Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
It’s ironic that the most impactful Scientology movie of the last decade is actually a criticism of the movement itself. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the enigmatic Lancaster Dodd, a writer turned philosopher who dreams up a new belief system known simply as The Cause. The power of his words and teachings leads him to accumulate a large group of followers, all of whom show complete devotion to his works.
While the movie never uses the name L. Ron Hubbard or the term Scientology, The Master is very obviously based on the movement and its mysterious founder. We see Dodd implement many techniques that are based on actual Scientology practices, most notably in the scene where Dodd attempts to expel Freddie’s (Joaquin Phoenix) past traumas through an exercise called Processing. This is actually partly based off of the real religion’s practice known as Auditing, which seeks to clear one’s mind and have them conquer traumas from their past. That’s just one of the many allusions to Scientology that the movie features, but it is no doubt the most memorable and effective.
Scientology is a naturally enigmatic movement, but Anderson shines a light directly on the practices so people can try to understand exactly what it is that makes it such a controversial subject. While the other movies on this list bury the ideals of the religion under the surface, The Master puts it on display for everyone to see.