American: The Bill Hicks Story 2011

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Critics Consensus

A treasure trove of archival material and interviews, American: The Bill Hicks Story is an exuberant celebration about a unique, sorely missed voice in comedy.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 60

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,709

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American: The Bill Hicks Story Photos

Movie Info

This biographical documentary about stand-up comic Bill Hicks uses a photo-animation technique to tell the story of his rise to fame. Through archival material, footage of his routines and interviews with the people who knew him -- including filmmaker Kevin Booth, childhood friend and comedian Dwight Slade and members of his family -- we discover how Hicks emerged from his Southern Baptist upbringing to become one of the most famous performers in America.

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Critic Reviews for American: The Bill Hicks Story

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (50) | Rotten (10)

  • Directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas work wonders with the old photos, animating and enhancing them to simulate Hicks' excellent adventure.

    July 8, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Ultimately, the doc comes off as yet another reminder that, in showbiz and elsewhere, one of the greatest tragedies in life is unfulfilled promise.

    April 15, 2011

    Joe Leydon

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • A portrait of the short-lived artist that will move fans while letting the uninitiated witness enough onstage highlights to leave them wanting more.

    April 15, 2011 | Full Review…
  • In the stand-up world, to be a cerebral comic in America is to invite anonymity. In his short life, Bill Hicks extended that invitation and, more or less, it was accepted.

    April 15, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Posthumous albums and now this film are securing his legacy and enduring influence.

    April 14, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • The movie's appeal extends to the manner of its construction; it's an almost hypnotic kind of hybrid animation in which hundreds of photographs of Hicks in various poses and at various stages in his life are grafted onto two-dimensional backgrounds.

    April 14, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for American: The Bill Hicks Story

  • Feb 15, 2013
    "The greatest comic of his generation. Kicked ass. Took names. Changed the game." American: The Bill Hicks Story is a new favorite when it comes to documentaries, especially biographical documentaries. I loved the approach, with using voice over interviews over top of some great photo animation. The film is fast paced and extremely entertaining, while also being very down to earth, frank, and intelligent. We see Bill Hicks for what he was at different parts of his life as told by the ten people that knew him best from his mother to his siblings to fellow comics and friends. If you're a Bill Hicks fan, this is required viewing, and if you're not(as Bill would say), kill yourself. Bill Hicks is easily the most interesting stand up comedian that I know of. While today's comics pepper us with the same bullshit, he was able to take that bullshit and throw true meaning into it. There's a part in the film where one of his friends says that at heart he was an activist, and if you listen to what he's saying, there's no denying that fact. He had beliefs and he voiced them through his humor. The film chronicles Bill's life from an early age when he started really getting into comedy. We see his progression from a clean-cut, no profanity, no drugs and no drinking teenage comedian to his time with drugs and alcohol to his sobriety to his post cancer stage. Through this progression his comedy always changed. At first he was just talking about his parents and school. Then when he got into drugs and alcohol he was more of a shock comedian, and then when he got sober he became, as one interviewee said, "more than just an above average comedian." Bill Hicks is an easy source for a documentary and American nails his life with brilliant precision. I loved every second of this and highly recommend it to anyone. If you're a fan, watch it. If you've never heard of him; this is a great place to see what he's all about and it should make you into a fan. It's a great tribute, a great film, and just a pleasure to watch. 
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • May 23, 2012
    So, I'm sure some of you are wondering about this Bill Hicks person was who I keep referencing. Well, wait no more with this inspring and entertaining documentary about this very funny comedian.(For the record, I first found out about him in the pages of the comic book "Preacher" by Garth Ennis of all places, after Hicks' death in 1994.) "American: The Bill Hicks Story" takes a different approach than a normal biographical documentary by letting friends and family exclusively tell his story, aided by some very crude animation, starting with being raised as a strict Baptist.(Again, the stricter the upbringing, the wilder the life.) From there, we get to see the early foundations of his stand up style, showing early confidence even as a teenager.(So, there is stuff here even for obsessive fans, including a bit of footage of Hicks trying to get to the Branch Davidian compound during the siege.) Over time, that evolves into the thought provoking and provocative material that he would become best known for. Outside of his battles with drugs and alcohol, there is not that much on his personal life after he leaves home. But relax, while some material is given to his rehab, this is not a traditional weepy narrative of recovery, since he still tripped the light fantastic on psychedelic mushrooms. And I know the documentary sees it as a pity that Hicks went on the road so often to remote places with small audiences, but I look at it as a plus that he was willing to travel into hostile territory in order to confront and inform those who did not agree with him. Ironically, he was huge in Great Britain which is where this documentary is from which I also find very sad.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 05, 2011
    Excellent documentary. I would consider Bill Hicks probably right at the top of my list of favorite comedians of all time, along with George Carlin, I'd say that Bill slightly edges out Carlin. Anyway, this was a really great documentary, told from the people who knew him best. That really helps in knowing a side that all of us didn't even know. But as the movie was told by his family and friends, there's no real way for you to know how ahead of his time he really was and how influential he is to comedy. They do show one of those 'where are they now' at the end and they do say that Bill is consistently voted as one of the best comedians of all time. And the thing is, in my opinion, Bill is still ahead of his time. While some comedians do an intellectual stand up and tackle issues that make you think, none of them do it with the passion that Bill did, and that's what sets him apart. For example, Dane Cook will never be as great as Bill, no matter how many times Dane sells MSG out. He just feels fake, and Bill was anything but. He was unpredictable, he was intelligent, he was loud, he was crass, he was goofy...but through it all, he still was completely unique and no matter how much you try, you'll never be able to recreate a Bill Hicks stand up as he was just a one of a kind individual, a wonderful stand up comedian, and he's sorely missed. Anyway this documentary is highly recommended, even if you're not a fan. It's a fascinating look at a very complex man.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Jul 05, 2011
    Bill Hicks is the most important comic of the 20th century, Here's proof.
    matt s Super Reviewer

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