Does American Beauty Hold Up?

Is this film deserving of the backlash that’s been growing the past few years? Does American Beauty hold up?

About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.


  1. Dunno if you’ve done an editorial about this yet Critic, but what about one regarding when something is truly a cliche?

    It seems like a good idea for a video because some things are repeated several times, but people don’t consider them a cliche. Then again, other people might see something twice and consider that cliche. Is it a matter of interpretation despite the fact the word has a clear definition?

  2. Something to note is that pedophilia isn’t in the movie, ephebophilia is. Pedophilia indicates prepubescent children, ephebophilia involves mid to late adolescents. Common misconception.

    • Doug Walker misapplies the terms “pedophilia” and “pedophile” almost every single time he uses them in his videos. I don’t know whether he really doesn’t understand what they actually mean or does it on purpose (sensationalism / clickbait). I suspect it’s the former, considering that he often can’t even get the basic facts of the movies he reviews right – such as the names of actors. Remember “Eve” Mendes (Ghostrider) or “Christy” Alley (Star Trek)?

      The definition of a pedophile is: A person above the age of sixteen who’s exclusively (or at least mainly) sexually attracted to prepubescent children aged eleven or younger, thirteen at most (in cases of delayed development for example).

      Does Mena Suvari look zero-to-eleven-years-old and prepubescent to you in this movie, Doug? If I remember correctly, her character is sixteen in the story. Underage, therefore illegal and inappropriate (…and creepy)? Sure! Pedophilia? Not even close! But hey, let’s just throw medical / psychiatric terms around as if they have no clearly defined meaning. Welcome to the internet, nobody cares about facts here!

      I’m not even sure that calling Kevin Spacey’s character an ephebophile is correct because, to my knowledge, that requires an exclusive or at least primary sexual attraction to people aged fifteen to nineteen, too. “American Beauty” doesn’t say that this is the case. His attraction seems to have more to do with the loss of his own youth and the despair of his life as a middle-aged man than anything else. It doesn’t seem to be a main psychological trait this character has always had or that he was never really attracted to his wife etc.

      By the way, most heterosexual men find girls that age (15-19) sexually attractive – whether they admit it or not – but not exclusively or to the extent that they act on it. There’s a reason why some of the most popular series of pornographic movies have terms like “teen”, “babysitter”, “barely legal”, “young”, “eighteen-year-old” or “co-ed” in their titles. But that’s another subject altogether (more successful reproduction of the male genetic material with female partners right after the completion of puberty, propagation of the species, natural urges vs. cultural rules, shift of societal values, longer life expectancies in modern times, yadda-yadda-yadda)…

  3. American Beauty is a true masterpiece of cinema, and amongst the best films that have ever been made. It didn’t win those Oscars and other accolades because everyone in 99 was delusional either.

    Those arguments for it being pretentious are based on a straight out dumb interpretation of the movie trying to present absolute truths. The characters don’t discover the Mind of God, they just grow each to their own direction. Lester didn’t solve all of lives problems in the end, he was a flawed character who re-discovered (weigh on re) something in his life. The plastic bag scene is not supposed to be simply romantic, people at the time were just as aware of the creepiness and awkwardness of it and questioned the message of Ricky etc. etc.

    There is a great deal of nuance through out the movie, with solid intent and competence by the writer and director.

  4. Silly movie and stupid people nothing special

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