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Heaven's Gate (1980)

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1:23 | Trailer
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.

Director:

Michael Cimino

Writer:

Michael Cimino
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Popularity
4,043 ( 1,038)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kris Kristofferson ... James Averill
Christopher Walken ... Nathan D. Champion (as Chris Walken)
John Hurt ... William C. Irvine
Sam Waterston ... Frank Canton
Brad Dourif ... Mr. Eggleston
Isabelle Huppert ... Ella Watson
Joseph Cotten ... The Reverend Doctor
Jeff Bridges ... John H. Bridges
Ronnie Hawkins ... Maj. Wolcott
Paul Koslo ... Mayor Charlie Lezak
Geoffrey Lewis ... Trapper Fred
Richard Masur ... Cully
Rosie Vela Rosie Vela ... Beautiful Girl (as Roseanne Vela)
Mary Catherine Wright Mary Catherine Wright ... Nell (as Mary C. Wright)
Nicholas Woodeson ... Small Man
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Storyline

Wyoming, 1890. James 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 the U.S. Cavalry, set out to rid the state of the immigrants. James 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

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian | French | Polish | German

Release Date:

19 November 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate See more »

Filming Locations:

Butte, Montana, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$44,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$3,484,331

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,484,523
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Partisan Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Martin Scorsese has said that this movie has many overlooked virtues. See more »

Goofs

When Averill arrives at the train station in Casper, Wyoming, the streets are depicted as teeming with immigrants, residents, businessmen, etc. In reality, Casper's population in the 1890 Census was 544, and was never a hub for thousands of commuters as depicted here. See more »

Quotes

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!
See more »

Alternate Versions

All UK versions are cut by 1 min 14 secs to remove all scenes of cockfighting as well as editing footage of cruel horse-falls. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Persecuted (2018) See more »

Soundtracks

"Mamou Two-Step'
Written by Doug Kershaw
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Curate's Egg of a movie
28 January 2005 | by jackstowawaySee all my reviews

I've been a fan of Heaven's Gate since its first release. I've seen it at least half-a-dozen times and have long thought of it as a masterpiece. So, it was with excitement and a sense of anticipation that I took myself off to see the restored director's cut.

To my surprise, I was disappointed on seeing it again and have since revised my estimation of the film. Heaven's Gate touches upon greatness in parts, but overall, lacks the thematic and narrative consistency and the passionate urgency characteristic of a truly great film.

Firstly, two technical problems: The sound quality is diffuse throughout the film, verging on inaudibility at times. Some of this, perhaps, is intentional - a way to mimic the chaos and confusion of history as it is unfolding. But at key points, one is unable to register what it is the characters are saying.

The cinematography is similarly diffuse. The images lack sharpness and particularity of detail. The result is a certain graininess and lack of pictorial sharpness which succeeds in blurring foreground and background.

Structurally, the narrative is off-key throughout, as if Cimino can't quite make up his mind as to the effect he is after. He wanted an epic, for sure. But a pastoral or dramatic epic? The film sits uneasily and unconvincingly between styles, and perhaps even genres. At times it reminded me of Terrence Malick's 'Days of Heaven' or even 'Elvira Madigan' in its languid pace and elegant scene painting. At other times it threatens to turn into a robust 'western' more akin to 'The Wild Bunch'. In fact the latter film offers an instructive reference point for an assessment of 'Heaven's Gate' as it shares the same period concern and employs a similar tone of ambivalent nostalgia for a darker yet more heroic America.

This structural and thematic uncertainty isn't helped by the poor-quality script which often sounds forced and jarring to the ear. The result is an inauthentic sense of period speech.

The near-greatness of Heaven's Gate resides in its set pieces. The roller skating sequence, in particular, is astoundingly beautiful, one of the most evocative scenes ever put to film.

Another set piece which works very well in terms of unifying theme, mood, and setting occurs when Kristofferson and Huppert go riding in the new rig to the lake and she washes herself while he naps in the shade. The languid pacing, evocative music and monumental scenery combine in this scene to convincingly portray the love story which might just lie at the heart of the film - and which could have been its saving grace if pursued more convincingly.

Some critics have complained about the length of the film. This in itself doesn't bother me. A good film can't be long enough. The restored minutes are critical in restoring the motivation and characterization absent from the cut version, and they are full of pictorial interest.

Perhaps the chief glory of Heaven's Gate lies in the achingly evocative soundtrack. The repeated waltz motif and its different scorings throughout(full band, guitar, solo fiddle etc,)lends a haunting quality to the foreground action and establishes a thematic consistency lacking in the narrative itself.

Despite its obvious flaws, most notably the absence of a compelling narrative, there is a sense of grandeur about the film. One leaves the cinema with a rueful sense of missed greatness and a wish that Cimino could revisit the film -with the wisdom of time and hindsight, to put right what is so badly amiss.


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