Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Sep 27, 2012
    100
    We're now far enough from that era that seeing it all again feels like a slap to the face in the same way that watching certain moments in the civil rights epic "Eyes on the Prize" chills your bones. This doesn't have that series' stately magnitude. It's smaller and crasser, but it's comparatively galvanic.
  2. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Sep 19, 2012
    88
    The most heartbreaking scene shows survivors of the dead reaching through fence railings to scatter their ashes on the White House lawn, where presumably they still rest.
  3. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Sep 21, 2012
    88
    From a terrible epidemic comes a beautiful documentary.
  4. Reviewed by: David Parkinson
    Nov 4, 2013
    80
    A moving treatment of a deeply personal subject (France's own partner died of an AIDS-related illness in 1992), and an enthralling depiction of a seriously fired-up popular movement.
  5. Reviewed by: Sheri Linden
    Sep 20, 2012
    90
    The latest in a recent spate of AIDS-themed documentaries, How to Survive a Plague is an exceptional portrait of a community in crisis and the focused fury of its response.
  6. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Sep 20, 2012
    80
    David France's survey of AIDS advocacy should be invaluable to every frustrated movement, as both a road map and a reminder of how vital personal activism remains.
  7. Reviewed by: Sara Stewart
    Sep 21, 2012
    88
    How to Survive a Plague, while a shaggier-structured documentary than many, is a heart-wrenching portrait of one of the saddest, most heroic chapters in American history.
  8. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Sep 20, 2012
    95
    ACT UP soldiers on today, as it must, given the lack of official attention to the resurgence of HIV among young American men in metropolitan areas.
  9. Reviewed by: Tirdad Derakhshani
    Oct 11, 2012
    88
    It can feel inchoate, dropping the viewer in the middle of events without much context, and it exacts an emotional toll. But its raw quality also makes it compelling viewing.
  10. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    Sep 20, 2012
    100
    When it's over, this documentary lingers as a testament to extraordinary human bravery. It stands as one of the most heartbreaking and suspenseful sagas of the year.
  11. Reviewed by: R. Kurt Osenlund
    Sep 16, 2012
    88
    Presents a cast of characters who must continue fighting, for what's at stake is the very real, very imminent threat of their own deaths.
  12. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Sep 19, 2012
    83
    Drawing on a wealth of footage from inside ACT UP meetings and protests, David France's powerful documentary How To Survive A Plague pays tribute to their courage and relentlessness, but it's even better as a record of the tactics of effective activism.
  13. 75
    Society would do well to remember that, in large part, the most effective redress to the tragedy of AIDS came directly from the people with AIDS. Lest we forget, director David France is intent on reminding us.
  14. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Nov 7, 2013
    80
    As activist Larry Kramer remarked, the movement had "its good cops and its bad cops", and there is a remarkable, angry, passionate funeral speech from campaigner Bob Rafsky that helped mobilise Act Up and awaken America's conscience.
  15. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Sep 20, 2012
    80
    In the words of Mr. Kramer: "The government didn't get us the drugs. No one else got us the drugs. We, Act Up, got those drugs out there. That is the proudest achievement that the gay population of this world can ever claim."
  16. Reviewed by: Katie Walsh
    Sep 20, 2012
    100
    One of the best documentaries, and best films, of the year, it is required viewing for anyone with a desire for making their own world a better place, inspiring you to act up and fight back.
  17. Reviewed by: Cath Clarke
    Nov 5, 2013
    80
    This painful, beautiful doc chronicles the fightback.
  18. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Sep 18, 2012
    100
    The true value of the film is universal: These kids study the knotty viral science, pressure doctors into taking daring, inventive steps and make their cause a global emblem.
  19. Reviewed by: Jamie Russell
    Nov 3, 2013
    80
    This blistering, Oscar-nominated documentary tells how its members refused to let patients become pariahs.
  20. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    Sep 16, 2012
    90
    A concise overview's clarity and an epic narrative shape, with a happy ending to boot.
  21. Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
    Sep 18, 2012
    90
    Millions of lives have been saved - and extended - as the result of a tireless cadre of advocates who, as Eigo states, "put their bodies on the line."
  22. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Sep 20, 2012
    90
    What's so remarkable about their decadeslong campaign, though, is how desperation led to inspiration - to the inspired notion that they, as nonscientists, could still take their fate in their own hands.
  23. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Oct 11, 2012
    50
    Scrappy and unsubtle where "We Were Here" is elegant and nuanced, How to Survive a Plague isn't nearly as formally beautiful as its predecessor.
User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 25 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 5
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 5
  3. Negative: 1 out of 5
  1. Sep 21, 2012
    10
    Truly inspiring story of the early struggles and eventual success of the AIDS treatment movement. Documenting the early NYC days of the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s, this film shows never before seen found footage of AIDS patients and activists struggling to convince others the importance of finding a cure. Admittedly, I expected a depressing and slow documentary. What I found was truly moving and remarkably fascinating. Full Review »
  2. Dec 28, 2012
    10
    The best documentary of the year. The archival footage is amazing! The deaths cuased by the lack of action by President George H. Bush is heart breaking. Kudos to the documentarians for keeping our history alive. I thought the documentary would be depressing instead it was a joyous account of the heros and heroines who took action and helped find a cure for AIDS!!! Full Review »
  3. Jan 12, 2013
    1
    In my estimation you must show two sides of a subject to consider yourself a documentary. We see maybe two or three shots of various politicians saying slightly inflammatory things and this is the only opposing perspective we receive. Then in the the final half hour of the film we see our heroes admitting that most everything they did during the first hour and a half was misguided, but they redeem themselves with their actions at the end. There is no evidence in this film that the group Act Up had anything to do with the progress that has been made in Aids research. Their is also no evidence in this film that the politicians that they demonize stalled Aids research in any way. I'm sure that this film is getting the positive publicity that it is because it revolves around the scariest most deadly disease of the last 30-40 years. However if you are going to pass your film off as a documentary as pure fact and not an editorial then you need to give me some facts to hold on to. This is no documentary. Full Review »