The film, set in 1995 and based heavily on Eminem's real life upbringing, is an account of a young, aspiring white rapper named Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith Jr. (Eminem), who lives in a trailer park in Warren, Michigan, and his attempt to launch a career in hip-hop, a genre dominated by African-Americans. The film's title is derived from 8 Mile Road, the highway that runs along the border between predominantly black city of Detroit and Wayne County, and its predominantly white Oakland County and Macomb County suburbs.
Filmed mostly on location in Detroit and its surrounding areas, the film was both a critical and commercial success. Eminem won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Lose Yourself".
In Fall 1995 in Detroit, Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith Jr. (Eminem), a blue-collar worker from a poor family, struggles with various aspects of his life. He has moved back north of 8 Mile Road to the run-down trailer home in Warren, Michigan of his alcoholic mother Stephanie (Kim Basinger), his little sister Lily (Chloe Greenfield), and Stephanie's abusive live-in boyfriend Greg (Michael Shannon). Although encouraged by his friends who hail him as a talented rapper, Jimmy worries about his potential as a musician, due to his lack of confidence. This causes him to panic during a rap battle one night at a local venue called "The Shelter" and he leaves the stage humiliated.
Jimmy works at a car factory, but when he asks for extra shifts, his supervisor laughs, and dismisses his request on account of his habitual lateness. Jimmy befriends a woman named Alex (Brittany Murphy). Over time, Jimmy begins to take more responsibility for the direction of his life. When he exhibits an improved attitude and performance at work, his supervisor grants him the extra shifts he requested.
Later on, Stephanie receives a notice declaring that, because she cannot afford to pay the rent on her trailer, she and her family must vacate the premises immediately. Despite Stephanie's best attempts to keep the eviction notice a secret, Greg finds out about it anyway, with a brutal fight ensuing between him and Jimmy, and Greg leaves Stephanie for good. Jimmy's friendship with Wink (Eugene Byrd), a radio DJ with ties to a record label prompter, becomes strained after he discovers that Wink does promotional work for Jimmy's rivals, a rap group known as the "Leaders of the Free World". At one point, Jimmy and his friends get into a violent brawl with the Leaders, which is disrupted when Jimmy's friend "Cheddar Bob" pulls out a gun and accidentally shoots himself in the leg; he survives, but is confined to crutches.
At work one day when on lunch break, Jimmy witnesses a rap battle in which an employee named Mike (Xzibit) insults a gay co-worker named Paul with his lyrics. Jimmy joins the battle to defend Paul by berating Mike. Alex is impressed by his actions, and she and Jimmy have sex in the factory. Wink arranges for Jimmy to meet with producers at a recording studio, but Jimmy finds Wink and Alex having sex atop a mixing console. Enraged, he beats up Wink and their friendship ends. In retaliation, Wink and the Leaders of the Free World attack Jimmy outside his mother's trailer. The leader of the gang, Papa Doc (Anthony Mackie), holds Jimmy at gunpoint, threatening to kill him but Wink dissuades Papa Doc.
Jimmy's best friend Future (Mekhi Phifer) pushes him to get his revenge by competing against the Leaders of the Free World at the next rap battle. However Jimmy's late-night shift conflicts with the timing of the next battle tournament. But a goodbye visit from Alex, who is moving to New York, changes his mind about competing. Paul, the work colleague whom Jimmy had stood up for earlier, agrees to cover his shift at work as a thank you, and Jimmy goes to the battle.
In each of the three rounds of the battle, Jimmy is pitted against a different member of the Leaders and wins the first two rounds. In the final round he is paired against Papa Doc. Jimmy is aware that Doc knows all his flaws, so he uses his difficult life as a springboard to reveal the truth about Papa Doc: his real name is Clarence and despite passing himself off as a thug he comes from an affluent background, having attended Cranbrook Schools, a private high school in upper-class suburb Bloomfield Hills, and grown up in a stable, married two-parent household.
With nothing to say in rebuttal, Clarence hands the microphone back to Future, feeling embarrassed that someone he thought was below him defeated him in a battle. After being congratulated by Alex and his friends, he is offered a position by Future, hosting battles at The Shelter. Jimmy declines, saying he has to get back to work and to find success his own way. He walks back to work, with a renewed sense of confidence about his future. "Lose Yourself" plays as Jimmy walks away.Eminem as Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith, Jr.
