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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.

Director:

Michael Cimino

Writer:

Michael Cimino
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Popularity
3,571 ( 683)
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 L. 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 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

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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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)

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:

Partisan Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

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

Sound Mix:

Dolby (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

The made-for-television miniseries Johnson County War (2002) covered the same historical subject matter. This film's original title was "The Johnson County War", and was inspired by, and loosely based on, the 1892 Johnson County War in Wyoming. See more »

Goofs

The period steam engine is a coal fired engine, with black smoke. In the West, steam engines had wide, open smokestacks for burning cheap, plentiful wood, producing white smoke and live cinders. In fact, piles of logs are stacked on the accompanying tender. See more »

Quotes

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.
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 Film Geek (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

A wasted opportunity.
8 August 1999 | by Pinback-4See all my reviews

HEAVEN'S GATE will always be remembered for at least three things: destroying United Artists, wrecking director Michael Cimino's career, and ending the last golden age of Hollywood, when the directors could make the types of films they wanted to make. To this day we are still living through the effects from HEAVEN'S GATE. Although the film was made for only $36 million, back in 1980 that was a fortune. Many films since have lost more money, but this one wrecked a respected studio. There is no question as to where all the money went, for it is on the screen to see. Everything was carefully detailed exquisitely down the extras' clothing. An entire town was built in a remote area of Montana. The film opens with a graduation sequence that takes place at Harvard in 1870, which is nicely shot and choreographed, but is completely unnecessary. Many such scenes are scattered throughout, and the film is more than halfway over before the plot finally starts to move forward. The actors all play characters who are one-dimensional and/or irrelevant, especially the John Hurt character. Why Cimino needed so many extras to play the immigrants is unclear, because we never get to know any of them and they are so annoying when they gather together to plot strategies against the rich bad guys who want to kill them off. The editing is pretty bad, but that's to be expected because there really isn't much of a story here, just a series of vignettes. Vilmos Zsigmond's photography is good, but too often there is too much dust and smoke everywhere that obscures the characters and locations. Also, the colors in the film are all washed out; it looks like the filmstock was left out in sun. For example, in the middle of the roller-skating scene, the color simply vanishes, leaving only light brown and black! Granted, there are a few things in the film that I admire, like David Mansfield's score. Isabelle Huppert always looks sexy even without makeup. The battle scenes are pretty exciting, although I could swear that I saw one particular wagon blow up four times. The film has a rather odd denoument that takes place on board a ship, but everything else in this movie is pretty odd. Why the studio didn't bring in another writer or two to rewrite the script is a mystery because inside this mess there was a good movie trying to get out. It's a shame that Michael Cimino still hasn't recovered from this debacle. I sure hope he makes a comeback.


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