Heaven's Gate - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Heaven's Gate Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 5, 2013
worth watching but much of the criticism is well founded imo. every scene goes on too long. period detail is exquisite and it's one of the most beautiful films i've seen but everything here is just too big. the story needed more focus. maybe a great two hour film in here somewhere
Super Reviewer
December 31, 2008
Aside from some questionable looking treatment of animals and a sad lead actress choice, I can't quite understand why this film did not do better. It's gangbusters! I've seen way shorter films that seemed a hell of a lot longer, I kid you not.
Super Reviewer
½ February 28, 2008
There's one thing I can't forgive to Michael Cimino, it's his uncontrollable persistence of stretching things with no reason, in the end that was what condemned him to ostracism. This film was cursed as the one who took legendary studio united artists to bankruptcy and was also mutilated on the editing room. despite all, the film has epic scope, breathtaking visuals, good performances and beautiful emotional moments.
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2008
There's goes my Saturday. Wow! This guy had three editors and it was still this long? I really loved parts of it. I think that Kristoferson, Bridges, Huppert, and Walken do a great job, but, fuck this guy loves shooting parties. The thing is that if you cut out a lot of this, you have a really good film and that's not as frustrating as the fucking ending which if anybody can explain to me I would love to hear it. Vilmos should get a lifetime acheivement award for this film alone. At the same time, I kinda respected the way you were totally emmersed in that world and I really loved the battle scene.
Super Reviewer
August 13, 2008
excessive dust and ruddy colors, as a dir. gets bored and goes for "ugly-beautiful," like Scorsese in NYNY; a few scenes are actually laughable, but the rest shows serious potential
Super Reviewer
December 8, 2007
This will always be remembered for the money it cost and the money it lost, killing United Artists in the process, but it's a beautiful, wonderful, epic movie; a fitting end to the last great decade of Hollywood film-making, the Seventies. I would rather wallow in this than sit through "The Deer Hunter" any day of the week. Whatever its faults, it's full of memorable moments, for example Christopher Walken's marvellously cinematic first appearance, which is worthy of Sergio Leone. As an intimate love triangle set against an epic background of immigration and unrest, it's a hell of a lot more successful than Scorsese's awful "Gangs of New York".
Super Reviewer
½ September 24, 2007
Very flawed, but nowhere near as horrible as you may have heard.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2012
"Knock-knock-knockin' on Heaven's gate!" Hey, if you're gonna follow Bob Dylan's lead, then proceed with caution when knocking on Heaven's door, or rather, Heaven's gate, because you may go in for a cult film and end up in a cult religion. Don't worry, I can see how you would make the mistake though, not just because of the name similarities, but because although the Heaven's Gate cult, to my knowledge, doesn't sacrifice animals (They believe that the apocalypse will be the justified cleansing of Earth from the universe, and thirty-nine of them offed themselves in order to contact aliens, so they still aren't one of your more relatively sane religious groups), many religious cults do, and I'll be struck down if the makers of this film weren't accused of bleeding horses without pain killers and blowing another one up on camera. Man, forget deer, it sounds like Michael Cimino is more into horse hunting, and is pretty hardcore about it too, though believe me, this film isn't quite as exciting as it sounds, and if you thought that "The Deer Hunter", the film considered by many to be Cimino's masterpiece, was boring as all get-out (I still liked it, but come on, Mike, pick up the pace!), then just wait until you see this film that's over three-and-a-half hours and considered by many to be so boring that people wouldn't go see it when it was only two-and-a-half hours in the theaters. Okay, maybe it's no slower than "The Deer Hunter", though that does still mean that it gets to be way too slow and way too long at over three-and-a-half hours, so one can only imagine what it was like to sit through that behemoth of a five-and-a-half-hour-long workprint cut. Actually, forget y'all, I would like to find out, because I don't have much else going on, yet still don't get enough sleep. No, again, this film isn't that dull, yet make no mistake, as good as this film actually is (Forget you, Razzies), this is still the guy who made "The Deer Hunter", so it can only go so far without hitting a dry spell, and let me tell you, it doesn't really go all that far before falling into that certain flaw.

