Film Review: ‘Steve McQueen: American Icon’

(Photo courtesy of Fathom Events)

Film Review: ‘Steve McQueen: American Icon’

By Sarah Komisky

For all you millennials out there wondering why you should watch a movie about some actor you never heard of before, let me assure you, you’ve come to the right place. Appealing not just to film buffs, vintage lovers, or evangelicals, Steve McQueen: An American Icon is a documentary that is for anyone interested in uncovering a story that is very much human.

The documentary narrated by Gary Sinise (Forest Gump, Apollo 13, Of Mice and Men), kicks things off by introducing modern audiences to an actor who was the “it” guy of the 60’s and 70’s (think Mark Walberg, Matthew McConaughey, or Ryan Gosling with a little more edge). Opening with McQueen’s trademark love for fast cars and highlighting his most infamous action films such as The Magnificent Seven and Bullitt, audiences get an idea of McQueen’s thrill seeking bad boy image. Additionally, filmmakers, Andy and Jon Erwin give a good gist of McQueen’s public persona while counterbalancing it with his private life that also had a rep for being cool and mysterious.

Giving a background of his early years, viewers get an idea of his tumultuous home life without a father or mother that framed his renegade ways. This gives a good foundation that sets up the story of a man who had a void and was on a quest to fill it. In this basic yet profound story line, audiences come to meet a man who very much is like you and I in the human experience.

Yet, instead of glorifying the persona the world dubbed “cool,” the filmmakers take the approach of letting the audience see the real McQueen without a Hollywood veneer. With insight from director Mel Gibson, Barbara Minty McQueen (his widow), stuntman Stan Batett, renown McQueen biographer Marshall Terill, and actors Barbara Leigh and Mel Novak, this documentary takes on a different angle that is more of an untold story

As a fan of the late actor and pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, Greg Laurie takes a road trip in hopes to find the true story of this legendary actor. Sharing his findings, the film discloses rare interviews and personal stories from friends and loved ones as well as little known facts. Focusing on McQueen’s life, struggles, fame, and fall, audiences will be intrigued to hear a story of a man who had it all and still came up empty.

While there are many excellent qualities about the film, probably the one that excels them all is that it sheds light on McQueen’s faith which was a virtually an unknown story to many. With insight from those who knew him best, viewers follow McQueen’s quest for purpose. This begins with people he met on various films and culminates when he reaches his end, meeting a man who gave him flying lessons and friendship continuing to the point when he visits a pastor who answers his soul searching questions.

Coming to faith, McQueen gets a second chance at life before being diagnosed with a rare cancer. Viewers see the full turnaround and are given insight to the tangible ways McQueen changed as they hear from those closest to him. We also hear of his final moments with Billy Graham and get to see rare, never before seen photos of his final years in a tender scene with his wife. Yet, one of the most incredible moments in the film is one McQueen did not live to see the full implications of. In his final interview, McQueen shares his desire to share his faith with others and share the message of God’s transforming power. Like an older, wiser, yet really cool friend would, McQueen passes on his life experiences of trying all life could offer him and still coming up dry. This is the message that translates to this generation. In this way, the film is truly relevant and powerful as history continues to repeat itself with youth searching for meaning. Not only does it take an honest look at life, but it points to the hope found in Christ to those who search for it. Steve McQueen’s legacy overall is relevant because it’s intergenerational, showing that it’s never too late to change your direction and have a new start.

To find out more about this film and where you view an encore presentation of it visit