The Internet's Own Boy

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
Sundance film poster
Directed by Brian Knappenberger
Produced by
  • Brian Knappenberger
  • Zach Braff
  • Mason Fink
  • Charles Annenberg Weingarten
Written by Brian Knappenberger
Music by John Dragonetti
  • Brian Knappenberger
  • Scott Sinkler
  • Lincoln Else
Edited by
  • Jason Decker
  • Brian Knappenberger
  • Andy Robertson
  • Bryan Storkel
  • Michelle M. Witten
  • Luminant Media
  • Unjustsus Films
Distributed by
Release date
  • January 20, 2014 (2014-01-20) (Sundance)
  • June 27, 2014 (2014-06-27) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
Country United States


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
Box office $48,911[2]

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is a 2014 American biographical documentary film about Aaron Swartz written, directed, and produced by Brian Knappenberger.[3][4] The film premiered in the US Documentary Competition program category at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2014.[5]

After its premiere at Sundance, Participant Media and FilmBuff acquired distribution rights of the film. The film was released to theatres and VOD on June 27, 2014, in United States.[6] It will be followed by a broadcast television premiere on Participant's network Pivot in late 2014.[7][8][9][10]

The film also played at the 2014 SXSW on March 15, 2014.[11] It served as the opening film at the 2014 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on April 24, 2014.[12]

The film's UK premiere took place at Sheffield Doc/Fest in June 2014 and won the Sheffield Youth Jury Award that year.[13] In August 2014, the film was screened at the Barbican Centre in London as part of Wikimania 2014. The BBC also aired the film in January 2015 as part of its Storyville documentary brand. It was also released on the Internet with a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.[14]


The film depicts the life of American computer programmer, writer, political organizer, and Internet activist Aaron Swartz. Footage of Swartz as a child is featured at the start and end of the film. The film is narrated by figures from Swartz's life, including his mother, brothers, and girlfriends.


The film received positive response from critics.[15] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 93% rating based on reviews from 57 critics, with an average score of 7.3/10.[16]

Geoffrey Berkshire in his review for Variety described it as "A spellbinding portrait of the Internet whiz kid's life and political convictions, which were cut short by his suicide in early 2013."[17] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review and said that it was an "Excellent newbie-friendly account of a story that rocked the Web's cognoscenti."[18] Katherine Kilkenny from Indiewire said that "The Internet’s Own Boy aspires to provoke Capitol Hill by educating its viewers to inspire questions. Questions for those revered leaders in Silicon Valley — and for a government whose restrictions of the internet have been applied with a sledgehammer, as one source of the film says, instead of a scalpel."[19] In her review for The Daily Telegraph, Amber Wilkinson gave the film three stars out of five and said that "Knappenberger's film is a heavy watch, mostly using talking heads and footage of Swartz before his death to tell a story which comes to question the state of civil liberties in the US."[20]

In December 2014 the film was listed among 15 films on a "short list" to advance to a round of voting for Documentary Feature in the 87th Academy Awards,[21] however it did not advance to a nomination.


  1. "The Internet's Own Boy (12A)". BBFC. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  2. "The Internet's Own Boy (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  3. Macfarlane, Steve (8 May 2014). "Five Questions With The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz Director Brian Knappenberger". Filmmaker. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  4. King, Michael. "SXSW Film Review: 'The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  5. "Sundance 2014: US Documentary Competition". IndieWire. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  6. Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (1 May 2014). "'The Internet's Own Boy': Aaron Swartz Documentary Trailer Debuts". Mashable. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  7. O'Connell, Max (27 February 2014). "Participant Media and FilmBuff Nab 'The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'". IndieWire. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  8. McNary, Dave (27 February 2014). "Participant, Pivot Nab Rights to Internet Activist Docu 'Aaron Swartz'". Variety. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  9. McClintock, Pamela (27 February 2014). "Participant, FilmBuff Buy US Rights to 'Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  10. "SXSW: Participant And FilmBuff Team To Acquire Aaron Swartz Docu 'The Internet's Own Boy'". Deadline Hollywood. 27 February 2014. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  11. O’Connell, Kit. "The Internet's Own Boy: Remembering Aaron Swartz (#SXSW)". Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  12. "Hot Docs To Open With International Premiere Of The Internet's Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz". Archived from the original on 15 December 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  13. "Applications to Doc/Fest's 2017 Youth Jury are now open". Sheffield Doc/Fest. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  14. Glaser, April (27 August 2014). "Aaron Swartz's Work, Computer Crime Law, and "The Internet's Own Boy"". Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  15. "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz". IndieWire. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  16. "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  17. Berkshire, Geoff (24 January 2014). "Sundance Film Review: 'The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz'". Variety. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  18. DeFore, John (21 January 2014). "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  19. Kilkenny, Katherine (22 January 2014). "Sundance Review: 'The Internet's Own Boy' Explores the Tragic Fate of a Technology Icon". IndieWire. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  20. Wilkinson, Amber (22 January 2014). "Sundance 2014: The Internet's Own Boy, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  21. "Oscars: Documentary Feature Shortlist At 15". Deadline Hollywood. 2 December 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
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