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Milk (2008)



Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 227
Fresh: 213 | Rotten: 14

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


Average Rating: 8.3/10
Critic Reviews: 45
Fresh: 43 | Rotten: 2

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



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Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 175,274

My Rating

Movie Info

Academy Award winner Sean Penn takes the title role in Gus Van Sant's biopic tracing the last eight years in the life of Harvey Milk, the ill-fated politician and gay activist whose life changed history, and whose courage still inspires people. When Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, he made history for being the first openly gay man in American history to be voted into public office. But the rights of homosexuals weren't Milk's primary concern, as tellingly


Drama, Gay & Lesbian

Dustin Lance Black

Mar 10, 2009


Focus Features - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (227) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (213) | Rotten (14) | DVD (8)

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

May 6, 2011 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop 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.

May 9, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The story is sad, but the mood is jubilant and the energy relentless.

January 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Perhaps it is simply an accident of timing that puts Milk in theaters at this moment. But fate or simple fortunate timing, Milk arrives as one of the best films of 2008.

December 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Penn's performance is a marvelous act of empathy in a movie that, for all its surprisingly conventional style, measures up to its stirring subject.

December 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Milk is an agitprop fantasy about the selflessness of sainthood. If anybody but Penn was playing the saint, we'd probably feel as if we were being sold a bill of goods. Instead, he just about pulls it off. Such is the treachery of talent.

November 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

June 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

A poignant lesson about the ripples of impact one impassioned individual can have, regardless of sexual orientation, and regardless of the cause.

September 28, 2011 Full Review Source: American Profile
American Profile

A bracingly passionate look back at the man who helped define a specific era.

August 16, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

This movie chooses not to dwell on tragedy. Instead it mines the inspiration Milk gave to hundreds, then thousands, then, posthumously, millions.

April 4, 2011 Full Review Source:

A little more sour to go with the sweet would have made Milk one of the greats.

March 24, 2011 Full Review Source: What Culture
What Culture

Rather than force fictional acceptance at which the world unfortunately hasn't arrived, Gus van Sant effectively, astutely chronicles the slow, painful birth of minority representation and the tragic price Harvey Milk paid for political visibility.

September 19, 2010 Full Review Source:

A lively biopic of slain gay politician Harvey Milk, one that mostly avoids the "this happened, then that happened" routineness of many of its ilk.

December 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Florida Times-Union
Florida Times-Union

Milk tackles serious issues about equal treatment under the law and the power of a minority community to determine its standing in the larger world through political activism.

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Times
Washington Times

Ultimatelt resembles less the man than the titular white liquid -- warm, nourishing, somewhat sleep-inducing

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion | Comments (2)

The film is not only the story of Harvey Milk but the galvanization of the gay community in San Francisco and while Milk would have been quick to point out that there are very few lesbians in this film - something that Van Sant seems to miss - he would ha

August 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Magazine International
Movie Magazine International

With a commercially agreeable directorial style, Gus Van Sant continues his foray into provocative cinema with what is quite possibly his best film yet.

August 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Moviedex

A solid film with clear intentions -- to thoughtfully entertain. If you walk out of Milk and not be moved then you are missing a little soul.

June 10, 2009 Full Review Source:

An involving portrait of the courage of one man standing up against hatred and bigotry.

March 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

The best film of 2008; engrossing no matter what one's sexual orientation.

February 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Orange County and Long Beach Blade
Orange County and Long Beach Blade

Penn's comments at the 2008 Oscars might have been needed if it weren't for a previous statement by Dustin Lance Black who sensitively and appealingly, made an acceptance speech in which he spoke very personally about the pain of being gay as a youth.

February 25, 2009 Full Review Source: | Comments (2)

O mais impressionante é observar como Penn se livra de todos os resquícios de sua própria personalidade e de seus personagens anteriores ao emprestar seu corpo a uma nova criação que em nada lembra suas demais performances.

February 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Much like the documentary that went before; Penn's performance makes the remake worthwhile

February 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Algo atípico: buen cine testimonial y militante con la forma de una producción mainstream de Hollywood. Gran trabajo protagónico de Sean Penn.

February 8, 2009 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

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.
June 13, 2013
Chris Weber

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.
May 26, 2012
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer

Penn and Brolin's performances are absolutely brilliant. Van Sant does an amazing job telling a story that needed to be told. RIP Harvey.
March 31, 2012
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

I think the most important question to ask regarding this film, and all biopics is 'Did this film respect the life and memory of the person in question'. I would argue that it did. So with that in mind and thanks to the great direction and solid performances, Milk deserves its praise. I wasn't much of a Gus Van Sant fan before watching this, I shied away from his films as the few I've seen I didn't like but I will now give him a chance and watch some more of his. Penn is an amazing actor, this isn't his greatest performance though and I would have liked to have seen Rourke win the Oscar for best actor but I would suggest his was only better by a small margin. Historically important film making and highly recommended.
October 14, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Harvey Milk: My name is Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you.
    – Submitted by Swapnil P (11 months ago)
    1. Harvey Milk: Forty years old and I haven't done a thing that I'm proud of.
    – Submitted by Alejandro O (2 years ago)
    1. Dan White: Society can't exist without the family.
    2. Harvey Milk: We're not against that.
    3. Dan White: Can two men reproduce?
    4. Harvey Milk: No, but God knows we keep trying.
    – Submitted by Sarah B (2 years ago)
    1. Cleve Jones: Elections of any kind are a fucking bourgeois affectation.
    – Submitted by Sarah B (2 years ago)
    1. Harvey Milk: All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
    1. Harvey Milk: Without hope, life's not worth living.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (6)

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Foreign Titles

  • Harvey Milk (FR)
  • Mi nombre es Harvey Milk (ES)
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