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8.7

Universal acclaim- based on 563 Ratings

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  1. Negative: 36 out of 563
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  1. Apr 25, 2015
    9
    Over the years, many films have taken a dark look at the supposedly perfect ideal of a white picket fence, a little house, and a nuclear family. For many, the suburban life is the American dream. For others, however, it can turn into a twisted nightmare of unfulfilled desires, repressed needs, and shattered hopes. Because of the necessity to keep up appearances, a serene facade oftenOver the years, many films have taken a dark look at the supposedly perfect ideal of a white picket fence, a little house, and a nuclear family. For many, the suburban life is the American dream. For others, however, it can turn into a twisted nightmare of unfulfilled desires, repressed needs, and shattered hopes. Because of the necessity to keep up appearances, a serene facade often conceals a breeding ground for dysfunction, anxiety, and hypocrisy. Directors like David Lynch have made this their playground. Lynch in particular delights in depicting the root causes of social decay in suburbia - and he does it by autopsy. American Beauty is not as dark as a Lynch project, since it allows for small moments of redemption, but it mines the same general territory.

    If there's a rule in American cinema that all families not named Brady must be dysfunctional, then American Beauty does nothing to violate it. Most teenagers think their parents are strange, but, in the case of Jane Burnham (Thora Birch, whose largest previous big screen role was in Alaska), this is as much a state of reality as it is a state of mind. Her father, Lester (Kevin Spacey), is suffering through a mid-life crisis. At the age of 42, he has become apathetic to everything. "Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser," he confesses at one point, "And they're right. I have lost something. I didn't always feel this sedated." Meanwhile, Jane's mother, Carolyn (Annette Bening), places such value on status that she has turned into a "bloodless, money-grubbing freak" who has no time for any form of intimacy. Her creed: "You cannot count on anyone except yourself." She and Lester continue in their dead marriage for their daughter's sake and so they'll look normal to the outside world. In a moment of clarity, Lester admits, "Our marriage is just for show - a commercial for how normal we are, when we're anything but."

    American Beauty is the first feature film directed by Sam Mendes, who has an extensive background in theater, but displays a sureness that many veteran filmmakers are unable to match. At times evoking elements of Todd Solondz' controversial Happiness and Ang Lee's brilliant The Ice Storm, American Beauty weds compelling drama with black comedy. The movie is character-driven, but the three protagonists are so expertly developed that we are drawn to them for the entire two hour running time. Spacey, Bening, and Birch all give the kinds of top-notch performances that deserve (but do not always get) consideration at Oscar time. Spacey's Lester may be American Beauty's narrator, but, through a low-key portrayal that conveys all the angst and confusion of a particularly bad teenage experience, Birch makes Jane the film's emotional focal point.

    If there's a weakness in American Beauty, it's in the way the story is structured. Spacey's voiceover narrative effectively kills a great deal of narrative tension when, during an opening scene, he reveals the film's ending. This approach is often forgivable if there's a compelling dramatic reason for it, but that isn't the case here. In fact, the use of the voiceover allows American Beauty to close with more exposition than is necessary. We don't need to be told, for example, that one of the film's points is that we should learn to savor every moment of life and to see all the hidden beauty the world has to offer.

    Mendes and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall add some wonderful camera work, especially when it comes to close-ups. In most films, we rarely notice this kind of shot because it is used indiscriminately. However, in American Beauty, it serves the definite purpose of offering insight into a character's mindset. There are many close-ups in this film, and few (if any) are used for the banal purpose of varying shot selection. And Thomas Newman's dynamic, playful score compliments the picture's effective visual composition.

    American Beauty doesn't trailblaze a path into hitherto untouched cinematic territory, but its presentation of vivid characters in interesting situations makes the story seem fresh. In part because it's not a complete downer and in part because it doesn't cheat the audience, American Beauty is emotionally satisfying. There's a sense of poignancy at the end, but also the feeling that we have been on an incredible trip through the lives and souls of three perfectly-realized characters. In a year that boasts few truly memorable motion pictures, Mendes can stake a claim alongside the likes of Kubrick and Egoyan as one whose cinematic vision both challenges and entertains.
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  2. Apr 23, 2015
    9
    The extent of this film's brilliance is quite overwhelming. You have a film centered on mid-life crisis--mixed with incredibly dark humor, irony and symbolism. American Beauty begins as a slow burn and quickly ignites into a thrilling and deep look at society and relationships.
  3. Apr 18, 2015
    10
    Sam Mendes accurately expresses the complex, yet simplistic life of the typical American family. His use of subtle lighting and luring music paint the picture of normality and even the mundaneness of the middle class. Bold reds and slow-motion shots break through the cracks to show the turmoil hidden behind the fluff of those red roses.
    It is the ultimate American contradiction of wishing
    Sam Mendes accurately expresses the complex, yet simplistic life of the typical American family. His use of subtle lighting and luring music paint the picture of normality and even the mundaneness of the middle class. Bold reds and slow-motion shots break through the cracks to show the turmoil hidden behind the fluff of those red roses.
    It is the ultimate American contradiction of wishing to be protected and yearning to be free at the same time. This is shown through the lives of the Burnham family: Lester with all his hopes banked in the past, his daughter Jane grasping for the future, and the perfect materialized wife in Carolyn. They are each trapped by the roles society has forced upon them or that they have forced on themselves. Mendes asks, is it possible to have the comfort of safety and also maintain the thrill of freedom?
    Maybe the fault some find in "American Beauty" is that it does not answer any questions, but proposes many. It presents a story that is as complicated to the viewer as it is to the characters within it. It does not claim to have answers because it knows there are no clear-cut solutions in life.
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  4. Dec 21, 2014
    10
    American Beauty is not only funny and immersing, but offers a new spin on film. It graduates analysis and meaning to the next level. It doesn't hide it's sappy feel-good messages behind "deep metaphors", instead it just lets you have them, and take them in the direction you please. The acts of rebellion and production of art accompanying pure happiness throughout American Beauty make itAmerican Beauty is not only funny and immersing, but offers a new spin on film. It graduates analysis and meaning to the next level. It doesn't hide it's sappy feel-good messages behind "deep metaphors", instead it just lets you have them, and take them in the direction you please. The acts of rebellion and production of art accompanying pure happiness throughout American Beauty make it absolutely thrilling to watch, over and over again. It really lives up to its name. Expand
  5. Nov 8, 2014
    9
    Gran película, con uno de los guiones mas originales que he visto y, posiblemente, Kevin Spacey haciendo su mejor y mas memorable papel. Es una de esas películas que no dejan indiferentes, que hay que ver una vez antes de morir.
  6. Oct 30, 2014
    9
    From director Sam Mendes and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball American Beauty follows the final days of Lester, a middle-class man whose marriage and life is on the rocks. Lester is not liked by his wife or daughter and is about to be sacked from his job. As a result he decides to live his life exactly how he wants, to the further frustration of his family.

    The film deservedly won five
    From director Sam Mendes and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball American Beauty follows the final days of Lester, a middle-class man whose marriage and life is on the rocks. Lester is not liked by his wife or daughter and is about to be sacked from his job. As a result he decides to live his life exactly how he wants, to the further frustration of his family.

    The film deservedly won five Academy Awards including best picture, best director and best actor. Writer Alan Ball delivers a clever and darkly humorous script much in the vein of the excellent Six Feet Under and the cast are uniformly brilliant, particularly Kevin Spacey in the lead role. American Beauty provides a fascinating insight into what might be going on behind the closed doors of seemingly normal suburban households and is certainly a movie worth seeing.
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  7. Aug 13, 2014
    8
    American Beauty may be a tad overhyped, but it is very good all the same. Kevin Spacey is fantastic as is the rest of the cast. Everybody really embodies their character thanks to great casting all around. The direction from Sam Mendes is great and it is amazing to think that this was his debut. The script is very good. It is witty and dark at the same time. It is hard to place my fingerAmerican Beauty may be a tad overhyped, but it is very good all the same. Kevin Spacey is fantastic as is the rest of the cast. Everybody really embodies their character thanks to great casting all around. The direction from Sam Mendes is great and it is amazing to think that this was his debut. The script is very good. It is witty and dark at the same time. It is hard to place my finger on what the film is about. It is not overly complex, but there are so many things that are going on, that you cannot really say what this one is about in a sentence without leaving out a ton of information. But, I will try. Ultimately, to me, American Beauty is about life and the facade's we all put up around our lives to project an image of what we want we to be, rather than what we truly are. However, even in saying that, it leaves you a lot of the topics discussed, such as self-liberation, sexuality, and love. Yet, I think my simplistic sentence briefly covers all of those to some degree, as they all deal with pretending things are not what they are. In addition, I really love the title. There are so many different meanings behind "American Beauty", whether it be the roses that are shown throughout the film, Mena Suvari's character, the beauty of the American Dream, or many other things. The film is not overly complicated, but has so many different plausible interpretations that it a fun film to dissect. American Beauty is a truly great work that is fun to watch and fun to discuss thanks to great acting, direction, and writing. Expand
  8. Jun 28, 2014
    9
    'American Beauty' is a caricature of suburbia, depicting how the picture of what is a normal family is just a facade, just some idealistic opportunism that breaks the line of fantasy. The elements of this, added with the writing, direction, acting, and cinematography especially, 'American Beauty' sums up to be one roller coaster of several conflicting emotions.
  9. May 5, 2014
    8
    This Sam Mendes picture is very simple and intelligent, with very clever dialogue, direction and career best performances by Spacey, Bening, Birch and the supporting cast, American Beauty works perfectly and is one of the very best of the 90s
  10. May 3, 2014
    10
    It boasts all the depth and insight of a thought-provoking drama, and all the hilarity and irreverence of a great comedy. The acting is universally spectacular. American Beauty stands out because it takes a familiar setting and themes and spins them into something original.
  11. May 3, 2014
    10
    "American Beauty" is not just a film, it is a poem that is told by the warm voice of Kevin Spacey, accompanied by a soundtrack intense and exciting and a photograph soft and impact.
    The director does not exceed in the unnecessary, rather it keeps on soft tones and soft, as well as the actors' tests, which are the most talented ever seen in a movie.
    A notion aside the merits Kevin Spacey,
    "American Beauty" is not just a film, it is a poem that is told by the warm voice of Kevin Spacey, accompanied by a soundtrack intense and exciting and a photograph soft and impact.
    The director does not exceed in the unnecessary, rather it keeps on soft tones and soft, as well as the actors' tests, which are the most talented ever seen in a movie.
    A notion aside the merits Kevin Spacey, who in this film is shown not to be in no respect inferior to actors much discussed and overly praised by critics and the general public.
    The screenplay by Alan Ball is, as mentioned before, an intense poetry and reflective, that only the most sensitive will be able to fully comprehend.
    I absolutely recommend to everyone watching this masterpiece that can not miss in the collection of a true cinephile
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  12. May 3, 2014
    10
    I do not usually base the size of a movie on the amount of awards won , and I do not want to do it even now , but we must recognize that awarded five Oscars for " American Beauty " , contrary to what many say , were richly deserved !
    The director is absolutely fantastic and innovative and you can almost feel . Sam Mendes, theater director , was able to start with a bang , giving us shots
    I do not usually base the size of a movie on the amount of awards won , and I do not want to do it even now , but we must recognize that awarded five Oscars for " American Beauty " , contrary to what many say , were richly deserved !
    The director is absolutely fantastic and innovative and you can almost feel . Sam Mendes, theater director , was able to start with a bang , giving us shots absolutely brilliant and perfectly designed to make the most of the character and the situations of each character. The staging is clearly theatrical , as well as the acting of all the actors. Among all it is, of course , distinguished wizards that Kevin Spacey ( who deservedly won the Oscar for best actor ) who gave us an interpretation absolutely magnificent and showed off her endless versatility. I have to say , though, that convinced me everything that the cast , including Peter Gallagher in the role of the rich man who steals wives there is perfect. But the highlight of the film is the script by Alan Ball, who in my opinion is one of the best ever written. He gave us two memorable monologues , such as that played by Wes Bentley during the dance scene of the envelope , and that played by Kevin Spacey in the final scene . Each of the two monologues are accompanied by the sublime soundtrack by Thomas Newman , who manages to make the scenes more sweet and harmonious .
    I really think that " American Beauty " is the perfect example of a movie . This is not to say that it is a film that should delight equally to all , it is always a matter of taste , but beyond saying that it is overrated and annoying anyone know how to criticize .
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  13. Mar 4, 2014
    10
    i rewatched this tonight for the first time sine '01. annette bening seemed too frantic and a little campy, the whole col. fitts thing glaringly obvious, and, of course, i knew the ending. that said, i still am astonished by it. wes bentley's rick is as moving. the much parodied plastic bag scene, overlaid with thomas newman's gorgeous score, ricky's love for all beauty in the world, andi rewatched this tonight for the first time sine '01. annette bening seemed too frantic and a little campy, the whole col. fitts thing glaringly obvious, and, of course, i knew the ending. that said, i still am astonished by it. wes bentley's rick is as moving. the much parodied plastic bag scene, overlaid with thomas newman's gorgeous score, ricky's love for all beauty in the world, and thora birch's tenderness for him reduced me to sobs as quickly as it did originally. i was even more struck by the reveal of who angela really was and lester's holding her as a father would, his scene with her in the kitchen is deeply revelatory and, yes, happy.
    annette bening grabbing his clothes, sobbing, is an image that has always stayed with me.

    it was film of it's time, but, it still works. as art, as filmmaking, as screenwriting, and as a master class in acting and cinematography. mena suvari on the rose filled ceiling, the petals fluttering down on lester's delighted face is as indelible an image as any in film.
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  14. Feb 24, 2014
    10
    The acting is great, the lighting is beautiful, the writing is pitch-perfect and the music is hypnotizing. This was Sam Mendes' debut as a film director. The result is a masterpiece!
  15. Dec 23, 2013
    10
    Is this the best film of the 90s? Quite possibly, as no other confuses and delights more than American Beauty. The subtle complexity of its original and brilliant screenplay, coupled with its sensitively fabricated representation makes for an outlook-altering experience. It doesn't matter how many times I watch American Beauty, I sense a new meaning each time and am never confident that IIs this the best film of the 90s? Quite possibly, as no other confuses and delights more than American Beauty. The subtle complexity of its original and brilliant screenplay, coupled with its sensitively fabricated representation makes for an outlook-altering experience. It doesn't matter how many times I watch American Beauty, I sense a new meaning each time and am never confident that I know what the film means or what it is trying to say. Of course, the enigmatic and darkly beautiful nature of the film is helped along by subtle, honest and terrific performances from Spacey and Bening, a mesmerising score and stunning direction, but underpinning this all is a witty, dark, optimistic, pessimistic, original and overwhelming screenplay that gives this film too many dimensions to wave matching gardening clogs at. Expand
  16. Nov 30, 2013
    9
    A wonderfully unique and powerful film. The script is so sharp and the acting is nothing less than superb. It is enticing to watch and certainly leaves a lasting impression. A must see movie!
  17. Sep 21, 2013
    9
    Funny, engaging and exhilarating. Kevin Spacey breathes life into his character and the movie itself. He deserves the Oscar. The first half was more than satisfactory. The second one got a bit bogged down before making a comeback and taking me by surprise. One of those movies that everyone should give a chance.
  18. Jul 4, 2013
    10
    This is just one of those movies that transcends. You would think that a story that largely centers upon a middle aged guy fantasizing about his teenage daughter's best friend would be a sketchy, but the way the film so artfully explores modern notions of beauty, fulfillment, and what matters is truly remarkable. A spiritual experience, this movie will change your life.
  19. Jun 24, 2013
    10
    Very powerful film. Well done to Sam Mendes on his debut film. I love everything about this film, especially Kevin Spacey's performance as Lester Burnham and his fixation on his daughter's friend. There are so many fantastic things about this film. The cast, all brilliant and I believe Chris Cooper didn't get enough credit for his role as Col. Frank Fitts. The cinematography is very wellVery powerful film. Well done to Sam Mendes on his debut film. I love everything about this film, especially Kevin Spacey's performance as Lester Burnham and his fixation on his daughter's friend. There are so many fantastic things about this film. The cast, all brilliant and I believe Chris Cooper didn't get enough credit for his role as Col. Frank Fitts. The cinematography is very well done. The soundtrack is a stand out aspect of this film, just incredible.

    One of my favourite films, just brilliant.
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  20. Jun 17, 2013
    9
    It had been a few years since I'd seen this movie but now that I'm older I really appreciated it a lot more and thoroughly enjoyed it. Top-notch acting and some stellar performances from the cast, as well as just having a great concept as we watch an all-American family fall apart as those in it start to do what they want with their lives. The final few scenes are really where it picks upIt had been a few years since I'd seen this movie but now that I'm older I really appreciated it a lot more and thoroughly enjoyed it. Top-notch acting and some stellar performances from the cast, as well as just having a great concept as we watch an all-American family fall apart as those in it start to do what they want with their lives. The final few scenes are really where it picks up for one heck of an ending, and overall it definitely deserved that Best Picture Oscar! Expand
  21. May 4, 2013
    10
    One of the smartest, funniest, and most ironic movies I have ever seen. If I had never seen this movie, I probably wouldn't be the same person. This is by far one of the best films ever made, and one of my favorites.
  22. Mar 23, 2013
    9
    A Film I Could Never Get Tired Of! The Score Of This Movie Is The Best I'v Heard In Years!
  23. Mar 10, 2013
    10
    One of the most memorable films ever, Sam Mendes strong direction and Spacey's beautiful performance lead this unforgettable film to the top.
  24. Mar 2, 2013
    10
    this is truly american beauty when you watch a film like this, kevin spacey and annette bening own their roles very well, very good story and very good writing a must watch.
  25. Feb 25, 2013
    9
    This movie appeals to me in a way that I can't explain. I had never heard about this movie until I stumbled across it two years ago when I was doing some research on Kevin Spacey's acting career. I thought that I would give it a chance and when I watched it I was blown away. Everything about this movie, every little aspect, is great the acting, the sountrack, the screenplay, everything.This movie appeals to me in a way that I can't explain. I had never heard about this movie until I stumbled across it two years ago when I was doing some research on Kevin Spacey's acting career. I thought that I would give it a chance and when I watched it I was blown away. Everything about this movie, every little aspect, is great the acting, the sountrack, the screenplay, everything. It explores themes like sexuality, family and the superficial ideal that we all know to well, in a way that I consider to be nothing but flawless. I'm not saying that this is a movie for everyone (because it's definitely not) but I think it's a movie that everybody should see at least once in their life. It is a masterpiece and a classic that will live on forever. Expand
  26. Feb 7, 2013
    10
    Sono stato piacevolmente sorpreso da questo film. A tratti sconvolgente, con una sceneggiatura da premio oscar e infatti così stato A qualcuno potrebbe non piacere, ma un tentativo si può sempre fare nemmeno io ero così attratto dal film, e invece..
  27. Nov 28, 2012
    10
    I have never seen a movie that cogently blends together elements of a pragmatic social satire and a poignant domestic tragedy. Though, this is by far one of the most messed up films I have ever seen. . .it is also one of the best. When you have an incredible cast, an intelligent director, a brilliant screenplay, and amazing camerawork and music, all of these parts seem to fall into placeI have never seen a movie that cogently blends together elements of a pragmatic social satire and a poignant domestic tragedy. Though, this is by far one of the most messed up films I have ever seen. . .it is also one of the best. When you have an incredible cast, an intelligent director, a brilliant screenplay, and amazing camerawork and music, all of these parts seem to fall into place and work cohesively to create a masterpiece.. Expand
  28. Nov 12, 2012
    10
    Has it all. Even prepubescent nudity, which may not be a very good thing...but it has it.
  29. Nov 5, 2012
    10
    American Beauty is a triumph of acting, writing, and directing. Writer Alan Ball and director Sam Mendes truly strike gold with this jaw-dropping, entrancing film. It's truly one of the best films I've ever seen.
  30. Aug 25, 2012
    10
    The word classic is one thrown around the film industry too often these days, it is only when you watch a film such American Beauty that the true nature and prowess of inspirational filmmaking can be seen. The film to end all others in a sense that none could ever live up to its masterful performances, witty script and direction extra-ordinaire. A must-see, as many times as you can, itThe word classic is one thrown around the film industry too often these days, it is only when you watch a film such American Beauty that the true nature and prowess of inspirational filmmaking can be seen. The film to end all others in a sense that none could ever live up to its masterful performances, witty script and direction extra-ordinaire. A must-see, as many times as you can, it truly lives up to the name. Cherish it, films such as these can come just once in a lifetime Expand
  31. May 8, 2012
    9
    For me the year 1999 has to be one of the best years in film. That was a year of some really interesting and intriguing films, films that include Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, The Sixth Sense, Star Wars Episode 1, and The Matrix. It seems that something happened to the filmmakers that year and they decided to make more risky and maybe more films that reflect the usual manâ
  32. Apr 21, 2012
    10
    A truly extraordinary dark drama/comedy. A movie that will make each and every one of us sit and appreciate life. "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."
  33. Mar 31, 2012
    7
    Amercian Beauty is a good film not great. It is a good movie thats shows forbidden love and family destruction. Kevin Spacey and the entire cast were great.
  34. Feb 13, 2012
    9
    "American Beauty" is a masterful film. Kevin Spacey is at it's best and the film is filled with allegories and symbolism. A must watch.
  35. Dec 14, 2011
    8
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view.
  36. Sep 26, 2011
    9
    Not just a great, but an IMPORTANT movie.
    90% of people who hate it do so because they are painfully reminded of the fact that their safe, mediocre, success-driven middle-class lives look as dire as the protagonist's.
  37. Jun 17, 2011
    10
    this is a very good one, very nice and interesting story, and the end is incredible.
    highly recommended
  38. May 25, 2011
    10
    Alan Ball's writing is genius, Kevin's acting is groundbreaking, Annette is funny, and the director is one of the best.
    long story short, the Oscars that were given to this movie were all deserved.
  39. Apr 24, 2011
    10
    This movie is perfect, at least under the context I see it under. It was this film that inspired me to watch other movies and personally it's one of my favorite movies out there. There's better ones of coarse, but this one is the one I decide to hold on to, because of the impact it had when I saw it for the first time. It is a memorable piece, that runs deep and uses the color red toThis movie is perfect, at least under the context I see it under. It was this film that inspired me to watch other movies and personally it's one of my favorite movies out there. There's better ones of coarse, but this one is the one I decide to hold on to, because of the impact it had when I saw it for the first time. It is a memorable piece, that runs deep and uses the color red to foreshadow the lives of our dear beloved protagonists. Expand
  40. Mar 5, 2011
    10
    This is the best film ever made.It's really incredible.

    There isn't other film that can complete with ''american beauty''. Ã
  41. Feb 15, 2011
    9
    Such a great film. The acting in it was superb and the casting for it was dead-on. The actors did their jobs 100%. Furthermore, the crew for that film did an amazing job. The writing was perfect and shots were incredible. Personally I don't have much to say about it negatively. I suppose sometimes it gets a little too melodramatic but the black humor more than makes up for it.