Now, the film isn't quite like "2001: A Space Odyssey", where it's just meditating on some unnecessary bull for twenty minutes on end (I mean figurative bull, though if this film were to superfluously meditate on any kind of animal, it would probably a horse, as if to say, "You're next"), yet the film suffers from many a long period of too much focus on absolutely nothing, and with not oomph enough oomph in the atmosphere during those "occasions" (I don't know if I should use that word, because occasion insinuates that those moments only come in occasionally), things slow to a disengaging, if not rather boring crawl, even when the thing that the film is meditating upon a distractingly noisy environment that sometimes drowns out the dialogue when people finally get around to talking. Still, when the background noise dies down and dialogue is brought to the forefront, things don't get a whole heck of a lot better, because when the dialogue is really out at the forefront, that people stands alone. I don't know about you guys, but maybe Michael Cimino's taste in sound design is a little bit too good, though by 1980, it still had enough limitations tinning things up (Maybe they should have talked to a certain fellow Italian, because Coppola didn't seem to have that problem too much with "Apocalypse Now" in '79), thus creating a kind of white noise that may leave the dialogue to come in loud and about as clear as it could be in 1980 (Or at least when there's no infernal background noise that's hardly in the background and drowns most everything out), yet still kind of lull along in pitch, with not enough background oomph drowning out said white noise. As if that's not enough kids, Cimino even drags the dialogue piece out, like he does most everything else. Good lord, somebody better find that five-and-a-half hour cut, because I've got to see that sucker, just out of morbid curiosity, because, as I said, this film is much too slow and much too long at 219 minutes, alone, and even when this film does slow down on the slowing down, things are still overdrawn to where things don't neccessarily dull down, though still lose some steam. The final product just comes out as an often kind of dull and thoroughly overdrawn experience that doesn't quite live up to some reasonably promising potential, though there is that one key questions still remaining: Is it really that much of a failure for Cimino? Hey, "The Deer Hunter" seemed to make it out okay, and this film does just the same, maybe being more likely to literally knock you out, rather than figuratively, though through thick and then, I came out the other end (Ha-ha, I slant rhymed) feeling generally rewarded by the film, or if nothing else, the film's style.

Say what you will about the story direction, because lord knows that I will, but the art direction is pretty top-notch, with Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography being breathtaking for its time and still stellar to this day, having a kind of an almost, well, heavenly radiance about it that's not always pronounced all that emphatically, yet when it is, say during a magic hour shot or something along those lines, it really stops you cold with its incredible lighting and color bounce. Not only is the photography good at making this world look pretty, but also making it seem quite grand, having a slickly broadness to its scope that creates an neatly epic feel, yet not at the expense of somewhat engrossing intimacy during your more small-scope moments. What further brings this world to life are the production designs, which aren't terribly unique, as far was western reproductions are concerned, yet remain intricate and lively, with a kind of engaging attention to detail that does help in setting the tone for the era, while Michael Cimino sets the overall tone of the story, though maybe with a tad too much success. Cimino's very meditative take on this film brings the word dreamy to mind, not necessarily because that's the level of dryness we're dealing with, but because the whatever level of dryness we're left facing could very well knock you into a dream, though what Cimino does get right as storyteller is worth powering through the slowness, as he does gather some tension during the harsher moments and pretty good action sequences, as well as some depth during your more dramatic moments. If nothing else, Cimino at least pulls off a charming execution of this story that is perhaps not terribly inventive, yet still compelling in concept and well worth watching in execution, even if things do get to be limp along. The performers seem to reflect the film's tone, with the exception of the dullness, as there are no boring performances, yet there are many charming ones, whether it be a here-and-there Jeff Bridges and John Hurt, or such more major roles as Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken (Wait, Christopher Walken is charming; Well now, who could have seen that coming?) and the lovely Isabelle Huppert... whoever that is. There's plenty of charm and, on occasions, even some depth to spare in this film, and that helps great in keeping you going through all of the slowness, with the other strengths that are listed above adding an extra kick of juice to the final product, to where it ultimately emerges a genuinely good and generally satisfying film, flawed though, it may be.

To close the gates, other rather, this review, the film is often quiet and dry, with little punch to the atmosphere, rendering it periodically dull, a problem worsened by the fact that the film is also relentlessly overdrawn, particularly when it comes to noisy moments of environment meditation and often too talkative dialogue pieces, thus leaving even the scenes that aren't dull to lose steam in quite a few spots and the film to stand as not quite as engrossing as it should be, yet with Vilmos Zsigmond's radiant and sweeping photography direction and nifty production designs catching your eye, as well as Michael Cimino's still often effectively inspired direction and a myriad of charismatic, when not compelling performances catching enough of your investment, "Heaven's Gate" stands as a problematically slow and overlong, yet ultimately worthwhile epic that wins you over by the end.

