User Score
7.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 292 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 37 out of 292
Watch On

Review this movie

  1. Your Score
    0 out of 10
    Rate this:
    • 10
    • 9
    • 8
    • 7
    • 6
    • 5
    • 4
    • 3
    • 2
    • 1
    • 0
    • 0
  1. Submit
  2. Check Spelling
  1. Steve
    Dec 8, 2008
    8
    The performance that Sean Penn gives is very good. You could tell when watching the movie that Sean Penn was truly dedicated to playing the role of Harvey Milk. He totally immersed himself into the lead character acting with strong conviction, absolute confidence and complete believability.
  2. GinaS.
    Dec 2, 2008
    10
    An absolutely outstanding movie! Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin all deserve Oscars for their work here. I saw the movie at the Castro Theater on opening weekend, just across the street from where Harvey's camera shop used to be. Many members of the audience personally knew the characters that the film depicts, and without exception, their sentiment was that it An absolutely outstanding movie! Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin all deserve Oscars for their work here. I saw the movie at the Castro Theater on opening weekend, just across the street from where Harvey's camera shop used to be. Many members of the audience personally knew the characters that the film depicts, and without exception, their sentiment was that it was very well done indeed. By the movie's tragic conclusion, most members of the audience were in tears, many sobbing out loud, uncontrollably. These were people who live with and suffer from the bigotry and discrimination that is prevalent towards the lgbt community even today, witness the passage of Prop. 8 in California. Expand
  3. ChristopherP.
    Dec 2, 2008
    9
    A beautifully made and heartbreaking true story. Sean Penn gives the performance of his career as Harvey Milk. Whatever your political or social issue believes, this is an important film to see. It's a movie that ultimately celebrates life. Truly this is the one to beat, come Oscar time.
  4. Adam
    Dec 6, 2008
    10
    Milk is one of those rare movies that tries to be many things, and succeeds at all of them. This is a film that can provoke change, open eyes, and change lives. I know it changed mine.
  5. DerekW.
    Feb 28, 2009
    9
    Mixed with actual footage from the time, this movie recounts the incredible achievement and sudden murder of a charismatic and really determined homosexual man, thrust into activism by his personal experience of American homophobia, fear-fuelled religious bigotry and ignorance. The story should give everyone with a keen sense of injustice and the power to communicate, the hope to Mixed with actual footage from the time, this movie recounts the incredible achievement and sudden murder of a charismatic and really determined homosexual man, thrust into activism by his personal experience of American homophobia, fear-fuelled religious bigotry and ignorance. The story should give everyone with a keen sense of injustice and the power to communicate, the hope to persevere. Harvey Milk's message is most cogently communicated in landmark live debates and public speeches that invoke the Constitution of the United States, and the Statue of Liberty dedication, two cornerstones of democracy that underpin the struggle for freedom of other oppressed demographics in the United States. I was struck by the performance of Sean Penn and his unbelievably hot on-screen boyfriend James Franco. Penn and script writer Dustin Black won Oscars for this movie, and I believe that will contribute significantly to this movie's longevity. It is mainly of interest to those who, like myself, have lived through the dark ages when homosexuality resulted in discrimination, disenfranchisement, imprisonment, violence, ostracism from family and condemnation by The Church. Given that homosexuals are a minority, it will never be a blockbuster, but to us and our families and to historians of curiosity, it is a milestone accomplishment. Speaking for myself, I felt compelled to support this movie even though it is a very painful experience to relive those horrible days, and surprised myself by my immersion in the story, even laughing out loud at some of its lighter moments. Expand
  6. JayH.
    Mar 1, 2009
    9
    Sean Penn indeed gives an amazing performance. He is incredible. The story is a good one, very professionally made and the direction is very focused. Great supporting cast, outstanding writing. Very detailed period flavor. Excellent in all respects.
  7. TomC.
    Dec 1, 2008
    10
    Many people responded to Brokeback Mountain as a somehow mournful but uplifting tragic love story. They were wrong - Brokeback Mountain is a movie that should make you enraged and angry as you watch good people crushed by prejudice and one man's crushing self-doubt. Milk is by far the better picture, and the more important statement because it's a call to action. So he dies - Many people responded to Brokeback Mountain as a somehow mournful but uplifting tragic love story. They were wrong - Brokeback Mountain is a movie that should make you enraged and angry as you watch good people crushed by prejudice and one man's crushing self-doubt. Milk is by far the better picture, and the more important statement because it's a call to action. So he dies - but he's never a victim. He even documents his own response to a hypothetical assassination. His name was Harvey Milk and he was here to recruit you, and having seen this film I'm ready to serve. Expand
  8. AlexO.
    Dec 15, 2008
    10
    Do NOT miss this movie! Sean Penn is a phenomenon.
  9. JackMiller
    Dec 5, 2008
    9
    Having first visited San Francisco in 1976, and every year thereafter until I lived on Russian Hill the summer of 1980, I recall the transformation of Castro into a gay Mecca. I very well may have walked into that camera shop Harvey Milk and friends ran in '76 and '77. My favorite hang out was Cafe Flore, then and now, as well as the out and proud glass corner of the Twin Towers Having first visited San Francisco in 1976, and every year thereafter until I lived on Russian Hill the summer of 1980, I recall the transformation of Castro into a gay Mecca. I very well may have walked into that camera shop Harvey Milk and friends ran in '76 and '77. My favorite hang out was Cafe Flore, then and now, as well as the out and proud glass corner of the Twin Towers bar. The world we see in the film "Milk" is as authentic as it gets. The uncanny parallel of Prop 6 banning gay teachers, which Milk helped defeat, and the present day Prop 8 which passed despite Obama's stunning win in California is disturbing. But maybe instead of electoral victory, we need to be reminded that in a constitutional democracy that protects the rights of minorities, the court must come to the rescue when there is the tyranny of the majority denying the equality of a minority. The Supreme Court of California established this protection in the case of interracial marriage and so now must do the same, to be just, for same sex marriage. I want to add that more kudos should go to Diego Luna for his heart-rending performance as the doomed lover Jack Lira. The other major performances likewise deserve the praise given them. Expand
  10. RodrigoM.
    Jan 30, 2009
    9
    Harvey M., it's a joke , right ?
  11. RickR
    Mar 11, 2009
    10
    Really, really good film. Sean Penn was amazing, as usual.
  12. DanS.
    Jan 11, 2009
    5
    I'll say it. I didn't like Milk, that being said it was not because I am homophobic but I felt that it was not a good biopic. Milk was a two dimensional film that relied solely on the fact that it came out amidst the controversy of proposition 8 in California. But as a film Milk cannot stand on it's own two feet. Sean Penn did a great job acting but Gus Van Sant, one of my I'll say it. I didn't like Milk, that being said it was not because I am homophobic but I felt that it was not a good biopic. Milk was a two dimensional film that relied solely on the fact that it came out amidst the controversy of proposition 8 in California. But as a film Milk cannot stand on it's own two feet. Sean Penn did a great job acting but Gus Van Sant, one of my favorite directors did not deliever. The movie did not explore Milk as a person and instead focused on the image that the public already knew about. I did not feel attatched to the characters and more over it just felt lazy. Expand
  13. ChristophT
    Dec 5, 2009
    3
    "Milk" is surprisingly boring, the plot lacks dynamic (apart from the end which comes first), the subject is covered superficially. A big disappointment after all, given the positive ratings. Don't think it does a favour to anybody.
  14. DaleM
    Feb 5, 2009
    4
    The subject was a noble one and the cinematic techniques were good, but I think the film lacked narrative coherence. In one scene, for instance, a guy is at Milk's door. A little bit later they are in a supposedly serious relationship. Why or how the relationship developed is apparently irrelevant. There are just too many events that do not connect in any causal or even thematic way The subject was a noble one and the cinematic techniques were good, but I think the film lacked narrative coherence. In one scene, for instance, a guy is at Milk's door. A little bit later they are in a supposedly serious relationship. Why or how the relationship developed is apparently irrelevant. There are just too many events that do not connect in any causal or even thematic way in this film. I feel that most viewers are so blinded by the movie's message that they excuse the really poor story-telling. I think, however, that in a few years, when the message is seen in a less spectacular light, the film will soon be either forgotten or someone will do a decent just of fashioning a story out of the material. Expand
  15. PaulioG
    Feb 5, 2009
    4
    At times entertaining, but a movie with sean Penn in (IMO) is worth a watch. I dont know if it is because I cannot directly relate to the subject mater, but after an hour or so I felt deeply bored.
  16. ShawnG.
    Mar 24, 2009
    2
    It's surprising to see that the lowest score given by the critics is a 60 at the time of this posting. We can deduce one of two reasons: First, they genuinely liked it or second, they didn't want to lose their jobs. Thirty years ago, Harvey M. believed in something that most Californians still can't embrace. I didn't like the film for its political message. At least I It's surprising to see that the lowest score given by the critics is a 60 at the time of this posting. We can deduce one of two reasons: First, they genuinely liked it or second, they didn't want to lose their jobs. Thirty years ago, Harvey M. believed in something that most Californians still can't embrace. I didn't like the film for its political message. At least I can stand up and admit it. Expand
  17. AndrasG.
    Apr 20, 2009
    0
    It's sad that movies like this get high scores. Because of movies like this we get all the other crap spinoffs. This is a boring movie. Don't waste money on it.
  18. HoraceWard
    Apr 23, 2009
    4
    Way overrated.
  19. JoeD
    Mar 13, 2009
    3
    Ignoring the agenda for a moment, this film is just a long - sometimes dull - documentary. I suspect the people who gave it high marks (and an Oscar for Penn) are those who love the agenda. I gave it a 3 because it had some compelling and interesting moments. Most of it, however, was just boring.
  20. TF.
    Mar 10, 2009
    0
    Far too much praise for a film that, despite Sean Penn's decent acting, falls way too short of the truth of what Milk was and accomplished.
  21. TonyB.
    Jul 10, 2009
    5
    "Milk" is too black and white, too one-sided and too we vs. they to be a successful account of a major episode in American history. Sean Penn is a fine actor who has given a number of superb performances, but his work here is not one of them. The supporting cast is satisfactory, except for James Franco who is superb. The film never fully shows us how Harvey Milk was able to become such an "Milk" is too black and white, too one-sided and too we vs. they to be a successful account of a major episode in American history. Sean Penn is a fine actor who has given a number of superb performances, but his work here is not one of them. The supporting cast is satisfactory, except for James Franco who is superb. The film never fully shows us how Harvey Milk was able to become such an important factor in San Francisco politics in such a relatively short time. Either an undeveloped script or faulty editing may be the culprit. Oddly enough, the Dan White character, easily the most interesting one of all, is given short shrift. His murdering of Milk and the Mayor is woefully understated and woefully anti-climactic. Expand
  22. JimB.
    Nov 30, 2008
    3
    If he weren't gay and a darling of the Hollywood elite nobody would give a damn.
  23. SeanP.
    Dec 5, 2008
    4
    Good acting, but predictable gay pride movie that we have too much of it "in our faces" of this genre today.
  24. GregP.
    Jan 14, 2009
    3
    None of the reviews above are stepping back and being objective. As a piece of cinema, this film is BORING. In reality, Harvey Milk was a twisted soul who drove four of his five lovers to suicide -- THAT might have been an interesting film, but here they sanitize away details like that, trying to make Milk into Gandhi, and succeeding in putting me to sleep.
  25. HarveyM.
    Jan 2, 2009
    2
    This movie wasn't even about milk!! I saw no cows or farms or even farmers!! i hated it.
  26. JordanS
    Feb 10, 2009
    3
    Incredibly over-rated.
  27. BecquerM
    Feb 15, 2009
    4
    It is saddening to see Gus Van Sant trade in is sublime storytelling for a mainstream biopic narrative; "Milk," thus, becomes one of the many feel-good, pseudo-artistic (even though Van Sant himself is an artist) movies that is sure to score an Oscar or two, but is far from stretching the aesthetic limits of cinema.
  28. commentscomments
    Feb 23, 2009
    2
    This movie gets an E for Effort, but nothing beats the original documentary from which all this stems: THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK. MILK thought so much of it that it completely stole its structure from it, even its stock footage. however much this movie represents a triumph to the makers for getting it made (it's been in the works since the documentary premiered twenty five years ago This movie gets an E for Effort, but nothing beats the original documentary from which all this stems: THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK. MILK thought so much of it that it completely stole its structure from it, even its stock footage. however much this movie represents a triumph to the makers for getting it made (it's been in the works since the documentary premiered twenty five years ago with Oliver Stone and Kevin Kline participating), a chimp could have done what these filmmakers did, using the documentary as a source, which it liberally did. Expand
  29. Paul
    Feb 6, 2009
    0
    Milk is an appropiate title: it milked me for my admission and left me wondering if I should get up and walk out. A complete butchery of the real events and man, which is a great shame, as the real story is very interesting.
  30. DWilly
    Dec 2, 2008
    5
    No, sorry, it's just a flat bio-pic, hitting all the numbers without shedding any light on character or the nature of the times. It's also strangely uninspiring. Maybe Van Sant feels the gay struggle so deeply he thought he could afford to tip the story to show Milk as a manipulative creep; and, while Penn is great and bold and all that, his performance is self-contained and No, sorry, it's just a flat bio-pic, hitting all the numbers without shedding any light on character or the nature of the times. It's also strangely uninspiring. Maybe Van Sant feels the gay struggle so deeply he thought he could afford to tip the story to show Milk as a manipulative creep; and, while Penn is great and bold and all that, his performance is self-contained and doesn't call out to any kind of universality so you just watch it. Brolin is not good, and I'm a bit sick of this emperor of Hollywood royalty parading around without clothes. Expand
  31. MarkC
    Mar 24, 2009
    7
    This is not a great film. This is not a film that will resonate with time. In fact, it is probably exactly what you think it will be, as most biopics are. But it is a good film, and a worthwhile one. It is as well-executed as can be expected. Van Sant is a great director though his "style" is less noticeable in this. Sean Penn certainly deserving of his Oscar, and the rest of the cast is This is not a great film. This is not a film that will resonate with time. In fact, it is probably exactly what you think it will be, as most biopics are. But it is a good film, and a worthwhile one. It is as well-executed as can be expected. Van Sant is a great director though his "style" is less noticeable in this. Sean Penn certainly deserving of his Oscar, and the rest of the cast is really great. But as much as I learned about, and gained admiration for Harvey Milk, I was oddly unmoved, sometimes even bored--as if I'd been kept at a distance. I have to blame the biopic form for this; it's entirely too predictable as a form. Expand
  32. RichardS
    Apr 6, 2009
    10
    A shame that there is no audio commentary on the DVD. Would have been nice to hear the thoughts of the people involved in the making of this wonderful slice of American LGBT history.
  33. ChrisK.
    Aug 3, 2009
    7
    Stinks if you already know the ending.
  34. PatrickW.
    Nov 26, 2008
    10
    This film is all-at-once heartwarming and heartbreaking, thought-provoking and disconcerting. Sean Penn gives a truly award-worthy performance; any overlook should be deemed a snub.
  35. JohnY.
    Nov 27, 2008
    10
    The best film I've seen so far this year. Penn is going to win an Oscar for this surprisingly joyous and captivating performance.
  36. RachelS.
    Nov 30, 2008
    10
    A heartbreaking and moving film, Sean Penn and the rest of the cast do a brilliant depiction of the pain and struggle and persistence on the journey for acceptance and basic civil rights. This film is one of Gus Van Sants finest moments
  37. JD.
    Nov 30, 2008
    9
    An excellent film, full of meaningful correlations to our current political situation. Sean Penn's performance surely deserves an Oscar, as I can't imagine another performance that could outshine his masterful work as a compassionate, driven, and courageous man who set the standard for gay rights in our country. Emile Hirsch was also phenomenal and worthy of Academy An excellent film, full of meaningful correlations to our current political situation. Sean Penn's performance surely deserves an Oscar, as I can't imagine another performance that could outshine his masterful work as a compassionate, driven, and courageous man who set the standard for gay rights in our country. Emile Hirsch was also phenomenal and worthy of Academy consideration. Also, it's about time the Academy recognized Gus Van Sant, who is sure to see 2008 as the year he is finally recognized for the maverick filmmaker he is. Expand
  38. MehradA.
    Dec 18, 2008
    9
    One of the best films of the year. Breathtakingly good.
