- It’s been about 50 years since the Manson Family Murders.
- Tons of movies have been and are being made about it.
- Hilary Duff stars in “The Haunting of Sharon Tate.”
- “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” tells the story of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate’s fictional neighbours.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
This summer marks 50 years since the 1969 murders that would later be known as the “Manson Family murders.” This refers to the murders of actress Sharon Tate and her friends Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent by Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel, as well as the murders ofLeno and Rosemary LaBianca by Watson,Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten.
Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, and Van Houten were all followers of cult leader Charles Manson. Though Manson did not commit the crimes himself, he was found guilty of first-degree murder for orchestrating them and spent the rest of his life in prison before dying in 2017.
To coincide with the anniversary of the murders, there are several high-profile projects in the works that chronicle these crimes. Though timely, these new movies are just a few of the many cinematographic explorations of the murders and the cult surrounding Manson.
Here is a selection of films about the Manson murders, including movies yet to be released.
“Helter Skelter” (1976) is based on the best-selling true crime book of the same name.
The book 1974 “Helter Skelter” by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry is brought to life in this movie about the Manson crimes and trial. The title refers to a Beatles song of the same name that Manson thought prophesized a coming race war (it actually refers to someone being confused).
During the Tate murders, Manson’s followers wrote “‘Healter’ Skelter” on the refrigerator in the blood of one of their victims.The 1976 film was originally released for television and aired over two nights in the US.
“Charles Manson Superstar” (1989) is a controversial documentary that takes a positive view of Manson.
“Charles Manson Superstar,” directed by musician and spiritual teacher Nikolas Schreck, tries to spin Manson’s madness as enlightenment. Schreck interviews Manson himself and uses archival footage in an attempt to showcase the infamous cult leader in a positive light.
In the end, the film does more to confirm the perception of Manson as a madman than dispel it.
“The Manson Family” (2003) is a bloody overview of the formation of the Manson cult.
The Manson Family is a gory and violent fictionalized recounting of the formation of Charles Manson’s “family” of followers and their exploits leading up to the 1969 murders. Director Jim Van Bebber actually began filming in 1988, compiling footage over the course of 15 years.
The filming technique is intentionally choppy and grainy. In his review of the film, critic Roger Ebert mused: “I’m tempted to say you should see it just because you will never see a film like this again, but then I wonder: What need is there to see a film like this at all?”
“Helter Skelter” (2004) is a TV movie that focuses on Linda Kasabian.
Another take on Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry’s true crime book, the 2004 film “Helter Skelter” examines Linda Kasabian’s role in the Manson cult and her involvement in their crimes, including the Tate-LaBianca murders. Kasabian later became a key witness in the trial and was granted immunity for her testimony.
The movie was made for television and directed by John Grey, with Clea DuVall in the role of Kasabian and Jeremy Davis as Charles Manson. The film received generally positive reviews.
“Manson, My Name Is Evil” (2009) is a fictionalized account of the trial of Leslie Van Houten.
“Manson, My Name is Evil” tells the fictional story of a juror at the trial of Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, who participated and was convicted in the murders of Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, one day after the Tate murders.
The film juror falls in love with Van Houten over the course of her trial, believing that deep down, she is still the all-American cheerleader and high school homecoming princess she was before being indoctrinated by Manson. The film received a middling critical reception, with movie critic Peter Howell of the Toronto Star remarking that it stretched the truth “beyond any semblance of reality or fairness.”
“The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter” (2009) is an in-depth documentary about the Manson cult.
The work of filmmaker Scott Michaels, “The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter” is an exhaustive documentary that picks apart the events surrounding the Manson Murders and the cultural landscape of Hollywood in the 1960s.
The film includes examinations of autopsy reports and footage of over 40 locations, including the former Polanski home, where some of the murders happened and remains of Spahn Ranch, where the “Manson Family” lived.
“Old Man” (2012) is an animated short film featuring audio interviews with Manson.
