Heaven's Gate - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Heaven's Gate Reviews

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March 18, 2018
An unfortunate victim of reviews by products of "mass education," which has never been and never will be a reality, Heaven's Gate should have been made in the very early 20th century or even the 19th. Of course it couldn't, because the technology for such films didn't exist. Only people educated to refined literature, at which most today sneer, such as Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter, War and Peace, &c, can appreciate the pace and language found in Heaven's Gate. A shame, because it truly is one of the only film renderings of such intricate and subtle tales.
½ February 24, 2018
Interesting story, undone by the worst editing in the history of cinema.

Wyoming, 1890. Frank 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. Frank Averill's heart is with the immigrants but he is not sure they have a chance of winning the inevitable war.

Loosely based on true events and written and directed by Michael Cimino, whose previous movie was The Deer Hunter, the movie had heaps of potential. A noble sentiment, highlighting the rights of the downtrodden, with the promise of some good action scenes - what could go wrong? Well, a lot. The movie is one of the most padded in history. The story could easily have been told in two hours, even less, but Cimino stretches it out to more than 3 1/2 hours. Heaps of scenes that don't add much, if anything, and many scenes that go too long.

The opening scenes, set at Harvard University, say it all - all they are there for is to show the friendship between James Averill and Billy Irvine, and this relationship has very little bearing on the story, ultimately! All the Harvard scenes, taking about 20 minutes, could have been removed and the movie would have been no worse for it.

It gets worse - Cimino also made a 5 1/2 version of the movie!

In between all the padding, there is some good plot development, but this is often a false dawn. Just when something significant happens and you think the movie is about to click into top gear, you then have 20-30 minutes of stagnation and dullness - more padding.

Eventually things do come together, but it takes more than three hours to get there. Even then the conclusion is a bit anti-climactic and not entirely satisfying.

Okayish performance by Kris Kristofferson in the lead role - could have done without his excessive mumbling though. Best performances goes to Christopher Walken and Jeff Bridges. John Hurt and Sam Waterston are okay in their roles, though Hurt overdoes the drunkenness aspect of his character. On the downside, Isabelle Huppert is atrocious as Ella and Richard Masur as the station-master, Cully, is not much better.

The movie also includes Mickey Rourke in a minor role - it was only his third movie. Willem Dafoe made his movie debut in Heaven's Gate, in an uncredited role.

More interesting than the movie itself is the infamy and history surrounding it. Cimino was fresh from the success of The Deer Hunter, so had a large amount of free rein with production. The length of the movie (especially the fact that there is a 5 1/2 hour version out there) will tell you that production was not cheap - Cimino eventually went four times over budget! The film was one of the worst box office bombs of all time, generating $3.5m in revenue in the US after costing $44m to make (in 1980 terms).

The losses on the movie effectively bankrupted United Artists - they were sold and the name disappeared.

After Cimino's free-spending, studios were loathe to give directors free rein anymore, starting a period of tighter corporate control of movies. The movie also put westerns on the outer with audiences and studios, making the 80s a lean period for westerns.

It also effectively ended the career of Michael Cimino. His next movie was Year of the Dragon, released five years later and which wasn't that great. Since 1985 he has only directed three movies, none of which were any good. Nobody is willing to risk him with a potentially-A-grade movie.

