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American Beauty Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today Mike Clark

    A singular accomplishment so specifically keyed to Spacey's talents that it mandates going out on a limb to say it contains the performance that will ultimately be regarded as "the one."

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    Spacey, an actor who embodies intelligence in his eyes and voice, is the right choice for Lester Burnham.

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  • 83

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    You know you're in the hands of a true filmmaker when you feel invited, at every turn, to share his sense of entrancement. I got that feeling in just about every frame of American Beauty.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 17+

Powerful acting, great story, but far too mature for kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this relentlessly dark picture of America and its values at the turn of the 21st century may have won a Best Picture Oscar, but it definitely isn't for kids. The film takes a hard, often bleakly comic look at the dissolution of the family and is full of sex, drugs, bigotry, and hypocrisy. Graphically sexual images include an adult fantasizing about his young daughter’s seductive friend, an adulterous relationship in a motel, masturbation, and partial nudity on several occasions. Homosexuality and homophobia are addressed. A young man is brutally beaten by his father more than once, and there are disturbing, bloody images of the violent death of a leading character. Language is coarse and explicit throughout, with constant use of sexual dialogue, swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and terms disparaging to women and homosexuals. Kids and adults smoke pot in many scenes, and “getting high” is seen as a release from daily despair.

  • Families can talk about the sexual behavior of the movie's teenage characters. How do the characters feel about sex? What are the consequences of their decisions and behavior? Do these seem realistic?
  • How does the movie address questions of teen identity? Do the teenagers in this movie feel real to you? Why or why not?
  • This movie isn't for most teens, but those who do see it can use it as a way to begin conversations about the ways that families communicate, the choices we make about sex and drugs, and the ways that we find meaning in a complicated world.

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: According to this movie, there’s no limit to the damage and destruction that humans can cause to one another, to their children, and to themselves. Materialism, hypocrisy, inappropriate behavior, and a crucial devaluing of relationships threaten middle-class American families. The only hope of redemption lies in the ability of its younger members to speak the truth, turn their backs on the demeaning values of their parents, and find strength in one another.

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: Virtually all of the adults in this movie are portrayed as dysfunctional. They're either self-absorbed, controlling, withdrawn, materialistic, sexually obsessed, violent, bigoted, or a combination of the above. The three teens at the center of the story are angry, troubled, and faced with a constant onslaught of the dysfunction that surrounds them. They're given no reasonable parenting and are fighting on their own for sanity in a near-insane environment.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: In two scenes, an out-of-control father beats his teen son, causing injury and bloody cuts on the boy’s face and head. A mother forcefully slaps her teen daughter. A gunshot to the back of a character’s head has grisly results: blood splattered on the wall, on clothing, and the victim lying wide-eyed in death, blood still pouring from his head. Firing a gun at a shooting range is equated with “stress release.”

  • sex false5

    Sex: From the opening frames of this film -- in which a man is seen masturbating through the frosted glass of a shower -- to its final scenes, sexual fantasy, extramarital sex, teen sexual activity, and sexual dysfunction are prime subjects and are graphically illustrated. There's frequent undressing, partial nudity, and foreplay (breasts, men and women naked -- shown from behind). The male lead frequently and obsessively fantasizes about a seductive young girl.

  • language false4

    Language: Constant sexual language and harsh swearing throughout. Multiple usage of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and "whore," as well as numerous euphemisms for masturbation. "Fags," "faggot," and other derogatory language is heard frequently, as are disparaging references to female body parts and female behavior.

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Visible products/brands include Coca-Cola, Sheraton, Miller Lite, and TNT.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false4

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Lots of teen and adult pot smoking throughout. One young man is a marijuana dealer. Adults drink champagne at a party and wine with dinner, and one man offers beer to a teen. “Getting high” and being high are the topics of many conversations.