Manson Family Movies to Stream: Films That Go Inside 1969 Cult – Rolling Stone
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Manson Family Movies: 11 Streaming Films Go Inside Terrifying 1969 Cult

Charles Manson and his followers have been pop-culture fodder for 50 years. Here, some of the most revealing films and documentaries you can stream now

"I Don't Have Any Guilt" said long-haired hippie chieftain Charles Manson, 35, in brief press conference in courtroom here, June 18, where a hearing to continue proceedings in the murder case of musician Dary Hinman was held. Manson's trial for the slaying of actress Sharon Tate and four others last August 9th, and the killing of a wealthy supermarket chain owner and his wife the day after the Tate murder, began this week and forced postponement of the Hinman case.

Charles Manson spent his life in prison after orchestrating some of the most brutal murders in Los Angeles history.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

In the 50 years since Charles Manson and his followers brought the decade of peace and love to a bloody conclusion with a spree of murders, the Family, as they were known, has remained a fixture of pop culture. The real-life events were stranger than fiction: a career criminal is released from prison during 1967’s summer of love, attracts a group of mostly young, female disciples, mingles with famous musicians, and ultimately convinces his so-called Family to brutally kill at least nine people — including a movie star. 

Related: The World — and ‘Hollywood’ — According to Quentin Tarantino

So it makes sense that the Manson Family is the subject of more than 25 films, both scripted and documentary. The most recent and high profile of these is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but there are plenty of others currently available to stream. Here are 11 that offer varying takes on the infamous cult.

MANSON, from left, Nancy Pitman, Lynette Fromme (aka Squeaky Fromme), Sandra Good, 1973

Everett Collection

‘Manson’ (1973)

This is the original Manson documentary, featuring interviews with Family members like Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Paul Watkins, as well as Vince Bugliosi, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney and lead prosecutor for the Manson murder trial. Viewers get an inside look into what life was like in the Family thanks to footage shot on their home at Spahn Ranch. Other standout interviews include those with the cellmates of Susan Atkins — one of the three female Family members convicted of murder — who detailed her plans to murder other celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra next. Manson was even nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary, though it lost to one about a different kind of charismatic preacher.

Available to stream on YouTube.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock (1596474a)Helter Skelter, Steve RailsbackFilm and Television

Moviestore/Shutterstock

‘Helter Skelter’ (1976)

With taglines like “His name is Charles Manson. His disciples call him God. He preached death!” you know exactly what you’re in for with this campy CBS made-for-TV-movie based on Bugliosi’s bestselling book of the same name. Given the source material, much of the film takes place during the murder trial. To his credit, Steve Railsback is equally convincing and terrifying as Manson. Though it may appear dated now, the movie was incredibly popular when it first aired, even earning three Primetime Emmy nominations

Available to rent or purchase on Amazon

Charles Manson, Convicted killerMANSON,CONVICTED KILLER, USA

AP/Shutterstock

‘Charles Manson: Superstar’ (1989)

Buckle up — this is a weird one. The film’s aim appears in the first few minutes: “This tape is designed to deprogram the minds of those who are still thinking — those who have not yet been lulled into sedation by the soothing lies that surround us.” The problem is that if the filmmakers were trying to convince people that Manson was a normal, rational guy, that mission was not accomplished — mostly due to interviews with the man himself from inside San Quentin prison. In case that wasn’t enough, the documentary is partially narrated by Zeena LaVey, daughter of Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, and the person behind the topless revue called “the Witches’ Sabbath,” where Atkins was a dancer before she joined the Family. 

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 

MANSON, MY NAME IS EVIL, (aka LESLIE, MY NAME IS EVIL), Kristen Hager (left), Kaniehtiio Horn (right), 2009. ©Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

© Lionsgate/Everett Collection

‘Manson, My Name Is Evil’ (2009)

The plot of this movie centers around a fictional member of the Manson jury: a straight-laced, sheltered young man who becomes infatuated with Leslie Van Houten — one of the three women eventually accused of murder for the deaths of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. The Canadian-produced film draws parallels between the Manson murders and the 1968 My Lai massacre, when American soldiers killed more than 500 civilians in Vietnam, including pregnant women and infants. It’s part satire, part social commentary, and a little odd, but overall a different spin on a well-known story. 

Available to stream on Amazon Prime

(Original Caption) Murder Scene. Los Angeles, California: Police guard the $200,000 rented estate of movie director Roman Polanski after his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four other persons were found slain August 9th. Police stand in front of the main house August 10th. Visible in the background is a shroud-covered body.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

‘The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter’ (2009)

If you’ve ever wanted to take one of those tours in Los Angeles that visit locations associated with Manson, but have never had the opportunity, this documentary has you covered. which makes sense, considering it was produced in conjunction with Dearly Departed Tours, a company that specializes in showing tourists the macabre side of Los Angeles. (They’ve even got a five-hour tour of Topanga Canyon and Spahn Ranch scheduled for the 50th anniversary of the murders; it is, unfortunately, sold out.) The draw of this film is being able to virtually visit more than 40 Manson-related locations in southern California from the comfort of your own couch — including footage Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor shot in 1993 while he was recording in the house on Cielo Drive where actor Sharon Tate and four others were murdered, shortly before it was demolished. 

