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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.



2,928 ( 247)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Stars: Woody Harrelson, Jon Seda, Anne Bancroft


Cast overview, first billed only:
... James Averill
... Nathan D. Champion (as Chris Walken)
... William C. Irvine
... Frank Canton
... Mr. Eggleston
... Ella Watson
... The Reverend Doctor
... John L. Bridges
... Maj. Wolcott
... Mayor Charlie Lezak
... Trapper Fred
... Cully
Rosie Vela ... Beautiful Girl (as Roseanne Vela)
Mary Catherine Wright ... Nell (as Mary C. Wright)
... Small Man


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 US 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


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)

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:

2.39 : 1
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Did You Know?


During post-production, Michael Cimino changed the lock to the studio's editing room, prohibiting United Artists executives from seeing the film until he completed the editing (in a 2015 interview, he denied this ever occurred). Working with Oscar-winning Editor William Reynolds, Cimino slaved over his project. As one person involved in the project noted, "Michael didn't want respect. He wanted awe. The idea was that the magic man was in his workshop doing his magic, and we should all just leave him alone and let him finish." See more »


After hours lying outdoors in temperate weather, Nathan's corpse is miraculously free of flies. See more »


Ella Watson: Do you think a woman can love two men?
James Averill: Sure you can. Why not three? But it sure as hell isn't convenient.
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"Mamou Two-Step'
Written by Doug Kershaw
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A mediocre two hour film that goes three and a half.
15 September 2004 | by See all my reviews

Thanks go to the great Vilmos Zsigmond for making this film look beautiful, but tear that away and you have a ridiculously long (3 hours 39 minutes) weak story with mostly one-dimensional characters. The long gaps between lines and each overwrought scene- be it a noisy town meeting or a gang rape- gives you plenty of time to think about how this could have been a two hour film, and you can spend the rest of the time finding other things wrong with it. While the actors are all pros, sometimes adding dimension to their roles, they are usually bored beyond even scene-chewing. Aesthetic pacing is one thing, but then when it occasionally gives you canned lines like the bad guy saying, 'I am the law' into the sepia mix, well, it's just fodder for MST3000. Even they'd get bored. If you see it, you'll be bored, too.

It's a typical Hollywoodization of an actual historical event- in other words, here, have another love triangle with a sweet prostitute, the sheriff, and a sorta bad guy. In an ultimately failed attempt to reinterpret the western, Camino instead grabs at all the standard 70's clichés: graphic violence that quickly becomes cartoonish, butt-naked ladies, jumpy volume shifts, and anti-heroes. Whee. Face it- when you think Old West, do you think... roller rink?

Not really surprising that it's such a legendary flop; it has such high aspirations to fall from. On its long, long, long way down, it looks great, indulgent, and expensive the whole way, and goes flop. You will thank the invention of the Fast Forward button.

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