  42. Jan 7, 2011
    5
    It's an american not so beauty at all story. Nothing is really happen in this movie. The Kevin's character is a sick man. I don't understand why so many people like so much this movie
  43. Oct 18, 2010
    10
    I love how the film captures the strangest of all locations: Surburbia. Many of us who live in surburbia can relate to this awkward black comedy which makes you realise we are all a bit crazy really. Possibly the strangest element of the film is the lust Kevin Spacey has for his daughters friend. Although incredibly disturbing its also seems to make you love the main character even moreI love how the film captures the strangest of all locations: Surburbia. Many of us who live in surburbia can relate to this awkward black comedy which makes you realise we are all a bit crazy really. Possibly the strangest element of the film is the lust Kevin Spacey has for his daughters friend. Although incredibly disturbing its also seems to make you love the main character even more and that can't have been achieved without some hard work and dedication. Expand
  44. Aug 28, 2010
    10
    This movie is incredible. It will change your life in an undescribable way. Everything from the opening sequence to the last 5 minutes will leave you in awe.
  45. joj
    Jan 7, 2010
    7
    I remember this movie coming out when I was younger, but knew I had no hopes of watching a film whose cover depicted little more than a woman's naval. That being said, it is perhaps all of the hype I've seen this film accumulate over the years that caused me to be a litte underwhelmed by it. Now I'm not saying that the movie doesn't accomplish what it set out to do or I remember this movie coming out when I was younger, but knew I had no hopes of watching a film whose cover depicted little more than a woman's naval. That being said, it is perhaps all of the hype I've seen this film accumulate over the years that caused me to be a litte underwhelmed by it. Now I'm not saying that the movie doesn't accomplish what it set out to do or all of the things that people tend to praise it for: it was meaningful, touching, unique and had wonderful character development. I'm actually quite glad I of the fact that I didn't see this as a child, as I would have likely gotten little more from it than a few images of the elusive female breasts. I did, however, find myself continuously picking out little nuisances that really took away from the whole experience. Of course I'm sure a lot of the things I found to be "wrong" weren't actually shortcomings in the film itself, but more just my own personal disatisfactions. I probably would have given it a 9 had I not had more time to reflect on it as a whole. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't go into this expecting an absolutely perfect movie, instead expect a poignant and often humorous story that has lost a bit of its relevance over the years. Expand
  46. AnkurM.
    Dec 16, 2009
    10
    A brilliant piece of cinema, very genuine, intense and grabs your attention easily. Kevin Spacy delivers an impeccable performence, Thora Birch is excellent. A film about just life, just like getting to know a family next door. The film has a lot to offer, very fine drama.
  47. RogelioG
    Nov 13, 2009
    10
    I absolutely loved this movie! Very entertaining and dramatic. What ever message, if any, the director was trying to send, i don't care. The acting was great and so was the plot. A very watchable movie for mature audiences.
  48. JeremyE
    Sep 14, 2009
    6
    I wish people would stop talking about "Hollywood trying to push an agenda" and stupid crap like that. Just concentrate on the movie. That being said, I really just don't see what all the hype was about. Every actor in the movie played his or her part exceptionally well (especially Bening and Birch), but the story was pointless. It's just a horny man in a midlife crisis, his I wish people would stop talking about "Hollywood trying to push an agenda" and stupid crap like that. Just concentrate on the movie. That being said, I really just don't see what all the hype was about. Every actor in the movie played his or her part exceptionally well (especially Bening and Birch), but the story was pointless. It's just a horny man in a midlife crisis, his wife is obsessed with work, his daughter is a typical, nonchalant teenager. It's a story about regular life. Nothing about it was interesting at all. You keep waiting for it to pick up, but nothing happens. And the surprise at the ending of the movie has no moral or reasoning. So basically, Actors good. Plot boring. If you're an actor or a film buff, you'll enjoy it, but if you're just a regular movie watcher, skip it. Expand
  49. 'garman
    Aug 13, 2009
    3
    Entertaining in the way of a freak show. As irresistible a view as an accident scene. Hollywood cynicism par excellence. I made it through the movie without losing my dinner, but nearly lost it watching them all gush in the ludicrously named "Behind the Scenes Featurette".
  50. MingV
    Aug 11, 2009
    10
    The best a contemporary American drama can be.
  51. chrisl
    Jun 5, 2009
    0
    A really awful overblown and pompous film with very poor directing extremely awkward dialogue, and terrible acting. Kevin Spacey in particular was really tight and bland in his role.
  52. BarryP
    Feb 1, 2009
    10
    I have never been so captivated by a film. I was totally mesmerized and I am lost for words. Incredible and it is instantly one of the best I have ever seen in my life. Words cannot properly describe how powerful this film is so if you haven't see it I suggest you do so. Wow.
  53. WesM.
    Jul 29, 2008
    10
    Some of the most diverse, enjoyable character-driven drama out there!
  54. SusanN.
    Jul 27, 2008
    10
    A film I could watch over and over and never get tired of. A film to see before you die.
  55. ThomasR.
    Apr 13, 2008
    10
    One of the best movies I've ever seen. Maybe it isn't everything the critics want in a movie, but it was everything I wanted.
  56. GraceB.
    Nov 3, 2007
    9
    This movie is going down as one of my all time faves. It's one of those stories that stick with you, that you don't forget about the second the movie's over. It's alot like Garden State with great detail in each and every character, and I'm sure that everyone can find a little of themselves in each one. Captivating film.
  57. HannahF.
    Oct 11, 2007
    10
    I am merely a young girl and am certainly not allowed to watch a movie like this one, but I fatefully came upon it, and was stunned. Never before had I seen a movie this thought-provoking or plainly beautiful. It is a daring movie you never see, with its witty and realistic look at the "American Dream". Hearing a teenage boy speak of the world and all its splendor, I found myself crying I am merely a young girl and am certainly not allowed to watch a movie like this one, but I fatefully came upon it, and was stunned. Never before had I seen a movie this thought-provoking or plainly beautiful. It is a daring movie you never see, with its witty and realistic look at the "American Dream". Hearing a teenage boy speak of the world and all its splendor, I found myself crying and really pondering everything ever to happen in my life. A truly wonderful movie! Expand
  58. DanielP.
    Sep 22, 2007
    8
    A brilliant film, that shows forbidden love and family destruction.
  59. PatrickD.
    Jun 29, 2007
    10
    Touching, beautiful and very original.
  60. HarryE.
    Jun 8, 2007
    10
    This film definitely is one of my all time favourites with such beautiful moments combined with great satire and sadness. Spacey and Bening are flawless.
