It’s Hard to Stay Mad: 25 Movies like American Beauty

It's hard to be mad when life is so beautiful is what American Beauty tried to tell us. Here's a bunch of movies like American Beauty for you to check out!

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Movies like American Beauty

About American Beauty

American Beauty depicts the story of Lester Burnham, a gainfully employed suburban husband and father. Tired of his boring, stagnant existence, he lets go of his job and decides to reinvent himself as a pot-smoking, responsibility-shirking teenager. What follows is at once cynical, hysterical, and, eventually, tragically uplifting.

After a recent watch I started to think about movies like American Beauty and believe it or not – they’re out there. Here’s hoping you add a few to your bucket list.

1. Shame (2011)

Movies like American Beauty: Shame (2011)

Directed by Steve McQueen, Shame is an erotic psychological drama starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. It was released in the year 2011.

Shame is about Michael Fassbender’s character, Brandon Sullivan, and his addiction to sex which involves frequent sex with prostitutes, watching porn, and masturbating until he eventually becomes infatuated with Carey Mulligan’s character.

2. Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Movies like American Beauty: Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Written and directed by James Mangold, Girl, Interrupted is a psychological drama starring Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, Elisabeth Moss, Jared Leto, Angela Bettis, Jeffrey Tambor, Vanessa Redgrave, and Whoopi Goldberg. It was released in the year 1999.

Girl, Interrupted is about a woman whose suicide attempt is interrupted (hence, the name) and follows the next 18 months of her life spent at a psychiatric hospital.

3. The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Movies like American Beauty: The Virgin Suicides (1999)

The Virgin Suicides offers a glimpse into the murky unknowability of adolescence, and its legacy is tied to the portraits of femininity with which Sofia Coppola has crafted her filmography. The story is about five beautiful, dreamy Lisbon sisters, whose doomed fates indelibly marked the neighborhood boys who to this day continue to obsess over them.

A story of love and repression, fantasy and terror, sex and death, memory and longing. It is at its core a mystery story: a heart-rending investigation into the impenetrable, life-altering secrets of American adolescence.

4. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Movies like American Beauty: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Co-written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, Requiem for a Dream stars Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, and Christopher McDonald. It was released in the year 2000.

Requiem for a Dream follows four characters affected by drug addiction and as the movie progresses they eventually deteriorate into seeing and believing their own delusions. Not to mention severe catastrophes which soon follow. This is a generational film and a philosophical one, as well as Trainspotting. Its themes are indeed at the heart of contemporary youth. But beyond that, Requiem is a reflection on addiction, on the alienation and self-ownership.

5. Closer (2004)

Movies like American Beauty: Closer (2004)

Directed by Mike Nichols, Closer is a romantic drama starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. It was released in the year 2004.

Closer is a modern day reinterpretation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1790 opera, Cosi fan tutte, and so features many references in both the movie and its soundtrack.

6. Marriage Story (2019)

Movies like American Beauty: Marriage Story (2019)

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story is a drama starring Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty and Merritt Wever. It was released in the year 2019.

Marriage Story is about a couple going to war as they go through a coast-to-coast divorce and the nastiness that ensues between both of them.

7. Lady Bird (2017)

Movies like American Beauty: Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird is an American drama and comedy film directed by Greta Gerwig. The main character Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom, a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird’s father loses his job.

Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, amidst a rapidly shifting American economic landscape, Lady Bird is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.

8. Cruel Intentions (1999)

Movies like American Beauty: Cruel Intentions (1999)

Directed by Roger Kumble, Cruel Intentions is a dark teen drama loosely based on the 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses and is set in modern-day New York City.

The premise of the movie revolves around two wealthy and decadent step-siblings, Kathryn and Sebastian, who make a wager to see if Sebastian can bed the headmaster’s daughter, Annette, before the start of the school year. Themes like love, power, sex, manipulation and white privilege are explored throughout the movie.

The bizarre thing is half the time you’re cheering Sebastian on so that he wins the wager and gets to have sex with his step-sister which is a weird flex. The 90s was a wild time!

