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Original title
Running time
128 min.
United States United States
Dustin Lance Black
Danny Elfman
Harris Savides
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Focus Features
Drama | Politics. Biography. Gay & Lesbian. 1970s
Official Site
Synopsis / Plot
The story of California's first openly gay elected official, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone by San Francisco Supervisor Dan White. In 1977, Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans.

Milk charts the last eight years of Harvey Milk's (Sean Penn) life. While living in New York City, he turns 40. Looking for more purpose, Milk and his lover Scott Smith (James Franco) relocate to San Francisco, where they found a small business, Castro Camera, in the heart of a working-class neighborhood that was soon to become a haven for gay people from around the country. With his beloved Castro neighborhood and beautiful city empowering him, Milk surprises Scott and himself by becoming an outspoken agent for change. He seeks equal rights and opportunities for all, and his great love for the city and its people brings him backing from young and old, straight and gay alike—at a time when prejudice and violence against gays was openly accepted as the norm.

With vitalizing support from Scott and new friends and volunteers, Milk plunges headfirst into the choppy waters of politics. He also mentors young street activists like Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch). Bolstering his public profile with humor, Milk's actions speak even louder than his gift-of- gab words. Soon, he is known all across the city and even beyond, but his persistent determination to be a part of city government drives him and Scott apart. While making his fourth run for public office, Milk takes a new lover, Jack Lira (Diego Luna).

The latest campaign is a success, as Milk is elected supervisor for the newly zoned District 5. Milk serves San Francisco well while lobbying for a citywide ordinance protecting people from being fired because of their orientation—and rallying support against a proposed statewide referendum to fire gay schoolteachers and their supporters; he realizes that this fight against Proposition 6 represents a pivotal precipice for the gay rights movement. At the same time, the political agendas of Milk and those of another newly elected supervisor, Dan White (Josh Brolin), increasingly diverge and their personal destinies tragically converge. Milk's platform was and is one of hope—a hero's legacy that resonates in the here and now.
2009: César Awards: Nominated for Best Foreing Film
2008: 2 Academy Awards: Actor (Sean Penn), Original Screenplay. 8 Nominations
2008: Nominated for Golden Globe: Best Actor - Drama (Sean Penn)
2008: Film Critics Circle of New York: Movie, Actor (Penn), Supporting Actor (Brolin)
2008: National Board of Review: Best Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin)
2008: 4 Nominations for BAFTA Awards, including Best Film and Make up
2008: Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Actor (Sean Penn)
2008: American Film Institute (AFI): Top 10 - Movies of the Year
2008: 2 Critics' Choice Awards: Best Actor, Acting Ensemble. 8 Nominations
2008: Chicago Film Critics Awards: 5 Nominations including Best Picture
2008: Independent Spirit Awards: Best Supp. Actor (Franco) & Best First Screenplay. 4 Nominations
2008: Producers Guild Awards (PGA): Nominated for Best Film
2008: Directors Guild of America (DGA): Nominated for Best Director
2008: Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Original Screenplay
2008: Screen Actors Guild (SAG): Best Performance by a Male Actor (Sean Penn). 3 nominations
2009: Sur Awards: Nominated for Best Foreign Film
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