  61. DandyPants
    Apr 23, 2007
    10
    Superb movie. Although it probably wouldn't have received a 10 if Spacey wasn't playing the lead. Easily the most convincing and memorable character / performance ever. It's clear that many of the "reviewers" of this movie didn't understand the underlying themes. Although family is a part of the movie, it is not the central theme. The portrayal of family life is Superb movie. Although it probably wouldn't have received a 10 if Spacey wasn't playing the lead. Easily the most convincing and memorable character / performance ever. It's clear that many of the "reviewers" of this movie didn't understand the underlying themes. Although family is a part of the movie, it is not the central theme. The portrayal of family life is incidental, and is only part of the bigger picture. One reviewer said that the movie relied on "rote cliche" and as pointed out by another reviewer, this is deliberate. Ultimately the film is about the desire to be free and the consequences of this desire in American culture. A culture that supposedly is based on freedom. Lester wants to be free from his career and his dominant wife. Carolyn wants to be free from her own meticulous nature and self-doubt. Jayney wants to be free from her parents. Ricky wants to be free from his Dad's expectations. Frank wants to be free to express his homosexuality. Angela wants to be free to be herself but for whatever reason plays a role instead. Despite living in the land of the free, every character experiences great difficulty in being who they want to be and the consequences for their desires are great. [***SPOILER***]Lester is eventually killed, Carolyn's marriage is ruined and her lover ends the relationship. Ricky is estranged from his father. Frank murders to keep his secret and so on. It is clear that one has to find a balance between the desire to be free and the social responsibilites that we live by. The movie concludes that happiness and beauty is not in the grandiose religious, familial and economic pressures of 'ordinary' life, but is found in the daily appreciation of the little things we ignore as we try to 'succeed'. We all want to be free, but the way we live doesn't allow us to be. Expand
  62. SB.
    Apr 22, 2007
    10
    American Beauty is my favourite film of all time, followed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Mulhholand Drive. It is a near perfect movie. It's use of "cliche" is very deliberate. Each scene is flawlessly connected with the underlying theme, symbolized in red. If you don't understand what I am talking about, you need to rewatch the movie. Then Alan Ball gives us Six American Beauty is my favourite film of all time, followed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Mulhholand Drive. It is a near perfect movie. It's use of "cliche" is very deliberate. Each scene is flawlessly connected with the underlying theme, symbolized in red. If you don't understand what I am talking about, you need to rewatch the movie. Then Alan Ball gives us Six Feet Under - Genius. Collapse
  63. ChristopherJ.
    Mar 21, 2007
    7
    This movie had some uncomfortable twists, and I appreciated all of them. The tension was almost unbearable for me at times, but the releases were satisfying enough. When the husband throws a dinner plate across the room, I almost wet myself. Some nudity parts and parental abuse parts could have been removed or toned down to improve the overall quality, but overall a fun film to watch.
  64. PatrickD
    Nov 30, 2006
    5
    This film along with Chicago and Crash are some of the most overrated pictures of the last 10 years to win best picture. At heart, American Beauty is a failed satire. It takes rote cliches like the father with a midlife crisis to the amateur film maker to the gay retired soldier and does nothing about them. You have potential to skewer the American nuclear family and the suburban ennui, This film along with Chicago and Crash are some of the most overrated pictures of the last 10 years to win best picture. At heart, American Beauty is a failed satire. It takes rote cliches like the father with a midlife crisis to the amateur film maker to the gay retired soldier and does nothing about them. You have potential to skewer the American nuclear family and the suburban ennui, but instead we get a hackneyed plot. Notable mostly for Annette Benning's performance, this movie is pedestrian and worth watching if you like WASPs trying to emote. Expand
  65. EfrainC
    Oct 23, 2006
    9
    Procrastinating film based in the empty life of an ordinary family and the existentialistic problem of life. An excellent point about the concept of beauty of life. (Pay attention around you!). Very good move with some moral contradictions. I recommend it!
  66. JB
    Aug 11, 2006
    10
    An excellent film about ordinary flawed people and their veiled but ever present search for greater meaning, with comedy served on the side.
  67. JakeB.
    Aug 9, 2006
    10
    A beautiful piece of work by first time director Sam Mendes. Easily one of the most accomplished film debuts in the history of cinema. The story centers around a man named Lester Burnham (the wonderful Oscar winning Kevin Spacey) a man who has lost passion in his life. His wife Caroline (Annette Benning in an equally stunning performance) is a workaholic real estate agent. Both are A beautiful piece of work by first time director Sam Mendes. Easily one of the most accomplished film debuts in the history of cinema. The story centers around a man named Lester Burnham (the wonderful Oscar winning Kevin Spacey) a man who has lost passion in his life. His wife Caroline (Annette Benning in an equally stunning performance) is a workaholic real estate agent. Both are frustrated with their marriage which is basically just for show. Sexually frustrated Lest lusts for one of his daughter's (Thora Birch) girlfriends,Anglea (Menna Suvari). This lust begins Lester's search for happiness in life, so he quits his job and begins to flip burgers just like when he was a kid. Caroline is very frustrated with the fact that she has to be the breadwinner of the family and has an affair. Meanwhile the boy next door, Ricky is videotaping the Burnhams the daughter Jane in particular. The two strike a chord with each other and begin a romantic relationship. Ricky's father, Frank is a homophobe who suspect Ricky is homosexual because he is spending some time with Lester, of course this is not true. All Ricky is doing is scoring Lester some drugs. As the story progresses Lester gets used to Angela, and Angela starts to warm up to Lester. There are some wonderfully, gut busting scenes involving razor sharp deliveries by both Benning and Spacey. Both give brilliant performances. Many film play the : SUBURBIA AINT SO PERFECT! card, this one gets it right. Overall: A+ Expand
  68. FelixQ.
    Jul 25, 2006
    9
    Kevin Spacey is a genius. The man is, without a doubt, one of our era's most under-appreciated talents. This movie plays it's quirks so well, and gleams with a polish that few movies ever achieve. It knows when to down-play, and when to vamp. Few movies I've seen have pulled me in this well. It scandalized my grandmother, which just told me in advance I'd love it;) But Kevin Spacey is a genius. The man is, without a doubt, one of our era's most under-appreciated talents. This movie plays it's quirks so well, and gleams with a polish that few movies ever achieve. It knows when to down-play, and when to vamp. Few movies I've seen have pulled me in this well. It scandalized my grandmother, which just told me in advance I'd love it;) But it blended each of the elements it attempted so well, that there are no visible seams, and- to use one of my favorite phrases- grabs the niche and owns it. Expand
  69. MarkS.
    Jul 5, 2006
    9
    Bland says the Village Voice? Bland? Uh, yeah, right. If ya don't like it, fine, but that is one of the most inappropriate criticisms one could use for American Beauty. Strong, strong film and characters. Very strong.
