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American Beauty (1999)

R | | Drama | 1 October 1999 (USA)
3:01 | Trailer
A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter's best friend.


Sam Mendes


Alan Ball
309 ( 19)
Top Rated Movies #77 | Won 5 Oscars. Another 106 wins & 102 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Kevin Spacey ... Lester Burnham
Annette Bening ... Carolyn Burnham
Thora Birch ... Jane Burnham
Wes Bentley ... Ricky Fitts
Mena Suvari ... Angela Hayes
Peter Gallagher ... Buddy Kane
Allison Janney ... Barbara Fitts
Chris Cooper ... Colonel Fitts
Scott Bakula ... Jim Olmeyer
Sam Robards ... Jim Berkley
Barry Del Sherman ... Brad
Ara Celi ... Sale House Woman #1
John Cho ... Sale House Man #1
Fort Atkinson Fort Atkinson ... Sale House Man #2
Sue Casey Sue Casey ... Sale House Woman #2


After his death sometime in his forty-third year, suburbanite Lester Burnham tells of the last few weeks of his life, during which he had no idea of his imminent passing. He is a husband to real estate agent Carolyn Burnham and father to high school student Janie Burnham. Although Lester and Carolyn once loved each other, they now merely tolerate each other. Typical wallflower Janie too hates both her parents, the three who suffer individually in silence in their home life. Janie tries to steer clear of both her parents. Carolyn, relatively new to the real estate business, wants to create the persona of success to further her career, she aspiring to the professional life of Buddy Kane, the king of the real estate business in their neighborhood. Lester merely walks mindlessly through life, including at his job in advertising. His company is downsizing, and he, like all the other employees, has to justify his position to the newly hired efficiency expert to keep his job. Things change ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Sam Mendes insisted on two weeks of cast rehearsals, although the sessions were not as formal as he was used to in the theatre, and the actors could not be present at every one. See more »


When Lester hears that Angela is staying over for the night, he spills beer on the sink. In the next shot the beer is gone and the sink is clean. Also the beer bottle is held differently, showing the label from another side. See more »


[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 »


Don't Rain On My Parade
Written by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill
Performed by Bobby Darin and Annette Bening
Courtesy of The Bobby Darin Testamentary Trust
See more »

User Reviews

"I rule!" Do you? Do you though?
15 October 2020 | by cwbellorSee all my reviews

Suburban life isn't all rose petals, jail bait cheerleaders and gay neo-nazis in the closet! Something much darker lies beneath the veneer and whatever it is, it's not only dark, it's beautiful. American Beauty is a mid-life crisis tale that's heavy on the men's lib message. Spacey gives his I'm-so-bored drawl and every word he utters conveys the cynical sarcastic disdain he feels for the world. But his performance is not without levity. Watch him as he says, "I rule." It's fantastically subtle. Subtle in a look-at-how-funny-that-is way. When he finally begins to assert himself, it is remarkably poignant. Watch him throw asparagus against the wall. No, it's not a potential precursor to domestic violence. It's a declaration of independence whereupon you happily applaud Spacey's descent into me-me-me world. Meanwhile, his daughter Missy Miserable, played by Thora Birch is committed to the dead stare demeanor. Her only guide as she navigates the teenage wasteland is blonde bimbo Jenny Jailbait. Thora is a disillusioned youth in need of a more thoughtful peer. Enter the eccentric and creepy Ricky Fitts. As far as Ricky is concerned, Mena is a bland blonde and Thora is a glowing angel of tortured teendom. Ricky is an immediately endearing character for the fact that he appears to have been born with a paralyzing birth defect - the inability to blink. Ricky's sole purpose in life is to mock the stuffy suburbanite pursuit of perfection. This is something he can do simply by standing in one place without blinking. Observe his psycho-killer stare as he balances sincerity with pretentious existential insights. The epic plastic bag dance is so stunning that wide-eyed Ricky feels like he might pass out from its beauty. For Ricky, a plastic bag is a bigger tearjerker than Lester's morning grip in the shower.

As cinematic as this film is visually, you still get bits of that late 90s staple, digital hand-held technique. You see, the only way you can catch the raw truth of life is through the seemingly cold and impersonal lense of a digital camera. Yes, this came out the same year as Blair Witch. American Beauty is a cul de sac of tragedy and sickly stirring dreams where one's ambition and desire supersedes any responsibility to anyone else. Well, at least that's what it is if your name is Lester Burnham.

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Release Date:

1 October 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

American Beauty See more »


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$861,531, 19 September 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS | Dolby

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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