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Opened in Theaters: Wednesday, September 15th, 1999

Directed by Sam Mendes
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 1:58

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American Beauty
Academy Award® Winner
A dark comedy about a suburban family rocked by the urge to get out of the suburban rut they're in. Stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.  View more >

R
strong sexuality, language, violence and drug content

Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch...  View more >

Academy Award® Winner for Best Picture, Best Director (Sam Mendes), Best Actor (Kevin Spacey), Cinematography, and Original...
View more information about this movie >

Reviews Summary

Rating # %  
See Now!  13 54 See Now! Percent
Good  3 13 Good Percent
Wait for Rental  2 8 Wait Percent
Stay Away!  6 25 Stay Away! Percent
24 Total Reviews

Looking for more opinions?

Check out our Featured Movie Reviews for American Beauty.

Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Kevin Spacey plays a person who hates what he has become so he reverts to being 17 and while it produces some comic scenes the movie tries to make it "heavy" or profound when it is just plain stupid and pretentious. Each character is a cartoon but the movies doesn't seem to know it. From the gun crazed (read Nazi) retired marine next door and his spaced out son, to Spacey and his bi**hy wife, there is not an original character in the movie, and not one of them does an original thing or thinks an original thought.

This movie is an embarrassment and very hard to sit through.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Great movie but the editors would have better served themselves by testing it with various endings

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I have seen "American Beauty" twice, and am itching to see it again. Without a doubt the smartest film released by a major studio this year, it stunned me with amazing cinematography (the deep, rich reds interspersed through the film, the tasteful use of closeups, and so on), symbolism, and depth. Thomas Newman's musical score is haunting and does a spectacular atmosphere (though I'm ashamed to see that the "American Beauty" soundtrack contains only TWO cuts from Newman's score). I was sure that I wouldn't see a major studio release that was worth seeing twice after I saw "Rushmore" several years ago. "American Beauty" has proved me wrong.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I thought that this movie was pure gold. Kevin Spacey gives a killer performance and everyone in the movie is just stellar. Some may think that this movie isn't very good, but compared to others out there, this one is worth Oscar nominations. Spacey is at a dead end in his life, he's basically going through his mid-life crisis. He's sexually frustrated with his wife, he hates his job, and gets no respect from either his daughter or his wife. He feels that he is a loser, that is until he sees his daughter's friend at a school basketball game (played by meni Suvari) and he becomes infatuated with her..That is the basic storyline. This movie makes us realize how beautiful life really is, how the little things can't go unnoticed..go and see it now!

My rating: *****(5) out of ****(4)

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
While this movie reaffirms that Kevin Spacey is one of the best actors alive, the remainder of the cast all hold their own and do a superb job. Great casting!

American Beauty is a movie that will not appeal to people who are easily offended,or to those who do not wish to face existential issues. For those who enjoy movies with depth, can think beyond the immediate moment, and enjoy self analysis, I think this movie is intellectually provocative and moving.

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This movie was quite good. The only reason I didn't give it a 'See Now' rating, is because the subject matter could make some people uncomfortable.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This movie has to be one of the worst movies to hit the screens! There are too many different plots going at the same time and none of them ever really tie together at the end. When the movie was over, I was extremely disappointed and I was left with many unanswered questions about what many things were supposed to have meant. My recommendation- Don't bother!

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
In the same suburban vain as "Rushmore", "Happiness", "Short Cuts", and "Welcome to the Dollhouse". Strangely humorous given the very believible suburban situations, and contemporary family lifestyles. You will laugh about 106 times (hard), and you will also be a bit spooked at times. The characters vary in that, an audience can easily relate to at least one or more of them. NOT A HOLLYWOOD BOMB (like most Hollywood movies).

[--- Good ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
First of all....I liked it. "American Beauty" is definitely a unique film. After viewing it, one can definitely say that it is highly unlikely that they have ever seen a film quite like it before. Do I recommend it, well it definitely depends upon your frame of mind at the time you plan on seeing it. There are a few frames of mind in which I think you should see this film...1) if you are in a good mood and not willing to take life too seriously; 2) you're feeling cynical about the American family and are questioning our values and need supporting evidence; or 3) you think your own family is messed up and need a point of comparison. If you are in any of the above three frames. I think you will enjoy this film tremendously. However, if you are going to a movie to escape life's problems and be entertained...I suggest you stay away. Kevin Spacey plays a father going through a psuedo mid-life crisis, quits his job and searches for happiness in his marriage and in daily living. Annette Bening is Spacey's wife, who has passed through her mid-life crisis and has embarked upon life's next stage....only to be brought back to reality by her husband's behavior. Add to this setting, an introverted daughter, gay neighbors, and a militaristic conservative minded neighbor and his rebellious son and you have a typical American neighborhood....and maybe not. Dreamworks produces a film that crosses many boundaries and embraces quite a few taboos without questioning the impact or challenging the results of such behavior. The film simply presents a version of an American family and their neighbors and then lets the audience decide whether or not to accept it. Can the audience relate the characters? You sure can. Can you identify with each and every character? ..probably not....but again you don't really know your neighbors or the people down the street do you? Bottom line....you may feel that American Beauty is a very good film, but you will definitely agree that it is not a feel good film.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
Any one impressed by this movie, is also impressed by others telling them ''how deeply meaningful it is, so make sure your eyes roll back in your head when you tell people how much you lovvvvvvvved it'.

