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Big Fish (2003)

PG-13  |   |  Adventure, Drama, Fantasy  |  9 January 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 333,175 users   Metascore: 58/100
Reviews: 808 user | 233 critic | 42 from

A son tries to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths he told about his life.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 45 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Don Price - Age 18-22
Beamen (as Loudon Wainwright)


United Press International journalist Will Bloom and his French freelance photojournalist wife Josephine Bloom, who is pregnant with their first child, leave their Paris base to return to Will's hometown of Ashton, Alabama on the news that his father, Edward Bloom, stricken with cancer, will soon die, he being taken off chemotherapy treatment. Although connected indirectly through Will's mother/Edward's wife, Sandra Bloom, Will has been estranged from his father for three years since his and Josephine's wedding. Will's issue with his father is the fanciful tales Edward has told of his life all his life, not only to Will but the whole world. As a child when Edward was largely absent as a traveling salesman, Will believed those stories, but now realizes that he does not know his father, who, as he continues to tell these stories, he will never get to know unless Edward comes clean with the truth before he dies. On the brink of his own family life beginning, Will does not want to be the ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


An adventure as big as life itself.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for a fight scene, some images of nudity and a suggestive reference | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

9 January 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El gran pez  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$70,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$207,377 (USA) (12 December 2003)


$3,559,255 (Japan) (18 June 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| | (8 channels)


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ewan McGregor was cast as Young Ed Bloom when producers noticed the striking similarity between him and pictures of a young Albert Finney, who plays Senior Ed Bloom. See more »


Jenny answers Will Bloom's knock on her front door at Spectre, when Will arrives to learn about his father's relationship with her. There's a kid seen taking lessons at the piano, at the opposite side of the room. When Jenny sits on the piano stool to give Will the background, the piano is now on the opposite side of the room, next to the front door. See more »


[first lines]
Young Ed Bloom: There are some fish that cannot be caught. It's not that they are faster or stronger than other fish, they're just touched by something extra.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Columbia logo runs in reverse. See more »


References The Wizard of Oz (1939) See more »


Let's Work Together
Written by Wilbert Harrison
Performed by Canned Heat
Courtesy of EMI Records
Under license from EMI Film & Television Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Tim Burton's career equivalent of "Forrest Gump" is an ultimately rewarding adult fable with some beautiful cinematography and memorable ideas...
18 February 2004 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

It was either "Cheaper by the Dozen," "The Haunted Mansion" or this. I didn't exactly feel like watching my favorite comedian run around with a horde of little kids cracking bad poopy jokes behind them, and I didn't want to see Eddie Murphy do this either (it was bad enough in last year's "Daddy Day Care"), so I chose to see the more adult-oriented of these three films, and I'm glad I did, because Tim Burton's "Big Fish" is a marvelous film--full of wit and imagination and eerie vibes that sometimes don't fit into Burton's films the way he wants them to--but actually have a purpose here.

"Pee Wee's Big Adventure" is simply one of the best films of all time, and you can quote me on that. That was Burton's breakthrough--then came "Batman," which was very good but slightly lacking in substance, and then came "Edward Scissorhands"--one of my sister's favorite films, a beautiful love story and an eerie fable...but just missing a very small ingredient that kept it from becoming a great movie (perhaps the same with his film "Ed Wood"--a very good film, but not exactly one of my all-time favorites).

I have my doubts as to whether anyone other than Tim Burton could have pulled off "Big Fish." Here's a movie I expected I would dislike and come away feeling a little bit empty--but that's only partially true. The movie doesn't quite exceed on the level it tries to, but as a film, it's one of the best motion pictures of the year.

It stars Albert Finney as Edward Bloom, an old man who loves to exaggerate tales of his past and pass these on to his friends and family. One night his son, William (Billy Crudup), tires of hearing the story about how he caught the town's largest fish in a lake using a gold ring--so he ignores his father for three whole years, until his mother (Jessica Lange) informs Will that his father is dying of cancer, and that he wishes to speak with his son one last time.

Drawn back to his old Alabama hometown with his new wife, Will finally learns the truth about these so-called "exaggerated" stories--and we, as the audience, get to see them in flashback mode. It begins with a young Edward (Ewan McGregor), a "big fish" who was just too small for his own town and had to move away to search for brighter prospects. On his journey he comes across an assortment of odd fellows, including a "Gentle Giant," a failed poet living in a heavenly town named Spectre, and a strange circus ringleader who also happens to be a werewolf.

All of these stories that Edward Senior tells his family relate to their current positions, and to call the film simply beautiful would be what John Candy once said is "the understatement of the year." My particular favorite character was the poet living in Spectre, played by Steve Buscemi (a wonderful supporting actor), who I had no idea played any role in this film prior to viewing the opening credits and seeing "with Steve Buscemi" appear on screen.

Buscemi's poet has been working on a particular poem for twelve years whilst living in Spectre. "Can I see it?" asks Edward. It says, "Roses are red, violets are blue, I love Spectre." "But it's only three lines long!" says Edward. "That's the reason you don't show your work to people," Buscemi says.

Danny DeVito also appears as the circus ringleader, and the most regretful scene in the film is that in which we see him naked from behind. I shudder at the thought. But, for what it's worth, DeVito's second re-teaming with Burton is magnificent--he's a supporting character, but the film certainly benefits from his performance.

Like all of Burton's films, "Big Fish" teeters on the edge of greatness, but it never quite crosses the line. This is a marvelous film, full of warmth, kind-hearted fables and beautiful cinematography, and it's one of the best films of the year. It's certainly a unique film experience unlike any you've ever had before. Unless, of course, you've seen "Edward Scissorhands" or "Ed Wood." Then some of it may look a bit familiar.

Still, I enjoyed it more than "The Lord of the Rings." And I could actually relate to this film.

Trivia note: "Edward Scissorhands" was a Tim Burton film. The main character of this film is named Edward. Sometimes when people pronounce his name with their thick Alabama accents it comes across as "Ed Wood." Mere coincidence or something more? We may never find out.

4.5/5 stars.

  • John Ulmer

100 of 148 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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