Milk (2008) - Rotten Tomatoes

Milk (2008)



Critic Consensus: Anchored by Sean Penn's powerhouse performance, Milk is a triumphant account of America's first openly gay man elected to public office.

Movie Info

In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans. During the last eight years of his life, while living in New York City, he turns 40. Looking for more purpose, he and his lover Scott Smith relocate to San Francisco, where they found a small business, Castro Camera, in the heart of a working-class neighborhood. Then, with support from Scott and from new friends like young activist Cleve Jones, Milk plunges headfirst into the choppy waters of politics. Bolstering his public profile with humor, Milk's actions speak even louder than his gift-of-gab words. When Milk is elected supervisor for the newly zoned District 5, he tries to coordinate his efforts with those of another newly elected supervisor, Dan White. But as White and Milk's political agendas increasingly diverge, their personal destinies tragically converge.more
Rating: R (for language, some sexual content and brief violence)
Genre: Drama, Gay & Lesbian
Directed By:
Written By: Dustin Lance Black
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 10, 2009
Box Office: $31.7M
Focus Features - Official Site


Sean Penn
as Harvey Milk
Emile Hirsch
as Cleve Jones
Josh Brolin
as Dan White
James Franco
as Scott Smith
Diego Luna
as Jack Lira
Alison Pill
as Anne Kronenberg
Lucas Grabeel
as Danny Nicoletta
Victor Garber
as Mayor George Moscone
Denis O'Hare
as John Briggs
Joseph Cross
as Dick Pabich
Stephen Spinella
as Rick Stokes
Zvi Howard Rosenman
as David Goodstein
Brandon Boyce
as Jim Rivaldo
Kelvin Yu
as Michael Wong
Jeff Koons
as Art Agnos
Allan Baird
as Himself
Tom Ammiano
as Himself
Hope Goblirsch
as Mary Ann White
Ashlee Temple
as Dianne Feinstein
Wendy King
as Carol Ruth Silver
Kelvin Han Yee
as Gordon Lau
Robert Chimento
as Phil Burton
Jeff Koons
as Art Agnos
Tom Ammiano
as Himself
Steven Wiig
as McConnelly
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Milk

Critic Reviews for Milk

All Critics (229) | Top Critics (45)

At the moment, it's my favorite movie of the year.

Full Review… | May 6, 2011
Top Critic

Sean Penn gives a meticulously detailed performance as the cagey and charismatic pol, but credit should also go to Dustin Lance Black, whose script squarely locates Milk at the center of his community, his city, and his cause.

Full Review… | May 9, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

While making a political, historical biopic, Van Sant managed, concurrently, to make a visually beautiful, emotionally thrilling and surprisingly personal work of art.

Full Review… | June 1, 2015
Stop Smiling

Penn burrows inside his character, capturing not only Milk's Long Island Jewish intonations and his gay body language but also the intensity of his beliefs and the particular mix of fear and desire through which he viewed the world.

Full Review… | June 1, 2015

Harvey repeats throughout the film, "you've gotta give 'em hope." He did the legwork. The film is just a reminder.

Full Review… | October 21, 2014

The movie's getting a lot of praise for being an "unconventional" biopic. I don't think this is true, but it's happening, I suspect, because it's NOT a biopic: It's a cause movie.

Full Review… | June 22, 2013

Audience Reviews for Milk


One of the most moving and remarkable films of the past decade. Milk is an extraordinary and extremely well-made film about the final eight years of the life and career of Harvey Milk- a time when his life truly mattered, and when the world was altered because of him. If you don't know, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the U.S., and a major player in the world of gay rights. I didn't see Sean Penn in this movie. All I saw was Harvey Milk. That's what I love about Penn- no matter what the role is, he takes it and totally disappears into it. The rest of the cast is equally amazing, and it's a shame that they all couldn't get Oscars for their work. I was especially fond of Hirsch, Brolin, Franco, and Pill. This is somewhat of a return to more mainstream stuff for Gus Van Sant, but I wouldn't call it a complete sell out. That he is openly gay himself doesn't necessarily make the film on the nose, nor does it make the film any better, but it probably doesn't hurt. I just love how this is a show of his versatility. He can make a string of artsy indie stuff, then, no pun intended, play it straight and do something like this: a straightforward biopic about a gay man. Bottom line: This is an important film that needs to be seen-regardless of one's personal convictions.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Great film with strong performances by the entire cast. An important part of American history that is under-reported to the general public. Any American interested in civil rights should see this film.

Christian C

Super Reviewer

Milk rests on Sean Penn's powerhouse performance as Harvey Milk. Without his mesmerizing performance, the film would not be what it is... Chronicling the events, struggles and triumphs of the first openly gay man elected to public office, Milk is a triumphant account of the moving and heartfelt story, told with stark focus by Gus van Sant. Josh Brolin is also fantastic here as Milk's opposer in office, as is James Franco as Harvey's lover.

Raymond Wieser
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer

Milk Quotes

– Submitted by Swapnil P (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Alejandro O (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Sarah B (4 years ago)
– Submitted by Sarah B (4 years ago)

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