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American Beauty (1999)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 168
Fresh: 148 | Rotten: 20

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

88

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Critic Reviews: 42
Fresh: 37 | Rotten: 5

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

audience

93

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 654,830

My Rating

Movie Info

A biting, penetrating and often humorous take on contemporary life in suburban America, Lester Burnham becomes intrigued by a young girl named Angela, and this fascination sparks him to make some major changes in his life. He relishes these changes, much to the exasperation of his wife Carolyn.

R,

Drama, Comedy

Alan Ball

Jan 2, 2002

Dream Works - Official Site External Icon

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Cast

Latest News on American Beauty

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All Critics (169) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (148) | Rotten (20) | DVD (39)

Kevin Spacey gives the performance of his life.

May 8, 2014 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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
Slate
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
Guardian

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: AskMen.com

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

Audience Reviews for American Beauty

Exceptionally quirky, entertainingly intelligent and witty and finally and importantly, stirringly poignant.
June 24, 2014
Adriel Lim

Super Reviewer

Lester Burnham is undergoing a serious midlife crisis; pining for his lost youth and obsessing over a teenage cheerleader, he's married to a joyless go-getter who encloses herself in an armour of sarcasm and self-help and has a daughter who he cannot communicate with and clearly hates his guts. Most of the laughs in this film are provided by Lester's social rebellion, but it's communication (or lack thereof) is what this wonderful film is all about. Full of people who feel suffocated by their own apparently meaningless lives, it's a story of ordinary people full of wants and needs but unable to express them because of the overwhelming feeling that they must do what is expected of them; they must at least APPEAR to be "normal". Lester's fantasies about the young girl are just projections of what he feels is missing from his life, just as his wife's desperate need for "success" are. The cast are all perfect, the multi-layered script sparkles with witty dialogue and it's full of memorable moments, culminating in a deeply moving, insightful and thought provoking finale. Genuinely beautiful.
May 23, 2014
garyX
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
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

    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 (13 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 (13 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 (13 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 (13 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 (15 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 (17 months ago)
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