Today’s Prayer Focus
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The Greatest Showman

also known as “El gran showman,” “A legnagyobb showman,” “Didysis sou meistras,” “Król rozrywki,” See more »
MPA Rating: PG-Rating (MPA) for thematic elements including a brawl.

Reviewed by: Pamela Karpelenia

Moral Rating: Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: • Adults • Young Adults • Teens
Genre: Musical Biography Drama
Length: 1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release: 2017
USA Release: December 20, 2017 (wide—3,006 theaters)
DVD: April 10, 2018
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporationclick photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Relevant Issues

Music in the Bible

Songs in the Bible

Being innovative

Are there things that the real P.T. Barnum did that bent rules or laws, or did things that were deceptive, wrong or immoral?

How can I know what is RIGHT and WRONG? Answer

How can I discern whether a particular activity is WRONG? Answer




Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Featuring Hugh JackmanP.T. Barnum
Zac EfronPhillip Carlyle
Michelle WilliamsCharity Barnum
ZendayaAnne Wheeler—an acrobat, trapeze artist, and W.D.’s sister
Rebecca FergusonJenny Lind—a famous Swedish singer
Paul Sparks … James Gordon Bennett—the founder, editor and publisher of the New York Herald
Keala Settle … The Bearded Woman
Gayle Rankin … Queen Victoria
Natasha Liu Bordizzo … Deng Yan
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II … WD Wheeler—an acrobat and Anne’s brother
Austyn Johnson … Caroline Barnum—daughter of P.T. Barnum
Sam Humphrey … Charles Stratton—a dwarf performer also known by his stage name of General Tom Thumb
Jacqueline Honulik … Baroque Woman
See all »
Director Michael Gracey
Producer Peter Chernin
Tonia Davis
See all »
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Trademark logo.
20th Century Studios
, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company

“The Impossible Comes True!”

“The Greatest Showman” stars Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, the mastermind behind The Greatest Show on Earth. The film opens in true musical style, then flashes back to a young Barnum. We see an impoverished youth, son of a tailor with upper class clients. It’s at the home of a client where he meets a beautiful young girl. He makes her laugh and is forbidden from seeing her again by her father. But soon they are doing just that. We learn her name is Charity, and they start a pen pal relationship that blossoms. All the while, Barnum yearns for more than the life of a poor man’s son.

The plot is brilliantly consistent and easy to follow. Plus the music is pleasant, catchy and memorable. Hugh Jackman, who has a strong Broadway background, brings that enthusiasm and versatility to the screen—acting, singing and dancing—and it is wonderful. Michelle Williams plays Charity Barnum and makes a satisfactory contribution to the film aside Hugh. Zac Efron plays Phillip Carlyle, and brings his “High School Musical” background to the film. The remainder of the cast truly makes the film whole—each bringing a unique piece to the cast puzzle and creating a magnificent motion picture.

With all the amusing attractions (pun intended) of the film, there are a few details that Christian viewers ought to be aware of. Barnum’s characters does dishonest things to achieve his dreams, he was known as a purveyor of hoaxes and a deceiver and an exploiter of people with unique oddities—some of which was portrayed honestly in the film. There is a scene where Barnum is tempted by another woman. Women are showed with revealing clothes; cleavage is shown and male is shirtless. There is also violence shown—from slapping a child—to an all out fistfight among men. Hatred of people who look different was a consistent tagline of the film—from a woman with facial hair to people with different skin color. This behavior is not condoned. Drinking is shown with enthusiasm as an indulgence and a coping mechanism.

Now for the biblical aspects, the film doesn’t address God directly, but there are some truths that can be derived. The hatred of people who look different is easily remedied by a Christian worldview; there is but one race—the human race—which was created by the One True God.

P.T. Barnum’s life was not an easy one, but he persevered to his great worldly success. As Christians, we too are not guaranteed an easy life, in fact, the Bible says explicitly that we will suffer for our faith.

Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? —1 Peter 4:15-17

Our suffering will not bring us worldly success or fortune, but everlasting life through Christ Jesus! Triumph over adversity and the value of helping make other people’s lives happier and more bearable, when we can, are lessons that can be taken from this film.

As for my recommendation, with the knowledge and discernment of what to expect, I would recommend it. Overall, the acting and cinematography is light-hearted and fun. We left the theater wanting to listen to the soundtrack and ultimately wanting to see it again.

