” is a significant piece in the Scientology documentary landscape.

As the niece of David Miscavige, Scientology’s leader, Hill offers a rare and personal perspective on the church.

Her Nightline interview is notable for its intimate insights into the Miscavige family and the inner workings of Scientology.

Key aspects of the interview include:

  • Family Dynamics: Hill discusses her relationship with her uncle, David Miscavige, providing a unique view into the family at the heart of Scientology.
  • Life in Scientology: She shares her experiences growing up in the church, including her time in the Sea Org, Scientology’s elite group.
  • Reasons for Leaving: Hill explains why she decided to leave Scientology, detailing the challenges and realizations that led to her departure.
  • Allegations of Abuse: The interview touches on allegations of abusive practices within the church, with Hill offering her personal account.
  • Impact on Personal Life: Hill reflects on the impact that growing up in and leaving Scientology has had on her life and relationships.
  • This interview is important for those looking to understand the human impact of Scientology’s practices and the experiences of those who have left the church.

For viewers interested in this intimate perspective on Scientology, the Jennifer Miscavige Hill interview on “Nightline” is available on ABC’s platform and may be accessible through various online sources.

Watch the Jennifer Miscavige Hill Nightline interview for free on YouTube by clicking the embed above or clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1Tjt2vt_6s

8) Jenna Miscavige Hill Interview on 60 Minutes Australia

Here’s “60 Minutes Australia” interviewing Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Scientology’s enigmatic leader David Miscavige,

This interview is less exposé and more personal odyssey.

Jenna charts her life from childhood within the church’s confines.

Her story echoes a Kafkaesque ordeal — a childhood characterized not by play and freedom, but by stringent discipline and manual labor at the Scientology boarding school.

In an almost surreal revelation, Jenna recounts signing a billion-year contract at the tender age of seven. This contract shows the church’s all-encompassing grip.

The narrative takes a darker turn as Jenna discusses the church’s attitudes towards family and children. It’s a chilling indictment of an organization that professes to uphold family values, yet enforces policies that are antithetical to familial bonds.

Jenna’s husband, Dallas, adds another layer to this intricate tapestry, offering insights into the church’s influence over its most high-profile member, Tom Cruise, and its views on his then-wife, Nicole Kidman.

It feels like a plot twist in a Hollywood drama, underscoring the entanglement of celebrity and religion.

Ultimately, Jenna decides to leave the church.

It’s a journey fraught with emotional turmoil and existential threats.

Her story culminates not in tragedy but in a hard-won freedom, though not without lasting scars.

Watch the Jennifer Miscavige Hill 60 Minutes interview for free on YouTube by clicking the embed above or clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSToAAzLGxg

9) Scientology: The Science of Truth or the Art of Deception?

“Scientology” provides a more balanced view than other Scientology docs.

It appears most of the interviews are with current or former members of Scientology Germany.

Interviews include Sabine Weber, VP of Scientology in Germany and Scientologist Ralf Gerhardt.

They and others provide glowing reports of the success of Scientology:

“I know hundreds (of Scientologists) and they are all more successful, they make more money, they have more possessions, they have happier families.”

Ralf Gerhardt (Scientologist)

“I think we’re very fortunate that we had Mister [L. Ron.] Hubbard. There are a lot of great men in history. Not just to make less of them…but how many took their life…and put all his time and effort in developing this religion…all these books…just to make sure we had a better life.”

– Edith Reuvini (Scientologist)

Ex-Scientologists such as Wilfried Handl and Ursula Caberta (Head of Working Group on Scientology) give counter positions such as this one/

“Scientologist is an anti-demographic organization…a totalitarian system that has created a parallel universe in Germany and other parts of the word. That’s Scientology”

Ursula Caberta (Head of Working Group on Scientology)

…or this one on Scientology’s take on illness.

“Scientology sees illness as a suppressed act. If you’re ill you must have done something bad, regardless of whether a person is ill or handicapped, Scientology has no compassion.”

Wilfried Handl (ex-Scientologist)

Watch “Scientology: The Science of Truth or the Art of Deception?” for free on YouTube by clicking the embed above or the link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEcgv0wmozw

10) Tom Cruise Scientology Video

Here’s Tom Cruise speaking the virtues of Scientology in only the way Tom Cruise can. He sure is a believer.

You’ll likely either:

  • Laugh
  • Be disturbed, or…
  • Be converted.

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly