User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 282 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 36 out of 282

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  1. Sep 19, 2010
    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.
  2. Mar 31, 2011
    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.
  3. Jan 1, 2012
    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.
  4. Sep 1, 2014
    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.
  5. Jul 28, 2012
    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 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
  6. Aug 26, 2012
    '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
  7. Nov 17, 2012
    A very important American film, Milk is made great by Penn's extraordinary performance and the ingenuity of the script.
  8. May 23, 2013
    I absolutely loved it! Sean Penn gives the best performance of his career. He truly steps into the character and completely deserved his Oscar. Great cast. There were a few minor missteps here and there, particularly with some of the character development, but that does not hold this film back from being one of the absolute best films of 2008. A stand out film of the LGBT movement.

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
    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.