Before Stonewall (1985) - Rotten Tomatoes

Before Stonewall (1985)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Before Stonewall Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

This documentary by Greta Schiller takes a look at the sometimes oblique American acknowledgment of homosexuals in the decades before a historical flashpoint in 1969. Late that year, the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village was stormed by police and its patrons arrested -- resulting in two days of rioting. Allen Ginsberg and other celebrities talk about past police tactics, witch-hunts, censorship, and historical "cleansing" operations that violated human rights and civil liberties -- such as routing gays and lesbians out of the State Department. A certain openness about sexual preferences started appearing in the 1920s and accelerated during World War II, eventually culminating in the organized movements of the 1960s and later demanding an end to discrimination. Older and younger generations of gays and lesbians present different viewpoints on a variety of topics, and conflicts or disagreements between gays and lesbians are outlined. The seriousness of the subject of discrimination is balanced with humor, which makes this documentary more accessible to straight audiences unfamiliar with the topic. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Drama, Special Interest
Directed By: , ,
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 18, 2004

News & Interviews for Before Stonewall

Critic Reviews for Before Stonewall

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | September 18, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | September 18, 2004
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Fascinating history of 20th Century Gay America

August 20, 2005
Classic Film and Television

This is a documentary that can tell the sometimes bitter truth and still conclude with an unambiguously heartening flourish.

Full Review… | May 21, 2004
Slant Magazine

Before Stonewall stands as a competent documentary, straight-forward without any great cinematic techniques that stand out

Full Review… | September 1, 2002
Old School Reviews

Audience Reviews for Before Stonewall

I saw After Stonewall before seeing Before Stonewall. I don't think it particularly matters. Having this film created in the 80s allows us to get the words of many early activists who are unfortunately no longer with us. It paints what is thankfully becoming more of a sad period in history that has now passed.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


An interesting relic of the 80s - shakily assembled, it sort of meanders along without much drive or focus. However, the opportunity to hear from some of these important people, most of whom have passed on since the documentary was made, makes the viewing more than worth it.


Amazing archive footage, I would think it must have taken a lot of research to find some of it. Great interviews, but I think too much of it focuses on the interviews. Interesting and very informative. It's well done, it held my interest but sometimes was a little repetitive and slow moving.

James Higgins

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