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Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980)

The real-life story of the Peoples Temple cult led by Reverend Jim Jones and the events involving its move to Guyana and its eventual mass suicide.



(teleplay), (book)

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Alice Jefferson
Marceline 'Marcy' Jones
Jenny Hammond
Jean Richie
Karen Bundy
Lynette Jones
Col. Robles
Clayton Ritchie
Sheila Langtree

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Based upon the true story of Reverend Jim Jones, a self-proclaimed prophet who founded the Peoples Temple. In the 1960s, he began as an idealist helping minorities and working against racism. After a move to San Francisco and increased power and attention, Jim Jones became focused on his belief in nuclear holocaust. He had a loyal following of over 1000 people, who had donated their entire life savings to him and to join his commune, before moving them to Guyana. When possible illegal activities came to the attention of the authorities, and once notified that some individuals are being held against their will, they began to investigate. Rather that face the charges against him, Jim Jones committed suicide, and convinced virtually most of his followers to do the same. Written by Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


His sins were unforgivable. His story, unforgettable. See more »


Biography | Drama


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

5 January 1982 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Guyana Tragedy: The Jim Jones Story  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The song "Welcome" that the choir sings is taken from a recording of the actual People's Temple Choir. See more »


The film portrays the Port Kaituma airstrip shooting as a massacre with more than ten victims when in fact five people were killed and several others survived. See more »


Rev. Jim Jones: We are not commiting suicide, it's a revolutionary act.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"The film you are about to see is a dramatization of the life of Jim Jones. Born - May 13, 1931 Lynn, Indiana - Died - November 18, 1978, Jonestown, Guyana. This is his story." See more »


Referenced in Brad Tries...: Brad Tries Manson Family Cult-a-Cola (2010) See more »


Performed by the People's Temple Choir
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User Reviews

Powers Boothe is awesome
13 September 2003 | by (Germany) – See all my reviews

This is an awesome film and Powers Boothe's performance is what makes it. When it was first broadcast on CBS-TV in 1980, Time Magazine even had an article on it. The magazine didn't think much of the film in general, but it said there is one unforgettable performance in it, "a young actor named Powers Boothe captures all the rage, power, evil and charisma of "Dad" Jim Jones. It was most unusual for them to cast a young unknown actor in such an important role, but Powers Boothe proved his worth in spades! He won an Emmy for his dynamite portrayal. There was an actor's strike at the time and he was one of the only ones who showed up to accept his award, "this may be the bravest moment of my career or the most stupid" he said. This film shows Jone's rise to power in the People Temple. Originally he was a good man of God who wanted to help others, but something went horribly wrong. Boothe captures the sinister evil that was Jim Jones, but also his charisma and charm as well. Debbie Layton was one of the few people who survived the massacre in Guyana. She knew Jones very well and said that Jones was evil but he was also very clever and good at fooling people. Jones appealed to poor blacks and people without a direction in life. He promised them a better life and a utopia in "Jonestown". The final scenes of the film detailing the horrible mass suicide in November 1978 are gut wrenching. Out of 913 dead, only Jones and his nurse had not taken poison. Boothe captures Jones rhythmic, haunting preacher cadences and his words to the dying are taken from Jone's actual words. He was recording himself at the time. We must never forget this evil man and the horror he perpetrated upon the world. Those who forget the mistakes of history are only doomed to repeat them. In Search Of...had a show on Jim Jones once and at the end the host Leonard Nimoy said that there are still people who venerate Jim Jones who sleep with his picture and who believe that he is the only person who ever loved them. That is truly sad indeed. By the way, it surprised me that Powers Boothe's career never took off the way it should have after he made this incredible debut. He beat out Henry Fonda and Jason Robards to win his Emmy. He played Phillip Marlowe in an HBO series of short films and was in A Cry For Love, Southern Comfort, Red Dawn, A Breed Apart, The Emerald Forest, Extreme Prejudice and Into The Homeland, but the only really good part he played that was close to this one was when he played Soviet spy John Walker in the 1990 tv film Family Of Spies.

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