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A 2008 movie directed by Gus Van Sant.

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  • Apr 11, 2009
  • by
Sean Penn does it again and easily delivers one of his best performances bringing to life a character and a man we no longer have, and may never see again. This is a cast filled with genuine legends like Penn & Brolin, and up and coming megastars such as Emile Hirsch and James Franco. Each and every cast member seems to give it their all in keeping loyal to their played roles character in order to play an honest homage to this legendary figure. Gus Van Sant, is a relatively unknown Director and I'm hoping that this picture is one that makes him a household name.

Personally, I'd never heard of Harvey Milk nor would have had any idea just who the man is, where he was from or what he stood for. When I heard about the film I thought nothing of it until I saw the trailer and then I was drawn in. Political activism is something I'm a strong believer in, I'm one for liberalism and the basic rights of man being upheld. I've always found it quite hypocritical that America, a country which swears allegiance to its constitution on a daily basis has such a history of prejudice and bigotry. You would think, looking at their constitution that politicians would fight to uphold its core values of "all men be created equal" rather than fight to rob certain minorities of their rights, but looking at Harvey Milks struggle and other struggles like it, I'm genuinely shocked.

I would put Harvey Milk in the same league as such men like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. They too were men who saw the persecution of their people and sought to put an end to it and fight for the core constitutional values to be upheld. Close to the end of Harveys life, America was going through a vote on Proposition 6. This was a vote which saw all homosexuals be removed from their jobs and focused its main attention on teachers. The reasoning behind this is that homosexuals recruit children to homosexuality and under "gods law" are simply "immoral". I've always been shocked by these claims by politicians and their justifications behind them are laughable, claims like this are even being made today but I'm glad to know that such prejudices aren't held in such wide regard as they once were. All history needs now is another champion for homosexuals that would have a bigger impact on the world stage.

The film tells of the history making chapter in the story that is of American Gay Civil Rights. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to a public office in the entire United States history and possibly the first in the world. The film is set during Harveys mid 40s when he first moves to San Francisco with his partner Scott Smith (James Franco). The heterosexual community don't agree with Harvey and Scott setting up business in the neighbourhood and try to make it difficult for them. Because of this Harvey decides to become an activists and increases the gay presence within the neighbourhood which force those companies who tried to make it hard for him out of business.

Over time, Harvey starts to realise that in order to truly stop the persecution by police and other bigotted residents Harvey must run for Supervisor of District 5. He knows it will be a difficult fight but he knows that it's the only way to truly make a difference for the gay community. The first 4 years he runs for the office, he's met with disappointing defeat yet every year he's defeated by a less and less margin until in the 5th year he manages to pull off the win and makes history. During his time in office, he finds a conflict with fellow supervisor but of district 8, Dan White. Harvey first wants Whites support in order to win votes, but due to a few conflicts Dan ends up being Harveys biggest opponent.

I think telling you more about the story would give the whole thing away, so I'll leave it there. What I want to say about this film simply can't be expressed in words. The only way I can put across my love and appreciation of this picture is to simply recommend it to the masses. It's incredible, one of the best things you'll see this year if not ever and even if this doesn't get massive worldwide advertising campaign, it's a film that will go down as a favourite amongst many. This film has also won my love thanks to the excellent acting by Emile Hirsch, I've always been a fan and is one of the reasons I chose to watch this.

Go see it, buy it or just get on a plane and watch it on your trip, but the message is loud and simple, SEE THIS MOVIE.

