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American Splendor (2003)

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


(comic book series American Splendor), (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 ... Superman
Joey Krajcar ... Batman
... Robin
Cameron Carter ... Green Lantern
... Young Harvey
... Housewife
... Harvey Pekar
... Real Harvey
... Interviewer (voice)
Larry John Meyers ... Throat Doctor (as Larry John Myers)
Vivienne Benesch ... Lana
... Nurse
... Mr. Boats
... Marty
... 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:





Release Date:

12 September 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Esplendor americano  »

Filming Locations:



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

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Non comic book fans, or modern comic book fans, may be puzzled by the fact that the kid trick-or-treating as Green Lantern in the opening scene is wearing a red costume. This is actually accurate to the depicted era, the 1950s: the kid is dressed as the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, who had a costume like that, before the concept got rebooted in 1959 into the more familiar green uniform version. See more »


The scene where Harvey gets stuck behind the old Jewish woman leaves out a detail that would help it make sense.

In the movie, she says that the glasses are 6 for $2, but she couldn't carry 12 last time,, so they should charge her only $1.50 for the additional 6. There is no explanation as to why she should be charged less.

In the story from the original comic, she says that the glasses are 6 for $2 or 12 for $3.50, but she couldn't get all 12 last time, so they should charge her only $1.50 for the 6 she is buying now. See more »


Real Harvey: I felt more alone that week than any. Sometimes I'd feel a body lying next to me like an amputee feels a phantom limb. All I did was think about Jennie Gerhardt and Alice Quinn and all the decades of people I had known. The more I thought, the more I felt like crying. Life seemed so sweet and so sad, and so hard to let go of in the end. But hey, man, every day is a brand new deal, right? Just keep on working and something's bound to turn up.
See more »


Chasin' Rainbows
Written by Dallas String Band
Performed by R. Crumb And His Cheap Suit Serenaders
Courtesy of Shanachie Entertainment Corp.
See more »

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User Reviews

Brilliantly Made Film About A Very Dull Individual
24 April 2013 | by See all my reviews

There was a time when Hollywood made biopics about people of accomplishment, films commending excellence, whether Marie Curie or Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln, good films modeling behavior worthy of emulation; I suppose this film about a curmudgeonly, unkempt sad-sack is perfect for the age of A Divided Nation; Harney Pekar is famous for being himself, living in his own private bubble, as if that were in itself worthy of public deification.

That said, this is a brilliantly made film, with remarkable performances from Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, and the sincerity of the filmmakers cannot be doubted. It is an amazing blend of cartoon, both human and drawn, combined with actual vintage television footage, the real Pekar frequently juxtaposed against both his cartoon self and Giamattis remarkable recreation. After a few hours, however, I had to question if I really found this guy worthy of anything other than a clever ability to market his failings; its remarkably made, but do I want this dude in my living room for two hours?

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