Wonderful story with some very mature material.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: January 26, 2004
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 104 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While the content gets a bit racy, the message of appreciating childhood while you're a child -- but also never losing the childish ability to find the fun and wonder in everyday life once you grow up -- is an important one.

Positive role models

Josh learns why it's better to enjoy childhood than it is to rush into being a grown-up. His perspective helps those around him rediscover their own happiness. Susan starts out as cold and businesslike but eventually remembers why fun and joy matter.


Two men fight; the result is a bloody nose. A gunshot.


Some innuendo; breast discussion. Momentary brassiere exposure with hands-on inspection. Some kissing.


"S--t," "damn," "bastard," "hell," "a--hole"; "f--k" is used once.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Susan smokes frequently; adult characters (including Josh in his adult appearance) drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that of if Big were released today, it would almost certainly earn a PG-13 rating. There's some strong language (including one use of "f--k") and some sexual situations (including a man fondling a woman's breast). There's also some drinking, smoking, and mild violence. A child forced to grow up too quickly is exposed to corporate life, sex, and other adult matters.

What's the story?

Fed up with being little, 12-year-old Josh Baskin makes a wish at a fair's mechanical swami booth and wakes the following morning in a grown man's body. Mortified at what he's done, he flees across the bridge to New York City with his friend Billy to track down the fair and wish himself back to normal. In New York, Josh Tom Hanks stumbles into a computer operator job at MacMillan Toys. His insightfulness gets him promoted overnight and draws the attention of an uptight female executive (Elizabeth Perkins). As their relationship develops, Josh begins to mature and settle into his adult skin. It takes Billy, and thoughts of his mother, who thinks her son has been kidnapped, to give Josh the courage to approach the mechanical Zoltar booth again and whisper, "I wish I was small.'"

Is it any good?


There aren't very many funny movies about people who get magically transplanted into somebody else's body. The premise is a stale one by now, having shouldered more beatings under Hollywood's bullwhip than the proverbial dead horse. Prelude to a Kiss is one exception. Another is BIG. Both do something intelligent and inventive with that premise, and both are grounded by strong, earnest performances that make the incredible seem credible. Tom Hanks, who would go on a few years later to win back-to-back Oscars for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994), delivers such a performance here. The scene in which he spends a night alone in a seedy New York motel, fidgeting until he breaks into tears, makes his situation gut-wrenchingly believable. He's not merely imitating the mannerisms of an awkward 12-year-old. There's a profound innocence about him -- that innocence makes him both vulnerable and irresistibly charming.

There are other fine performances here as well. David Moscow, playing the young Josh Baskin, is a terrific counterpart for Hanks. Jared Rushton adds a shake of pepper to the role of his friend Billy, and Elizabeth Perkins looks appropriately bewildered by it all as the reluctant love interest. Penny Marshall directs with an uncharacteristically subdued hand, employing no camera tricks or overblown music here. She lets the performers and the sharp script do the speaking, and gives us something larger than comedy. She gives us something to think about.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Josh's experiences as an adult. Why does he want to be big, and why does he ultimately decide he wants to be small?

  • If you could be any age, which age would you pick? Why?

  • What are the best things about being a kid? What are the advantages to being an adult?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 3, 1988
DVD release date:October 5, 1999
Cast:Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, Tom Hanks
Director:Penny Marshall
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Friendship
Run time:104 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:language

This review of Big was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 15 year old Written byTsion July 28, 2010

What were they thinking?

The only reason I watched BIG in the first place is because it was marketed as a family classic by countless people, including Common Sense. In this case, everyone got that wrong. This is a stupid, low-quality, somewhat perverted movie about a 13 year-old who grows up after wishing on a crummy carnival machine. There's your plot. What Common Sense doesn't tell you is that this kid (Josh), has sex at age 13 with a woman who is probably in her 30s. Even though Josh looks like an adult, he still has the maturity of a 13 year-old, and the whole romance part of the plot struck me as twisted and innapropriate. Even when it is revealed that Josh is only 13, the woman who is slept with seems to have no problem with it. In addition, kids say the "f" word, "s**t", "d**n", and take the Lord's name in vain frequently. Lastly, the movie is poorly made, with a strange lead performance (Hanks acts like he's 5, not 13), a terrible script, and poor direction. Keep this movie away from your family and yourself. You won't enjoy it.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byiNSPiRED February 20, 2011


I was extremely disgusted when the main character watched his girlfriend take off her shirt, and turned off the bedroom light. Before that scene, a few suggestive jokes were mentioned, and swearing, beer, and other unnecessary comments/actions took place.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Educator and Parent of a 12 and 13 year old Written byBibliomaniac Mom September 12, 2009

Hilarity laced with adult situations

Great 80's movie, but I'd forgotten about the language and sexuality. I watched this recently with my 12 and 13 year olds, and they got to watch Tom Hanks act in his geniusly hilarious way, but they also got to see Tom Hanks exploring Elizabeth Perkins' breast, as a boy, for the first time. I tried to look at the scene from their perspective- young t(w)eens who are curious about how sexuality and love are expressed, and what this scene can teach them. Not a bad message, except that the characters, as usual, immediately hop into bed. One of the biggest messages Hollywood tells our kids is that foreplay ALWAYS leads to intercourse. That's not the main message I want my daughters to receive, and I hope it wasn't. I hope what they received was an evening full of laughter, which is what was intended.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages


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