  • Violence: Moderate
  • Profane language: Mild—“God no,” “Oh God” (2), “d*mn” (in song lyrics)
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Minor
  • Nudity: Mild
  • Sex: Mild— • marital kisses • slightly suggestive lyrics in a song (“I want you… you want me”) • unmarried couple kisses (2 scenes) • female acts seductively toward P.T. Barnum and he rejects her advances • same female publicly surprises him with an unwanted kiss on stage
Editor’s Note: Viewers should be aware that this film romanticizes the life of P.T. Barnum; it is simply a fun musical and should not be thought of as an accurate biography.
Article Version: January 17, 2018

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I greatly enjoyed this movie. Hugh Jackman continues to surprise me with his theatrical talents. I realize that much of this movie was not according to the real life of Barnum and I can accept that, but I am concerned with the portrayal of Jenny Lind. In the movie she was shown as “coming on to” Barnum, causing problems with Barnum and his wife and his reputation. In all of my readings of Jenny Lind it shows her as a moral person, of great integrity and philanthropy. I would recommend that viewers of this movie read more about her and the type of person she really was. Despite that concern I would recommend this movie, and I personally would enjoy watching it again.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Paul A. Niebuhr, age 71 (USA)
Positive—Colorful, uplifting musical with great acting and fine singing. No instantly memorable song lyrics, but nicely done. Made us want to research PT Barnum and opera singer Jenny Lind. Spoiler: Their relationship was different in real life, and apparently he was even more focused on self, money, riches.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Christopher Winter, age 62 (USA)
Positive—I’ve seen this movie twice, with different groups of friends—and both times, everyone walked out absolutely loving it. There’s strong messages here about the importance of family, choosing one’s children over blind success, the enjoyment of bringing happiness to others, the importance of learning to accept and love yourself, even if you aren’t perfect, and choosing to do what is right rather than cave to social pressures.

The costumes are amazing, every frame is bright, beautiful, and full of color, and the soundtrack is so catchy I’ve listened to it 60 times since I left the theater, drove home, and ordered the digital download. It’s one of the most fun musicals I’ve EVER seen, and a perfect love letter to the arts.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Charity Bishop, age 34 (USA)
Positive—In brief: magnificent, moving and inspiring!

The main review does a good job of describing the movie, but I felt compelled to add a review, because, although I am not one for musicals, of the few I’ve seen, two of them starred Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables” and “The Greatest Showman.” The only reason I even decided to give this movie a try was because of how good “Les Miserables” was, considering it was a musical. I am very close to saying that this movie was even better!

I know, as Christians, the Bible tells us that we are not to love the world or anything in the world (1 John 2:15), but that’s not what I saw in this movie from Hugh Jackman’s character, P.T. Barnum. What I saw was a man who loved life and had an imagination like not many others have and who was willing to take risks that not many others are willing to take; to “Dream the Impossible Dream!” One very powerful scene in the beginning was when Hugh Jackman looked out of his office window where he worked a “regular job” and saw the people in the office building across the street working away and behind the building where they worked, a cemetery! A picture perhaps of the lives that many people lead; an uninspired, purposeless existence that eventually simply ends without having made any difference in the world.See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
RD, age 48 (USA)
Positive—This is an excellent film with good messages about accepting people who are different, as well as keeping proper perspective on your family life. The music is also very well done and wonderful choreography. There is very little that anyone would find offensive. For once the characters make ethical decisions. It’s very family oriented and refreshing in today’s day and age. I’m a big fan of musicals, and I found it very similar to the old time movies when the goal was to make people happy. Hugh Jackman doesn’t seem to age and did a good job with the singing and acting. It was also nice to see Zac Efron in a musical again. I’d strongly recommend it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Kathy Pj, age 57 (Canada)
Positive—It’s no secret that Hollywood productions are full of booby traps. From the Oscars to progressive directors and studios, one is likely to find an agenda in pretty much anything these days. However, one can also choose to find the Jesus in almost anything, too. Obviously, there are movies intended strictly for sex and violence shock value that can be ignored. But as we are all created in the image of God and have a core gap that can only be filled by Him, we can also look at most any movie and find where it is seeking to fill that gap with something besides Jesus.

