The Times of Harvey Milk

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Times of Harvey Milk Movie Poster Image
Thought-provoking look at a charismatic politician’s life.
  • NR
  • 1984
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No matter your beliefs, this is a powerful portrayal of civic engagement.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Milk exhibits tenacity, compassion, and patience. White is motivated by mental instability and intolerance.


Harvey Milk is assassinated. News footage shows cops running though City Hall and ambulances wailing. Some rioting after his death. Nothing gory but certainly upsetting.


Some kissing. Shirtless men dancing in the streets of San Francisco.


Occasional swearing, including “asshole” and “f--k.” An interview subject uses the word “fruit” to describe Milk.


Signage in Castro district shops, including Harvey Milk’s camera shop. Mention of Coors beer in the context of a beverage boycott. Logos for TV channels.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this documentary provides an unvarnished examination of a despicable act: the assassination of gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. Though the crime itself isn’t shown, the buildup to it and the aftermath could be upsetting for viewers under 12.  Teens and adults will find it a thought-provoking piece of history.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bytomdarling February 19, 2010
This film is about a man trying to change things. He is gay, and its a motivator for him, but it is not all that he is about. Instead, this is about power cha... Continue reading

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What's the story?

A 1984 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature, THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK is a riveting account of politician Harvey Milk’s rise to power in San Francisco and his fight for gay rights. A beloved local figure, Milk, the self-billed “mayor” of the Castro district, ran a camera shop that served as de facto headquarters for his burgeoning political aspirations. Sadly, his career was cut short when fellow city supervisor Dan White shot him and Mayor George Moscone dead at City Hall, an event that changed the face of San Francisco -- and the country -- forever.

Is it any good?

Director Rob Epstein has mined the archives fully with news footage and interviews that bring the intriguing, charismatic Milk back to life. He leaves almost no stone unturned here without overwhelming with too much detail. The story unfolds like the real-life drama that it was, the suspense inching up as the fateful day approaches, backed up by amazing visuals and audio (including Milk reading his will). What a feat: It could’ve just as easily ended up dry as toast like many other documentaries looking back on history. And what a history it is! It’s not just Milk audiences get to know, it’s the entire city of San Francisco at a time when change was a constant and revolution the operative word.

A few (minor) complaints: Milk is tangible as an adult, but before that, he’s imprecise. We see some photos from his younger years, but not many, not until his move to San Francisco. White, his nemesis, feels a little slight, too, a mystery figure about which not much is known. One gets a sense of a tortured, complicated man, but not much more. Nevertheless, the film’s a revelation.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what audiences know about Milk’s legacy and how this film helps inform. How helpful is the film in disseminating more information about Milk and the circumstances surrounding his death?

  • Families can also discuss stereotypes, the gay rights movement, and Milk’s place in it. How did he bring about lasting change? What would he think about the gay rights movement today?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love politics

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