American Beauty

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 187


Audience Score

User Ratings: 660,210
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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.


Kevin Spacey
as Lester Burnham
Annette Bening
as Carolyn Burnham
Thora Birch
as Jane Burnham
Wes Bentley
as Ricky Fitts
Mena Suvari
as Angela Hayes
Peter Gallagher
as Buddy Kane
Chris Cooper
as Frank Fitts
Allison Janney
as Barbara Fitts
Scott Bakula
as Jim Olymeyer
Sam Robards
as Jim Berkley
Barry Del Sherman
as Brad Dupree
Ara Celi
as Sale House Woman No. 1
John Cho
as Sale House Man No. 1
Fort Atkinson
as Sale House Man No. 2
Sue Casey
as Sale House Woman No. 2
Kent Faulcon
as Sale House Man No. 3
Brenda Wehle
as Sale House Woman No. 3
Lisa Cloud
as Sale House Woman No. 4
Alison Faulk
as Spartanette No. 1
Krista Goodsitt
as Spartanette No. 2
Lily Houtkin
as Spartanette No. 3
Carolina Lancaster
as Spartanette No. 4
Ramana Leah
as Spartanette No. 5
Chekesa Van Putten
as Spartanette No. 6
Emily Zachary
as Spartanette No. 7
Nancy Anderson
as Spartanette No. 8
Reshma Gajjar
as Spartanette No. 9
Stephanie Rizzo
as Spartanette No. 10
Heather Joy Sher
as Teenage Girl No. 1
Chelsea Hertford
as Teenage Girl No. 2
Amber Smith
as Christy Kane
Joel McCrary
as Catering Boss
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News & Interviews for American Beauty

Critic Reviews for American Beauty

All Critics (187) | Top Critics (48) | Fresh (163) | Rotten (24)

  • American Beauty is deeply disturbing, acerbically funny, brilliantly acted, breathtakingly original and highly sophisticated.

    Feb 22, 2015 | Full Review…
  • This is Spacey's best performance since he took home an Oscar for The Usual Suspects.

    Feb 22, 2015 | Full Review…
  • This engrossing centrepiece meshes with subplots involving Burnham's dysfunctional family and unbalanced neighbours, in a virtuoso study of isolation, repression and fulfilment. Mendes infuses the lush visuals and lyrical script with dramatic panache.

    Feb 22, 2015 | Full Review…

    Ed Potton

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • Why, then, did I enjoy it so little? Because of its unrelenting self-importance: American Beauty wants us to know, in every shot at every turn, just how clever and mercilessly cutting it is.

    May 8, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Kevin Spacey gives the performance of his life.

    May 8, 2014 | Full Review…

    Rex Reed

    Top 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.

    Jan 28, 2014 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for American Beauty

  • Apr 27, 2017
    This was a pretty good movie after I actually got the whole way through it. It takes apart suburbia in a way that most films don't, actually defining deep and complex characters. Most of the cast is pretty spot on, there is a certain subtle humor to the film that can be appreciated.
    Jarrin R Super Reviewer
  • Feb 27, 2016
    Another well deserved Oscar winning performance from the incompatible Kevin Spacey. This movie is worth watching solely for how great and hilarious the first hour is and how dramatic and tense the second hour is.
    Kameron W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 08, 2016
    American Beauty is a film that appears complex but in reality is quite simple: It's a film that unabashedly tears apart the delusion of the american dream and the typical middle-class lifestyle. A genius film and a perfect closing-out for the '90s. The brilliant part about American Beauty which proves that it's story is strong is that it does the classic progression method of multiple storylines diverging at the beginning before weaving back into one at the very end of the film. It's something that has been done many times over, but is completely brilliant to watch when written correctly, and it definitely is here. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are the nucleus for most of the film, playing Lester and Carolyn Burnham, a unhappily married couple whose marriage has grown completely 100% stagnant and who are in desperate need of contact but refuse for the most part to give it to each other due to their overwhelming pent-up anger at one another which is the driving force of the film in many ways. Their daughter Jane (Thora Birch) is a sarcastic and melancholic high school student who is friends with the vain and self-important Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari) who later becomes the object of Lester's desire. Jane meanwhile grows to befriend her next door neighbour and classmate Ricky Fitts, an equally different teenager who films everything he sees while dealing with an overbearing ex-marine father who is the very embodiment of conservative insecurity, and all these intersect at the grand finale where a preventable tragedy strikes at a bittersweet moment. American Beauty is such a relatable film because many people have at least been close to relating with one, if not two of it's protagonists, whether it's the introversion of Jane, the cynical, yet desperate Lester, or any of the others who all have their own serious problems in the storyline. However, Kevin Spacey's portrayal of Lester is the driving point of the film, as everything ends up revolving around the character's fate. Spacey's portrayal of Lester paints the character as a fiercely smart person who decides to take action and bring back some freedom into his life after he has lived a torturously banal existence. It's a film that can come off as depressing, but give it the chance and you'll see that it's a true work of art, and again, a perfect closing film for one of the most manic decades of modern history. Plus, you'll discover several hilariously stuck-up and utterly conservative euphemisms for not being the complete master of one's domain.
    Kal X. A Super Reviewer
  • Feb 25, 2015
    The only way you'll find out if American Beauty is for you is by watching it. It's hard to imagine it not being though, American Beauty is a prime example of how brutal and brilliant seemingly mundane films can be.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer

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