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American Beauty (1999)



Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 167
Fresh: 147 | Rotten: 20

Flawlessly cast and brimming with dark, acid wit, American Beauty is a smart, provocative high point of late '90s mainstream Hollywood film.


Average Rating: 7.8/10
Critic Reviews: 40
Fresh: 35 | Rotten: 5

Flawlessly cast and brimming with dark, acid wit, American Beauty is a smart, provocative high point of late '90s mainstream Hollywood film.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 653,609

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Movie Info

Noted theater director Sam Mendes, who was responsible for the acclaimed 1998 revival of Cabaret and Nicole Kidman's turn in The Blue Room, made his motion picture debut with this film about the dark side of an American family, and about the nature and price of beauty in a culture obsessed with outward appearances. Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a man in his mid-40s going through an intense midlife crisis; he's grown cynical and is convinced that he has no reason to go on. Lester's


Drama, Comedy

Alan Ball

Jan 2, 2002

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All Critics (168) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (147) | Rotten (20) | DVD (39)

Alan Ball's script is a terrific piece of material, and Mendes responds directly to its subversive, provocative vision of a curdled American Dream.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

American Beauty approaches a manic, almost cartoonish edge without falling over. Both Spacey and Bening use extraordinary comic timing to bring these very sad, lost characters to life.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[The filmmakers'] attacks on real-estate agents, corporate America and suburbia aren't so much shooting fish in a barrel as they are shooting fish in a shallow dish.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Boldly challenging our sympathies, [Lester] somehow wins them because, to borrow a phrase, he's a man in full.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The hairpin turns from farce to melodrama, from satire to bathos, are fresh and deftly navigated, but almost every one of the underlying attitudes is smug and easy.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This amazing and impassioned fantasia about American loneliness begins as satire and ends with a vision of the sublime.

February 24, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mendes manages to give individuality and distinction to some extremely familiar material.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Disturbing, bleak, thought-provoking.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

Flaws and all, this is intelligent, exhilarating, effervescent film-making, and a remarkable debut from Sam Mendes.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball, both making their feature debuts, resort to a few heavy-handed tactics to get their points across, but their sheer audacity is so exhilarating it hardly matters.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club

Beauty is never less than fascinating and always visually stunning.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

British theatre director Sam Mendes made an astonishing film debut with this sublime black comedy about midlife crises.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

In their scathing portrayal of middle-class anxiety, screenwriter Alan Ball and director Sam Mendes create an average Joe determined to unearth the carefully buried truths of his life.

January 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

American Beauty is a profoundly satisfying piece of cinema which works its way inside you, grabs hold of your heart and simply refuses to let go.

February 24, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

American Beauty was a deserving best picture and Lester's rich existential journey and social commentary of modern America peels away the inauthentic and superficial to reveal the epic allure in a bleak suburbia.

May 7, 2012 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

Cripplingly broad, with network-sitcom beats dressed in R-rated threads... [endorses] a particularly adolescent male point of view.

March 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy | Comments (2)
Antagony & Ecstasy

Powerful acting, great story, but far too mature for kids.

September 14, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media | Comments (8)
Common Sense Media

The flaws that exist in American Beauty are effortlessly overcome by a cast that blossoms. Spacey in particular exhibits a rare wit and gravitas with Lester's weary frowns and cutting smirks, proving his mettle in this career peak performance.

June 7, 2010 Full Review Source:

It's daring in that it sympathizes with a protagonist who's a pederast though its portrait of an American family on the brink of collapse is essentially a cartoon

June 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine | Comments (17)
Slant Magazine

One of the most startling, brilliant pictures to come out of a major studio in many years.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

Audience Reviews for American Beauty

January 27, 2014
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

A powerful, peerless disassembly of the american dream, midlife crises and the suburbian experience. Wry, haunting and poetic.
October 27, 2012
Louis Rogers

Super Reviewer

Thought provoking movie. On one hand, Lester is motivated to make significant changes to his life - some positive. On the other hand, lusting after one of your daughter's girlfriends and working as a server at the local burger joint are not feasible long-term goals either. It is difficult to summarize this movie in a few words - but it doesn't portray suburban life in the most positive way.
September 19, 2012

Super Reviewer

A highly watchable dissembowlment of the American dream, Kevin Spacey leads the cast as his character Lester Burnham goes through a midlife crisis and falls in love with one of his daughter's friends. The stand out moments for me featured Wes Bentley who plays an estranged son to a military veteran who sells weed and has an obsession with recording the world around him.

The film's ideology is strong and the film itself is shot well enough for the topic at hand. The film also features interesting imagery revolving around rose petals. The film doesn't really have many substantial negatives but the overall package is only good enough for a 4 out of 5 from me. Still a must see though.
July 30, 2012
Cameron Sherwell

Super Reviewer

    1. Ricky Fitts: But it helps me remember... I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.
    – Submitted by Andrea M (8 months ago)
    1. Ricky Fitts: It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.
    – Submitted by Andrea M (8 months ago)
    1. Ricky Fitts: She's not your friend. She's just someone you use to feel better about yourself.
    – Submitted by Andrea M (8 months ago)
    1. Ricky Fitts: It's like God's looking right at you, just for a second, and if you're careful... you can look right back.
    2. Jane Burnham: And what do you see?
    3. Ricky Fitts: Beauty.
    – Submitted by Andrea M (8 months ago)
    1. Jane Burnham: Look mom, I really don't feel like having a Kodak moment here, OK?
    2. Caroline Burnham: (slaps her) You ungrateful little brat. Just look at everything you have. When I was your age, we lived in a duplex. We didn't even have our own house.
    – Submitted by Brian B (10 months ago)
    1. Lester Burnham: I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once and it's too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I'm talking about I'm sure, but don't worry, you will someday.
    – Submitted by Sarah M (12 months ago)
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