Other than some great acting by Kevin Spacey, there is no single redeeming aspect to this film, other than I haven't seen those repeated close up freezes onto the face of a zombie person since I watch my last mid-50's 'Martians Invade the Earth' film. A completely over rated film, except for those easily impressed.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This was a very original script with great casting. A quirky, interesting movie that had the ability to make you care about the people in it and what happened to them. The movie had several stories and themes crowded into it, but all were slices of life as we live it everyday - although a lot of them not spoken about or revealed. Kevin Spacey shines! The supporting cast is terrific! See this film.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
This is a very bad movie. There is no plot to it. I don't know know if there is even a concept. Is Les sick if his family? Of his work? Or just of his life? Or is it about Les? Maybe it's about his daughter. After all, the scene starts wiwth his daughter.Or is it about his neighbor's son, Rick, the druggie and drug pusher? Are they saying it's okay to do wrong as long as you get money for it? Is it okay to lust after your teenage daughter's friend, who is the same age as his daughter? As far as i remember, we have laws against that, and rightly so. American beauty? Aparrently, hollywood has different view of America.

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
I should say see now to those that aren't drones that are stuck in a materialistic world that others tell them is "cool". This isn't a movie for those of you who pray to money and your 100G BMW. It's a movie that re affirms that what you own is not what you are. Actually what you own, soon owns you - it is masterfully shown by the marriage portrayed by Spacey and Benning. Capitalism may be the greatest form of government so far, but it breeds lifeless consumers running after what they think will make them happy (money and "things), thusly missing great portions of their lives in the interum. Sadly lots and lots of America is like this, and this movie shows the insecurities from young to old that keep it stiffled up screaming on the inside and glossy eyed and dead cold smiling on the outside (all for appearance). This movie is awesome. For those who didn't "get" it, I truly am sorry. I mourn your daily existance, driving your expensive tin caskets to the end of your boring, dreadfull lives. I hope you wake up, because you aren't just killing yourselves. For those of us not entrenched in consumerism, this movie hits home and makes you sad and happy all at the same time. Well written, well acted, well done.

B+ (Not quite as good as Fight Club, but not every movie can dig that deep).

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
American Beauty is a wonderful powerful film. It's about a family, a perfectionist (Annette Benning), a dissatisfied man (Kevin Spacey) who falls in love with his difficult teenage daugter, Jane's girlfriend. Their next door neigbor becomes obsessed with Jane and video tapes her every step. The acting is exellent, Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning put themselves right into their roles.

I would rate this **** out of ****

[--- See Now! ---]by  Jan 25, 2000
It think that as we can see from most of the comments here, anybody who can appreciate an introspective film with wonderful cinamatography & characters has given a see now, or close to it.

Those who prefer the banal idiocy of most hollywood films these days have preferred to mar a masterpiece with a stay away rating.

If you liked End Of Days, or if ID4 (independance day) or Die Hard are more your type of flick, don't go to see american beauty! You obviously don't do to movies to see art, or have a film make you exude emotion. This isn't a piece of mind numbing, eye candy, garbage like The Phantom Menace.

HOWEVER, if you can appreciate another person's vision. You can take the time to think about how your life may or may not closely parallel that of the characters in this movie. And you can appreciate a masterfully written score, & cinamatography paralleled only by Eyes Wide Shut this year. (remember I'm just talking about camera work here, not the actual content of sed Kubrick film). I plead to you drive, FAST to the few remaining theaters playing this movie. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!

[--- See Now! ---]by  Mar 6, 2000
I liked this movie not only for the great acting and character development, but because it made you think about the consequences of actions. All the inter-related relationships led to the climax.

