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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.


William A. Graham


Ernest Tidyman (teleplay), Charles A. Krause (book)
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Powers Boothe ... Rev. Jim Jones
Ned Beatty ... Rep. Leo Ryan
Irene Cara ... Alice Jefferson
Veronica Cartwright ... Marceline 'Marcy' Jones
Rosalind Cash ... Jenny Hammond
Brad Dourif ... David Langtree
Meg Foster ... Jean Richie
Michael C. Gwynne ... Larry King
Albert Hall ... Otis Jefferson
Linda Haynes ... Karen Bundy
Diane Ladd ... Lynette Jones
Ron O'Neal ... Col. Robles
Randy Quaid ... Clayton Ritchie
Diana Scarwid ... Sheila Langtree
Madge Sinclair ... Mrs. Jefferson


Based upon the real life 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 than face the charges against him, 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


What was it about Reverend Jim Jones that made men and women alike surrender to him, both spiritually and physically? How could he blind them to his adulteries and addictions? How could he create "miracles" to steal their pride and possessions? And why would 913 people put their lives in his hands, despite everything? See more »


Biography | Drama


TV-14 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The cast includes one Oscar winner, Irene Cara, and seven Oscar nominees: Ned Beatty, Diane Ladd, James Earl Jones, Randy Quaid, Brad Dourif, Brenda Vaccaro, and Diana Scarwid. See more »


The guards' AK assault rifles have blank firing adapters attached to the muzzles. See more »


Rev. Jim Jones: All my children, please come to the pavillion for one last time. Hurry, hurry my children.
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

Riveting! Powers Boothe BECOMES Jim Jones
18 August 2001 | by virek213See all my reviews

Just given the fact that it is based on the most infamous mass suicide incident of modern times would have been enough to give this 2-part 1980 made-for-TV film attention. But the fact is that it is a superb recreation of the life of the Rev. Jim Jones, who built a church into a virtual empire, and then encouraged it to disintegrate into a sleazy cult in which a Congressman and his entourage were assassinated, and 917 cult followers committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid doused with cyanide.

Done very tastefully but horrifying enough, unlike the excruciatingly sadistic CULT OF THE DAMNED, GUYANA TRAGEDY features an all-star cast, including Ned Beatty (as Rep. Leo Ryan), Meg Foster, Randy Quaid, Brad Dourif, Brenda Vaccaro, LeVar Burton, and Madge Sinclair. But it is Powers Boothe (in his first big role) that really stands out as Jim Jones. He actually BECOMES the man, and his performance is riveting and chilling. Thus, it is no wonder that this film still manages to attract attention after more than twenty years.

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Release Date:

5 January 1982 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Guyana Tragedy: The Jim Jones Story See more »

Filming Locations:

Atlanta, Georgia, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Konigsberg Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (CFI)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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