  39. BillyS.
    Dec 24, 2008
    10
    The simple facts are: 1) Milk is a Masterpiece. 2) Gus Van Sant is the Best Independent film director working today. 3) Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and James Franco give the Best Tri-performances in a film since James Caan, Robert Duvall and Al Pacino all earned Oscar nominations for The Godfather in 1972. 4) Harris Savides, focusing on a whistle laying on the ground, has created the single The simple facts are: 1) Milk is a Masterpiece. 2) Gus Van Sant is the Best Independent film director working today. 3) Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and James Franco give the Best Tri-performances in a film since James Caan, Robert Duvall and Al Pacino all earned Oscar nominations for The Godfather in 1972. 4) Harris Savides, focusing on a whistle laying on the ground, has created the single greatest shot I've seen in a film this year. and 5) This film IS Sean Penn's. There are those who say that Mr. Penn has found the perfect role in this, his long, still young, carreer. But the fact is this - Sean Penn is the Perfect Actor and any role he takes on will simply become the Perfect Role. He is his generation's Clint Eastwood and Warren Beatty with Directing and Writing Oscars on the Horizon. And those are the facts! Expand
  40. JoyceT.
    Dec 20, 2008
    10
    My highest compliment--this is a movie I wish I'd made. It makes politics and history thrilling and stretches the viewers' empathy. Gus Van Sant has surpassed himself here.
  41. BC
    Dec 5, 2008
    10
    Best film of the year. There have been a number of very good films this year, but this one is great. A story of courage and humanity. And moving story of civil rights.
  42. ChetB.
    Dec 6, 2008
    6
    Liked it but I thought it was too safe, as if they didn't want to offend straights. What about the 1970s bath houses, what about the in-your-face sexuality? How could Harvey shrug off the suicide of his lover? Okay, a grand Hollywood epic making gays appealing to the heirs of Dan White. Necessary but not challenging in any way.
  43. TekB.
    Dec 7, 2008
    10
    Brilliant and incredibly moving film. Sean Penn is the best he's ever been in "Milk". Fantastic.
  44. JasonB.
    Dec 9, 2008
    10
    I saw this film a month ago, and I still haven't gotten over how fantastic it was. The weaving in of archival footage and the fantastic performances made the film.
  45. StephenH.
    Jan 12, 2009
    10
    This was an excellent movie, very tastefully done. Harvey Milk was definately one of the many pioneers of the Gay Rights Movement.
  46. Orietta
    Jan 2, 2009
    10
    Nothing less than wonderful!
  47. Rob
    Jan 27, 2009
    10
    Authentic, deeply moving, at times pensive...such is life.
  48. AshleyR.
    Jan 28, 2009
    10
    Amazing-Film.
  49. MichaelS.
    Jan 29, 2009
    10
    A brilliant, brilliant film with great performances. Made me feel lucky to live in the times that we do and glad for people like Harvey Milk
  50. LiamH
    Feb 15, 2009
    7
    I enjoyed 'Milk' a lot; the central performance from Penn was excellent, but seemed to exist within a vacuum - the rest of the cast were almost redundant at times. The script seemed like it had been interfered with or watered down in some way - a real mood was captured at times, but I was left wondering as to what was going on in all the other characters' heads. As far as I enjoyed 'Milk' a lot; the central performance from Penn was excellent, but seemed to exist within a vacuum - the rest of the cast were almost redundant at times. The script seemed like it had been interfered with or watered down in some way - a real mood was captured at times, but I was left wondering as to what was going on in all the other characters' heads. As far as Milk goes, this was semi-skimmed. Expand
  51. DavidK
    Feb 4, 2009
    10
    Great performances by all involved and impressive recreation of the period make this a great watching experience. The timing of its release also makes this an important film for its time.
  52. robert_i
    Feb 7, 2009
    7
    Biopics, despite great acting, tend to fall flat: we know how they are going to end. Milk has the requisite great acting by the amazing Penn, and also a fascinating glimpse of nearly-forgotten past, but we all know Milk will be shot.
  53. JeffB.
    Mar 16, 2009
    7
    Rich, really. Wow. This was a decent movie. Not bad by any means, but simply feels like it exists. No offense to the memory of Milk or Sean Penn's amazing performance, but I never felt like this was a significant film that will be remembered after it is made. I was entertained and moved, so it certainly did its job. I just never felt that urgency, just a connection to the world we Rich, really. Wow. This was a decent movie. Not bad by any means, but simply feels like it exists. No offense to the memory of Milk or Sean Penn's amazing performance, but I never felt like this was a significant film that will be remembered after it is made. I was entertained and moved, so it certainly did its job. I just never felt that urgency, just a connection to the world we live in today. Perfectly acceptable broadstroke filmmaking. Expand
  54. CynthiaG
    Jun 28, 2009
    2
    Mr. Milk might have led a watershed moment, but this film doesn't do him or it justice. It was just plain boring. I was not engaged by any of the characters at all -- there was almost no life to them. James Franco was the only actor who allowed me to engage with his emotional journey. The wrong actors were nominated and won.
  55. BobM.
    Nov 26, 2008
    10
    What incredible all-around acting! Kudos to Sean Penn, James Franco and the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black!
  56. billy.
    Nov 26, 2008
    10
    This is a superb movie for straight, gay, bi, everyone. It's not a "gay" story, although it renders in heartbreaking nuance the stripping away of rights of gay people and their struggle to attain equal civil rights, it's a story for everyone who wants to see an excellently well-acted, piercingly relevant, and at times moving story of a time and place and struggle that happened This is a superb movie for straight, gay, bi, everyone. It's not a "gay" story, although it renders in heartbreaking nuance the stripping away of rights of gay people and their struggle to attain equal civil rights, it's a story for everyone who wants to see an excellently well-acted, piercingly relevant, and at times moving story of a time and place and struggle that happened not so long ago at all, and still continues with our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers today as they struggle and fight on for equal rights. A very, very well done and poignant movie that everyone should see. Mr. Van Sant did a fine job with this one. Expand
