Heaven's Gate (1980)

R  |   |  Western  |  19 November 1980 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 9,164 users  
Reviews: 181 user | 101 critic

A dramatization of the real-life Johnson County War in 1890 Wyoming, in which a sheriff born into wealth attempts to protect immigrant farmers from rich cattle interests.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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An inside look at the hectic production of Heaven's Gate, the media circus that turned it into a synonym for movie flop and how it added to the tectonic change that occurred in Hollywood film studios after it infamously flopped.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nathan D. Champion (as Chris Walken)
John L. Bridges
Major Wolcott
Mayor Charlie Lezak
Trapper Fred
Rosie Vela ...
Beautiful girl (as Roseanne Vela)
Mary Catherine Wright ...
Nell (as Mary C. Wright)
Small man


In Michael Cimino's bleak anti-western based on events in 1890s Wyoming, Sheriff James Averill attempts to protect immigrant farmers from wealthy cattle interests, and also clashes with a hired gun, Nathan Champion, over the woman they both love. Both men find themselves questioning their roles in the furious conflict between wealthy landowners and European immigrants attempting to build new lives on the American frontier, which culminates in a brutal pitched battle. Written by Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


What one loves about life are the things that fade. See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

19 November 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate  »

Box Office


$44,000,000 (estimated)


$1,500,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(1981 re-cut) | (original cut) | (2012 director's recut) | (rough cut)

Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The period steam train engine used in the film had to be shipped to the production location from Denver, Colorado on flatbed railroad cars across several US states. The locomotive's journey was somewhat a convoluted serpentine trip because it was too large to fit through many of the modern railway tunnels. See more »


The opening scenes and epilogue are supposed to take place at Harvard, but were shot in Oxford, England. Oxford's buildings are built in a variety of architectural styles, while Harvard buildings are solely Georgian. See more »


Wolcott: They're an ignorant, degraded gang of paupers. Their only stock in trade consists of having large numbers of ragged kids.
See more »


Referenced in Midnight Screenings: The Worst Films of 2011 (2011) See more »


The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Music by William Steffe
Played by the marching band
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

don´t knock it til you have tried it
24 February 2001 | by (Prague, Czech Republic) – See all my reviews

I seriously don´t know why this movie got such a hostile reception when it was first released. Sure, it´s overlong and somewhat gratuitous in its depictions of sexuality and violence but so are lots of well regarded movies. I seriously don´t think that the people who hated "Heaven´s Gate" really understood it. "Heaven´s Gate" in its uncut form, much like "The Deer Hunter" shows the gross differences of living an insecure and dangerous life (like the immigrants and Averil in Wyoming) and living in comfort and privilege (like the settled "Americans" in Wyoming and Averil in the prologue and epilogue). Living a hard life is painful but it can also be invigorating as opposed to the dull life Averil leads in the epilogue. Also, as Michael Cimino took great pains to make the picture historically accurate , it is fascinating as a document of (and maybe indictment of) American life in Old West Wyoming. The dialogue is often genuinely clever and emotional. Combined with great music and cinematography, the movie works like a truly poetic work of art. Granted, "Heaven´s Gate", with its refusal to patronize the viewer, is not for all tastes. However, Hollywood turns out so much commercial dreck each year which is so much easier to dismiss as mindless eye candy (even when an example of it becomes a blockbuster) that "Gate" and Cimino really do deserve more respect. All people should see the uncut version at least once and then they should make up their own mind.

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