RELATED: Insatiably Seductive: 17 Movies like Cruel Intentions

9. Fargo (1996)

Movies like American Beauty: Fargo (1996)

Co-written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen and directed by Joel Coen, Fargo is a dark comedy crime film set in the town of Fargo, North Dakota. The story follows a desperate car salesman who fakes his wife’s abduction by hiring two criminals with the plan to extort tens of thousands of dollars from his rich father-in-law. However, when a state trooper get shot, the plan goes from bad to worse very quickly.

Unlike, the TV show that re-imagined the movie and had quite a serious and obscure tone, the Fargo film swings from comedic to deadly quite rapidly – which is part of the reason it’s a well-loved classic.

10. The Piano Teacher (2001)

Movies like American Beauty: The Piano Teacher (2001)

Directed and written by Michael Haneke, The Piano Teacher is an erotic psychological drama starring Isabelle Huppert, Annie Girardot and Benoît Magimel. It was released in the year 2001.

The Piano Teacher is a period specific movie set in the 1950s and based on the 1983 novel of the same name which was written by Elfriede Jelinek. It’s very Mrs Robinson in the way of how it tells the tale of a single unmarried piano teacher who starts a highly sexually charged relationship with one of her students. The two leads even won Best Actor and Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival so there’s reason enough to give this a watch!

11. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Movies like American Beauty: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Directed, produced and co-written by all time great Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut is an erotic psychological movie starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack and Marie Richardson. It was released in the year 1999.

Eyes Wide Shut is based on the 1926 novella Traumnovelle (translates as “Dream Story”) by Arthur Schnitzer. The movie is a modern day reinterpretation which transplants the setting of early 20th Century Vienna to New York City in the 1990s. The movie is centered around Tom Cruise’s character who is taken aback when his wife admits to contemplating having an affair. The movie then follows his character as he goes on this crazy adventure which involves infiltrating a masked orgy of an unnamed secret society.

12. Donnie Darko (2001)

Movies like American Beauty: Donnie Darko (2001)

Written and directed by Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko is set in the late 80s in which a depressed teenager sleep walks and in doing so escapes an accident which would’ve killed him.

And just when you think things couldn’t get any weirder, an evil rabbit visits that same teenager later in the film to let him know that the world will end in just over 28 days because that accident he narrowly escaped should’ve killed him. Make sense? No? Watch the movie.

13. Nomadland (2020)

Movies like American Beauty: Nomadland (2020)

Directed and written by Chloé Zhao, Nomadland is a drama movie starring Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May and Swankie. It was released in the year 2020.

Nomadland is about a group of van dwellers who are travelling and living in America without any permanent dwelling and the dramatic circumstances that come about from living life as a Nomad.

14. American History X (1998)

Movies like American Beauty: American History X (1998)

Directed by Tony Kaye, American History X is a thriller x crime drama starring Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Fairuza Balk, Stacy Keach, Elliott Gould, Avery Brooks and Beverly D’Angelo. It was released in the year 1998.

American History X is about Edward Norton’s character, a white supremacist neo-nazi, and tracks his life as he goes into prison and becomes a reformed white power skin head. Eventually, his younger brother follows his brother’s earlier life choices and the movie provides an interesting narrative on racism and neo-nazism being a learned generational behaviour.

15. American Honey (2016)

Movies like American Beauty: American Honey (2016)

Directed and written by Andrea Arnold, American Honey is a road drama starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough. It was released in the year 2016.

American Honey is about a young girl who runs away from home and sells magazine subscriptions door to door with a travelling sales company. Not to mention all the misadventures she and they get up to.

More Movies like American Beauty

1. Little Children (2006)

2. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

3. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

4. The English Patient (1996)

5. Mystic River (2003)

6. Rain Man (1988)

7. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

8. Fatal Attraction (1987)

9. American Hustle (2013)

10. Prozac Nation (2001)

What did you think of this list of movies like American Beauty?

Have you seen any of these movies like American Beauty? What did you think of them?

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American Beauty – Movie Still

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