The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Critics Consensus

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson uses its belated investigation into an activist's murder as the framework for a sobering look at the ongoing battle for equal rights.



Total Count: 28


Audience Score

User Ratings: 181
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Movie Info

Who killed Marsha P. Johnson? When the beloved, self-described "street queen" of NY's gay ghetto was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, the NYPD chalked it up as a suicide and refused to investigate. However, as shown in Academy Award (R) nominated director and journalist David France's (How to Survive A Plague) new film, it's a decision many questioned. Having played a pivotal role in the previous year's Stonewall Riots, in 1970, Johnson and fellow trans icon Sylvia Rivera formed the world's first trans-rights organization, STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries). And despite their many challenges over the years-homelessness, illness, alcoholism-Marsha and Sylvia ignited a powerful and lasting civil rights movement for gender nonconforming people. Now, a quarter century later, at a time of unprecedented visibility and escalating violence in the transgender community, Marsha's old friend and fellow activist Victoria Cruz has taken it upon herself to reexamine what happened to Marsha. Dipping deep into jaw-dropping archival footage of another era of New York City life, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson follows as this champion pursues leads, mobilizes officials, and works to tell the story of Marsha's life and get to the bottom of Marsha's death.


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Critic Reviews for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (1)

  • Death is what leads the title and drives the movie. But it's her life - vibrant, pioneering, and much too short - that gives Marsha its flamboyant, beautiful heart.

    Oct 6, 2017 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • In the end, "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson" never really offers the closure that it is looking for so determinedly - but then, closure is kind of a myth, anyway.

    Oct 6, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The movie reminds the viewer how far we've come, but also how far we have yet to go.

    Oct 6, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Works powerfully as a rallying cry for tolerance, love and understanding.

    Oct 5, 2017 | Full Review…

    Claudia Puig

    Top Critic
  • Along the way, a sobering history of the gay rights movement is rendered through the lens of long-suffering transgender activists.

    Oct 5, 2017 | Full Review…
  • If Marsha P. fades from the film (there is not enough great footage of her, I guess, although enough to suggest she could be irresistible), the sense of vulnerability she projects permeates the rest of the movie.

    Oct 5, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

  • Dec 05, 2017
    Interweaving a few different (but related) threads in a very cohesive and well-edited way, David France exposes the important legacy of the true frontliners of the LGBT movement, who were pushed aside but without whom there would have been no gay liberation movement.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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