How to Survive a Plague


How to Survive a Plague (2012)


Critic Consensus: Angry, powerful, and stirring, How to Survive a Plague is a brilliantly constructed documentary about the activists who pushed for action to combat the AIDS epidemic.


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How to Survive a Plague is the story of two coalitions-ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)-whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making. -- (C) Official Site

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Critic Reviews for How to Survive a Plague

All Critics (73) | Top Critics (31)

This documentary by David France persuasively argues that one of the greatest grassroots activist campaigns of modern times was the Act Up movement ...

Nov 7, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

It can't be long before we see the Hollywood version.

Nov 5, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

David France has made an absorbing film to document that moment of immense implosion, called How to Survive a Plague.

Jun 17, 2013 | Full Review…

As this stirring, scrupulous doc reveals, the members of ACT UP fused the fervor of revolutionaries, the tenacity of trial lawyers, and the rage of the dispossessed to change the very shape of the epidemic.

Jan 7, 2013 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

From a terrible epidemic comes a beautiful documentary.

Jan 7, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

A raw history, often cluttered and sometimes repetitive but, when strategies fail along with immune systems, deeply affecting.

Nov 2, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for How to Survive a Plague

An extremely enlightening overview of that which was the most devastating plague that hit the world in the past century, and an essential historical document that shows how activism played the most important role during the acme of the epidemic.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

An excellent documentary that effectively conveyed the desperation, fear and power of the gay community during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Really well done.

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer


A topic that should have been more interesting to me... but it was quite hard for my interest to survive this dull documentary - and I usually like documentaries.

Thomas Johnston
Thomas Johnston

Super Reviewer


"How to Survive a Plague" is a sad, yet uplifting look at the coalitions ACT UP and TAG in the battle against AIDS. This documentary uses archival footage from the 80s and 90s to show the devastating effects of AIDS, and the constant struggle to get better medication to victims. Some of the footage is heartbreaking, some will enrage you, and some will show you that with enough support and enough people pushing for a cause, that anything can happen. AIDS is still prevalent in the world today, but it isn't nearly as destructive as it was, and it's because of the people showcased in this movie. It deserved it's nominated for "Best Documentary" at the Oscars, just as much so as the other 4 nominees. The movie drags a little in the middle, but I think it's because it doesn't have much of a narrative, and relies mostly on old footage to tell the story. Fascinating movie, that shines a light on taboo subject in our world. Definitely worth a watch.

Everett Johnson
Everett Johnson

Super Reviewer

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