“Chilling” documentary that Scientology tried to bury is now on Netflix

Chris Tilly
A Scientology center, as depicted in documentary Going Clear.

A controversial Scientology documentary that the organisation tried to block has now dropped on Netflix, nearly a decade after it first hit screens.

Directed by acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney – who previously made films about Enron, WikiLeaks, and Lance Armstrong – Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief was released in cinemas in 2015 before dropping on HBO. And now the film is streaming on Netflix.

Loosely based on Lawrence Wright’s book of the same name, the 120-minute movie details the history of Scientology, from its creation by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, through to the group’s close relations with multiple Hollywood stars.

The film also tells the story of ex-members who detail what they saw and experienced while part of Scientology, their difficulties in leaving, and the harassment they received thereafter.

The doc filmed in secret to avoid the ire of Scientology, while the organisation tried to block its release, with Gibney telling The Hollywood Reporter: “Every step of the way, every distributor, every festival has received multiple threatening letters from the Church of Scientology. Some have come very close to buckling.”

Critics at the time praised the movie, while at the same time being critical of Scientology. The Observer called Going Clear “chilling, damming stuff.”

Sight and Sound said: “Alex Gibney’s film, like Wright’s book, is a useful contribution to what looks more and more like an urgent social priority: the push to discourage people from praising the chains that bind them.”

While Little White Lies wrote that the documentary “confirms all negative inklings you may have about this purportedly shady organisation.”

Going Clear is now available on Netflix in the US. Head here for more streaming movies and streaming TV shows. While you can click here to find out if Glen Powell has joined Scientology.