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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
Reviews
Popularity
2,740 ( 1,520)
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:

The only thing greater than their passion for America...was their passion for each other. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At the time, it was the biggest and most expensive Hollywood flop ever. Its failure resulted in the sale of United Artists to MGM. See more »

Goofs

Despite how he was portrayed in the film, Nate Champion was never any type of enforcer. He was a small rancher who stood up against the tactic of claiming all unbranded cattle. He was killed when a posse of vigilantes attacked his homestead. A journal of his battle survived the attack. See more »

Quotes

Nick Ray: Now, you know that I am not gonna believe that a man can fight a wolf bare-handed. It ain't possible
Trapper Fred: Is.
Ella Watson: How?
Trapper Fred: First, ya let the critter attack ya.
Nick Ray: Attack?
Trapper Fred: Yessir. You don't do a thing. You just have to stay real calm.
Nick Ray: Then what?
Trapper Fred: As soon as that sonofabitch opens his jaws to take your fool head off - you reach right into his mouth, fast as lightning, and grab his tongue.
Nick Ray: Grab his tongue! What in the hell good does that do?
Trapper Fred: He can't bite ya if ya got hold of his tongue.
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Writer-director Michael Cimino was coaxed to revisit his film for a 2012 video release via The Criterion Collection and supervised a 2K transfer from the YCM separation negatives from which he noticeably changed the original look of the film from a subdued sepia to a more rich "Technicolor" appearance. He also made a number of revisions, including the removal of the intermission thus creating a straight cut, reversed a "pull out" shot to a "pull in" and made a number of other tweaks as well as a re-tweak of the soundtrack. See more »


Soundtracks

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
(uncredited)
Music by William Steffe
Played by the marching band
See more »

User Reviews

 
A film rich in confusion
19 March 2000 | by snauntonSee all my reviews

Heaven's Gate seems to attract extreme reactions: outright dismissal or unqualified admiration. It is an extreme film, in length, theme and treatment. Its faults have been well-rehearsed, but some are overstated and, equally, some extraordinary virtues seem to have been little noticed. The film is very slow, certainly in the first half, but the central plot is interesting. The Johnson County disturbances exemplify a critical moment in American history, even if the sub-plot of the alienated Harvard man, at the opening and closing of the film, is irredeemably trite. That the working out of the plot is incoherent and chaotic is not a problem - these characteristics are implicit in the term "disturbances" and are an effective metaphor for the central concern of the film. The settlers are disorderly in the conduct their lives and community affairs, they are thieves, not especially lovely people, and the moral balance is tipped in their favour only by the arrogance of power of the Stockmen's leader.

Kris Kristofferson's plays his leading role to the limit of his talent as an actor, but sadly that talent is very small. However, since the part requires him to say little, this is not a fatal flaw. John Hurt plays a decadent drunk as well as an irrelevant and ridiculous part will permit. On the other hand, Isabelle Huppert's performance is outstanding: every expression, every nuance in the tone of her voice, is convincing. The subdued photography, with its narrow palette, is highly effective in communicating the sheer colourless drudgery that life at the frontier must have involved. Most striking of all is the soundtrack, that constant bustle of noise, the rushing of trains and carts and horses and men and wind across the range. This film captures a living experience and the soundtrack does most to bring it alive.

Heaven's Gate is a strange confusion of a film, but in that confusion many good things can be found.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

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 »

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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

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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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