Heaven’s Gate at 40: how we learned to love a notorious flop

Michael Cimino’s big-budget saga drew caustic reviews on release and limited box office but has experienced a reappraisal

For 40 years, Heaven’s Gate has been synonymous with “expensive flop”. And not just any expensive flop, but the type of boondoggle associated with the fussy indulgences of a self-styled film artist. It is considered the symbolic end to a decade where the inmates ran the asylum, when iconoclasts like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman were allowed to operate within the studio system with minimal interference. The film’s director, Michael Cimino, was blamed for pushing United Artists into bankruptcy. It could not be allowed to happen again.

Related: Airplane! at 40: the best spoof comedy ever made?

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