“The Greatest Showman” IS a gospel story. You can choose to look at it through the lens of “the nefarious progressive movement” and I can see that—the devil is at work in Hollywood, no doubt. But I choose to see the Gospel, and it is no more obvious than in its song list:
The Greatest Show
A Million Dreams
Come Alive
The Other Side
Never Enough
This is Me
Rewrite the Stars
From Now On

The first few songs I see through our strictly selfish human eyes—I, ME, in the spotlight for I am the Greatest Show, and the worldly Dreams I have are all I’m focused on; the fleshly part of me Comes Alive and I’m willing to even dive into the Other Side to reach them.See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Derek, age 45 (USA)
Positive—Wow, I really enjoyed this. In a world where Marvel (Disney) has become the Walmart of movies, this one feels like speciality store! Good movie. There are some questionable things, but overall the film is good.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Brian, age 32 (USA)
Neutral—The music was great, the story was great, but the sexuality promoted throughout the movie made me not want to see it again.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Chrystal, age 41 (USA)
Neutral—“The Greatest Showman” is a fun movie with catchy music that plays fast-and-loose with history to craft a spectacular story for modern sensibilities. The documented abuse/exploitation of animals and people is swept under the rug, as the circus is presented in its best light—an exciting place where misfits can escape a world that hates them and find belonging. In some ways, this presents a good message for audiences, as the film argues that every human is valuable and should be treated with kindness, regardless of race, gender, social status, or appearances. This is true. It also advocates for family and marital fidelity, although that point may be lost amidst the “greatest show on earth.”

However, there are some bad apples that have been added to this barrel. In the opening song, Barnum’s show is referred to as “everything you ever want, everything you ever need,” which essentially elevates the circus in place of God. That song even uses a metaphor of religious devotion to explain the feeling of attending the show.

The other thing that bothered me was the presentation of the “freaks” vs. average people, with the latter being almost universally “narrow-minded,” unfeeling, racist, and attired in drab clothing to match their attitudes, (“like a zombie in a maze/You’re asleep inside”). Normality is portrayed as boring and meaningless. Of course, the circus folk are a riot of colorful clothing and virtue—self-sacrifice, bravery, love, laughter. They have embraced the lyrics of Barnum’s childhood tune (“we can live in a world that we design”) and added their own (“I make no apologies/This is me”) as they step out from the recesses of society onto the stage.

With the gender confusion and other lauded sins of radical self-expression in our culture, it’s easy to see how this is essentially a bait-and-switch to get audiences to accept a poisonous, anti-Biblical idea about individuals and a redefinition of tolerance. Caught up in the narrative, we cheer for the interracial romance, the neglected and spit-upon coming into their own…but I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being asked to mindlessly agree that genetic defects or skin color are identical to gender identity or sexual orientation. A defiant song by the Bearded Lady sums it up, “I know that there’s a place for us/For we are glorious.” For all intents and purposes, this could be Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” And it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful, semi-historical, PG-rated package, with just enough sparkle to make you think it’s okay.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Christina B., age 24 (USA)
Neutral—The moral of the movie is humanistic and certainly devoid of biblical norms. A summary of the movie occurs when one of the circus members tells Barnum that he committed fraud, but that’s okay because it was the method by which we became a family. That is what the Mafia did and what ISIS does; they create a family based on fraud. What if Christ told us at the cross that He committed fraud, but brought people together, so that was acceptable? A house built on deception is an illusion.

The musical pieces at first grab you emotionally, but halfway through the movie, become redundant. Yes, it is entertaining, for a one-time viewing. There is no profanity, nudity, or sex scenes. Some sensuality does occur a few times. There’s a ton of hubris.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
FB, age 66 (USA)
Negative—I was convinced to go and see this film based on the reports of Christian friends and reviewers I trusted. When a friend said that she took her children to see it and other friends raved about the music, I figured it would be fun to see with my family. In the end, only one daughter and my obliging husband were interested in going to see a film dubbed as a “musical.”

The music was beautifully done and advanced the story, but, as a Christian, I wouldn’t make some of the lyrics my theme song, as they speak to giving in to desires that aren’t exactly Biblical.

Lyrics from “The Greatest Show”:
Don’t fight it, it’s coming for you, running at ya
It’s only this moment, don’t care what comes after
It’s blinding outside and I think that you know
Just surrender “cause you’re calling and you wanna go
Where it’s covered in all the colored lights
Where the runaways are running the night
Impossible comes true, intoxicating you
It’s everything you ever want
It’s everything you ever need…

Lyrics from “This Is Me”:
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me…

During the film, there were moments where I felt a bit uncomfortable. While I cheered the husband/wife faithfulness and family aspect of the story, I cringed with the cleavage-baring in some scenes (which seemed very in-your-face to me), and the very sensual acrobatic duet where two characters sing about how much they want each other (the girl’s performance on the ropes is mildly reminiscent of a pole dance). I felt like I was at the circus watching the usual scantily clad girl performing tricks—everyone claps and marvels at her feats while pretending not to notice the sensual aspect. I was glad I had not insisted that my boys come.

