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The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official.

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Won 2 Oscars. Another 61 wins & 140 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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John Briggs
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David Goodstein (as Zvi Howard Rosenman)
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Storyline

Using flashbacks from a statement recorded late in life and archival footage for atmosphere, this film traces Harvey Milk's career from his 40th birthday to his death. He leaves the closet and New York, opens a camera shop that becomes the salon for San Francisco's growing gay community, and organizes gays' purchasing power to build political alliances. He runs for office with lover Scott Smith as his campaign manager. Victory finally comes on the same day Dan White wins in the city's conservative district. The rest of the film sketches Milk's relationship with White and the 1978 fight against a statewide initiative to bar gays and their supporters from public school jobs. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Never blend in See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

30 January 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Untitled Harvey Milk Project  »

Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$1,453,844 (USA) (28 November 2008)

Gross:

$31,838,002 (USA) (10 April 2009)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Veteran police officer and actor Brian Danker, seen in this movie in his first speaking role in the homicide scene, actually served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 in the same unit as Dan White - the 173rd Airborne. See more »

Goofs

According to title cards at the end of the film, Dan White's lawyers argued that consumption of junk food caused a chemical imbalance in his brain. White's lawyers actually claimed that massive consumption of junk food was a symptom of his depression, not a cause. Psychologists employed by White's defense argued that he was clinically depressed, as evidenced by changes in behavior, including consumption of large quantities of junk food. One psychologist claimed that junk food may have contributed to White's mood swings. See more »

Quotes

San Francisco Cop: [identifying a body] The fruit was walking home with his trick when they were jumped. Name's Robert Hillsborough. Did you know him?
Harvey Milk: He used to come into my shop. Are there any witnesses?
San Francisco Cop: Just the trick. Jerry Taylor.
Harvey Milk: Jerry wasn't a trick. They were lovers.
San Francisco Cop: Call it what you will. He's our only witness and he says he can't identify the attackers.
Harvey Milk: There'd be a dozen witnesses if they thought you boys had any real interest in protecting them.
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Connections

Featured in The 14th Annual Critics' Choice Awards (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Walk through 'Resonant Landscape' No. 2
Written and Performed by Frances White
Courtesy of Mode Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A chronicle of history
28 November 2008 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

I had little expectations walking into this film. The trailer for this movie has appeared at almost every feature film I've seen for the last two months. But, the trailer is a facile example of this minutely detailed story of the rise of a leader and his martyrdom. While I'm familiar with the story from other sources (Shilts' "The Mayor of Castro Street," and the 1984 documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk"), Gus Van Sant and his cast bring a new immediacy to this story.

None involved in this project could have anticipated the political climate of the premiere of this film: Both the hope of the Obama Presidency and the propaganda that helped Proposition 8 win in California. It seems a perfect environment for this story to reach across America.

The dignity with which all of this is told and acted is its success. At the same time, it doesn't shy away from the culture of the Castro. Perhaps the greatest compliment is the rendering of Dan White here. He is neither demonized nor excused.

We also don't get a white-washed version of Harvey Milk. He's there on the screen with all his foibles and kinks. Although his humanism shines in Sean Penn's unsettlingly accurate portrayal. It was Milk's love of--and impatience with--the rest of us that makes him a legend. And that is center stage in this film.

What Van Sant gives us is both humbling and an inspiration.


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