  57. SteveS.
    Nov 28, 2008
    6
    Sorry, I know that I'm out on my own here, but I found the screenplay truly terrible. The acting was of course top-notch, and I'd give Sean Penn (perhaps the greatest actor of our generation) an Oscar nomination in a sec. However, the script was full of cliches and facile emotional manipulation. I mean, come on! That flashback at the end: "I'm not gonna live to 50." If he Sorry, I know that I'm out on my own here, but I found the screenplay truly terrible. The acting was of course top-notch, and I'd give Sean Penn (perhaps the greatest actor of our generation) an Oscar nomination in a sec. However, the script was full of cliches and facile emotional manipulation. I mean, come on! That flashback at the end: "I'm not gonna live to 50." If he really said that, fine, show it at the beginning. But the flashback? And that hackneyed scene: "Nobody cared enough to show up?" Oh, gee, turn around and there they all are. All in all, it was more of a history lesson than a drama. It didn't tell me much of anything that I hadn't learned . . . much more compellingly . . . from "The TImes of Harvey Milk." "Milk" was so top-heavy with historic exposition that there was hardly a minute for insight into the internal lives of the characters. E.g., I certainly didn't see any motivation at all for his ongoing relationship with Jack. And although, as a gay man, Harvey Milk is one of my heroes, I don't think that the kind of hagiography that ignores his well-known darker side does any justice to the man himself. (I know some of the critics thought it was there. Well, I didn't think so.) All in all, I'd say, rent "The Times of Harvey Milk." Expand
  58. MikeP.
    Nov 29, 2008
    10
    Incredibly powerful and timely...amazing performances all around. this is a movie that sticks with you.
  59. UncleSam
    Dec 11, 2008
    1
    Trying to sell a movie celebrating behavior and mores that the majority of Amercians find morally and socially repugnant is tough... unless you have the biased media behind you. Look at all those 100s: you'd think it was "Casablanca." I give it one point for a fine turn by Penn, but it's right up there with 'Triumph of the Will' as far as I'm concerned.
  60. JyotirmayaD.
    Dec 11, 2008
    9
    This is the kind of stuff that the academy loves to hand out "Best Male Performance in a movie"... Sean Penn becomes Harvey Milk and carries the tone all the way through to the end. Wonderful to watch.
  61. MichaelA.
    Dec 14, 2008
    9
    It's not a perfect film. Still, few movies have left me feeling like I'd been punched in the gut. Even fewer left me believing that one man could change the world for the better. "Milk" did both of those in an inspiring if somewhat safe biopic. Penn gives another great performance -- you forget you're watching him and not Milk himself. But it's the players on the It's not a perfect film. Still, few movies have left me feeling like I'd been punched in the gut. Even fewer left me believing that one man could change the world for the better. "Milk" did both of those in an inspiring if somewhat safe biopic. Penn gives another great performance -- you forget you're watching him and not Milk himself. But it's the players on the sidelines -- James Franco as Scott Smith, a heartbreaking Joseph Cross as Dick Pabich and most especially an effervescent Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones -- that make the movie work. "Milk" is well-worth your time and money. Take a friend and have a conversation afterward. Expand
  62. DackmontB
    Dec 15, 2008
    10
    One of the best films I've ever seen, deeply satisfying in every way that a film can be. Sean Penn reminds me a little of Dustin Hoffman, and that's a compliment. He really disappears inside the role. Gus van Sant's direction is masterful, painting an astounding picture of triumph and tragedy together. The ending is still being written... by all of us, and for all of us, One of the best films I've ever seen, deeply satisfying in every way that a film can be. Sean Penn reminds me a little of Dustin Hoffman, and that's a compliment. He really disappears inside the role. Gus van Sant's direction is masterful, painting an astounding picture of triumph and tragedy together. The ending is still being written... by all of us, and for all of us, all the "us's" who deserve full inclusion and respect in a civil society. Inspiring and galvanizing. Expand
  63. MarcosRibasdeFaria
    Dec 15, 2008
    10
    Another masterpiece by Sant
  64. LindaB.
    Dec 24, 2008
    10
    Fabulous film, saw it in the Castro Theater, THE place to see MILK..... it was an extremely moving experience.
  65. DouglasR.
    Dec 27, 2008
    7
    Extraordinary, (if hamstrung by the writer and director) performance by sean penn.... excellent support work all 'round as well.. but, as sympathetic as i am to the cause ("some of my best friends", etc., HUGELY aniti-prop 8), why was this movie populated, entirely, by such "muted" gays? where was the odd screaming queen? i mean, it WAS san fran in the seventies, no? all too stately Extraordinary, (if hamstrung by the writer and director) performance by sean penn.... excellent support work all 'round as well.. but, as sympathetic as i am to the cause ("some of my best friends", etc., HUGELY aniti-prop 8), why was this movie populated, entirely, by such "muted" gays? where was the odd screaming queen? i mean, it WAS san fran in the seventies, no? all too stately a film ultimately, but still certainly better than most of the drek available these days. Expand
  66. JosephK.
    Dec 27, 2008
    10
    This is a wonderful film. It has an important message, but it is not overly didactic. Sean Penn is amazing.
  67. DavidH
    Dec 27, 2008
    3
    This is basically a boring gay propaganda film. The only redeeming value is an excellent performance by Penn, also there was a bit of historical value.
  68. Enrique
    Dec 28, 2008
    9
    Truthful, sober, very well done biopic. Great reconstruction of he 70's. Excellent acting by the whole cast.
  69. JoeW.
    Dec 30, 2008
    10
    I liked the historical documentary-like pieces, lacing reality with Hollywood movie for a final movie. Sean Penn was excellent and the other actors and actress were fantastic. A PHENOMENOM worthy of an award.
