Sam Mendes’s directorial debut won Best Picture at the 2000 Academy Awards, along with several other Oscars and numerous accolades. Despite its place in pop culture, critics and audiences alike still can’t seem to agree on the film’s genre. At its core, the film is about the mundanity of life in suburban America, where a man named Lester becomes bored in his work and tries to pursue a romantic relationship with his daughter’s attractive best friend, Angela.
His daughter Jane, meanwhile, is self-conscious and despises her parents. She enters into a relationship with their neighbor’s son, Ricky, who is just as odd as she is. Ricky likes to film everything he sees on a camcorder, including his neighbors. He considers his best recording a clip of a plastic bag floating in the wind. Jane and Ricky bond over this and Jane ends her friendship with Angela, with whom she argues about her flirtation with her father. When Lester tries to turn his life around in an effort to please Angela and make himself happy, he finds that the decision has dire consequences for everyone around him.
Here are fifteen stills from American Beauty that showcase the film’s excellent use of lighting, color, and composition.