Available to stream on YouTube.

Patricia Krenwinkel, a defendant in the Tate murder case, enters the Los Angeles superior court for arraignment, which was postponedManson Family Cultist 1970, Los Angeles, USA

George Brich/AP/Shutterstock

‘Life After Manson’ (2014)

This quick, 25-minute documentary focuses on Patricia Krenwinkel — a Family member who participated in both nights of murders in August 1969. If you’ve ever wondered how a person could get to the place of leaving their old life behind to wholeheartedly follow someone like Manson, this film will provide some background. Krenwinkel openly discusses her life before Manson, as well as what it was like to endure his abusive manipulation techniques, and why she considers herself to be an entirely different person than the 19-year-old who committed murder almost 50 years ago. 

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

‘Manson Family Vacation’ (2015)

Unlike the other scripted films on this list, this movie’s plot isn’t a retelling of the Manson murders or trial. Instead, this film takes place in the present and stars Jay Duplass as your average family man whose adopted brother is obsessed with Charles Manson. When Conrad (the brother, played by Linas Phillips) makes a surprise visit to Los Angeles, he insists on dragging Nick (Duplass) around on a tour of the Manson murder sites. The final stop on their excursion is a remote house in Death Valley where Conrad supposedly has a job lined up with an “environmental organization.” At this point, Nick learns the real reason behind this trip and the truth about his brother. 

Available to stream on Netflix.

 

MANSON'S LOST GIRLS, Eden Brolin (bottom, L), Esabel Shill (bottom, 2nd to L), Grace Victoria Cox (bottom, center), Garrett Coffey (bottom, 3rd from R), Greer Grammer (bottom, 2nd from R), MacKenzie Mauzy (bottom, R), Christian Madsen (top, 2nd from L), (airs Feb. 6, 2016). photo: James Dittiger / ©Lifetime Television / courtesy Everett Collection

© Lifetime Television/Everett Collection

‘Manson’s Lost Girls’ (2016)

In a surprise move, Lifetime made a movie about the women of the Manson Family that Variety described as “a credible account of that historical moment.” This time, former follower Linda Kasabian — who played chauffeur and lookout for both nights of murders in August 1969 — takes center stage. She was granted immunity for her role in the crimes for agreeing to testify against Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten in court (both in real life and this movie). With an impossibly attractive cast and plenty of sex, drama and violence, it’s basically everything you’d hope for from a Lifetime movie.

Available for rent or purchase on Amazon or through Lifetime’s streaming service.

Charles Manson replies "It all depends on your point of view," after a newsman asked him "Are you insane, Charlie?", in Los Angeles. The exchange came as Manson left court where he won permission to hire a new attorney, replacing one who had sought to have Manson examined by psychiatristsCharles Manson Trial 1970, Los Angeles, USA

George Brich/AP/Shutterstock

‘Manson Speaks: Inside the Mind of a Madman’ (2017)

This two-part documentary examines Manson’s claim that the Family was responsible for more than 35 murders. Armed with more than 26 hours of conversations with Manson, taped over a decade, a retired cold-case detective and an independent researcher investigate several unsolved murders that took place in November and December 1969 in an attempt to determine if they were the work of Manson or his followers. Highlights include interviews with Aesop Aquarian — a former friend-of-the-Family who is reluctant to share too much — and Windy Bucklee, a former Spahn Ranch worker who lived there at the same time as the Family, and says he almost shot Manson during an argument. 

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Manson Charles Manson being escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case Los Angeles, Calif. Mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's shocking testimony to a Norwegian court has revived a debate about how much of a public platform mass-murderers should be given in trials. Such atrocities are often waged for attention and carried out in the name of political or religious goals, and a trial gives perpetrators more of what they crave: a huge audience. Cult leader Charles Manson, who persuaded others to kill for him, refused to testify in the raucous 1970 trial of him and other members of his "Manson Family." In an unusual proceeding, Manson was allowed to testify outside the jury's presence so that the judge could rule on whether his testimony was admissible in front of jurorsNorway Breivik Trial or Pulpit, los angeles, USA

AP/Shutterstock

‘Manson: Music from an Unsound Mind’ (2019)

Manson made no secret of his ambitions to be a rockstar, famously befriending Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson. This documentary provides an in-depth look into his failed attempt to be a professional musician, starting with his love of music as a child. What really makes this documentary stand out, though, are the interviews. In addition to former Family member Dianne Lake who was known within the Family as Snake — there are interviews with Manson’s fellow inmate from 1966, the Beach Boys’ producer who recorded Manson’s demo, as well as Anthony DeCurtis and David Felton from Rolling Stone.

Out August 13th, available for purchas from Amazon, Vudu, GooglePlay and iTunes. 

IFC Films

‘Charlie Says’ (2019)

Another recent entry to the Manson movie canon, Charlie Says tells the story of the Family and murders from the perspective of three of his female followers. It flashes between the summer of 1969 and after the trial, when Atkins, Van Houten, and Krenwinkel are imprisoned for their crimes. This movie also stands out because it was written by Guinevere Turner, who was born into the Lyman Family — a commune lead by folk musician Mel Lyman, who Rolling Stone referred to as the “East Coast Charles Manson” in 1971. 

Available to rent or purchase on Amazon.

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