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Heaven's Gate (1980)

1:23 | Trailer
During the Johnson County War in 1890 Wyoming, a sheriff born into wealth does his best to protect immigrant farmers from rich cattle interests.


Michael Cimino


Michael Cimino
3,712 ( 1,081)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »





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


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


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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Did You Know?


Isabelle Huppert plays on this film a character named "Ella" ("she" in Spanish). Later she would be the main character in the 2016 French-speaking movie called "Elle"("she" in French). See more »


When Canton shoots the immigrant point-blank in the back of the head, there is no blood, bone or hair shown coming off the head. In fact, after the immigrant's head is lifted to show his face then dropped down again, there is no sign on the back of his head that he's been shot at all. See more »


Ella Watson: I never cheated on you. I always made Nate pay.
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Alternate Versions

The heavily edited 149 minute version contains too many changes to name, but some of the more notable ones include the deletion of Billy's valedictorian address in the prologue, the addition of a narration at the end of the prologue by Averill, a restructuring of the early Wyoming scenes so that Nate is fully introduced earlier (several scenes are moved around, including a re-cut version of Nate's first scene with Ella, so that their relationship is established early on), additional dialogue here and there (especially about "philosophy" between Averill and Bridges in the cock fighting scene), a discussion between Nate and Averill before it is revealed that Ella is on the death list is deleted, and the ending is completely restructured-right after the cavalry leaves the battle, it cuts to the yacht, and the scenes of Ella and Averill packing and the subsequent ambush are intercut with the scenes on the yacht (with the beautiful woman on the yacht deleted entirely), with voiceovers of earlier lines between Averill and Ella dubbed over it. Very few scenes are deleted altogether, but most scenes are trimmed. Many lines of dialogue are re-dubbed (or re-written), or consist of alternate takes. See more »


The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Music by William Steffe
Played by the marching band
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User Reviews

A film not that dreadful, but understandably ripped
11 February 1999 | by FLKFREKSee all my reviews

I'm only one of a very few people who has actually seen BOTH versions of "Heaven's Gate". A frequently asked question is "Why was it ripped apart so badly?" The answer lies in this story here:

In 1984 I rented "Heaven's Gate" in order to show a friend of mine who had wanted to know if the film was as bad as he had heard. About 50 or so minutes into the film, Averill walks into Casper, Wyoming, which at the time this scene takes place is 1890. The town is filled with many meticulously dressed pedestrians, and the streets are filled with horses and buggies. My friend starts laughing uncontrollably. I asked, "Did I miss something?" He pulls himself together and says, "You gotta be kidding. There ain't even that many people in Casper, Wyoming NOW."

That in a nutshell can easily describe what went wrong. The film reeks of a director desperately trying to convince us that this movie is very important and cries for us to think he's an absolute genius. Actors take long breaths between sentences as though they were going to choke on what they are saying (man, just wait till you get to the scene where the deathlist is read out - you truly believe he'll read all 125 names), while every shot is filled with either smoke or dust in order to give us the feeling that this is ART. Camino's intentions were honorable as I truly believed that he believed he was making a masterpiece. This is what happens when you go out to make a masterpiece. I had only wished he tried to go out and make a good western. Then this film might have worked.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

24 April 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate See more »

Filming Locations:

Butte, Montana, USA See more »


Box Office


$44,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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

Sound Mix:

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



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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