Charles Manson, Sharon Tate and the 1969 Murders: Films, Podcasts and Series You Should Stream
By Stacy Lambe
For decades, Hollywood has attempted to tell the story of Charles Manson and Sharon Tate -- all to varying degrees of success. Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie as Tate, and the second season of the Netflix drama Mindhunter, which features Damon Herriman as Manson, are just two of the latest projects to revisit the cult of Manson and the 1969 murders of Tate and her friends. (Coincidentally, Herriman also briefly portrays Manson in Tarantino's film.) For those wanting to delve deeper into one of Hollywood's most notorious true crimes, ET has rounded up several notable films, podcasts and TV series to stream on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.
The short-lived NBC series starring David Duchovny as a Los Angeles detective was a bold attempt to set a scripted crime drama in Hollywood during the rise of the Manson Family in season one, while revolving around the Tate murders and Helter Skelter, an attempted scenario provoked by Manson, in season two. While it premiered to mixed reviews, the series was one of the few projects about Manson to explore the issues of race, drugs and the Vietnam War that coincided with his growing cult following.
This documentary revisits the events of 1969 through Manson’s perspective, using never-before-seen case files, photos and exclusive interviews with Manson from inside California State Prison. The disturbing conversations recount his decades behind bars and life leading up to the tragic murders. Filmmaker James Buddy Day was the last person he spoke to publicly on the record before Manson died on Nov. 19, 2017. While the film isn’t as easy to stream, their conversations have been converted into an upcoming book, Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson, coming Aug. 8, 2019. Day is also an executive producer on Oxygen’s upcoming special Manson: The Women, with Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sandra “Blue” Good, Catherine “Gypsy” Share and Dianne “Snake” Lake recounting their time on Spahn Ranch. (It premieres Aug. 10.)
'Charlie Says': Watch Matt Smith Portray the Cult Leader in an Exclusive Clip
While Matt Smith portrays Manson in this compelling film, the focus -- a welcome fresh perspective -- is on three of his incarcerated followers: Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendon), who are visited by writer and researcher Karlene Faith (Merritt Wever) while they’re in prison. Faith believes they’re not just murderers but victims of Manson’s brutal cult, and attempts to help them see the reality of their actions.
'The Haunting of Sharon Tate': Watch an Exclusive Clip Starring Hilary Duff
While hardly a runaway success -- the film currently has a 15 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- The Haunting of Sharon Tate at least does what many projects before have not in telling the story from Tate’s perspective. In this film, the actress (portrayed here by Hilary Duff), who is often relegated to an unsuspecting victim of a violent act that either begins or ends Manson’s story, drives the narrative in an alternate reality take on the events leading up to the murders. Bonus points for that here, since there aren’t any other notable projects that dutifully tell her story.
Easily the most compelling scripted project about Manson, Helter Skelter is a two-part miniseries that originally aired on CBS, depicting the trial of Hollywood’s most notorious criminal and Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s attempt to convict him. While CBS produced a 2004 remake with a more notable cast, including Clea DuVall, Eric Dane and Mary Lynn Rajskub, it didn’t tap into the zeitgeist the same way the original did.
'Manson's Lost Girls': An Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Lifetime Film
Surprisingly, it took Lifetime 47 years to put its stamp on the Manson legacy, this time focusing on Linda Kasabian (MacKenzie Mauzy), a reluctant accomplice in the family’s murder spree who eventually left the group and testified against them in court. Premiering three years ahead of the 50th anniversary, it seems the network was more interested in tapping into the exploding true crime trend than anything else. While the movie doesn’t necessarily offer anything new, its focus on Kasabian fits right into the Lifetime model. Plus, the film has the lasting trivia factor of starring Eden Brolin, Greer Grammer and Christian Madsen, the respective offspring of stars Josh Brolin, Kelsey Grammer and Michael Madsen, a Tarantino regular. (Not to be outdone, Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood also features offspring of his past stars -- Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman, and Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce -- as well as Kevin Smith’s daughter, Haley Quinn.)
A two-hour 20/20 special that first aired on ABC, this documentary attempted to explore the mind of a killer through never-before-seen videos as well as highly coveted on-camera interviews with people that knew Manson best, while recounting sex-fueled stories about being on the Spahn Ranch, how Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys got involved, the emotional trial that followed the murders, the revelations about Helter Skelter and conspiracy theories surrounding Manson.
Karina Longworth’s much-loved podcast You Must Remember This spent a season dedicated to Manson and his relationship to Hollywood, which was later repackaged as this standalone series. The 12-part investigation goes deep into Manson, his family and his famous friends. It also dedicates episodes to Tate, her rising acting career and her relationship with director Roman Polanski, to whom she was married at the time of her murder and who was the father of her unborn child.