  70. SebaD.
    Feb 2, 2006
    10
    Thanks God for the finest red wine, for the beautifull ladies and for let me see this movie. American Beauty. A clasic. One of the best films ever made. Bening terrific. If i wasn t seen The usual suspects, this film probably be the reason of kevin Spacey bank account. Amazing, Spacey is amaizing.
  71. MarcusD.
    Jan 25, 2006
    10
    Excellent movie. It's all about finding out what you want and not letting society dictate your attitude and life. Great performance by Kevin Spacey.
  72. abak.
    Nov 27, 2005
    10
    A classic.
  73. MarshallM.
    Oct 30, 2005
    3
    I do not know why the critics liked it so much! sure, there's some decent acting, but the charaters are all bad people and they are hard to like. i DO agree with ken B., they're just trying to see how far they can go, pushing the limits is what gets u oscar nominations.
  74. Josh
    Aug 7, 2005
    10
    An amazing story with awesome, very creative, plot twists and the such.
  75. AkhilK
    Jul 27, 2005
    10
    Intelligent, charming, sad and incredibly funny, American Beauty had me admiring its every moment and excited for the next. The best scene has to be when Wes Bentley revealed his favorite movie he made to Birch. His every word was carefully written and acted out as it literally made my heart ache. This movie has the power to turn your life around. Please go see it.
  76. GlennM.
    Jul 23, 2005
    10
    This movie is awsome first off, and whats "ken b."s problem she has to be eighteen at least or else its illegal, i guess your just to up tight its rated R anyways.
  77. RobertB.
    Feb 27, 2005
    10
    Amazing movie. Great acting all around by the outstanding cast, great plot, just an overall excellent movie. If you are the type of person who is uptight enough to worry whether a curse word is uttered on television, you might not enjoy this movie. Anyone who has an open mind, however, will, I believe, find this to be a tremendously interesting and engaging film.
  78. B.J.S.
    Aug 12, 2004
    10
    This is an extremely well thought out movie. Then way that they used the camera angles and lenses to single out people or make things almost go un noticed. It also had a strong plot that allowed the director to use these editing and filming tequniques to their fullest. Its a brilliant piece of film making that gets better every time you watch it.
  79. GerardM.
    Jul 22, 2004
    10
    I must say that the reviews i have read saying that this film is child pornography is total rubbish. If viewers are afraid to watch something with a depth go back to the little mermaid. This film is a very important social commentary that implies the fabric of the family institution is diminishing.
  80. KenB.
    Jul 7, 2004
    1
    I honestly think the real purpose of this movie was to push the limit of the acceptability of child pornography. Kevin Spacey doesn't lust after an 8 year old, that would be too shocking. But a 40+ year old man lusting after a 15 year old girl is wrong, at least in this country. I know tons of pro and amatuer critics loved this movie, but I just can't get past the child porn I honestly think the real purpose of this movie was to push the limit of the acceptability of child pornography. Kevin Spacey doesn't lust after an 8 year old, that would be too shocking. But a 40+ year old man lusting after a 15 year old girl is wrong, at least in this country. I know tons of pro and amatuer critics loved this movie, but I just can't get past the child porn issue to appreciate anything about this movie. If I could give it a negative 100 to balance out some of the tens, I would. Expand
  81. AndrewM.
    May 12, 2004
    9
    So many comments commenting on this film's messages and views... Yes, they are there; some are blatant, some are discreet. Whatever I took from this movie, I did so on a sub-concious level, because I paid no immediate attention to what the filmmakers were supposedly saying. What I did instead, was simply watch and enjoy a great great film, one that was entertaining, moving and So many comments commenting on this film's messages and views... Yes, they are there; some are blatant, some are discreet. Whatever I took from this movie, I did so on a sub-concious level, because I paid no immediate attention to what the filmmakers were supposedly saying. What I did instead, was simply watch and enjoy a great great film, one that was entertaining, moving and obviously personal. Expand
  82. [Anonymous]
    Apr 17, 2004
    3
    The acting is completely pedestrian. Kevin Spacey is as good an actor as my next door neighbor. The philosophical ideas behind it are hardly deep or meaningful. There is nothing redeeming about it, and all of the characters are completely devoid of any qualities that make me care for them in any way. It was a totally average film. The only reason I give it a 3 is because the The acting is completely pedestrian. Kevin Spacey is as good an actor as my next door neighbor. The philosophical ideas behind it are hardly deep or meaningful. There is nothing redeeming about it, and all of the characters are completely devoid of any qualities that make me care for them in any way. It was a totally average film. The only reason I give it a 3 is because the cinematography was fairly well done. Not Hitchcock, Woody Allen or Bergman, but not bad either. Expand
  83. [Anonymous]
    Apr 17, 2004
    3
    The acting is completely pedestrian. Kevin Spacey is as good an actor as my next door neighbor. The philosophical ideas behind it are hardly deep or meaningful. There is nothing redeeming about it, and all of the characters are completely devoid of any qualities that make me care for them in any way. It was a totally average film. The only reason I give it a 3 is because the The acting is completely pedestrian. Kevin Spacey is as good an actor as my next door neighbor. The philosophical ideas behind it are hardly deep or meaningful. There is nothing redeeming about it, and all of the characters are completely devoid of any qualities that make me care for them in any way. It was a totally average film. The only reason I give it a 3 is because the cinematography was fairly well done. Not Hitchcock, Woody Allen or Bergman, but not bad either. Expand
  84. EmmaR.
    Feb 9, 2004
    10
    I love this film; its superb cast and original script make it an interesting viewing experience the second and third time around. Potent and well placed symbolism is skillfully combined with alternating dark and hopeful moods in the film.