Worth watching just to see what all the fuss is about but, beware, it's a bit of an ordeal.
November 12, 2017
Not as good as I had hoped but still worth watching. Warning though ther are FRONTAL NUDITY in this. James Welch 11/12/2017
½ August 20, 2017
An enjoyable film, even at 3 and a half hours. Good acting and great cast.
½ December 20, 2016
Underrated. Not a classic, not as good as The Deer Hunter, but much better than most critics would have you believe, even if it is a little bloated, self-indulgent and occasionally slightly incoherent. John Hurt's very good.
Super Reviewer
December 12, 2016
Lives up to its reputation of being a bomb. There aren't too many redeeming qualities to take from this wreckage.
September 8, 2016
From my understanding a person's opinion of this film may depend on which print you see. I don't think it deserved all the hate it received, but it didn't achieve its epic goals either. But it wasn't from lack of effort
½ July 28, 2016
The production design is breathtaking, and Christopher Walken is fantastic. You literally watch in awe as you realise how much money was spent on making this film.
½ July 10, 2016
Even after all these years, an epic failure!
July 6, 2016
I can only comment on the new Criterion version of this movie but its an astounding achievement with glorious cinematography and stunning set pieces. That said, it is over long and does take its time telling the story, but there is so much stunning work here that it is well worth experiencing. Too bad the media decided to hate it before it ever came out and used the story behind the making of it to ruin both the movie and the director's career.
½ July 4, 2016
Thirty-six years later, my own humble opinion has not changed. Despite the revisionism the movie is enjoying - and I'm kinda glad to hear that by the way - for me, this movie remains what it was back in when it was originally released: An achingly dull misfire. From frame one, you can hear the movie screaming "WATCH ME CAUSE THIS IS A MASTERPIECE DAMMIT!!!!" The actors performances, though not bad, reek of "I'm about to say the most important lines ever said in a movie - so pay attention." Now like I said, this is my own opinion, the movie isn't THAT dreadful, but at the same time, i totally understand why the critics went after it with the world's most sharpened knives. It wasn't the budget or the production history. It's simply that Cimino did not deliver the goods. And want to know something? I'm one of those who thought it was a big mistake to have the movie pulled from it's initial release. If Cimino had just let the movie play, we would now be arguing over a failed movie. But instead, we are arguing over a NOTORIOUS flop. And whatever sins Michael Cimino may have done in his life, I don't think he deserved the treatment he got after "Heaven's Gate".
½ July 3, 2016
150825: Number 12 of top 50 westerns? My ass. Terribly long for such a poor film.
June 3, 2016
Pacing and acting are sometimes questionable but the production values are magnificent. I loved the lighting and the sets and recreation of 1890's
Wyoming but the basic story of the two guys in love with the same girl is
Paint Your Wagon without the gold or the songs! And that triangle took up
too much time.
If this confrontation between immigrants and "stockgrowers" really
happened, then I'm grateful that this movie brings that history to light.
(Later, I found out the events didn't happen. The movie is apparently fictional!)
Cannot make out John Hurt's rôle. Also, Sam Waterson is lost for a great chunk of the movie.
The story (for it hardly has a plot) is too slight for such a lengthy movie.
March 3, 2016
All that really had going for this film was the period detail.
November 12, 2015
There are better epics, but who cares.
½ November 7, 2015
Yes, it's long and occasionally incoherent - but Heaven's Gate is within touching distance of being a masterpiece. It shares a lot of the qualities of Cimino's Deer Hunter: an unhurried prologue, a woman (Huppert) in love with two men, stoicism in the face of tragedy, a hauntingly simple guitar theme, luminous performances - not least from Kristofferson - and truly breathtaking wide-screen photography.
½ September 24, 2015
This is massive, grandiose filmmaking at its lavish, truly awesome, best! I have seen this nearly 4-hour film at least a dozen times, and I'm left awe-struck by its production beauty, and devastated by its story. I simply cannot understand the blistering criticism this film had to endure! I was not bored for a single second in this mammoth masterpiece. If I have any complaint it would probably be that the final epic battle scene does become a bit blunted by all the visual dustiness, who's-fighting-who confusion, and the ultimately all-for-nought killing and death. However, no doubt real war is, indeed, confusing and wasteful. The final, nearly silent and heartbreaking coda on the yacht hits me like a ton of bricks every time.... Stupendous filmmaking!
August 25, 2015
A brilliant made tragic epic, made all the more tragic by the controversy surrounding it. A rich, though at times confusing, 3 and a half hour epic
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