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Heaven's Gate (1980)

R  |   |  Adventure, Drama, History  |  19 November 1980 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 9,079 users  
Reviews: 180 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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Title: Heaven's Gate (1980)

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



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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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | | |

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?


Isabelle Huppert was cast as Ella over the objection of United Artists executives. Michael Cimino insisted on casting her and threatened (not for the last time) to take the film to Warner Bros., and UA capitulated. Even afterwards, Steven Bach at one point told Cimino to his face that his leading lady was so unappealing that the audience was going to wonder why Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken "[weren't] fucking each other instead of her". Cimino told him to go fuck himself. See more »


The pool table over which James and Nathan had their defining discussion in the landowners' club, is a Brunswick Regina model, which was produced between 1922 and 1925 - over 30 years after when the scene was set. See more »


Captain Minardi: Do you know what I really dislike about you, Jim? You're a rich man with a good name. You only pretend to be poor.
See more »


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

Noble effort...but a dusty mess.
6 December 2001 | by See all my reviews

I won't entirely pan this movie because I think it was a noble effort. It's basic story is good (based on fact), but it's a loooong haul in steerage. We've heard the stories regarding this movie...the bloated budget, (incidentally the 5 min scene on the yacht at the end supposedly cost 1 million to shoot???) the expensive set that was torn down because of an imperfection, it's infamous New York opening. But as far as the film itself......

It's hard to imagine that a 3hr 40min movie could not generate any memorable characters, but thats what they've done here. There is no one to relate to, everybody seems to have had a lobotomy and is just mouthing their dialogue as if they could care less, which is odd because this film has great actors in it!

The story takes forever to unfold. By the time it really gets going it seems too late. Literally nothing happens in the first 90 minutes! the film feels longer than it actually is and I've heard that originally it was meant to be released at over 5 hours.

Another major problem... and I think Roger Ebert said it the best. "This film opens at Harvard..continues in Wyoming and closes aboard a ship, yet there is a grim industrial pall that hangs low over everything. The film is so foggy, so smoky, so unfocused and so brownish yellow, that you feel like you want to wipe windex on the screen. A director's in very deep trouble when we don't even enjoy the primary act of looking at his movie."

I personally think that Michael Cimino is very talented. Trouble is, thanks to this film and the financial disaster that it became, he has been somewhat branded, and was never really given much control of his projects since (so I've heard). It seems too bad as I think he could have made some great American films.

61 of 99 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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What languages the immigrants? bookworm345
Criterion is currently working on releasing Heaven's Gate eskenazi
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