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Heaven's Gate (1980)

R  |   |  Adventure, Drama, History  |  19 November 1980 (USA)
6.7
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 8,980 users  
Reviews: 181 user | 100 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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Title: Heaven's Gate (1980)

Heaven's Gate (1980) on IMDb 6.7/10

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| | | |

Release Date:

19 November 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate  »

Box Office

Budget:

$44,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$1,500,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John Williams was the original composer attached to the film, but left the project when the film was half a year behind schedule and he had to start composing the music for both Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) immediately after that. One studio executive claimed that Ennio Morricone was also considered. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

James Averill: You're not my class, Canton, and you never will be. You'd have to die first and be born again.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Modern Romance (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

An der schönen, blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube), Op. 314
(as "The Blue Danube Waltz")
Music by Johann Strauß
Performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (as The New York Philharmonic Orchestra)
Waltz danced on the lawn and heard as a theme
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
If Cecil B. DeMille made art films...
19 April 2007 | by (Chapel Hill NC) – See all my reviews

...they'd probably be better than this.

Towards the end of "Heaven's Gate", it dawned upon me that Michael Ciminio has no idea what his movie is about. Is it an epic adventure, a revisionist western, a character study, a snapshot of a historical period, a love story, a dramatic expose of corruption, an artful meditation on humanity? Cimino has no idea. He tries to make "Heaven's Gate" into all of these things, more or less failing.

It's not as if he was concerned about the damage this incoherence would do to the plot, characters, pacing, etc. The bottom line is SPECTACLE. The audience is supposed to be overwhelmed; by the epic subtext, cast of thousands, artistic lighting, the sheer money apparent on the screen. But any self-respecting viewer will tell you that being overwhelmed is not the same as being entertained.

Every scene presents a bare minimum of information to tell the story: There's a guy. We saw him before, I think. Now he's on a train. Now he's talking to somebody. Now he's mad. And so on. We get the gist of what's going on, with little clue why or how. Not that we care anyway, the characters are all constructed as supporting players to spectacle.

To make matters worse, every shot, scene, sequence, and subplot is about four times too long. There is one exception: the roller skating scene, filled with such energy and cinematic prowess that it seems tacked on from another picture. That alone was worth the price of admission. Almost.

Cimino has a relatively unimaginative style of direction, which appears standard on prime time TV. Yet Ciminio constantly gets lost in "fetishes", which apparently are dust, trains and horses. Dust is everywhere. Everywhere. Indoors, outdoors, in the middle of grassy fields. Sometimes there's so much dust you can't even see what's going on. Whenever a train appears, we are treated to beautiful, laborious shots that clog up the storyline. There are apparently less people in Johnson County than horses, who repeatedly hog the foreground. Even in the battle sequences. In fact, the dramatic scene at the end of Part I consists of horses riding off a train, obscured by dust. I'm serious.

This would be a film forgotten by time if it weren't for the titanic production misadventure that bankrupted an established movie studio, bringing the New Hollywood era down with it. Of course, "JAWS" and "Star Wars" are guilty too, but only in the best possible ways.

But "Heaven's Gate" is a sheer mess. Not a disaster, or an ostracized masterpiece. An unguided, absolute, sheer mess. Like T.S. Elliot, "This is the way the world ends/not with a bang but a whimper." It would feel a lot better if the age of the auteur that included "The Graduate", "Bonnie and Clyde", "2001", "The Godfather", "Taxi Driver", and "Apocalypse Now" had ended with a spectacular bomb.

But no. "Heaven's Gate" is Hollywood's whimper.


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Criterion is currently working on releasing Heaven's Gate eskenazi
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