Five Things That Make "American Psycho" a Great American Movie

Photo Credit: Lions Gate Films
March 11th, 2013

Five Things That Make "American Psycho" a Great American Movie

-- Bret Easton Ellis has made a name for himself by writing books that combine realistic issues with out-of-this-world elements. His book "Less Than Zero" became a Hollywood hit in the 1980s, but it wasn't until 2000 that Hollywood decided to take another chance on him. "American Psycho," based on his book of the same name and starring Christian Bale ("The Dark Knight Rises"), hit theaters that year. Although the film wasn't a hit, it has an enduring legacy that keeps it on fans' minds and on the top of best film lists, and several factors of the film make it so memorable.

Dark Comedy

For all intents and purposes, "American Psycho" is a dark film, but its black comedy is what keeps it from being a standard horror movie. When Patrick Bateman (Bale) brings home Paul (Jared Leto, "My So-Called Life"), he thinks it's just any other night. Even as Bateman covers the floors with plastic and stands behind him with an ax, he still doesn't understand what's going on around him. Throughout the entire scene, Bateman walks around the room talking about Huey Lewis & The News, while playing their newest CD on the stereo. The humor that Bale brings to this scene occurs several times throughout the film, toning down some of the darker elements.

An Amazing Cast

While most viewers remember Bale's portrayal of Bateman, the cast listing shows some amazing talent. Justin Theroux ("Wanderlust"), Josh Lucas ("Hulk"), Chloƫ Sevigny ("The Brown Bunny"), and Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line") are just a few of the top-billed actors and actresses. Also in the cast are Willem Dafoe ("Spider-Man") and Samantha Mathis ("Pump Up the Volume"). Though Bale is clearly the star of the film, "American Psycho" wouldn't be as memorable without the efforts of its supporting cast. It's not surprising that so many of the film's cast would later find themselves nominated for Academy Awards and, in the case of Witherspoon, walking away with a statue.

A Killer Soundtrack

Set in the 1980s, the film makes use of some of the top songs from that era. While Huey Lewis & The News have a connection to one of the top scenes from the film, viewers will also notice songs such as "Simply Irresistible" by Robert Palmer, "Lady in Red" by Chris De Burgh, and "If You Don't Know Me by Now" by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Some films use soundtracks as just a way to jam music into the film, but "American Psycho" deliberately uses songs that have some meaning to the film's narrative. Whether it's using a song such as "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and The Waves to tone down a dark event or using a darker song to show Bateman's descent into madness, each song adds an extra dimension to the film.

Memorable Quotes

It's nearly impossible for fans to pick a favorite line from the film because "American Psycho" has so many different fun quotes. In one scene, Bateman looks to one of his costars and says without flinching, "I like to dissect girls. Did you know I'm utterly insane?" In another memorable moment, he mentions the serial killer Ed Gein, claiming that the man had two thoughts inside his head whenever he saw a beautiful woman: asking her out on a date and what her body might look like without a head. Every time Bale opens his mouth, viewers wonder if he will say something coherent and reasonable or if his spiral into insanity will reveal itself. With lines like "I'm into murders and executions," Bale shows that he is the only man for the role.

The Business Card Scene

"American Psycho" has dozens of scenes that viewers remember, but one of the best is the business card scene. As Bateman sits down with a group of other young executives, he carefully sets down his business card and immediately waits for praise. Instead of receiving that praise, the other men show off their own cards, leaving Bateman feeling even more frustrated that he did before. The scene is so memorable because it highlights the life led by Bateman. While he works as an executive in a high-paying job, he's also a killer who constantly struggles to control his urges. No moment in the film makes that as clear as the business card scene.

"American Psycho" could have been a very different film with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. Upon its initial release, it had mixed reviews, and some reviewers disliked the film. The film is now a hit with critics and fans alike. The great quotes, stellar cast, soundtrack, memorable scenes, and combination of humor and comedy make "American Psycho" one of the top films of the last twenty years.