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
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
Positive messages
2 out of 5
4 out of 5
3 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

4 stars

Milk rests on Sean Penn's powerhouse performance as Harvey Milk. Without his mesmerizing performance, the film would not be what it is... Chronicling the events, struggles and triumphs of the first openly gay man elected to public office, Milk is a triumphant account of the moving and heartfelt story, told with stark focus by Gus van Sant. Josh Brolin is also fantastic here as Milk's opposer in office, as is James Franco as Harvey's lover.

- fb701560354, Saturday, May 26, 2012

4 stars

Penn and Brolin's performances are absolutely brilliant. Van Sant does an amazing job telling a story that needed to be told. RIP Harvey.

- fb1664868775, Saturday, March 31, 2012

3 stars

Milk does not even come close to the films like Paranoid Park or Gerry in Gus Van Sant's filmography, but it does stand as a solid piece of film making. The most enjoyable thing in this film is the way that Van sant injects his own trademark touches into the story. There are occasional touches of visual brilliance here and there, but it never really goals with it's important subject matter or it's camerawork. You could say that this is most definetly the ultimate gay-rights film and at times it even spoonfeds it's preachy message too hard for the audience. For me this is Van sant - lite and return for his more audience friendly films.

- emilkakko, Saturday, January 7, 2012