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More Milk (2008 movie) reviews
review by . August 23
posted in Movie Hype
We just returned from San Francisco and visited the Castro section of the city which is known for being the center of the San Francisco gay rights area in the late 70s.      Watching the movie, Milk, about the life of gay activist, Harvey Milk, was all that more powerful after seeing the Castro section in today's times.      Sean Penn did an excellent job in portraying Harvey Milk and making him a real person with a goal to have better rights for gay people. …
review by . March 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
One extraordinary performance in one fine movie, which has the usual self-congratulatory blemishes
Milk is Sean Penn's best-sustained performance since Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I'm not joking and I mean it as high praise.       Penn, at least in those movies of his I've seen, starts strongly and then dives head first into that famous Penn intensity that some consider acting with a capital "A." In Milk, Penn early establishes Milk as smart, empathetic, self-aware, even gentle, playful and lovable. Penn doesn't lose those qualities, and adds …
review by . March 01, 2009
By all accounts, Harvey Milk was a breath of fresh air, the light in the room, the life of the party. By "all accounts", I mean that's what Dennis Peron said when I asked him.     I had the interesting experience of staying at the home of one of Harvey's friends and fellow activists in the Castro during the filming of the movie. Peron makes only a very brief appearence in the movie, but he was very excited about it and (when I could get him to stop talking about the medical marijuana …
review by . November 18, 2009
I first heard the name Harvey Milk about a few years ago when a new high school for gay teens was being opened in Manhattan and stirred a lot of controversy.  That school was named after Harvey Milk.  The news said that he was an openly gay politician from San Franscisco. I was a little remiss at the time because when I hear somebody mentioned who I know nothing about, I usually research them at a minimum on Wikipedia.  I failed and the name Harvey Milk was filed deep in my brain …
Quick Tip by . August 29, 2009
Amazing movie. Sean Penn was perfect. What a great biopic tribute to a great man.
review by . March 09, 2009
If you've ever seen a biopic of Martin Luther King Jr. or John F. Kennedy (or his brother), you're probably familiar with the standard arc: the hero as a child, then a struggling young adult, the sensitive woman who stood by his side, etc.  Milk immediately distinguishes itself by starting at a point when the main character, Harvey Milk, is already a middle-aged middle management flunky. Where did he come from? What's his family like? Did he pass A.P. Calculus in high school? We don't know. …
review by . April 14, 2009
Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, Harvey Milk was not one of the most influential politicians who ever lived. He assumed public office in his late forties. He held that position less then a year before he was killed by a fellow politician. Truthfully, if you were to look at the biggest thing he accomplished, it would be that he got people to start picking up their pets droppings in public. Yes, the biggest law he helped get pasted involved poop. So if this was his greatest claim …
review by . March 26, 2009
I have to say honestly that when I learned Sean Penn would play Harvey Milk in this film, I had great trepidation.  Don't get me wrong; I'm a huge fan of Sean Penn.  Anyone who can create the character he plays in Dead Man Walking and also be the Sam of I Am Sam is just brilliant.  But a gay politician???  Sean Penn??    And yet... Penn is brilliant once again.  One of the great aspects of this tightly woven drama is the interspersing of real, not re-created, …
review by . May 17, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
This is an important movie. I feel like everyone should see this now. Unfortunately I didn't know much about Harvey Milk before seeing this movie but wow, what an important and beautiful person he was! And what a tragic way for his life to end. I will admit it, the ending made me cry.    For some reason it took me a bit to get into the movie but once I was into it I was INTO it. Movies are always wonderful to watch but when they are based on real people they become something …
review by . December 14, 2008
Still from
I just saw Milk at the alumni get-together this afternoon. Afterwards, one of Harvey's colleagues and fellow SF supervisor during his tenure, Carol Ruth Silver, did a little talk about the film's depictions. She said the film was right-on in its depictions of Harvey and of that 1970s era in San Francisco.   One of the surprising things Silver revealed was that Dan White had also targeted her on the morning of the Moscone-Milk assassinations at City Hall. After the first two assassinations, …
About the reviewer
Steven Stewart ()
Ranked #47
Currently studying Law at University, my main interests revolve around Politics. I read quite a lot and love learning about History. Not just the history of a specific time, place and person, but I'm … more
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About this movie


Director Gus Van Sant brings to the screen the epic journey of one man and the start of a movement. Written by Dustin Lance Black the story of Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official, a San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated, on November 27, 1978, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.
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Director: Gus Van Sant
Genre: Drama
Release Date: November 26, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009
Runtime: 2hrs. 8min.
Studio: Focus Features
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