Mekhi Phifer as Future, Jimmy's closest friend and the rap battle host
Brittany Murphy as Alex Latourno, Jimmy's love interest
Kim Basinger as Stephanie, Jimmy and Lily's mother
Anthony Mackie as "Papa Doc" (Clarence)
Michael Shannon as Greg Buehl, Stephanie's boyfriend
Eugene Byrd as "Wink"
Evan Jones as "Cheddar Bob", Jimmy's friend
Omar Benson Miller as "Sol George", Jimmy's friend and Iz's brother
De'Angelo Wilson as "DJ Iz", Jimmy's friend and Sol's brother
Taryn Manning as Janeane, Jimmy's ex-girlfriend
Proof as "Lil' Tic"
Xzibit as Mike (Male Lunch Truck Rapper)
Craig Chandler as Paul
Obie Trice as Male parking lot rapper
Chloe Greenfield as Lily, Jimmy's sister
John Singleton as Bouncer
Miz Korona as Vanessa (Female Lunch Truck Rapper)
Brandon T. Jackson (uncredited) as a Chin Tiki club-foe
8 Mile received widespread acclaim, with critics praising the music and Eminem's performance. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports the film is "Certified Fresh", with 76% of 206 professional critics giving the film a positive review and a rating average of 7.0 out of 10. The site's consensus is that "Even though the story is overly familiar, there's enough here for an engaging ride." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 reviews from film critics, the film has rating score of 77 based on 38 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend revealed the average grade cinemagoers gave 8 Mile was B+ on an A+ to F scale, with the core under-21 demographics giving it an A.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars. He said that we "are hardly started in '8 Mile,' and already we see that this movie stands aside from routine debut films by pop stars" and that it is "a faithful reflection of his myth". He said that Eminem, as an actor, is "convincing without being too electric" and "survives the X-ray truth-telling of the movie camera". He praised Eminem's approach to his role, saying that "The genius of Rabbit is to admit his own weaknesses." He complimented Basinger, saying that "Her performance finds the right note somewhere between love and exasperation; it cannot be easy to live with this sullen malcontent, whose face lights up only when he sees his baby sister, Lily." He said that criticism of Basinger for being "too attractive and glamorous to play Rabbit's mother" were unfair: "Given the numbers of ugly people who live in big houses, why can't there be beautiful people living in trailers?" He called the film "a grungy version of a familiar formula, in which the would-be performer first fails at his art, then succeeds, is unhappy in romance but lucky in his friends, and comes from an unfortunate background. He even finds love, sort of, with Alex," but "What the movie is missing, however, is the third act in which the hero becomes a star," as it "avoids the rags-to-riches route and shows Rabbit moving from rags to slightly better rags." He said that he "would love to see a sequel in which Rabbit makes millions and becomes world famous, and we learn at last if it is possible for him to be happy."
In the At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper review, both Ebert and Richard Roeper gave the film a thumbs up; Roeper said that Eminem has a "winning screen presence" and "raw magic" to him. He was happy with Rabbit's "tender side" presented through his relationship with the "adorable" Greenfield as his sister, but felt that Basinger was "really miscast". But as in his own review, Ebert felt that the dark, depressing atmosphere of 8 Mile would turn off some Eminem fans, while Roeper thought they would like it. Roeper said: "8 Mile probably won't win converts to rap, but it should thrill Eminem fans."
Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars. He said that 8 Mile "is a real movie, not a fast-buck package to exploit the fan base of a rap nonentity" that "qualifies as a cinematic event by tapping into the roots of Eminem and the fury and feeling that inform his rap. Hanson spares us the rags-to-riches cliches by leaving Rabbit on the edge of success. The film ends not with a blast but with the peace that comes to a rapper who finds his voice at last. That kind of class is a big risk for a novice stepping into the movie ring. Eminem wins by a knockout." He praised Hanson's directing, stating that he "succeeds brilliantly at creating a world around Eminem that teems with hip-hop energy and truth" and "excels with actors." He hailed Eminem's performance, saying that in 8 Mile, "Eminem is on fire" with an "electric" screen presence, "hold[ing] the camera by natural right" and "read[ing] lines with an offbeat freshness that makes his talk and his rap sound interchangeable," and sulk of "intensity to rival James Dean's." He said that Murphy was "dynamite, "play[ing] Alex with hot desperation and calloused vulnerability," while saying that "Basinger shines" in her role as well. "Hanson builds to a spectacular climax" with Rabbit's last three battles, and compared his final battle with Papa Doc to fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed in Rocky.
8 Mile opened at #1 with $51,240,555 in its opening weekend, the then second highest opening for an R-rated movie in the U.S. The film would go on to gross $116,750,901 domestically, and $126,124,177 overseas for a total of $242,875,078 worldwide. The film's final domestic gross would hold the film at #3 in Box Office Mojo's "Pop Star Debuts" list, behind Austin Powers in Goldmember (Beyoncé) and The Bodyguard (Whitney Houston).
The 8 Mile DVD, which was released on March 18, 2003, generated $75 million in sales and rentals in its first week, making it the biggest DVD debut ever for an R-rated movie and putting it in the all-time Top 10 for first week home video sales for a movie. A VHS version was also released on the same date.
8 Mile has been named to various year-end and all-time top lists:2nd – Billboard (Erika Ramirez): Top 10 Best Hip-Hop Movies Ever
7th – The New York Observer (Andrew Sarris): The 10 Best English-Language Films of 2002
9th – Time (Richard Schickel): Top 10 Movies of 2002
10th – Rolling Stone (Peter Travers): The Best Movies of 2002
N/A – The Daily Californian: Best Films of 2002
In 2003, Eminem won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 75th Academy Awards, for his single "Lose Yourself" from the soundtrack of 8 Mile. Thus he became the first hip hop artist ever to win an Academy Award. He was not present at the ceremony, but musician Luis Resto accepted the award. The film has been nominated for 32 awards, winning 11.
2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
"Lose Yourself" – #93
2006: AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – Nominated
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture 8 Mile is the official music soundtrack to 8 Mile. Eminem features on five tracks from the album. It was released under the Shady/Interscope label and spawned Eminem's first number 1 US single "Lose Yourself". The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart that year with over 702,000 copies sold and 507,000 sold in the second week also finishing the year as the fifth best-selling album of 2002 with US sales of 3.2 million, despite only two months of release. It also reached #1 on the UK Compilations Chart and the Australian ARIAnet Albums Chart. It also spawned a follow up soundtrack, More Music from 8 Mile, consisting of songs that appear in 8 Mile that were current singles during the film's time setting of 1995. The album was also made in a clean edition removing most of the strong profanity and violent content.