MOVIES

Notorious Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching

The great granddaddy of box office bombs, “Heaven’s Gate” almost single-handedly destroyed the career of director Michael Cimino, bankrupted studio United Artists, and ended the New Hollywood renaissance of the 1970s. Fresh off his Oscar wins for “The Deer Hunter,” Cimino moved on to an epic retelling of the Johnson County War, with Kris Kristofferson playing a sheriff trying to protect immigrant farmers from encroaching cattle ranchers. No expense was spared in recreating 1890s Wyoming, and the production went over-budget and over-schedule, costing a┬áthen-whopping $44 million. By the time the film, which clocked in at three hours and 39 minutes, finally opened in New York, any hopes that critics would champion it were dashed when the reviews came out. Many of them deemed it excessive, sluggish, and ugly. Cimino’s attempts to save the film by pulling it from theaters and slashing an hour from its runtime only added to its reputation as an unsalvageable mess.

Yet the tide of critical opinion has turned, thanks in large part to a Criterion release that restored Cimino’s original vision. In 1980, New York Times critic Vincent Canby called the film “an unqualified disaster.” Yet 33 years later, Manohla Dargis, writing in the same paper, said it was, “a film with greatness in it but also longueurs, a fascinating artifact and a monument to Mr. Cimino’s towering ambitions, as much for himself as for his art.”

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