222 user 190 critic

American Splendor (2003)

2:17 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.


Harvey Pekar (comic book series American Splendor), Joyce Brabner (comic book series Our Cancer Year) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 31 wins & 49 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris Ambrose Chris Ambrose ... Superman
Joey Krajcar Joey Krajcar ... Batman
Josh Hutcherson ... Robin
Cameron Carter Cameron Carter ... Green Lantern
Daniel Tay ... Young Harvey
Mary Faktor ... Housewife
Paul Giamatti ... Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar ... Real Harvey
Shari Springer Berman ... Interviewer (voice)
Larry John Meyers Larry John Meyers ... Throat Doctor (as Larry John Myers)
Vivienne Benesch Vivienne Benesch ... Lana
Barbara Brown ... Nurse
Earl Billings ... Mr. Boats
Danny Hoch ... Marty
James Urbaniak ... Robert Crumb


Harvey Pekar is file clerk at the local VA hospital. His interactions with his co-workers offer some relief from the monotony, and their discussions encompass everything from music to the decline of American culture to new flavors of jellybeans and life itself. At home, Harvey fills his days with reading, writing and listening to jazz. His apartment is filled with thousands of books and LPs, and he regularly scours Cleveland's thrift stores and garage sales for more, savoring the rare joy of a 25-cent find. It is at one of these junk sales that Harvey meets Robert Crumb, a greeting card artist and music enthusiast. When, years later, Crumb finds international success for his underground comics, the idea that comic books can be a valid art form for adults inspires Harvey to write his own brand of comic book. An admirer of naturalist writers like Theodore Dreiser, Harvey makes his American Splendor a truthful, unsentimental record of his working-class life, a warts-and-all self portrait... Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

12 September 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Esplendor americano See more »

Filming Locations:

Cleveland, Ohio, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$159,705, 17 August 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,003,587, 30 November 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


NBC would not lease out the actual Late Night with David Letterman (1982) footage where Harvey Pekar finally lashed out at David Letterman, so the scene had to be recreated with actors. See more »


The exterior front of the comic book store shows a wooden structure with windows that reach about half way up the height of the building and a wooden door with a glass section in it. The interior view shows glass extending from the ceiling to the floor and no wooden door. See more »


Harvey Pekar: So, how long you staying in Cleveland, man?
See more »


Features Late Night with David Letterman (1982) See more »


For He's a Jolly Good Fellow
Sung a cappella by Toby Radloff
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Biography of the first "Reality Comic Book" author.
24 April 2004 | by gilliesSee all my reviews

There is not a movie with better acting that was made in 2003. This is what kept my wife and I glued to the television until well past midnight, when we should have been asleep.

This film is a biography of the real-life comic book writer (not illustrator) Harvey Pekar. Harvey is from Cleveland and early on befriends a man who eventually "strikes it big" in the comic book illustration business. After more than 10 years in a go-nowhere career as a hospital file clerk, Harvey decides that he will do the same, and finds that while he cannot draw, he can at least write stories about his life and observations that his friend can Illustrate quite amazingly and which together are published as the comic, "American Splendor."

Harvey is really a manic depressive person with a sardonic wit and a really banal life. On the other hand, his comics must be pretty great because he is a guest on the David Letterman show at least 3 times and actual footage from these appearances is included in the movie.

In many ways this is like a classic movie from Mainland China (e.g. "Xiu-Xiu, the sent-down girl", "raise the red lantern", etc.), although this movie is true. My wife, from Hong Kong, says that most Chinese movies follow a very elementary plot line :

Do you think your life Sucks? It could SUCK THIS MUCH !!!

And people watching a standard Chinese Movie are supposed to leave the theater uplifted because their lives do not suck as much as the lives they have just seen on the moviescreen.

I can say that this is probably the same type of movie, and this is the redeeming part of the Comic Cook, although I've never seen it. However, the movie was written with a great deal of creativity and there are also several humorous moments, and there are also several animations from Harvey's comics that take up acting space in the movie, which makes the movie absolutely positively something you've never seen before, and its worth seeing because although the overall story is rather depressing, the writing and acting and visual graphics are rather brilliant in this fine film. Furthermore, the courtship between Harvey and his wife is pretty interesting, and the way in which they are able to resolve their differences over having children is truly surprising.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 222 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Check Out What's Playing on IMDb Freedive

See what movies and TV series you can watch for free today, and visit IMDb Freedive for even more. Select any poster below to play the movie!

Find more things to watch

Recently Viewed