  85. PaulB.
    Feb 7, 2004
    10
    This movie is a absolute masterpiece Kevin spacey is a complete genius.
  86. AndrewA.
    Jan 10, 2004
    10
    Still an all-time classic--as good and pertinent today as it was when it first came out.
  87. Mads
    Dec 24, 2003
    10
    This is within no doubt one of my favourite movies. It really makes you think....
  88. KatieP.
    Dec 22, 2003
    10
    One of the more realistic films of our time.
  89. PatC.
    Dec 18, 2003
    10
    This movie has a number of problems. Not everyone will be able to resolve them. I was, and realized the movie had anticipated them beforehand. The premise became clear: The more freedom we establish for ourselves, the more vulnerable we are to the misunderstandings of our families and neighbors. We struggle. Most misunderstandings we resolve, but inevitably one of them does us in. This movie has a number of problems. Not everyone will be able to resolve them. I was, and realized the movie had anticipated them beforehand. The premise became clear: The more freedom we establish for ourselves, the more vulnerable we are to the misunderstandings of our families and neighbors. We struggle. Most misunderstandings we resolve, but inevitably one of them does us in. That's the problem, but also the beauty of the American lifestyle. Every once in a while Hollywood needs to turn out a show like this to justify its existence. Expand
  90. AlesandroR.
    Oct 20, 2003
    1
    Self-conscious film about how bad it is to have a job and live in a country where bombs aren't falling on your head. Mainly, though, it's social points are all too obvious and hard to believe. With the partial exception of the main character, most of the film is like pointing at middle America and saying: "See, you're all screwed up." I laughed unintentionally a few times. Self-conscious film about how bad it is to have a job and live in a country where bombs aren't falling on your head. Mainly, though, it's social points are all too obvious and hard to believe. With the partial exception of the main character, most of the film is like pointing at middle America and saying: "See, you're all screwed up." I laughed unintentionally a few times. Reaks of Hollywood's social thinking. Expand
  91. Jeremy
    Sep 29, 2003
    10
    A stunning film-hillarious in parts as a black comedy, devastating as a tragedy, and observant and right on target as a dramatic commentary on middle-class families.
  92. YoonC.
    Sep 13, 2003
    6
    Pointless satire with straw targets and a message that is embarassing doped out New Age claptrap.
  93. DerekT.
    Sep 12, 2003
    10
    My favorite film of all-time.
  94. Uter
    Sep 7, 2003
    7
    I bought this without seeing it 1st. Since it won the Oscar for best picture I was quite sure I'd like it a lot. But I was disappointed. It was well done, but really nothing exciting happens besides at the conclusion. I've since sold my dvd, and have no regrets or wishes to see it again.
  95. BenW.
    Aug 28, 2003
    10
    F....ng brilliant... one of the best films ever made.
  96. [Anonymous]
    Jul 25, 2003
    10
    A great movie.
  97. TimB.
    Jul 16, 2003
    8
    This is a fantastic movie. Though it hardly needs to be said, Spacey and Bening were absolutely wonderful. Thora Birch as Jane does a beautiful job filling a role that is not written as well as I felt it might have been. A few scenes felt almost too familiar, to the extent that I could call out dialogue before it was spoken -- whether this is a result of predictable writing or the feeling This is a fantastic movie. Though it hardly needs to be said, Spacey and Bening were absolutely wonderful. Thora Birch as Jane does a beautiful job filling a role that is not written as well as I felt it might have been. A few scenes felt almost too familiar, to the extent that I could call out dialogue before it was spoken -- whether this is a result of predictable writing or the feeling of empathy this movie inspires is unclear with just one viewing. Nonetheless, I found myself smiling, laughing, clapping, staring blankly, and wearing a disconnected sneer at various points throughout the movie. I won't go so far as to call anything offered here "deep" or "philosophical" -- in fact, at several points, I expected the movie to transition into a "Fight Club" of sorts -- but it's a very good movie with inspired performances by all involved, and well worth seeing. Expand
  98. Canadianteen
    Jun 29, 2003
    10
    This movie was completely hilarious and at the same time very serious. It actually made me think, and very few movies every make you think and consider your life. By far it was one of the best movies I've ever watched and anyone coming from a little city knows how many movies a little city teen watches.
  99. NickT.
    Jun 25, 2003
    10
    This is probably my favorite movie...Ever. The way that Mendes presents it is flawless. The way that the camera is moved, and kept still set the tone for the movie perfectly. As does the music. Some of the music in the movie can be haunting yet awe inspiring at the same time. Although Spacey and Benning did give the best performances in the movie, Birch and Bentley's were overlooked. This is probably my favorite movie...Ever. The way that Mendes presents it is flawless. The way that the camera is moved, and kept still set the tone for the movie perfectly. As does the music. Some of the music in the movie can be haunting yet awe inspiring at the same time. Although Spacey and Benning did give the best performances in the movie, Birch and Bentley's were overlooked. I just absolutey love this movie, and I never get tired of it. I don't understand how people can give it such a low scores.....THEY'RE JUST MEANIES.....MEANIES, YOU NEED TO STOP BEING MEAN! Expand
  100. DrSteveH.
    Jun 19, 2003
    6
    A reasonbly good film, but not as deep as some claim. A solid performance by Kevin Spacey, but Thora Birch was a revelation.
Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. 83
    Though excellent in many ways, American Beauty is, finally, an uneasy mix of assured technique and simplistic satire.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    80
    Kevin Spacey (gives) a truly great performance.
  3. A ruthless dissection of suburban malaise.