HBO Max: What Is ‘Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults’ About and How to Stream It

True crime and cult documentaries have become a pop culture phenomenon. Almost everything about cults intrigues audiences, from how people join to what motivates their actions.

One of the most interesting cults ever formed was Heaven’s Gate. Find out what the HBO Max series Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults is all about and how to stream it. 

Marshall Applewhite of the Heaven's Gate cult
Marshall Applewhite | Brooks Kraft LLC/Sygma via Getty Images

Heaven’s Gate was a UFO religious cult 

The Heaven’s Gate cult dates back to the 1970s when Marshall Applewhite (Do) and Bonnie Nettles (Ti) founded the group. The duo believed the Earth and everyone on it would be “recycled” in an act of reincarnation. Their group sought to prepare it’s members for that. 

Heaven’s Gate organized a mass death by suicide on March 1997

On Mar. 26, 1997, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department found 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult dead in a Rancho Santa Fe home. Applewhite was among the deceased. 

“Hale–Bopp brings closure to Heaven’s Gate,” Applewhite wrote in a final update to the Heaven’s Gate website. “Our 22 years of classroom here on planet Earth is finally coming to conclusion — ‘graduation’ from the Human Evolutionary Level. We are happily prepared to leave ‘this world’ and go with Ti’s crew.'” 

Nettles died of liver cancer in 1985. Applewhite thought she would be the one to retrieve him and the other Heaven’s Gate members from the earth.

On that fateful day, the group participated in a series of orchestrated suicides. Each member took the barbiturate phenobarbital with apple sauce or pudding, followed by vodka. Then, plastic bags were tied around their heads to induce asphyxiation. 

Heaven’s Gate is widely recognized by the clothing police found them wearing at the time of death. All 39 members wore black shirts and sweatpants, black and white Nikes, and armband patches that read: “Heaven’s Gate Away Team.” 

Nike Decades will never be the same 

Nike had nothing to do with the mass suicide, but the brand is still haunted by the events of Mar. 26, 1997. The infamous black and white Nike Decades have become synonymous with the Heaven’s Gate Cult. 

In 2015, a Reddit thread went viral after a user claimed to have met the salesman who sold Applewhite the shoes. “I recently met the guy who worked for Nike during this time and sold the cult leader of Heaven’s Gate the forty something pairs of matching shoes,” the Reddit user shared. According to the user, the mass suicide took place the day after that sale. 

The HBO Max series pulls back the curtain on Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults gives viewers a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult. What started as 20 people disappearing in 1975 resulted in the largest suicide on United States soil. 

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The four-part series includes interviews with former cult members and the loved ones the deceased members left behind. The HBO Max series also has never-before-seen footage and first-person accounts of Applewhite and Nettles.

How to watch ‘Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults’ 

If you’re into true crime or cult docuseries, Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults is worth the watch. Stream Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults now on HBO Max. HBO subscribers can watch online, through the app, or with a cable subscription to HBO.