I tried to view the diversity of the circus performers in the positive light of every Christian review I’d read, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something weightier was being leveled on us. I felt exactly what Christina B. wrote in her review, “I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being asked to mindlessly agree that genetic defects or skin color are identical to gender identity or sexual orientation.” My husband was very bothered by that feeling and told me he would have left if he had not been in the middle of the row.

Perhaps we are overly sensitive. I came home and looked at tons of reviews to see that Christians are giving this movie rave reviews. This is the only site where I’ve seen a couple of reviewers mentioning the same things that bothered us.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Holly, age 43 (USA)
Negative—My 19 year old daughter and I went to see this film. I thought there were some very positive aspects to this film, but also some very negative parts that, in the end, made this movie difficult to watch.

The positive aspects include love between PT Barnum and his wife surviving against such things as hard financial times, parental disowning, being separated by long distances (travel as part of his job), and also an extramarital temptation (which he resists). In addition, there is loyalty shown between PT Barnum and his associate.

The negative aspects are so weighty that I would not want to watch this film a second time. I could understand why the theater hardly had any viewers.

The biggest disappointment with the film was that the costumes and music were no where near what you would expect to see from people living in the late 1800’s. The musical numbers and dancing were very “Hollywood” like, with lots of typical modern dance moves and scantily dressed actresses. I could not understand having costumes that included a man with horns on his head and sequined outfits that barely covered people’s bums. The cleavage was over the top with the bearded actress.

What bothered me the most is that this movie could have been exceptional, had it not been a musical (a far cry from good musicals like “The Sound of Music”) and had it not thrown in such modern sensualism. I also did not like the fact that the movie made Jenny Lind out to be a seductress, when I could not find any evidence for that, and to the contrary—she was a gifted singer who donated her earnings to charity and ended the tour only because she felt used financially by Barnum. Lind was a remarkable woman, and it is a crime that this movie tried to sully her name.

Although there were some amusing parts to this movie, as well as some other valuable scenes, for the most part it was a disappointment, and my daughter and I were both happy when the movie ended and we could leave.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
Laura, age 47 (USA)
Negative—I wholeheartedly agree with Christina and Holly. After I left the theater, my spirit felt deeply troubled over what I had seen. The fact that so many Christians raved about this movie concerns me. I may have a sensitive spirit, but I could not shake the subliminal message of “you must accept people that are different from you (such as transsexuals) or you’re an ignorant bigot.” In the story, there’s a person who appears to be be part man and part woman, and a bearded woman with her breasts spilling out (who’s very much in your face).

The costumes and dancing were often very sexualized at times, and there was also violence and drinking (as a way to cope with disappointment and stress). I feel that this sends a wrong and dangerous message to kids. Another thing that struck me as being odd and out of place was the type of dancing they did for this time period… which was very modern hip-hop.

I really wanted to love this movie… and I did at first. It would have been an excellent film if the things that I mentioned would have been left out of it. This is just a reminder of how Satan takes something that is good and then twists it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Janet, age 57 (USA)
Negative—We have a streaming service that we can edit and filter things out of movies we don’t want to see. However, there were still some things that were concerning to me. The bearded lady is so immodest, at one point she is dancing and It appears her breasts will come out of her Inappropriate top. Zendaya ’s character has shorts on as a trapeze artist that you can see most of her behind. Zendaya and Zac Efron’s character are very close and inappropriate when they hold one another and dance. They also kissed in the movie. Hugh Jackman and the actress portrayed as Jenny Lind kiss at one point, but she is seductively trying to win his heart though he is married. And lastly the bar scene where Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron are singing, they drink a lot of alcohol, repeatedly.

Overall, I would not recommend this, even with a streaming service meant to filter, it’s still inappropriate and not for children that it’s geared towards.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Lori, age 35 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—Best movie musical in a long, LONG time. Literally every song is magical and every second of the film is brilliance. This is the most fun and family-friendly movie I’ve seen in a while. There are practically no swear words and moral-wise, there is a great lesson about faithfulness to one’s spouse and contentment in what one has. I highly recommend this masterpiece to people of all ages.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Johnny, age 17

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