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4.7 37
Director: Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin

Cast: Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin


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Academy Award winner Sean Penn takes the title role in Gus Van Sant's biopic tracing the last eight years in the life of Harvey Milk, the ill-fated politician and gay activist whose life changed history, and whose courage still inspires people. When Milk was elected to the San


Academy Award winner Sean Penn takes the title role in Gus Van Sant's biopic tracing the last eight years in the life of Harvey Milk, the ill-fated politician and gay activist whose life changed history, and whose courage still inspires people. When Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, he made history for being the first openly gay man in American history to be voted into public office. But the rights of homosexuals weren't Milk's primary concern, as tellingly evidenced by the wide array of political coalitions he formed over the course of his tragically brief career. He fought for everyone from union workers to senior citizens, a true hero of human rights who possessed nothing but compassion for his fellow man. The story begins in New York City, where a 40-year-old Milk ponders what steps he can take to make his life more meaningful. Eventually, Milk makes the decision to relocate to the West Coast, where he and his lover, Scott Smith (James Franco), found a small business in the heart of a working-class neighborhood. Empowered by his love for the Castro neighborhood and the success of his business, Castro Camera, Milk somewhat unexpectedly begins to emerge as an outspoken agent for change. With a growing support system that includes both Scott and a like-minded young activist named Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch), the charismatic Milk decides to take a fateful leap into politics, eventually developing a reputation as a leader who isn't afraid to follow up his words with actions. In short order, he is elected supervisor for the newly zoned District 5, though this seeming triumph is in fact the catalyst for a tragedy that starts to unfold as Milk does his best to forge a political partnership with Dan White (Josh Brolin), another newly elected supervisor. Over time it becomes apparent that Milk and White's political agendas are directly at odds, a revelation that puts their personal destinies on a catastrophic collision course.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
As the first openly gay man to hold elected office in California, Harvey Milk served as the spokesperson for the gay rights movement in the '70s, in San Francisco, and by extension, the United States. Practically from the moment of his assassination in 1978, people have been trying to get Milk's remarkable life story onto the screen, and thanks to Gus Van Sant and Sean Penn, it was worth the wait. The movie follows the final years of Milk's life, starting when he leaves New York with his significant other, Scott Smith (James Franco), and opens a camera store in the now famous Castro District of San Francisco. He faces bigotry based on his sexual orientation, but responds with serious action, spearheading a campaign of activism that organizes the gay community into a group with genuine financial strength -- a strength Milk translates into political muscle. With his leadership, the community publicizes the unfair treatment often suffered at the hands of cops, who are occasionally physically abusive, and often can't be bothered to investigate the murders of gay men. All the while, Milk continues his attempts to win a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, even as his devotion to politics leads to the breakdown of his relationship. Dustin Lance Black's screenplay never holds Harvey Milk up as something bigger than he was -- he's never made into a martyr or a saint. He's a heroic, but complicated, three-dimensional person, and Sean Penn rises to the occasion with an empathetic performance that never rings false. He captures the charisma and drive that made Milk a born politician just as cannily as he does the flaws that made him a difficult life partner, and the intimate moments Milk shares with Smith are just as heartfelt as the scenes where he rallies thousands of angry protestors to march on city hall. Penn also gets expert support from everyone in the cast, especially Franco, who plays Smith's loyalty as unwavering, even when the their relationship becomes so strained that he must move out. The film also benefits from a nuanced performance by Diego Luna, who plays Jack Lira, another longtime companion of Milk. Although Lira is a grandly flamboyant character, Luna never condescends to playing him as a drama queen -- his histrionics always seem to come from the character rather than from a stereotype. And Emile Hirsch shines as Cleve Jones, the brainy, energetic runaway who turns out to be Milk's political right-hand man. Of course, director Gus Van Sant matches his lead actor's total commitment to the project. He doesn't shy away from the story's occasional stabs at operatic impact, but instead employs a recurring visual motif using mirrors and reflections to help these moments achieve maximum emotional effect. We see major and minor events transpire in mirrors, windows, and other items -- the most striking of which is an argument with a police officer viewed in the reflection of a metal whistle. This visual refrain, along with the measured but consistent use of opera on the soundtrack, helps make the ending an emotional powerhouse -- even though we know right from the start how Milk's life will end. Harvey Milk embodied the concept that "all politics is personal," and by presenting the famed Mayor of Castro Street's personal and public lives with such clarity and empathy, Van Sant has made something very rare in Hollywood -- a genuinely powerful political film that works equally well as a story of personal triumph.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Focus Features
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Deleted scenes; Remembering Harvey; Hollywood comes to San Francisco; Marching for equality

