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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

Taglines:

Never blend in 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

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sean Penn's cosmetic transformation in the film included a prosthetic nose and teeth, contact lenses and a redesigned hairline. His makeup was done by Academy Award winner Stephan Dupuis. See more »

Goofs

When Milk is walking the streets gathering support to run for supervisor, one shot shows modern cars (including a black SUV) on the right side of the screen. See more »

Quotes

Harvey Milk: Okay. First order of business to come out of this office is the city-wide gay rights ordinance, just like the one that Anita shot down in Dade County. What do you think, Lotus Blossom?
Michael Wong: I think it's good. It's not great.
Harvey Milk: Okay, so make it brilliant. We want Anita's attention here, in San Francisco. I wanted to bring her fight to us. We need a unanimous vote - we need headlines.
Jim Rivaldo: Dan White is not going to vote for this.
Harvey Milk: Dan White'll be fine, Dan White is just uneducated. We'll teach him.
Dan White: [...]
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Connections

Referenced in Nostalgia Critic: Why Do Good Directors Go Bad? (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Mia gelosa!
from "Tosca" by Giacomo Puccini
Performed by Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano and the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala (as Orchestra Del Teatro Alla Scala)
Conducted by Victor de Sabata
Courtesy of EMI Classics
Under license from EMI Film & Television Music
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"I'm 40 and I haven't done anything"
3 November 2008 | by (Silver Lake, CA) – See all my reviews

Gus Van Sant's talent and humility allows Harvey Milk to be a the center of this remarkable story without putting himself in front of the camera. Sean Penn shines with a new and extraordinary light as Harvey Milk. His humanity is overwhelming at times. That permanent smile defining his face talks volumes about his faith in people, no matter what. His awareness is filled with truth and innocence, he worries he's about to be 40 and hasn't accomplished anything. Little did he know.The film is constructed brilliantly in a series of vignettes that builds up into a whole fluid narrative. Josh Brolin, as the disturbed Dan White is another standout in a complex and remarkable performance. No cheap shots here. Diego Luna, Joseph Cross and Emile Hirsch are also terrific as the boys around Harvey but it is James Franco who truly gets under your skin. His romantic turn is one of the most compelling gay love stories I've ever seen (and I've seen Brokeback Mountain). Highly recommended!


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