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Ticket to Heaven (1981)

PG | | Drama | 9 October 1981 (USA)
David is a young man seduced by a religious cult that uses starvation, exhaustion, and brainwashing to mold recruits into money hustling disciples of a messiah-like leader. Chronicles ... See full summary »


Ralph L. Thomas


Anne Cameron, Josh Freed (novel) | 1 more credit »

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7 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Mancuso ... David
Saul Rubinek ... Larry
Meg Foster ... Ingrid
Kim Cattrall ... Ruthie
R.H. Thomson ... Linc Strunc
Jennifer Dale ... Lisa
Guy Boyd ... Eric
Dixie Seatle Dixie Seatle ... Sarah
Paul Soles Paul Soles ... Morley
Harvey Atkin ... Mr. Stone
Robert Joy ... Patrick
Stephen Markle Stephen Markle ... Karl
Timothy Webber ... Greg
Patrick Brymer Patrick Brymer ... Dr. Dwyer
Marcia Diamond Marcia Diamond ... Esther


David is a young man seduced by a religious cult that uses starvation, exhaustion, and brainwashing to mold recruits into money hustling disciples of a messiah-like leader. Chronicles David's chilling transformation into a gaunt, mindless shadow of his former self...and his ultimate salvation when friends and family launch a plan to kidnap and deprogram him. Written by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


After just two days, David's mind belonged to "Father." See more »




PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

9 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bilet do nieba See more »

Filming Locations:

San Francisco, California, USA See more »


Box Office


CAD 4,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


[after several days of sleep deprivation, intense activity, and brainwashing]
David: I can't take it anymore! I got- ah- I gotta get outta here- I can't-
Karl: I *told* you it would be an incredible experience!
See more »


Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Creepy Cults in Movies (2015) See more »

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User Reviews

It should be titled HOW CULTS WORK FOR DUMMIES
25 January 2005 | by GavnoSee all my reviews

Tho on the surface it seems a bit dated, A TICKET TO HEAVEN is an offbeat, thoughtfully produced, and deeply absorbing tale about the religious cults of the 1970s. It shows in detail just HOW they work, and explains to us in step by step fashion just how rational, intelligent people, often with absolutely no interest whatever in religion, could wind up being recruited and converted to the unthinking followers of philosophies which, to outsiders, seem absolutely ridiculous.

The film is unique in that it also shows us one possible path back OUT of that jungle of conflicting ideas, tho the path chosen here is the most controversial of the possible choices. Unspoken, but always hovering over the action, are the issues of civil liberties and religious freedom. There's a LOT of heavy stuff going on here.

This film is a deep sleeper... a Canadian made gem that deserved much more attention than it got from US audiences.

Nick Mancuso plays David Capelle, a Toronto schoolteacher whose life is currently at loose ends after a painful breakup with his long time lover. He needs SOMETHING... ANYTHING... that will give back to his life the direction and stability that was lost.

On a vacation to California an old friend introduces him to a New Age religious group. From then on (and in an amazingly short time, just one weekend) David literally vanishes from his old life and the rest of the world, his every thought and action now dictated by the needs of his newfound "family". He has willingly given up his entire personality to the group-think of the movement.

David's sole link to his old life and the outside world is his friend Larry (Saul Rubenek), a Toronto accountant who aspires to stand up comedy. Larry's suspicions about occasional cryptic phone calls from David lead him to go to California to find out for himself just exactly what the hell is going on with David. After the group makes an attempt to recruit him too, Larry returns home to Toronto and sounds the alarm with David's friends and family.

After seeing the situation for themselves, David's family resorts to the most drastic action possible... kidnapping him from the group and using psychological deprogramming. This is probably the ONLY film or TV production that deals with this emotionally charged and legally sensitive topic truthfully, and in detail. It's electrifying!

There are standout performances here from the entire cast. Meg Foster as "Sister Ingrid", the leader of the local group, is intense and FRIGHTENING. She's a cold, calculating package of almost maniacal devotion to the movement. She gives an outstanding performance which, for me at least, was TOO good; in my mind she'll ALWAYS be "Sister Ingrid", no matter what role I see her in. Meg Foster is now typecast for me.

For sheer intensity tho, the grand prize goes to the Canadian actor R. H. Thompson. His portrayal as Linc Strunk, the deprogrammer that David's friends engage, is POWERFUL. Strunk is the mirror image of Sister Ingrid; he's just as cold, calculating, intelligent and determined as she is, but his mission is to convince David that the group's concepts are patently absurd, and at their base they're essentially an evil con game. Strunk's "In Your Face" confrontations with David are tense intellectual, theological, and philosophical battles of will that are absolutely riveting. Mancuso and Thompson give each other as good as they get from beginning to end.

The finished product here is at the same time chilling, disturbing and inspiring... and it provides an unsettling cautionary message for us all.

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