5 Mind-Bending Louis Theroux Documentaries You Probably Haven't Seen

Louis Theroux's new Scientology documentary is the acme of the reporter's quest to meet — and hopefully not be set upon by — believers of all kinds

With even the most cursory of glances at his back catalogue of playfully inquisitive investigations into cultish subcultures and outlandish ideologies, it's clear that Britain's best-loved documentary-maker Louis Theroux was always destined to make his latest film, My Scientology Movie.

Here, we recap five of his films that paved the way...

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Weird Weekends: Born Again Christians, 1998

Recently Theroux has enacted a more sombre tone to discuss major issues of modern society (alcohol addiction, mental illness, sex offenders etc), but in his earlier TV work he scrutinised kooky fringe groups, social exiles and a few genuine crackpots. His gently bumbling, almost-insouciant charm was reliably disarming, as evident in his inaugural BBC outing.

In a quote: "Well, I hadn't been delivered after all, which meant I might be facing eternity in a place called 'Hell'. But then again, at least I could still smoke pot and go to gay bars."

Weird Weekends: India, 2000

In India, Louis goes in search of enlightenment, and meets various gurus, mystics and followers of both. He's vocally sceptical throughout, but then has a hug with Mata "Amma" Amritanandamayi, one of the most beloved spiritual leaders in India. After the embrace he staggers woozily through the crowd, visibly shaken and unnerved.

In a quote: "I don't know if it was the incense or the music, or maybe the crush of the crowd, but something very odd happened. For the first time in my whole trip, I felt like something had touched me in a way I couldn't explain."

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Louis and the Nazis, 2003

It's not often that Louis is ruffled, but during his meeting with a gang of Californian neo-Nazis he's asked by an already riled redneck if he is Jewish. Theroux refuses to answer either way, which only makes the man angrier. There's a look of genuine terror on Louis' face, and you realise the only thing standing between him and a beating (or worse) is the camera.

In a quote: "If I told you I was Jewish would that create a problem between us?"

The Ultra Zionists, 2011

On the West Bank, Louis meets with Jewish occupiers who believe the land was promised to them by God. As is often the case, Louis spends much of the film looking perplexed and ponders the apparent, almost ritualistic futility of the Middle East conflict, but as a film it does a good job of bringing the toll of the violent drudgery to the fore.

In a quote: "This is strange, it feels like a game."

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My Scientology Movie, 2016

After almost 20 years in the company of oddballs, you'd imagine Theroux was perfectly poised to tackle the Church of Scientology. And he is. But leader David Miscavige and co are as resistant to his methods as they have been to every other curious mind who's come knocking. That is to say, Louis doesn't speak to any current Scientologists. Instead, he directs a series of reenactments that illustrate the odd practices within the church. We see him hit a wall and improvise, but it makes for good, and at times, chilling cinema.

In a quote: "We can't get Miscavige, but we can create our own Miscavige."