“Old Man” uses exclusive phone conversations between Charles Manson and “Charles Manson Now” author Marlin Marynick to paint a portrait of the ageing cult leader’s experience in prison and thoughts on life.
The conversations are notable for being the first communication between Manson and the public in 20 years. The film was directed and animated by Leah Shore.
The documentary “Life After Manson” (2014) details Manson’s relationship with Patricia Krenwinkel.
Featuring an exclusive interview with Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel, “Life After Manson” is a documentary that attempts to piece together what led Krenwinkel to commit murder for Charles Manson and how her association with the famous cult leader has affected her life. The film was directed by Olivia Klaus.
“House of Manson” (2014) is a drama that chronicles the life of Charles Manson.
“House of Manson” is a biographical drama that details the life of Charles Manson, including his planning of the Tate and LaBianca murders and his fate after the crimes. The film gives particulate focus to Manson’s childhood and relationship with his mother.
“House of Manson” was both written and directed by Brandon Slagle and stars Ryan Kiser as Charles Manson.
Critics hated “Wolves at the Door” (2016) for its portrayal of the Manson Murders.
“Wolves at the Door” is a horror film inspired by and loosely based on the Manson Family murders. Though the film claims to depict the “true story” of the infamous killings, it received universal panning by critics and has a 0% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes.
The most common criticism of the film was that it was exploitative and disrespectful to the nature of its source material. In his review of the movie for “The Independent,” Geoffrey Macnab called “Wolves at the Door” a “repellent, misconceived, and pointless film.”
“Manson’s Lost Girls” (2016) recounts the experience of one Manson follower.
“Manson’s Lost Girls” is a Lifetime original movie that centres on Linda Kasabian and her life with the Manson Family in the weeks preceding the 1969 murders.
Over the course of the movie, Kasabian comes to realise that the sisterhood and acceptance she has found on Manson’s Spahn Ranch commune comes at a criminal price. The film stars Mackenzie Mauzy in the lead role as Kasabian and is directed by Leslie Libman.
Sharon Tate has visions of her own death in “The Haunting of Sharon Tate” (2019).
In this horror flick, Sharon Tate (Hilary Duff) has premonitions of her own death while awaiting her husband Roman Polanski’s return from Europe. The movie’s plot hangs on a dubious report in the now-defunct tabloid Fate magazine that claimed Tate prophesied her own violent death a year before the murders.
The film unfolds over the course of the three days preceding the crime. In his review, film critic Roger Ebert called the film “appalling from start to finish” and “the essence of exploitation.”
“Charlie Says” (2018) is set three years after the Manson murders.
“Charlie Says” debuted at the Venice Film Festival in September 2018. The movie centres on the post-trial lives of Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel and explores how these three young women were transformed from typical American teenagers to murderous cult followers.
“Charlie Says” is directed by Mary Harron and based on the book by “The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten” by Karlene Faith. The film stars Hannah Murray, Sosie Bacon, and Marianne Rendón as the Family members and Matt Smith as Charles Manson.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (July 26, 2019) tells the story of the Polanski’s fictional neighbours.
Rather than directly focusing on the Manson murders, the black comedy “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” will tell the story of struggling actor Rick Dalton, who happens to live next door to the Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, and his long-time stunt double, Cliff Booth.
The film is directed by Quentin Tarantino and has a star-studded cast that includes Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Mike Moh, Lena Dunham, and Austin Butler. The film will also feature Luke Perry, who died in March 2019.
“Tate” (release date TBA) will focus on Sharon Tate’s final days.
Starring Kate Bosworth in the titular role and directed by Michael Polish, “Tate” will detail the last days of Sharon Tate’s life. The film currently has no trailer or release date, though has Polish revealed that he will not be depicting the actress’s death in the film.
“As a father and a filmmaker, I am not interested in portraying violence on screen with this particular project,” he said in an Instagram post. “Tate” has also received the approval of Sharon Tate’s sister, Debra Tate. “At long last, I have found filmmakers who are interested in the life story of my sister Sharon. Other projects have been a real source of pain in their insensitivity and gross exploitation of my sister,” she told Deadline.
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