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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 61 wins & 140 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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John Briggs
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David Goodstein (as Zvi Howard Rosenman)
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Storyline

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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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His life changed history. His courage changed lives. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Untitled Harvey Milk Project  »

Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£336,027 (UK) (25 January 2009)

Gross:

$31,841,299 (USA) (16 April 2009)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Number 9 on Owen Gleiberman's Entertainment Weekly Magazine list of the 10 best movies of 2008. See more »

Goofs

During one of the first scenes in the camera shop, a Kodak cardboard on the shelf has a newer Kodak logo. See more »

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Referenced in Privileged: All About a Brand New You! (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Happy Birthday to You
Written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"I am not a candidate, I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate."
15 December 2008 | by (prejudicemadeplausible.wordpress.com) – See all my reviews

"Milk" sees Gus Van Sant return to the mainstream after nearly a decade of divisive 'arthouse' films, a spell he might have felt was necessary after directing "Psycho" and "Finding Forrester" back to back. The stunning, beautiful "Gerry" is still his greatest film in my estimation, but Van Sant's return to near-unanimous mainstream acclaim and some level of box-office success in "Milk" actually isn't too far off as far as Van Sant's filmography goes. Some may express disappointment that "Milk" is a 'conventional' biopic, but it really isn't conventional at all.

True, this could have been the sort of melancholy meditation Van Sant has been going for in recent years, but the best argument against that is that Harvey Milk is not that figure. He's not going to sit quietly and contemplate life. Perhaps he might have before we meet him on the eve of his fortieth birthday, but from that point onwards Harvey Milk was a man of action, of words, a man with the powerful ability to rally people for a cause, and not only gay people. He had a rare sort of energy, and an energetic film was needed to tell his story. Most impressive perhaps about Van Sant's direction and Dustin Lance Black's screenplay is that there are just as many of those melancholic, meditative moments as needed, just enough to make this a compelling character study and not a truly conventional biopic with a hero rather than a main character. The photography here is also simply gorgeous, and the camera work is outstanding, particularly the hand-held work during the rally scenes. It really succeeds in transporting you to 1970's San Francisco.

Sean Penn has frequently annoyed me. I respect his abilities, but reserve the right to express my subjective annoyance at what I perceive as sometimes hilarious over-acting. When I found out that he was going to play Harvey Milk I was nervous, since I have admired Harvey Milk ever since I was first exposed to him through the Rob Epstein documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk", which is still the best movie made about Harvey Milk, with "Milk" running a close second, and I doubt Bryan Singer's "Mayor of Castro Street" will be a serious contender. I had no reason to be nervous. Penn's performance is one of the most vibrant, fascinating, brilliant performances in years, and one of the most convincing and human. It's not a Harvey Milk impression, it's more than just that, but he truly does capture the 'essence' of Milk, if you will.

It is pointless to make a political statement in the body of this review, so take this as one only if you have to: it is disgusting that in 2008 gay rights still a matter of political debate. This film is a powerful, beautiful tribute to the rights movement. It's not a Democrats vs. Republicans film. In fact, it makes it clear that Harvey Milk was once a Republican, and sneaks in footage of Reagan in strong opposition of Proposition 6. Those short scenes should provoke some thought and discussion. They certainly did for me and the people I saw the film with. Ultimately however the film is not about an 'issue'. Harvey Milk says to Dan White that it's not about jobs or rights, that it's their lives that they were and still are fighting for. Ultimately this film is about people, not about issues, not about policy. It's about people who were told they were sick, who were told they were wrong, who were told they would corrupt society, who were accused of being pedophiles and attempting to 'recruit' children to homosexuality. The film is about Harvey Milk, a mere human being who did more for freedom and tolerance than he probably ever understood.

"I am not a candidate, I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate."

Unfortunately, the fight against the rampant discrimination against and hatred of homosexuals is still not over. Milk's movement lives on, and grows stronger every day. He would be proud of that, and devastated that our society has not truly progressed, but only learned to mask its intolerance and hatred.


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