WAYS TO
WATCH:

See all
A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.

Director:

Writer:

Popularity
230 ( 4)
Top Rated Movies #63 | Won 5 Oscars. Another 102 wins & 96 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.

Director: Jonathan Demme
Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence A. Bonney
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.

Director: Tony Kaye
Stars: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D'Angelo
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A sole survivor tells of the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which begin when five criminals meet at a seemingly random police lineup.

Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri
Forrest Gump (1994)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  

Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny Curran, eludes him.

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

After a brilliant but asocial mathematician, John Nash, accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn for the nightmarish.

Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly
The Departed (2006)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson
Se7en (1995)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi.

Director: David Fincher
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey
Memento (2000)
Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

A man creates a strange system to help him remember things; so he can hunt for the murderer of his wife without his short-term memory loss being an obstacle.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

A criminal pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.

Director: Milos Forman
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions become stronger.

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly
Amélie (2001)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Amelie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin's trade.

Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
...
Sale House Woman #1
...
Sale House Man #1
Fort Atkinson ...
Sale House Man #2
Sue Casey ...
Sale House Woman #2
Edit

Storyline

Lester and Carolyn Burnham are, on the outside, a perfect husband and wife in a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood. But inside, Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression. He finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with one of his daughter's friends. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane is developing a happy friendship with a shy boy-next-door named Ricky, who lives with an abusive father. Written by Jessie Skinner <eietherbinge@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

... look closer

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, language, violence and drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Official Sites:

|

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 October 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Belleza americana  »

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$861,531 (USA) (17 September 1999)

Gross:

AUD 11,029,726 (Australia) (15 December 2000)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

While driving home from the shooting range, Carolyn listens to Bobby Darin's rendition of "Don't Rain On My Parade." 5 years after the release of this film, Kevin Spacey produced/wrote/directed and starred as Darin in the biopic Beyond the Sea (2004). See more »

Goofs

In the opening sequence of the film we see an overhead shot of the Burnhams' master bedroom, Lester is lying in bed on his stomach, rousing when his alarm clock goes off. Circular white matte board cutouts cap the top of the lamp shades on either side of the bed blocking the bare light bulbs from shining straight into the camera lens (and probably hiding color correcting gels on the bulbs that would only be found in lamps on nightstands in bedrooms on stage). See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jane Burnham: I need a father who's a role model, not some horny geek-boy who's gonna spray his shorts whenever I bring a girlfriend home from school. What a lame-o. Someone really should just put him out of his misery.
Ricky Fitts: Want me to kill him for you?
Jane Burnham: Yeah. Would you?
See more »

Crazy Credits

thanks to all at the Donmar Warehouse in London and Dr. Bill and Alice See more »

Connections

Referenced in Armaan (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Bali Ha'i
Written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers
Performed by Peggy Lee
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
A little masterpiece...
26 February 2000 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

"American Beauty" is tour de force cinema. Sam Mendes' brilliant debut feature depicts a web of characters who yearn for their own 'American Dream' - yet, in the end, only one character truly attains it.

Having seen "Happiness" only recently, I could not help but draw comparisons: both films centre around a microcosm of society in which the people, in their own unique way, all strive to be successful or simply 'happy'. But here the similarities end: the characters in "Happiness" undergo a self-realisation process through which they become increasingly aware of their meaningless existence, and go on to wallow in their own depravity. "Happiness" shows no signs of redemption; whereas in "American Beauty" the audience is offered a sense of hope, of salvation, though the characters must endure a similar fate, or more accurately, they must endure the way of life in which they are trapped.

The pivotal character upon which this theme centres, is the father Lester, played impeccably by Kevin Spacey. He is presented to us as a bit of a loser who plays the subjugated figure in the home and at work. He appears resigned to an unhappy life in which he is treated badly by his wife and daughter and his boss at work. Seemingly beyond redemption, Lester transforms from being a loser.

Mendes portrays this transformation admirably well: he shows Lester on his 'path to enlightenment' pushed up against a grim background of suburbanite existence. These early scenes are well balanced, forming a steady rhythm of TV commercial-like vignettes which prove very comical, if at times unsettling. As Lester reflects in the film: "My life is like a commercial". And how this rings true: like in "Happiness", all the characters hide underneath this veneer of normality and respectability, yet they are all revealed to be nothing but the opposite: depressed, depraved and desperate.

Lester's wife, played by Annette Benning, is the most success-driven character in the story which renders her the most hopeless in the film's tone of moral conviction. "In order to be successful in life one must project the appearance of success" is the maxim she adopts from the 'king' of real estate, Buddy King. It is a phrase which resonates throughout the film: for Benning's pawn, life is all about keeping-up appearances. This is where Lester differs from her: his emancipation is enabled by him discarding the constraints of 'normal life' and following what his heart desires.

Lester is the catalyst in this narrative in which the ancillary characters either follow suit (as does his daughter and Ricky) or pay the price (as does his wife and the Colonel). The irony inherent in this film, and it grows with resonance as the film draws to a conclusion, is that the only character who truly becomes free must sacrifice everything in order to achieve it. Yet it is through his sacrifice that he is able to afford the surviving characters a glimpse of hope in life.

This film left me gasping for air: its hyper-realism conveys, at the same time, a portrait of the suburban comedy, a jolting-shock of realisation, and a cathartic sense of hope. Mendes depicts a certain people who, to varying degrees, all strive for a certain 'American Dream', yet so few actually attain it. Though whilst one may have difficulty with tagging this film with the 'feel good' label, the beauty of "American Beauty" is that it sits half-way between a desperate cry for help and a reassuring sense of happiness and fulfilment and that is cinema at its best.


430 of 525 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Why do so many people think that Angela was a virgin? roryflast
A victim of its own success cartesianthought
I changed my mind about this movie. I actually like it. christopher-townsend44
Films like this? blytheoakman
Why Colonel Fitts kissed Lester? chris610
Tough for Non-Americans to relate to? LorcaGonzalez
Discuss American Beauty (1999) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?