Darkly Humorous Quotes from 'American Beauty'

Wes Bentley, Thora Birch, and Mena Suvari in "American Beauty"

 Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In the cult film "American Beauty," no one is who they seem. The movie touches upon dysfunctional families, which may look picture-perfect on the outside. ​"American Beauty" is a dark satire—a profoundly complex, yet brilliantly executed movie that tells you a tale you didn't want to hear. It is a thought-provoking, incisive movie with a message that each family is special in its own way.​ Review the main characters and read a compilation of some of the best lines from this classic 90s movie.

The Main Characters

  • Lester Burnham is a middle-aged non-achiever—a father with a boring career. His deadpan voiceover as the narrator communicates his lack of enthusiasm. For him, life is nothing but a series of repetitive, boring menial tasks. Beneath his patient and subservient exterior lies a frustrated man, hungry for love and recognition.
  • Carolyn Burnham is Lester Burnham's obnoxious and overbearing wife. Carolyn is also a character with many colors. She obsesses over every detail, often overriding her family's views to suit her whims. She is driven and capable of going to extremes to achieve her ends, but beneath her abrasive surface lies a person who is frustrated, fearful and sexually bored. 
  • Jane Burnham, the teenage daughter of Lester and Carolyn, suffers from an inferiority complex. She is frustrated, insecure, and depressed. She is ashamed of her parents and is disturbed by their incessant quarrels and selfish pursuits. Jane can’t stand it when her dad lusts after her best friend Angela.
  • Angela Hayes, who visits the Burnham family, is not without flaws. Beneath her gorgeous looks and mellifluous voice, she is a narcissist, obsessed with her looks and her desirability quotient with men. She has no qualms about the fact that her best friend's father is lusting for her, and she seduces him further. Her overtly sexual aura is a facade to hide the deeply cracked insecure disaster within.

Lester Quotes

"My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood; this is my street; this is my life. I am 42 years old; in less than a year I will be dead." 
"Our marriage is just for show. A commercial for how normal we are when we're anything but."
"Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser."
"I didn't lose my job. It's not like 'Whoops! Where did my job go?' I quit."
"Remember those posters that said, 'Today is the first day of the rest of your life?' Well, that's true with every day except one: the day that you die."
"I feel like I've been in a coma for the past twenty years. And I'm just now waking up."
"This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts."

Carolyn Quotes

"Don't you mess with me, mister, or I'll divorce you so fast it'll make your head spin!"
"There happens to be a lot about me that you don't know, Mr. Smarty Man. There's plenty of joy in my life."
"Well, I see you're smoking pot now. I think using psychotropic drugs is a very positive example to set for our daughter."
"Oh, you don't complain? Then I must be psychotic, then! What is this? Yeah, let's bring in the laugh-meter and see how loud it gets."

Jane Quotes

"And we'll always be freaks and we'll never be like other people, and you'll never be a freak because you're just too... perfect!"
"I know you think my dad's harmless, but you're wrong."

Angela Quotes

"I don't think that there's anything worse than being ordinary."
"Everything that's meant to happen does."
"You want to have, like, ten thousand of his babies."

Quotes by Other Characters

"My dad thinks I paid for all this with catering jobs. Never underestimate the power of denial." – Rocky Fitts
"She's not your friend. She's just someone you use to feel better about yourself." – Ricky Fitts
"But it helps me remember... I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in." – Ricky Fitts
"In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times." – Buddy Kane