Heaven's Gate is a 1980 American epic Western film portraying a fictional dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming in the 1890s. The film is based loosely (but very inaccurately) on the Johnson County War. The cast includes Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Brad Dourif, Joseph Cotten, Geoffrey Lewis, David Mansfield, Richard Masur, Terry O'Quinn, Mickey Rourke, and, in his first film role (uncredited), Willem Dafoe.
There were major setbacks in the film's production due to cost and time overruns, negative press, and rumors about Cimino's allegedly overbearing directorial style. It is generally considered one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, and in some circles has been considered to be one of the worst films ever made. It opened to poor reviews and earned less than $3 million domestically (from an estimated budget of $44 million), eventually contributing to the near collapse of its studio, United Artists, and effectively destroying the reputation of Cimino, previously one of the ascendant directors of Hollywood owing to his celebrated 1978 film The Deer Hunter, which had won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director in 1979. Cimino had an expansive and ambitious vision for the film and pushed it about four times over its planned budget. The movie's financial problems and United Artists' consequent demise led to a move away from director-driven film production in the American film industry and a shift toward greater studio control of films.
As time has progressed, a number of substantial assessments have become more nuanced and in some cases more positive, and now some critics have described Heaven's Gate as a "modern masterpiece" whose original 1980 editing was characterized as "one of the greatest injustices of cinematic history."