3/5 - Good
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2010
Good movie. On it's release it was given very harsh treatment by the critics, mostly due to being over-budget and too long. Heaven's Gate is a solid western, with great performances, a beautiful musical score, and some stunning cinematography. Director Michael Cimino may have had his haters in Hollywood during that time, which may have been out of jealousy due to his earlier triumphs for The Deer Hunter. Heaven's Gate is as good as any epic of that era, and much better than Out of Africa and Once Upon a Time in America. Overall, well worth a look.
July 13, 2015
Notorious epic from Michael Cimino was responsible for nearly bankrupting Hollywood. What we have here is a movie with magnificent looks but no story. It's sort of about a gang of settlers on the lookout for immigrants to murder. The character motivations are glaringly (and fatally) inconsistent, along with its distracting musical score-which is also all over the place. Photography, sets, and grand scope all help immensely...but not nearly enough to confiscate it's biggest flaws. Vilmos Zsigmond did the striking photography.
½ July 19, 2013
Nothing if not unique, beautiful, and tragic. I wanted the immigrants to overcome the dastardly rich cattle barons, for James and Ella to ride off into the sunset, and for Sam Waterston to get his just punishment, but Cimino nobly stays with his theme of the end of the American Dream.
April 1, 2013
You can't even shit around here without stepping in it.

James Averill is a sheriff in town in a county where there is much animosity between land owners and immigrants. A rich land owner has issued a list of 125 immigrants he wants dead and he will pay a pretty penny for each body delivered. Averill is in love with one of the immigrants, but the female is sleeping with him and one of the hired assassins. Who will the immigrant pick, Averill or her other lover, and can Averill balance his personal life and professional responsibilities?

"Seems that balls are getting as scarce as hen's teeth in the army."

Michael Cimini, director of Deer Hunter, Year of the Dragon, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Desperate Hours, and The Sunchaser, delivers Heaven's Gate. The storyline for this picture is very interesting and fun to watch unfold. The characters are awesome and the action scenes are excellent. The film is a bit slow but definitely worthwhile. The cast delivers remarkable performances and includes Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, John Hurt, Joseph Cotton, Jeff Bridges, Willem Dafoe, and Mickey Rourke.

"You're not my class and you never will be. You'd have to die and be born again."

I read the synopsis for this movie while reviewing the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) website and when I saw the cast felt this was must watch. This is pretty close to as good as Deer Hunter, in my opinion. Both films have moments of lull that are boring and underwhelming but the overall picture and final scenes are mesmerizing and must see. I strongly recommend watching this picture.

"They're an ignorant, degraded band of poppers."

Grade: B
March 24, 2013
This is no lost masterpiece. Though it has some spectacular, even epic scenes, it's a real mess, with obvious politics yet no sympathetic (or even recognizable) underdogs, truly awful dialog, horrific sexism, and truth in the conventional wisdom that every single scene runs too long.
March 5, 2013
Considered the biggest flop in movie history, this nearly 4 hour western epic gets a bad rap for its original cut that many panned when it first came out. The new cut that is shown now and what I saw was not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It is still long by an hour-and-half or so and some scenes just go on and on for no reason other than to pleasure director Michael Cimino. I see why studios don't give directors full creative control anymore. Michael Cimino ruined it for all future directors with his endless takes and unnecessary scenes. If no one told me about its bad reputation, I would think this movie to be a decent epic with some worthy and effective scenes, especially the last 30 minutes. I love long movies, but here you feel it and it does become a strain 2 hours in. I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would, but I didn't love it either. It's one of those films you watch once and then never bother with it again, just like most people who have seen it. But it is hardly the worst film ever made.

Grade: B-
March 4, 2013
the butt of alot of jokes the dead of U/A studios at the time the reedited version is quite satifying and watchable
½ March 3, 2013
I wouldn't call it the worst, but certainly the most boring movie ever. Far too drawn out scenes and underacting.
January 13, 2013
The infamous flop that ruined Michael Cimino's career after THE DEER HUNTER. Completely underrated.
November 3, 2012
seriously underrated. OK, it's not a perfect western. but it comes so darn close! a film with a very engaging, dramatic and different take on western movie lore. everything in this movie feels authentic from the costumes to the production design. the script is a little shaky (some plot element are never resolved), and while the ending promises some explosive excitement, it feels a little over-the-top and rushed. and the final ending on the boat for some reason makes no sense. but it is a beautifully shot (the cinematography is stunning and deserved the Oscar nomination that it did) western. quite an unusual western that deserves more appreciation than it does.
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