Lost Media Archive

American Beauty advertisement poster.

American Beauty is a critically acclaimed drama released in 1999. It was directed by Sam Mendes and starred Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, and Thora Birch. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2000 and Spacey won Best Actor for his performance. As this article is about the ending for the film, be warned, spoilers are ahead.

Everyone who has seen the movie is familiar with its ending: Lester Burnham gets shot, we see the reactions of various characters, and it is made very clear that Col. Fitz is the one who killed him. This was not Sam Mendes' original intention. Mendes wrote various scripts, working with different ideas for the ending. The script, which can easily be found online, does not make it clear that Fitz is the murderer. Instead, the film drags on for an additional 30 minutes, showing Col. Fitz's son, Ricky, and Lester's daughter, Jane, being arrested and put on trial for Lester's murder. Ricky's constant videophillia is used against him as evidence. One stage of the ending shows the two found guilty, the other finds them innocent. Mendes decided to leave the ending out, as he felt it would have ruined the film.

Another missing scene involves a more drawn out opening. The opening video is a bit longer, Lester's narration is more detailed, and a bit more character development is established.

It is currently unknown how much, or if any, of the intended ending was filmed. While Mendes is yet to comment on the subject, many members of the film's crew remember filming at least some footage for these endings. Some claim that the ending was finished and was removed at the last minute by Mendes. The footage, if it exists, was left out of the extras section of the DVD release. Mendes probably won't release any of the footage anytime soon, as he is personally ashamed of the film's original ending.