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Howl (2010)

1:43 | Trailer
As Allen Ginsberg talks about his life and art, his most famous poem is illustrated in animation while the obscenity trial of the work is dramatized.


Rob Epstein (written for the screen by), Jeffrey Friedman (written for the screen by) | 1 more credit »
2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
James Franco ... Allen Ginsberg
Todd Rotondi Todd Rotondi ... Jack Kerouac
Jon Prescott ... Neal Cassady
Aaron Tveit ... Peter Orlovsky
David Strathairn ... Ralph McIntosh
Jon Hamm ... Jake Ehrlich
Andrew Rogers ... Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Bob Balaban ... Judge Clayton Horn
Mary-Louise Parker ... Gail Potter
Heather Klar Heather Klar ... Jack's Girlfriend
Kaydence Frank Kaydence Frank ... Allen's Girlfriend (as Kadance Frank)
Treat Williams ... Mark Schorer
Joe Toronto ... Sailor
Johary Ramos ... Hustler
Nancy Spence Nancy Spence ... Neal's Girlfriend


It's San Francisco in 1957, and an American masterpiece is put on trial. Howl, the film, recounts this dark moment using three interwoven threads: the tumultuous life events that led a young Allen Ginsberg to find his true voice as an artist, society's reaction (the obscenity trial), and animation that echoes the poem's surreal style. All three coalesce in hybrid that dramatizes the birth of a counterculture. Written by Sundance Film Festival

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Obscenity Trial That Started a Revolution. The Poem That Rocked a Generation.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content including language and images, and for some drug material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Shot in 14 days around New York City in March/April 2009. See more »


About 29 minutes in, Franco (as Ginsberg) lights up a cigarette. You can clearly see a layer of digital shading (meant to darken Franco's beard) that is overlaid onto his face, esp. his left jaw. This shading also goes over Franco's hand in this scene. See more »


[first lines]
Allen Ginsberg: "Howl" for Carl Salomon. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...
[continues reading but unheard, credits roll]
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Tonight at the Sands
Written by Jack Arel and Jean-Claude Petit (as Jean-Caude Petit)
Courtesy of FirstCom Music
See more »

User Reviews

Good acting by James Franco & effective portrayal of what happens when writing is attempted to be banned
29 September 2010 | by mrncatSee all my reviews

In admiration of James Franco and his portraying a literary person is why I wanted to see this film. Since I'd never read the poem "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg (& I knew of Ginsberg in his later years as he was fairly renown as almost an elder poet statesman), I actually dug up a copy of "Howl" and read it before I viewed the movie. It turns out that it wasn't necessary to have read "Howl" -- the film sufficiently presents the poem and its complete text so that the viewer gets a good understanding just from the movie itself (at least I thought so...). This occurs in not only Franco's public reading of "Howl," it is brought out in the animation aspect of the film -- for me the animation was unexpected yet not intrusive. What is the film's major strength is James Franco's portrayal of Ginsberg. Franco's actual physical resemblance to the younger Ginsberg adds to his portrayal and his public reading of "Howl" is also quite good.

What is additionally satisfying in my mind is the evoking of a time and place (mid 1950s America) when a group of writers and quasi-vagabonds lived their lives on their own terms (& not in accordance to what was then considered the status quo) and wrote about it. This is brought out in depictions of Ginsberg's relationships and also in the court room obscenity battle about "Howl."

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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

27 August 2010 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Howl See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$51,185, 26 September 2010

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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