  70. DavidV
    Jan 14, 2009
    9
    This is definitely one of the must see movies of 2008. It brings the story of a little known politician (in the global arena) and shows how his story is the American dream. The best part of this movie is not the superb acting, the intricate plot twist, the references to history and sociology, the struggles of an oppressed community, the reality of relationships (both romantic and This is definitely one of the must see movies of 2008. It brings the story of a little known politician (in the global arena) and shows how his story is the American dream. The best part of this movie is not the superb acting, the intricate plot twist, the references to history and sociology, the struggles of an oppressed community, the reality of relationships (both romantic and interpersonal). The best part of this movie is that it all happened in real life. Sometimes we forget that the best stories ever told were those that really happened. If this movie had not been based on reality, it would still be as fantastic. As a side comment I want to mention that it is sad how the comments section here has had multiple low reviews because there are gay scenes. Although I'm heterosexual, I can understand that many of these acts were not put in place just for randomness.Taking them away would damage the film quality. The entire struggle for Harvey Milk and the LGBT community is to show society that they are as normal as you and I: they love, they lust, they hurt. Censoring this film in this aspect would only serve to ironically go against everything Harvey Milk stood for. Expand
  71. LeeS.
    Jan 27, 2009
    10
    A magnificent mix of history and drama. A 30 year old story made to feel very contemporary. Definite must see
  72. FrankO.
    Jan 31, 2009
    9
    This is an outstanding movie directed by Gus Van Slant. Sean Penn deserves the Oscar for best actor of 2008. This movie is important because it provides a history of the gay right struggle in America. It captures the struggle in an accurate and newsworthy manner.
  73. BrianE
    Feb 19, 2009
    9
    I hate biopics. They are lifeless, extreme two hour views of lives that were far more real than a film couple ever make them out to be. That being said, if Sean Penn does not win the Best Actor Oscar for this film it will be a crime against humanity. I know, major contradiction going on there, but hear me out. This film (I will not say biopic) works on more levels than simply the life of I hate biopics. They are lifeless, extreme two hour views of lives that were far more real than a film couple ever make them out to be. That being said, if Sean Penn does not win the Best Actor Oscar for this film it will be a crime against humanity. I know, major contradiction going on there, but hear me out. This film (I will not say biopic) works on more levels than simply the life of Harvey Milk. In terms of acting, it was top notch, though I don't quite give Josh Brolin the credit others do. It also felt real. The setting gave truth to an era of strife and consternation in America. There was an emotional palpability that extended beyond simply the acting. It was a fantastic, heartfelt film. Expand
  74. GregoryA
    Feb 26, 2009
    0
    If this is a true story it's clear gay issues not ordanary people were at the top of milks political agenda. Only iin San Francisco!! .. Worst movie I ever have seen..Bring a pillow to the theater so you can get some sleep!.
  75. VictorM.
    Nov 26, 2008
    10
    Sean Penn nails one of his greatest roles ever. This movie is not only the story of a man who died 30 years ago, but also a look at the history of San Francisco and the gay rights movement. The way that Van Sant blends real footage with his own work puts you right in the City in the Seventies.
  76. RahulD
    Nov 27, 2008
    10
    I have to admit that I what somewhat of a homophobe. That being said, Milk has completely changed my views and has shown me what I feel everyone like me should know - all of us are human. If I had to describe it I'd say: Thought-provoking yet enjoyable.
  77. MichaelL.
    Nov 28, 2008
    10
    This film is as close to perfect as I've seen all year. I'm not a huge Gus Van Sant fan--but his vision, restraint, and honesty are much appreciated in handling the life of a very complex, heroic figure for the gay community. Sean Penn should be awarded the Oscar right now...why wait? His is a flawless performance, and he is supported by brilliant work from James Franco, Emile This film is as close to perfect as I've seen all year. I'm not a huge Gus Van Sant fan--but his vision, restraint, and honesty are much appreciated in handling the life of a very complex, heroic figure for the gay community. Sean Penn should be awarded the Oscar right now...why wait? His is a flawless performance, and he is supported by brilliant work from James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin and Diego Luna. I've seen nothing this year that comes close the impact of "Milk". Particularly salient with the recent passage of California's Proposition 8, this is a must-see for anyone who thinks gay rights are not civil rights. Expand
  78. NicolasK.
    Nov 28, 2008
    3
    It is astounding to read the reviews of this film; all the critics spend as much time discussing Prop 8 as they do Harvey Milk (a noble cause by all means but NOT a film review). The fact is the film is a mess; badly written, shoddily constructed and badly directed--characters shift positions with alarming frequency; if it weren't for Sean Penn's full passion devotion to the It is astounding to read the reviews of this film; all the critics spend as much time discussing Prop 8 as they do Harvey Milk (a noble cause by all means but NOT a film review). The fact is the film is a mess; badly written, shoddily constructed and badly directed--characters shift positions with alarming frequency; if it weren't for Sean Penn's full passion devotion to the role, the film would be unwatchable. Expand
  79. ArnoldP.
    Nov 28, 2008
    9
    A shattering transformational performance by Penn. Superb ensemble performances. Unfortunately the message will be missed by those who need to see it. It also takes freely from the award winning documentary which in it's own right was even better than this dramatic adaptation . A must see.
  80. JasonW.
    Dec 12, 2008
    10
    An amazing piece of film. The movie manager to cover a large span of time in a short period, glossing over uninteresting episodes and focusing in on the events that made Harvey Milk who he is. Everyone gives great performances, but Sean Penn seems such at ease with this character that you don't see Penn anymore at the end of the movie. It's a heartfelt portrait of a person who An amazing piece of film. The movie manager to cover a large span of time in a short period, glossing over uninteresting episodes and focusing in on the events that made Harvey Milk who he is. Everyone gives great performances, but Sean Penn seems such at ease with this character that you don't see Penn anymore at the end of the movie. It's a heartfelt portrait of a person who is a leader of an important political movement. You feel like you know Milk at the end, and you wish he was still alive today, fighting the good fight. Expand
  81. JonathanC.
    Dec 12, 2008
    10
    Stunning film. Sean Penn does the best work of his career.
