Man on Wire

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This article is about the film. For the album by PNC, see Man on Wire (album).
Man on Wire
Man on wire ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Marsh
Produced by Simon Chinn
Starring Philippe Petit
Music by J. Ralph (title theme)
Michael Nyman
Cinematography Igor Martinovic
Edited by Jinx Godfrey
Distributed by Magnolia Pictures (US)
Icon Productions (UK)
Diaphana Films (France)
Release dates
22 January 2008 (Sundance)
1 August 2008 (UK)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget £1,100,000 (approx. $1,900,000)[1]
Box office $5,258,569[2]

Man on Wire is a 2008 British documentary film directed by James Marsh. The film chronicles Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center. It is based on Philippe Petit's book, To Reach the Clouds, recently released in paperback with the new title Man on Wire. The title of the movie is taken from the police report that led to the arrest (and later release) of Petit, whose performance had lasted for almost one hour. The film is crafted like a heist film, presenting rare footage of the preparations for the event and still photographs of the walk, alongside re-enactments (with Paul McGill as the young Petit) and present-day interviews with the participants. (High Wire (1986) was a short documentary on the same subject, featuring music by Michael Nyman.)

Man on Wire competed in the World Cinema Documentary Competition[3] at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize: World Cinema Documentary and the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary.[4] In February 2009, the film won the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film, the Independent Spirit Awards, and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


The film's producer Simon Chinn first encountered Philippe Petit in April 2005 on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, after which he decided to try to acquire the film rights to his book, To Reach the Clouds. After months of discussion, Petit agreed, with the condition that he could actively collaborate in the making of the film. In an interview conducted during the run of Man on Wire at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, director James Marsh explained that he was drawn to the story in part because it immediately struck him as "a heist movie". As Jean Francois, one of Petit's collaborators later said, "It may have been illegal...but it wasn’t wicked or mean."[5]

Marsh also said that, as a New Yorker, he saw the film as a gift to the city since the 9/11 attacks. He said he hopes to hear people say that they will now always think of Petit and his performance when recalling the World Trade Center's twin towers.[6] Responding to questioning as to why the towers' destruction in the 2001 attacks is not mentioned in the film, Marsh explained that Philippe Petit's act was "incredibly beautiful" and that it "would be unfair and wrong to infect his story with any mention, discussion or imagery of the Towers being destroyed."[7]


Petit at the 81st Academy Awards

Man on Wire won the Special Jury Award and Audience Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival,[8] the International Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Standard Life Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.[9] The film also won the Jury Prize and Audience Award in the World Cinema: Documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Man on Wire is the sixth film to pick up both top awards at Sundance, and the first from outside the US.[10] In February 2009, the film won the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film,[11] and Best Documentary Film in the Australian Film Critics Association Awards. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 81st Academy Awards.[12]

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of the 151 reviews they have collected have been positive. As of August 2008, this was the second-best reviewed movie on the website. The film also received a "Golden Tomato" for best documentary of 2008.[13] On Metacritic, Man on Wire enjoys a weighted average score of 89/100.[14]

Top ten lists[edit]

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.[15] Movie City News shows that the film appeared in 76 different top ten lists, out of 286 different critics' lists surveyed, the joint 7th "most mentions" on a top ten list of the films released in 2008.[16]


Much of the film's soundtrack is derived from the 2006 album, The Composer's Cut Series Vol. II: Nyman/Greenaway Revisited, a collection of works by Michael Nyman for films by British director Philip Greenaway.

  1. "Fish Beach" – Michael Nyman (from Drowning by Numbers)
  2. "History of the Insipid" – Michael Nyman (from The Libertine)
  3. "Albatross" – Fleetwood Mac
  4. "Dreams of a Journey" – Michael Nyman (from The Piano)
  5. "Time Lapse" – Michael Nyman (from A Zed & Two Noughts)
  6. "The Disposition of Linen" – Michael Nyman (from The Draughtsman's Contract)
  7. "A Fifth of Beethoven" – Walter Murphy
  8. "Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds" – Michael Nyman (from The Draughtsman's Contract)
  9. "An Eye For Optical Theory" – Michael Nyman (from The Draughtsman's Contract)
  10. The Lark AscendingEnglish Northern Philharmonia (composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams)
  11. "A Ramble in St. James's Park" – Michael Nyman (from The Libertine[disambiguation needed])
  12. "Passage de L'Egalité" – Michael Nyman (from La Traversée de Paris)
  13. In the Hall of the Mountain KingPhiladelphia Orchestra (composed by Edvard Grieg)
  14. "Drowning By Number 2" – Michael Nyman (from Drowning by Numbers)
  15. "Trysting Fields/Sheep 'n' Tides" – Michael Nyman (from Drowning by Numbers)
  16. "Memorial" – Michael Nyman
  17. "Leaving Home" (Opening Titles) – J. Ralph
  18. "Leaving Home Sunday Exploration" (End Credits) – J. Ralph
  19. "Gnossienne No. 1" – Gheorghe Constantinescu, pianist (composed by Erik Satie)
  20. "Gymnopédie No. 1" – Anne Queffélec, pianist (composed by Erik Satie), this music also used for the DVD menu

Film adaptation[edit]

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is set to play Philippe Petit in the film The Walk, to be directed, produced and written by Robert Zemeckis .[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Case study - Man On Wire's soaring success | News | Screen". Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  2. ^ "Man on Wire (2008) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  3. ^ "2008 Sundance Film Festival Announces Films in Competition" (PDF). 28 November 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2008. 
  4. ^ "2008 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards" (PDF). 26 January 2008. 
  5. ^ Man on Wire, Magnolia Pictures
  6. ^ Jerney Makoa (24 July 2008). "On The Circuit: Man on Wire | Zoom In – News, Events, Training and Community for Creatives". Archived from the original on 31 May 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2008. 
  7. ^ Neil Smith (2 August 2008). "BBC NEWS: Wire walk film omits 9/11 tragedy". BBC News. Retrieved 3 August 2008. 
  8. ^ "Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Announces Festival Award Winners ",
  9. ^ "Man on Wire Wins Again ",
  10. ^ "Wall to Wall Takes Two at Sundance Film Festival"
  11. ^ "Film Winners in 2009". BAFTA. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  12. ^ "Nominees for the 81st Academy Awards". Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
  13. ^ "Man on Wire at Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 16 August 2008. 
  14. ^ "Man on Wire Reviews". Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 24 February 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 
  16. ^ David Poland (2008). "The 2008 Movie City News Top Ten Awards". Retrieved 25 January 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Joseph Gordon-Levitt set to star in TriStars To Walk the Clouds". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Enemies of Happiness
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: World Cinema Documentary
Succeeded by
Rough Aunties