Box art for Milk



Based on the inspiring true story of the first openly gay man elected to major public office, this compelling film follows Milk's powerful journey to inspire hope for equal rights during one of the least tolerant times in our nation's history.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 15
Positive messages
2 out of 5
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Memorable, mature biopic brings a movement to life.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this intense, stirring drama examines the life of Harvey Milk, a civil- and gay-rights advocate who was assassinated in 1978. It explores prejudice against homosexuals and traces the beginnings of the gay rights movement. The film offers an unflinching look at homophobia during that era. Expect strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), sexual situations, partial nudity, political manipulation, suicide, and murder. Some material may be too challenging for younger teens, but older teens and adults will find it a thought-provoking piece of history.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about what Harvey Milk stood for -- pro and con. Whatdo your kids think about the gay rights movement, and how do they thinkthings have changed -- if at all -- since 1978? Does the movie have apoint of view on Milk's role in history? Do your kids think it'saccurate? Why? Another good discussion can be had about the art of thefilm itself and how the filmmakers used archival footage in the movie.Does that affect the authenticity of what people are seeing?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 30
    see all Milk reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: I don't know that this is Penn's best performance, overall -- let's have that debate some other time -- but as far as the mannered, immersive impersonations of his later career go, Harvey Milk takes the cake.

- Andrew O'Hehir,, Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fresh: Once in a while, a movie arrives at such a perfect moment, its message and meaning so finely tuned to the current zeitgeist, that it seems less a cinematic event than a cosmic convergence, willed into being by a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the stars.

- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fresh: Milk has one of the finest ensemble casts this year and a magnificent, career-topping performance by Sean Penn, who disappears into the title role.

- Claudia Puig, USA Today, Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Audience Reviews

3 stars

I'm giving it such a low rating because usually I can watch a movie more than once and I don't intend to watch this one again. Yes, Penn is one of my favorite actors, and he plays his part well. But the focus was on telling the story, and by doing that it failed to captivate me.

- Saxia, Thursday, September 30, 2010

4 stars

Milk is the story of the first openly gay man elected in public office. For me, I view this film not as a gay film, but as a civil rights film. Sure Harvey Milk fought for gay rights, but in doing so he gave hope to the minorities (Disabled people, colored people, elderly and mentally ill people) The thing that stuck with me the most about this film is Milk had the courage to do whats right, courage that ultimately cost him his life. This film is a story about courage and as a person with a disability, it definitely gave me hope to fight on injustices. Sean Penn and the rest of the cast were great and gave terrific performances. A stunning film that should be viewed more as a civil rights film than a "gay" film.

- TheDudeLebowski65, Saturday, June 12, 2010

4 stars

Bravo!!! a very important, timely, inspiring, and moving film. this film should speak to anyone that has ever felt marginalized within the strictures of society. the movie stands as a triumph for human rights. an admirable achievement for the accomplished actor, sean penn, and director, gus van sant. diego luna and emile hirsch provide strong support. live footage was brilliantly incorporated.

- bookmunki, Monday, May 24, 2010