American Beauty is a film, directed by Sam Mendes, that won several Academy Awards in 1999. The social satire depicts a not-so-typical family with a sarcastic wife, an angry, rebellious husband, a teenage daughter, along with a number of other strange characters. One of the more well-advertised themes was the infatuation of the main character with his daughter's schoolfriend. The movie also deales with love, success, perversion, and fear. Ultimately, this is a movie about discovering your place in the world.

Table of contents
1 Plot
2 Similar themes
3 Cast
4 Academy Awards
5 External links


Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers.

The movie begins with Lester Burnam, a forty-something man living somewhere in suburban America who is unsatisfied with his life. He experiences a total change after he becomes infatuated with his daughter's schoolfriend, Angela, a young woman eager to show off to her classmates just how beautiful and sexy she is. Part of the change is helped by him rediscovering his youth through exercise and smoking marijuana, bought from a drug dealer, a young man named Ricky Fitts, who has moved in next door to him recently. Quitting his job (and blackmailing his boss for $60,000), he takes up a humiliating job at a small drive-through restaurant (Mr. Smiley's).

Meanwhile, Carolyn (his wife), a sarcastic woman who loves power, begins an affair with a local real-estate magnate (Buddy Kane). She is later discovered when her husband catches her kissing Buddy while the two are at Mr. Smiley's.

At about the same time, Jane - their daughter - falls in love with Ricky. The two of them eventually decide to elope when Colonel Fitts, seeing Ricky and Lester together, mistakingly thinks that they are having a sexual relationship, and kicks his son out of his house (Fitts is in fact a repressed homosexual). On that same night, Angela and Jane have a fight; Angela comes to Lester, and the two of them almost make love. Lester suddenly realises how big a mistake he would be making when Angela reveals that she is a virgin. The movie ends with Lester being killed by Colonel Fitts out of misplaced anger.

There is a hint of recursion in the story - Ricky resembles a younger Mr. Burnam in many ways. This is further strengthened at the end, when Lester - after dying - uses Ricky's words ("there is so much beauty in the world ...") to describe how he sees the world.

Similar themes

The movie Fight Club explores similar themes of the American dream and challenging societal norms. The main character in Fight Club, like Lester Burnam, is displeased with his current lifestyle and begins participating in illicit or counter-cultural activities. He also blackmails his boss for a few years pay. Both films end with a crucial destructive event that nevertheless leaves the viewer optimistic about the future.


  • Kevin Spacey (Lester Burnam)
  • Annette Bening (Carolyn Burnam)
  • Thora Birch (Jane Burnam)
  • Wes Bentley (Ricky Fitts)
  • Mena Suvari (Angela)
  • Peter Gallagher (Buddy Kane)
  • Allison Janney (Barbara Fitts)
  • Scott Bakula (Jim, the Burnam's gay next-door neighbour)
  • Sam Robards (Jim, the above-mentioned Jim's partner)
  • Chris Cooper (Colonel Fitts)

Academy Awards



External links

See Also: List of movies - List of actors - List of directors - List of documentaries - List of Hollywood movie studios

For other uses of the term American Beauty, see American Beauty.