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American Movie (1999)

R  |   |  Documentary  |  13 April 2000 (Australia)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 13,217 users   Metascore: 84/100
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Documentary about an aspiring filmmaker's attempts to finance his dream project by finally completing the low-budget horror film he abandoned years before.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tom Schimmels ...
Actor in 'Coven'
Monica Borchardt ...
Mark's Mom
Alex Borchardt ...
Chris Borchardt ...
Ken Keen ...
Mike Schank ...
Friend / Musician
Matt Weisman ...
Casting director
Bill Borchardt ...
Mark's Uncle / Executive Producer (as Uncle Bill)
Cliff Borchardt ...
Mark's Dad
Tom Beach ...
Production manager
Joan Petrie ...
Mark's Girlfriend / Associate Producer
Robert Richard Jorge ...
Dean Allen ...
Props / Special effects
Tommy Dallace ...
The Movie Star


On the northwest side of Milwaukee, Mark Borchardt dreams the American dream: for him, it's making movies. Using relatives, local theater talent, slacker friends, his Mastercard, and $3,000 from his Uncle Bill, Mark strives over three years to finish "Covan," a short horror film. His own personal demons (alcohol, gambling, a dysfunctional family) plague him, but he desperately wants to overcome self-doubt and avoid failure. In moments of reflection, Mark sees his story as quintessentially American, and its the nature and nuance of his dream that this film explores. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

13 April 2000 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

American Movie: The Making of Northwestern  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$20,260 (USA) (5 November 1999)


$1,160,426 (USA) (21 April 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Mark Borchardt says the word "man" 151 times. See more »


Mark Borchardt: It's pronounced "COE-ven", man. What else could it be pronounced?
Actor: "CUH-ven". That's the proper pronunciation.
Mark Borchardt: No, no, no. No, no..."CUH-ven" sounds like "oven", man. And that's just... it doesn't work.
See more »


References Coven (2000) See more »


Mr. Bojangles
Written by Jerry Jeff Walker
Performed by Sammy Davis Jr.
used by permission of Warner/Chappell Music and Altovise G. Davis
See more »

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User Reviews

The Intriguing Story of Someone Who Refuses to Let Go of a Pipe Dream
6 January 2001 | by (Cleveland) – See all my reviews

When we are young, we all pick out an ideal occupation for ourselves: artist, actor, writer, rocket scientist, etc.. While most of us grow out of our pipe dreams, the main character of American Movie, Mark, has yet to let go of his(and at a thirty-something age too): to become a wealthy acclaimed director. Despite the fact that Murphy's Law won't leave Mark alone and something always seems to go wrong, Mark is able to persevere during each deterring incident with an even greater drive to reach his goals. His desire to be a director so controls his character that he sees any person or thing in his life as something to exploit to reach the goal. While I noticed other IMDB commenters are lambasting Mark's selfishness, I think it's an almost justified sort-of selfishness because for Mark, not becoming a famous director is equivalent to death. He talks incessantly about leaving some kind of mark on the world, and he sees filmmaking as a way to do this.

Unfortunately any viewer of this movie picks up early on the fact that Mark has a near-zero chance of ever achieving his dream. Is he aware of this? No, not in the slightest, and none of his family or friends want to let him in on the secret(in fact even some of them believe in him). Strangely enough though, the disappointing future the viewer feels is sure to occur for Mark doesn't impede the ability to find humor in the film. This is a very very funny documentary. Most of the laughs come from when Mark is filming scenes for "Coven". There's a scene where an actor has to have his head break a cupboard, and it's just not working. Another scene has Mark's very old uncle Bill saying a few lines to the camera; needless to say, after 20 takes of a lot of headscratching and line-stumbling Bill finally decides he's had enough. A lot of humor sadly comes from Mark himself. His screenwriting, which he seems to think is worthy of a Pulitzer, is laughingly bad: "It's alright, it's ok, there is something to live for; Jesus told me so."

"American Movie" is, contrary to what people might think, a documentary that anyone can enjoy(even though my sister, who watched some scenes, seemed to think it was downright bizarre). The fact that Chris Smith can successfully bring to the screen a film that inspires both sadness from Mark's depressing lifestyle to hilarity with scenes with Bill(who unfortunately passed away before the film was released) says quite a lot about him. I wonder how the dreamer Mark regards this documentary. Does he realize that it casts him in a bad light? Or that it sets up to show him as a fool in many scenes of the film? Or does he see it as something that will be shown prior to his own A&E Biography segment? It's an intriguing subject of wonder, and I hope the latter comes true for him some day.

I highly recommend this movie: 9/10.

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