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Sean Penn Harvey Milk
Emile Hirsch Cleve Jones
Josh Brolin Dan White
Diego Luna Jack Lira
James Franco Scott Smith
Alison Pill Anne Kronenberg
Victor Garber Mayor Moscone
Denis O'Hare John Briggs
Joseph Cross Dick Pabich
Stephen Spinella Rick Stokes
Lucas Grabeel Danny Nicoletta
Brandon Boyce Jim Rivaldo
Zvi Howard Rosenman David Goodstein
Kelvin Yu Michael Wong
Jeff Koons Art Agnos
Ted Jan Roberts Dennis Peron
Robert Boyd Holbrook Denton Smith
Frank M. Robinson Himself
Allan Baird Himself
Tom Ammiano Himself
Carol Ruth Silver Thelma
Hope Goblirsch Mary Ann White
Steven Wiig McConnelly
Ashlee Temple Dianne Feinstein
Wendy King Carol Ruth Silver
Kelvin Han Yee Gordon Lau
Robert Chimento Phil Burton
Ginabel Machado Lily

Technical Credits
Gus Van Sant Director
Charley Beal Art Director
Dustin Lance Black Executive Producer,Screenwriter
Bruce Cohen Producer
Danny Elfman Score Composer
Daniel Glicker Costumes/Costume Designer
Elliot Graham Editor
Bill Groom Production Designer
Barbara Hall Executive Producer
William Horberg Executive Producer
David J. Webb Asst. Director
Dan Jinks Producer
Michael London Executive Producer
Francine Maisler Casting
Chad Owens Set Decoration/Design
Bruna Papandrea Executive Producer
Harris Savides Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Milk
1. Being Discrete (Main Titles) [6:37]
2. Running for Office [6:16]
3. Taste of Power [5:13]
4. Running for Office [5:40]
5. Part of Movement [4:59]
6. We Have to Fight [6:04]
7. Evil Forces [6:03]
8. Into the Streets [3:57]
9. Rules Have Changed [2:13]
10. Ring in the New [6:57]
11. Elected Supervisor [6:18]
12. Gaining Allies [5:05]
13. A Dangerous Threat [4:02]
14. Coming Out [5:38]
15. Making Peace [1:21]
16. Cleaning Up [3:41]
17. Here to Recruit You [8:42]
18. Keep on Fighting [8:54]
19. Hope Is Alive [8:39]
20. Epilogue (End Titles) [13:45]


