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Milk (I) (2008)

R  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  30 January 2009 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 127,978 users   Metascore: 84/100
Reviews: 277 user | 321 critic | 39 from

The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official.


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Won 2 Oscars. Another 53 wins & 120 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Briggs
David Goodstein (as Zvi Howard Rosenman)


Using flashbacks from a statement recorded late in life and archival footage for atmosphere, this film traces Harvey Milk's career from his 40th birthday to his death. He leaves the closet and New York, opens a camera shop that becomes the salon for San Francisco's growing gay community, and organizes gays' purchasing power to build political alliances. He runs for office with lover Scott Smith as his campaign manager. Victory finally comes on the same day Dan White wins in the city's conservative district. The rest of the film sketches Milk's relationship with White and the 1978 fight against a statewide initiative to bar gays and their supporters from public school jobs. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Never blend in See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »



Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Untitled Harvey Milk Project  »

Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$1,453,844 (USA) (28 November 2008)


$31,838,002 (USA) (10 April 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Actor Denis O'Hare who plays anti-gay Senator John Briggs in the film is in reality openly gay. See more »


According to title cards at the end of the film, Dan White's lawyers argued that consumption of junk food caused a chemical imbalance in his brain. White's lawyers actually claimed that massive consumption of junk food was a symptom of his depression, not a cause. Psychologists employed by White's defense argued that he was clinically depressed, as evidenced by changes in behavior, including consumption of large quantities of junk food. One psychologist claimed that junk food may have contributed to White's mood swings. See more »


Harvey Milk: Hey, I like the way your pants fit... Where are you from, kid?
Cleve Jones: [laughs] Sorry old man, not interested.
Harvey Milk: I'm Harvey Milk. I'm running for Supervisor. What's your name?
Cleve Jones: Cleve... Jones.
Harvey Milk: Well Mr. Jones, we should walk up to my camera shop and register you.
Cleve Jones: Fuck that. Elections of any kind are a fucking bourgeois affectation.
Harvey Milk: Is that right? So do you trick up on Polk Street?
Cleve Jones: If I need the cash... But I'm selective about my clients.
Harvey Milk: Tell me one thing before you get back to work then. What was it like ...
See more »


Referenced in G.B.F. (2013) See more »


The Washington Post March
Written by John Philip Sousa
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Everything comes together in this one
18 November 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Let's get one thing out of the way. Is it entertaining? And how! Sean Penn's best performance to date – Oscar quality; Emile Hirsch riotously perfect (best "supporting?"); James Franco heartbreaking; Diego Luna, devastating; Josh Brolin, flawless. Not one false note in any of the actors – a very complicated story unfolds with absolute clarity. I will be seeing this one again just for the screenplay. I was very gratified that no attempt is made to be "delicate" about Harvey Milk's personality, either his sex life or his out-sized ego, which perhaps ironically for some, makes him all the more heroic. The finest "political" film I think I've ever seen. It does more than dramatize a strong true story, it captures convincingly the truth about a whole political movement. (One that's as freshly active as today's headlines: Prop 6 or Prop 8 — does it ever end?) There is an ease and familiarity to the "scene" — to the historical period and place — with very few, small anachronisms, as far as I could tell. This is also the most assured work of Gus Van Sant, a genuine film artist, who here delivers a complete drama with real visual style and brazen wit. The blending of documentary footage is the most seamless I can remember seeing anywhere. The crowd scenes are remarkable, and all of the location shooting miraculously right. For a couple of fast, fast hours, I felt as though I had spent a couple of days — hilarious, intense, inspiring days — immersed in 1970s San Francisco. This movie does what all movies should do. See it.

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