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Heaven's Gate (1980)

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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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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nathan D. Champion (as Chris Walken)
Mr. Eggleston
The Reverend Doctor
Mayor Charlie Lezak
Trapper Fred
Rosie Vela ...
Beautiful Girl (as Roseanne Vela)
Mary Catherine Wright ...
Nell (as Mary C. Wright)
Small Man


Wyoming, 1890. Frank Averill is the Sherriff of Johnson County, a county largely inhabited by foreign immigrants. The wealthy cattle owners view the immigrant farmers as a nuisance and hindrance to them enlarging their own land. The cattlemen's association, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, effectively declares war on the immigrant farmers, and gets the state government's blessing. They assemble an army of guns-for-hire, and, backed by US cavalry, set out to rid the state of the immigrants. Frank Averill's heart is with the immigrants but he is not sure they have a chance of winning the inevitable war. Written by grantss

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The only thing greater than their passion for America...was their passion for each other. 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)

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,032, 19 November 1980, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,484,331, 31 December 1981
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


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

Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)


Aspect Ratio:

2.40 : 1
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Did You Know?


Michael Cimino wrote the first draft of the script in 1971 under the title "The Johnson County War". By the time the film was in production, it had become a passion project for Cimino, and he believed that it would be his masterpiece. See more »


When Ella Watson sees her birthday present, only one of her breasts is covered by the blanket wrapped around her. Whilst the shot cuts between her and Jim, the breast that is uncovered changes repeatedly between shots. See more »


Frank Canton: Mr. Champion, my grandfather was the Secretary of War to Harrison. His brother was the governor of the state of New York. My brother-in-law is Secretary of State. And to you, I represent the full authority of the government of the United States and the President.
Nathan D. Champion: Fuck him too.
Billy Irvine: Bravo, sir!
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"Mamou Two-Step'
Written by Doug Kershaw
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User Reviews

A western in the tradition of The Wild Bunch... if the first three reels of TWB were replaced with "The Sorrow and the Pity".

Time to make not one, not two, but three confessions.

1. I have tried to make it past the first hour many times, and just barely made it past the third as of recently. It wasn't easy- good thing I had a pot of coffee nearby. 2. I absolutely hated the Deer Hunter. Thought it was complete garbage as with any Michael Cimino film. 3. I believe anyone who has sit through even 5 minutes of this cinematic abortion deserves a big cheque from Cimino himself as an apology.

Don't listen to the people who call this film a masterpiece. I don't know what they're snorting, and I certainly don't want any of it, especially if it dumbs them down enough to make them call this film a masterpiece.

Don't get me started on how long each scene is. The 20 minute dance scene in the beginning will make you go "OK is it done yet????". Or the 5 minute shots of people staring off into the distance. I don't mind movies starting off slowly, as long as the time is spent to set the tone. I'll mention Inglourious Basterds here- the opening scene is 20 minutes long and consists of a conversation at a table between a Nazi and a Jew. However, it's there for a reason. It's a scene in which miss a single line of dialogue, and you will not get the film. It does an excellent job at setting the tone and having the audience on the edge of their seat.

To say this movie moves at a slow pace is really wrong- it doesn't move at any pace at all. It just sits on its arse and expects the audience to help it move. That's not to say that nothing happens, because plenty happens- too bad only 10 minutes of it are actual content. There's a difference between epics and length. The entire dialogue could fit onto maybe 3 sheets of paper, and back to back too. And whatever dialogue was there, it wasn't even interesting at all.

The movie even looks like crap too. Half the film is shot in Sepia- this takes 2 seconds to get annoying, and by the third hour, it you'll be needing to see an eye doctor. This is just a horrible film, and one that should be avoided. The quote on the back of the DVD is right too- "A Remarkable Achievement". I'm only sure the full quote was "A remarkable achievement in boring its audience to death".

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