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Milk 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Hugo-Z-Hackenbush More than 1 year ago
This is a very well crafted, acted, and directed movie. It is accurate historically, but Milk was more savvy politically than the film portrays. To the films credit, it was not completely hagiographic. Harvey Milk, in spite of his flaws, fought the good fight , and deserves all the credit due him. Sean Penn certainly is a fine actor, but: If Leni Riefenstahl had directed Schindlers List after making Triumph of the Will, what would people say? Does she make up for her past ties? Sean Penn openely admires and meets with dictators who oppress GLBT peoples. Does this movie give him a pass? I hope that admirers of Mr. Penn, and this film look a little past what is on the screen.
Zaray-FanofSeanPenn More than 1 year ago
I LOVED MILK, THIS MOVIE WAS SO AMAZING. I have seen Sean Penn act before but not like this. Sean Penn did a amazing job in Milk and portaring Harvey Milk. I am very proud of Sean Penn and am so happy that he let himself go in this movie. Thank you so much Sean Penn for letting yourself go in this moive and showing the whole world how good of a actor you really are, and thanks for giving us a great performance showing us and telling us about the extrodinary life of Harvey Milk.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I must admit when I first heard that Sean Penn was going to do a biopic on the life of Harvey Milk, the United States' first openly gay man elected to public office, I had my doubts. I felt that it would be nigh impossible to depict all the different aspects of Harvey Milk's life accurately, let alone effectively portray the personal struggles he had to deal with and the emotional strain they placed on him. However, all of the cast members (particularly Hirsch and Franco) portrayed their characters extremely well. This movie allows you to become more emotionally invested and subsequently touched and inspired by the courage and strength of character possessed by this incredible man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great history movie and a great movie for those who want to go into politics!
WhiteFlowerLei76 More than 1 year ago
This is such an incredible film and Sean Penns performace is perfection!! James Franco is fantastic, Josh Brolin is great, and there are moments when you really feel as though youre looking back in time. Everything about this movie feels first rate and authentic.
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jeremiahos More than 1 year ago
For a while, I've honestly believed that all the good movies were in the past. And when you look at movies like "Norbit" and "Borat", you can believe it, too. But when I saw this movie -- I knew there was hope. This movie is the greatest movie I have ever seen in my life. Especially for a biography, and especially for something that portrays a moment in history. And the fact is -- we can relate to it. The fight that Harvey Milk fought is still being fought today. I would recommend this to anyone, and everyone. The best $21.00 I have EVER spent in my life.
InsaneCrazedJuggalo More than 1 year ago
this movie was superb it was one heck of a story sean penn stole the whole show same with james franco this movie is one of the best films i have ever laid eyes on this dersves more then just 5 stars it dserves 10 trillion stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This movie was absolutely incredible. It is so important because the things that are going on in this movie are still going on today. People need to realize this if there is any hope for change in the future. Sean Penn really got into his character.It is definitely worth seeing and will leave you with a lot to think about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone who lived in San Francisco during this time and was personally touched by these events, I feel this film captured the inspiration of Harvey Milk and accurately depicted the raw emotion, the incredible power and the sometimes overwhelming challenges of those times. The archival film clips were used effectively...I was crying from very early on...reliving Feinstein's announcement on the news and the horror that followed. At first I was disappointed that the film didn't include archival footage of the White Night Riots, but later came to realize that honoring Harvey's message of hope was more important. I am not unbiased in giving an opinion here. Regardless, the film stands on its own...and Sean Penn's performance will dazzle all viewers, not just those of us who lived through these times. This is an important story. Don't miss it.
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
MILK is one of the more powerful bio-epics produced by Hollywood. Harvey Milk, the man honored by this superbly crafted film by writer Dustin Lance Black and directed by Gus Van Sant, is brought to life by Sean Penn in his most skilled performance of his fine career. Not only is this movie an homage to Harvey Milk, but it is also a shaking reminder of the ferocious ongoing battle for Civil Rights. Few viewers will come away from this film untouched. The life of gay activist Harvey Milk is well known, as is his assassination as he finally reached a platform where his voice could be heard. Black and Van Zant have wisely started the story with some black and white footage of the abuse of the gay population across the country and then ease into the biography by showing us Milk in New York, approaching his 40th birthday and discovering Scott Smith (James Franco) as the beginning of not only a tender partnership but also a change in Milk's drive to make a difference. The climb to importance from his migration to Castro Street in San Francisco and the 'recruiting' of his clan (Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones et al) and the struggles he faced in gaining acceptance of a minority group is the stuff of legends. Penn is extraordinary, but Franco, Hirsch, Josh Brolin as Milk's assassin, and Diego Luna as the kinky Jack Lira turn in excellent performances. Van Zant is unafraid to show the tenderness among his characters: it is satisfying to see prominent male actors take on roles that include same sex intimacy. This is a film that deserves to enter the archives as one of the 'greats.' Highly recommended. Grady Harp
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good movie. Very inspirational. It starts off kind of boring but gets good as you keep watching.
JOANNAFL More than 1 year ago
Emotionally Powerful to walk through the life of Harvey Milk- who NEVER gave up..What it takes to get THRU that 'fixed' cement thinking of Society..sacrificing your LIFE, your ALL for what you can SEE AHEAD.."may those with eyes one day SEE!!!"
frenchfrog888 More than 1 year ago
Well done, excellent performance, a bit disturbing at time. Good subject to discuss about intolerance and diversity with adults.
BombardaMaxima More than 1 year ago
This is a great movie that is especially important today. Sean Penn gives an amazing performance here. As Harvey Milk, he is completely natural and believable. The ending scene with the vigil is real footage taken after Milk's assassination, and it is incredibly moving. Bravo to all involved in this masterpiece.
Warwick More than 1 year ago
This movie was phenomanal! Really gripping, how hard Harvey Milk fought for the equal rights of gays and how many people he affected and supported his fight. This movie is a great insight to how unfair this political world treated homosexuals in their ignorant bigotry. Its funny how I said 'treated' in the past tense, - It takes place through out the 1970's and I'm complexed with whether I should be happy or pissed off by how far we've come sense then. We're still absent with giving full equal rights for gays today but its better sense the 70's - and you'll see a big part of that is a thanks to Harvey Milk - the first openly gay politcial supervisor elected. This movie is so insperational, its just hits you so hard that one person can make such a big difference. It really knocks on your noggen and makes you think. Definatly watch this movie, beautiful writing, excellent acting and background information. Really impressive. Five stars just isn't enough for this peice of art.
UpTheIrons4Lyfe More than 1 year ago
one very good touching film harvey milk was a gay rights activise and he stood up for what people beileved in hes one amazing guy sean penn was the right man to play harvey milk plus james franco was also another fine choice to be in this wonderfull film this film is for every generation young and old this film is the best of the best
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