When I left the theatre, I wondered who would be brought to trial because everyone had a motive. I guess my point is that this movie gave you something to think about after the fact. The reader who said she had a lot of unanswered questions was probably the same one who thought Blair Witch was so great because it left a lot to the imagination. I agree that the "floating bag" imagery and voiceover was unnecessary. We don't need to be told that life is good, as someone else pointed out, and it did give the ending away.

But I am looking forward to seeing this again when it comes to video because a suspenceful ending is not important to the enjoyment of this movie.
[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  Mar 8, 2000
Now, let me see if I can get this straight. The 40-something professional office guy (Kevin Spacey) is frustrated with his boring life so he reverts to amoral adolescence and indulges in every vice imaginable, and winds up with an "oh-wow" denouement of his life in generally and explicitly. The anal-retentive, success-obsessed wife (Annette Benning) can't even have sex with her husband without worrying about the stain on her furniture, so she unleashes all of her pent-up repressions in a business rival's bed and on the gun range. The teenage daughter (Thora Birch) is, like, so "out of it" with her parents that she considers running off with a drug-dealer. And the adolescent son (Wes Bentley) of a jarhead ex-marine leads a voyeuristic, totally amoral lifestyle that brazenly feeds off his father's denial and feeds the indulgences of the 40-something professional office guy and his bored-to-the-max teenage daughter.

Welcome to American suburbia, definitely not American Graffitti, in this dark, bleak black comedy, whose point is stark and, ultimately, mirthless. All it seems to suggest, in the end, is "Life is a 'ditch', and then you die." (You can freely substitute the "d" in "ditch" for another consonant and you get the idea.)

The movie is cleverly written by Alan Ball and wickedly directed by Sam Mendes, and scores points for apparently touching a nerve among those in middle class America whose lives struggle fitfully toward the grave with boring jobs, boring families, boring routines and rituals, and the boring meaningless of it all. It's message seems to be, "Who cares!. Give in. Have fun! It all comes to the same thing in the end, anyway." And so, everyone in the movie, without exception, gives in to their deepest inhibitions, even flauntingly, as the movie lurches toward resolution.

There's a place in art for films like this. It doesn't tell it's story in a straightforward, conventional way, but paints more of an impressionistic canvass in a very original way that one could liken to some of Robert Altman's stream-of-consciousness works (Nashville, MASH). It's sardonic and unabashed style, however, puts it in a category of its own.

Perhaps unintentionally, the movie also succeeds in demonstrating what life in American suburbia must be like when it is totally devoid of spirituality, or connection to anything resembling a moral authority, call it religion or whatever you will. Instead, it classically depicts what is, unarguably, the worst aspects of our culture when we choose to simply exist in a state of anomie, utter rootlessness to anything of value.

For that reason, and that reason alone, I rate the film very highly as an artistic masterpiece, but not without qualms. The extremely offensive nature of this film relegates it to a moral gutter where other such "classics" dwell.
[--- See Now! ---]by  Mar 18, 2000
Very few films blow me away. American Beauty is one. I have seen some reviews state that the movie's characters are unoriginal. I do have to agree but I think that is the point. This film, when you look at the guts of it, is about being something your not, and the fight to become something you are. It is incrediblely intellegent. It finds what is normal and glorifies it.

This is one of my favorites of all time.
[--- See Now! ---]by  Mar 18, 2000
This is by far the best movie in years, the metaphorical content alone sets it apart from all others. This is a must see! Even at the prices of the movies today this is well worth it!
[--- Stay Away! ---]by  Apr 27, 2000
Yuck! All I can say is : "too wierd"!!
[--- Stay Away! ---]by  May 20, 2000
The movie is sick and demented. How it won so many Oscars explains the void of professional artists in the Academy.

Piece of trash!
[--- See Now! ---]by VIP MemberJun 25, 2003
"American Beauty" is a powerful drama by Sam Meades in his debut as director. This film takes a graphic look at an American family at a crisis. the head of the household played by Kevin Spacey, doesn't want to work at his office anymore, so he traded in for a job at a burger joint. Annette Bening is cold and resentful towards her husband, who dislikes him. Next door a teenager wants to liberated himself from a miltary man, played by Chris Cooper. Both the teenager and Spacey had one thing in commom and that is a chance to be free. the film is written by Alen Bell, and what a storyteller he became. The characters are first-rate human beings. This is filmmaking at its finest. The film won the Academy Award for best picture, but I'm not going to tell you that. How about I tell you about a movie that will move you emotionally. If that movie doesn't move you, nothing will. I saw "American Beauty" three times. I can't help it, I just love the film.
[--- Good ---]by  Nov 24, 2011
[--- See Now! ---]by  May 27, 2012



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