  82. JohnC.
    Dec 13, 2008
    10
    An awesome film and an awesome performance by Sean Penn, not a surprise.
  83. TomP.
    Dec 14, 2008
    9
    Strong performance by Sean Penn.
  84. hC.
    Dec 15, 2008
    8
    Very solid Bio-Pic mixing real doc-footage with Van Sant's fictionalized version. Acting was superb throughout--from all minor characters as well as Penn, Franco, Hersh. Even though you know what's coming, it's still unbelievably tragic/gut wrenching and left most of the audience in tears. I didn't think it was flat at all--rather more realistic. People often like to Very solid Bio-Pic mixing real doc-footage with Van Sant's fictionalized version. Acting was superb throughout--from all minor characters as well as Penn, Franco, Hersh. Even though you know what's coming, it's still unbelievably tragic/gut wrenching and left most of the audience in tears. I didn't think it was flat at all--rather more realistic. People often like to "lionize" leaders, martyrs etc--But Van Sant showed Milk as a very normal person, who's pushed to be courageous & face down bigotry/hate/violence. But he's still Milk--warts and all. Very good film and Penn should get yet another Oscar Nom. Expand
  85. DanielC
    Dec 21, 2008
    9
    Beautifully made, very touching film indeed.
  86. DuaneW.
    Dec 22, 2008
    10
    Strong acting. Powerful story telling. Realistic. It will make you cry.
  87. JimP.
    Dec 23, 2008
    9
    Very good movie. A little slow at the beginning.At first i thought "What's the big deal? I've seen this before." But the it gets very compelling. I laughed, and shed a few tears. The acting is superb. Sean Penn completely dissapears into the character of Harvey Milk. James Franco is wonderful. His non-verbal acting and reacting is great, I enjoyed E Hirsch very much also. Josh Very good movie. A little slow at the beginning.At first i thought "What's the big deal? I've seen this before." But the it gets very compelling. I laughed, and shed a few tears. The acting is superb. Sean Penn completely dissapears into the character of Harvey Milk. James Franco is wonderful. His non-verbal acting and reacting is great, I enjoyed E Hirsch very much also. Josh Brolin was fine but not as great as I expected. Expand
  88. CommandoDude
    Dec 27, 2008
    6
    The reason I rated this movie so low, is because it is a movie I would not like to watch a second time. Now. It was very dramatic, and at times...humorous, but only at times. I didn't like it because it had FAR too much gay stuff in it then was needed. Lots of guy kissing, and naked men. I do not want to see that. Humor was lost on most of the time in favor of this epic but not-so The reason I rated this movie so low, is because it is a movie I would not like to watch a second time. Now. It was very dramatic, and at times...humorous, but only at times. I didn't like it because it had FAR too much gay stuff in it then was needed. Lots of guy kissing, and naked men. I do not want to see that. Humor was lost on most of the time in favor of this epic but not-so epic struggle against oppression. I feel Milk could have been a lot better then it was. Expand
  89. Oct 7, 2011
    6
    Not quite the gripping tale I hoped it would be but some fantastic performances - especially from Sean Penn - and a story I would like know more about.
  90. Sep 19, 2010
    10
    While I'm obviously playing with a little hindsight here, Sean Penn displays the most impressive performance I've seen in years as gay activist, Harvey Milk, in the biopic by Gus Van Sant. Milk documents the rise, and eventual murder, of Harvey from a former insurance salesman to unstoppable political force in the 1970s.

    Sean's performance is the highlight of the film. As hard as it is to
    While I'm obviously playing with a little hindsight here, Sean Penn displays the most impressive performance I've seen in years as gay activist, Harvey Milk, in the biopic by Gus Van Sant. Milk documents the rise, and eventual murder, of Harvey from a former insurance salesman to unstoppable political force in the 1970s.

    Sean's performance is the highlight of the film. As hard as it is to like him sometimes, one can't watch this movie and not be amazed at his ability. I have not seen The Wrestler, so comparing his performance to Mickey Rourke's is impossible thus far, but Penn is unmatched in this film.

    The subject matter is gritty, as all Gus Van Sant movies tend to be, so the film itself is the same. There is one shot in the film where the scene is against the reflection of a whistle, having fallen on the ground after its owner, a gay person in the Castro district of San Francisco, has been beaten to death by cops. There is another that, instead of the camera following the characters, the lens rapidly turns opposite the characters and into a mirrored reflection of the characters in the scene. Very indie/art house and very well done.

    Milk is timely in that it shows what California, and thus the nation, had to overcome in the 1970s in obtaining any shred of gay rights. It's weird what I vividly remember from this era and how, at no point, did I ever hear of Harvey or the gay movement against Anita Bryant. I guess I was sheltered.

    In any case, the film is timely because California is leading the way to fight for the rights for gay marriage. Personally, and especially after watching Milk, I am dumbfounded that gay marriage is not only illegal, but STILL illegal after everything that was sought in the late 1970s.

    It's interesting to watch the religious right try to hang on to the one last shred of their stronghold on morality. I have every bit of confidence that this too shall pass. Not allowing gays to marry is simply retarded. They are people just like the rest of us. Their love may be different than what has been traditionally accepted, but it's love nonetheless. And personal, as well as legal, expression of that love is up to the individual.

    It's strange to write how difficult it is to obtain gay marriage rights when it is clear that this country felt like equal rights for gays was just fine by the late 1970s. I guess with the advent of AIDS, predominantly in the homosexual community in the 1980s, the religious right ensured that any progress was pushed back or, at the very least, stymied. As a result, gay America has had to inch its way back to its normally accepted existence and infiltration into society today. However, with that infiltration, I'm stunned that the legality of gay marriage is still a controversial issue. It seems rather simple, at least to me.

