People join cults for all different sorts of reasons. And while many of these groups are viewed as controversial, outliers, and even dangerous, they all have one thing in common: they appear to bring a sense of community to their group. This is a list of celebrities who were raised in cults and/or on communes. For a list specifically about the Church of Scientology, check out this list of celebrities who were raised Scientologists.
Who is the most famous person who was raised in a cult? Joaquin Phoenix tops this list. The Her actor was raised in the Children of God group until he was two years old. His family adopted the surname "Phoenix" after leaving the cult. His older brother, Stand By Me actor River Phoenix was also raised in the Children of God. Other celebs whose parents were cult members include Emily Schromm and Glenn Close. Winona Ryder lived on the Rainbow Commune in California.
What other famous families have joined cults? Read more about celebrities who were raised in cults below.
- Photo: Parenthood / Universal Pictures
Joaquin Phoenix was raised in the California-based hippie religious group Children of God until he was four years old. After leaving the cult, his parents - whose surname was Bottom - adopted the last name "Phoenix" to symbolize a new beginning for the family. Shortly after his parents left the group, allegations arose of young members being kidnapped and sexually abused.
- Born: 1974-10-28
- Birthplace: Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico
Glenn Close's parents joined the Moral Re-Armament (MRA) cult, an extreme conservative group, when she was 7 years old. Her family remained involved in the group for 15 years, living in several communal centers. Practices and beliefs were based around four absolutes: absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love.
Close went to boarding school, but also toured the world with the MRA singing group, Up The People, until she was in college.
She now claims that being in the cult actually helped her with her acting career, as she always had to pretend she believed what the group told her.
In May 2021, Close shared on the Apple TV+ series The Me You Can't See how the cult has deeply affected the quality of her relationships:
Because of the devastation, emotional and psychological, of the cult, I have not been successful in my relationships and finding a permanent partner and I am sorry about that... It's astounding that something you went through at such an early stage of your life still has such a potential to be destructive.
- Born: 1947-03-19
- Birthplace: Greenwich, Connecticut, United States of America
- Photo: Lucas / 20th Century Fox
When she was seven, actress Winona Ryder and her family moved to the Rainbow commune in California. They lived there for three years with seven other families and had no electricity on the 300-acre property.(Source)
- Born: 1971-10-29
- Birthplace: Winona, Minnesota, USA
David Arquette was born in the Skymont Subud commune in Virginia, and he lived there along with the rest of his family and his parents' friends until the late '70s. The nonsectarian spiritual "social experiment" was meant to be a utopia, but there were no bathrooms, no electricity, and no running water.(Source)
- Born: 1971-09-08
- Birthplace: Winchester, Virginia, USA