American: The Bill Hicks Story


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.



Reviews Counted: 58

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Average Rating: 4/5

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Movie Info

15 years after his death, Bill Hicks is now more popular than ever, and is widely seen as one of the best comedian of the modern era. However, in America, where he challenged institutions and accepted ways of thinking, he suffered censorship and was never truly recognized by a wide audience. In the country which enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution his story is truly about what it means to be an American. -- (c) Variance

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Critic Reviews for American: The Bill Hicks Story

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (14)

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

    Jul 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.

    Apr 15, 2011

    Joe Leydon

    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.

    Apr 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.

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

    Apr 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.

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

Audience Reviews for American: The Bill Hicks Story

"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 White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

The life story of the highly censored and controversial Comedian Bill Hicks, which is deeply detailed with contributions from friends, family and fellow comedians. Bill Hicks seemed to be a love it or hate it type character, whose "truths" and "thoughts" were either not what everybody would think, or were what everybody would think and not say. His humour was observational, deep, but highly amusing and often near to the knuckle, he questioned authority and practiced freedom of speech. . He threw Conspiracy theory's around and shared his stories of experimentation, all of this is captured, by those who knew him the most.

Lady D'arbanville
Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer


Friends, family and peers on the stand-up comedy circuit share their memories of the late Bill Hicks. Well, there's not a lot to say about this. If you like Bill Hicks, you'll enjoy it a lot; if you don't like Bill Hicks, it probably won't convert you; and if you've never heard of Bill Hicks, this would make a damn near perfect introduction. Don't be put off thinking this is gonna be just another boring talking heads documentary; featuring some of the most ingenious photographic manipulation I have ever seen, it's considerably more cinematic than you might expect.

Stephen M
Stephen M

Super Reviewer


Already an admirer of the brash and certainly fearless comedian, this documentary opens up new portals of thought towards freedom of speech, what it means to be an American, and showcases the comedy of an American legend and culture icon. In the spirit of comedians George Carlin, Robin Williams, and Chris Rock, Hicks interwove the insensitive government antics of an ignorant and repulsed public with a set of comedy chops that allured the youth of the nation and made them crack a knowing grin. His sets were gritty, dirty, and hard to watch in that they were lewd and honest. Though his stage persona was an extension of himself, he delved into all the things in his life that brought about a common response in every person who attended his shows. We watch his journey from a talented newcomer on the Texas stand up scene to an obscure celebrity, not widely known but certainly followed, especially in England. His voice was that of a knowledgeable poet, and perhaps a prophet, his views not always politically correct, but at least they were well thought out and backed by more than an uniformed opinion. Certainly a fully fledged character in his own right, the documentary makes use of Hick's personal photographer, interviews with his family and friends (all too willing for the great), and footage of his sets, some well done as they are his HBO specials, and others are mere scratchy images of his times in small clubs around the country. It's a fresh take on a now old idea, but with a vibrancy that makes you sit on the edge of your seat and occasionally yell at the screen.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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