    While it's easy to slam Hollywood for their liberal political views and constant political statements, Milk shows just how hard this struggle is/was and how absolutely tunneled and arrogant Christians can be. That element clearly still exists, as Proposition 8 in California recently learned, but it's not indestructible. Milk reminds us of what may, in fact, still yet be needed to grab hold of that last bit of equal rights.
    Expand
  91. Mar 31, 2011
    10
    This just might be the greatest thing that Gus Van Sant has ever had anythng to do with. Because this is a true masterpiece, But, Mickey Rourke should've won that Best Actor. Don't get me wrong, Sean Penn is extraordinary.
  92. Nov 29, 2011
    6
    Milk is worth a watch primarily for a sensational central performance from Sean Penn. He absolutely captivates the viewer by utterly inhabiting the role of Harvey Milk. Within this performance there are questions to be asked, however. Was Milk really a hero or a villain? He was a charismatic, influential and iconic member of the homosexual community who tirelessly attempted to further gayMilk is worth a watch primarily for a sensational central performance from Sean Penn. He absolutely captivates the viewer by utterly inhabiting the role of Harvey Milk. Within this performance there are questions to be asked, however. Was Milk really a hero or a villain? He was a charismatic, influential and iconic member of the homosexual community who tirelessly attempted to further gay rights and equality, but the film also portrays him as completely single-minded, willing to sacrifice anything to further his own political aims and career, and rather prone to side-lining anyone who became important in his personal life. While the first half of the film is relatively engaging, documenting Milk's arrival in San Francisco and his early campaigns for political office, the second half becomes a little too pretentious and symbolic and tends to lose sight of characters and what they wanted to achieve. Penn always keeps the film watchable, and it is helped by further strong performances from James Franco and Josh Brolin, but as a viewing experience, the film runs out of a little steam towards the end. I did like the use of archived news footage, which served as a useful grounding point for the story, but there is only so far a few good (and one outstanding) performances can take you in terms of storytellign and the overall viewing experience. I don't regret watching Milk for a moment, but I wish director Gus Van Sant had spent a little more time on developing key characters and their motivations, otherwise they become charicatures - Harvey Milk comes across as an unfeeling radical, and Dan White a paranoidly image-obsessed conservative. Expand
  93. Jan 1, 2012
    10
    I love this movie. Sean Penn is an amazing lead and he was perfect for this role. I think the entire film is a real eye opener on how it really was during that time. I would highly recommend it.
  94. Jan 2, 2013
    8
    Overall, It's simply a good movie. Sean Penn is amazing and the rest of the cast is good as well. It has an interesting story that will touch a lot of people's hearts. I enjoyed it.
  95. Sep 1, 2014
    10
    A triumph through and through. Milk views the life of one very important and unique individual who believed in the human right and happiness. Dustin Lance Black has written one of the finest screenplays in recent history. Matched with brilliant direction from Gus Van Sant and another Oscar-winning performance from Sean Penn, it's perfection.
  96. Aug 18, 2013
    2
    A pathetic movie that was extremely boring with James Franco that gets on my nerves every time I see him on screen. A good attempt that failed miserably.
  97. Apr 2, 2012
    8
    A very well made film. The acting and art direction were the best parts of the movie. With a movie dealing with a heavy subject, it was surprisingly funny many times. An emotional but great ending.
  98. Jul 28, 2012
    9
    I absolutely loved "Milk". For quite a while now I have respected Harvey Milk deeply, and I'm very pleased with this film. The film is very nuanced in handling its characters, each character has positive and negative aspects to their personality, and nobody is handled as a complete angel or vice versa. I enjoy how they weren't reluctant in realistically portraying struggling gayI absolutely loved "Milk". For quite a while now I have respected Harvey Milk deeply, and I'm very pleased with this film. The film is very nuanced in handling its characters, each character has positive and negative aspects to their personality, and nobody is handled as a complete angel or vice versa. I enjoy how they weren't reluctant in realistically portraying struggling gay relationships in a time when it wasn't considered acceptable and how they didn't water down the more homoerotic parts of the film to make it more "viewable" for a wide audience. The acting is flawless; Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch and others basically become their characters. Regardless of your personal political views regarding homosexuality, this film is enlightening, addicting, inspirational, thought-provoking and very well-made. Milk is one of the best biopics I've ever seen, and it left such an imprint on me that immediately after viewing I felt the urge to re-watch it. Expand
  99. Aug 26, 2012
    9
    'Milk' is many things: A great biopic, a great re-telling of an inspirational man, and most importantly, a great film. If you're not a Sean Penn fan, then do yourself a favor and please watch this film. He is just phenomenal here and you don't think of the character as someone that Sean Penn is playing, but you think of the character as the actual person that Penn is portraying. When an'Milk' is many things: A great biopic, a great re-telling of an inspirational man, and most importantly, a great film. If you're not a Sean Penn fan, then do yourself a favor and please watch this film. He is just phenomenal here and you don't think of the character as someone that Sean Penn is playing, but you think of the character as the actual person that Penn is portraying. When an actor can do pull off such a thing, you know it's a great performance. Inspiring and surprisingly emotional, 'Milk' is a must see for fans of biopics and Sean Penn. Expand
  100. Nov 17, 2012
    10
    A very important American film, Milk is made great by Penn's extraordinary performance and the ingenuity of the script.
Metascore
84

Universal acclaim - based on 39 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 38 out of 39
  2. Negative: 0 out of 39
  1. The film is superbly crafted, covering huge amounts of time, people and the zeitgeist without a moment of lapsed energy or inattention to detail.
  2. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    80
    Brolin's work is superlatively expressive of the inchoate impulses roiling inside his sorry character. But good as most of the cast is, the show belongs squarely to Penn.
  3. Milk is one of the most heartfelt portraits of a politician ever made--the man himself remains just out of reach.