243 user 141 critic

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
2,462 ( 1,466)
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


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


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The amount of film stock that was used amounted to approximately 1.5 million feet of film. Over one million feet of the stock was processed in the film labs. See more »


During the pivotal pool hall conversation, the ball positions on the table are constantly changing during different edits. See more »


John L. Bridges: It's gettin' dangerous to be poor in this country.
James Averill: It always was.
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 »


Featured in The 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2019 (2019) See more »


The Battle Hymn of the Republic
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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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:

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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
See full technical specs »

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