Big is a 1988 American fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Penny Marshall, and stars Tom Hanks as adult Josh Baskin, a young boy who makes a wish to be "big" and is then aged to adulthood overnight. The film also stars Elizabeth Perkins, David Moscow as young Josh, John Heard and Robert Loggia, and was written by Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg. It was produced by Gracie Films and distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Upon release, Big was met with wide critical acclaim, particularly for Hanks' performance. It was a huge commercial success as well, grossing $151 million worldwide against a production budget of $18 million, and it proved to be pivotal to Hanks' career, establishing him as a major box-office draw as well as a critical favorite. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Screenplay.
Twelve-year-old Josh Baskin, who lives with his parents and infant sister, Rachel, in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, is told that he is too short for a carnival ride called the Super Loops, while attempting to impress Cynthia Benson, an older girl. He inserts a coin into an unusual antique arcade fortune teller machine called Zoltar, and makes a wish to be "big". It dispenses a card stating "Your wish is granted", but Josh is spooked when he notices that it has been unplugged the entire time.
The next morning, Josh has suddenly grown into a full-fledged adult; it turns out the Zoltar machine can actually make wishes come true. He tries to find the machine, only to see an empty field, the carnival having moved on. Returning home, he tries to explain his predicament to his mother, who refuses to listen and then threatens him, thinking he is a stranger who has kidnapped her son. Fleeing from her, he then finds his best friend, Billy, and convinces him of his identity by singing a rap which only they know. With Billy's help, he learns that it will take at least six weeks to find the Zoltar machine again, so Josh rents a flophouse room in New York City and gets a job as a data entry clerk at the MacMillan Toy Company.
Josh meets the company's owner, Mr. MacMillan, at FAO Schwarz, and impresses him with his insight into current toys and his childlike enthusiasm. They play a duet on a Walking Piano (a foot-operated electronic keyboard) performing "Heart and Soul" and "Chopsticks". MacMillan invites Josh to a massive marketing campaign pitch meeting with the senior executives. Unimpressed with the toy, Josh shocks and challenges the executives with a simple declaration that the toy is not "fun", and while his follow-up suggestions invigorate the team for new ideas, he earns the animosity of Paul Davenport, the pitch's leader. Pleased, Mr. MacMillan promotes Josh to his dream job: getting paid to test toys as vice president in charge of Product Development. With the promotion, his larger salary enables him to move into a spacious luxury apartment, which he and Billy fill with toys, a rigged Pepsi vending machine that dispenses free drinks, and a pinball machine. He soon attracts the attention of Susan Lawrence, a fellow MacMillan executive. A romance begins to develop, much to the dismay of her ruthless former boyfriend and coworker, Davenport. Josh becomes increasingly entwined in his "adult" life by spending time with her, mingling with her friends, and being in a steady relationship. His ideas become valuable assets to MacMillan Toys; however, he begins to forget what it is like to be a child, and his tight schedule now means that he never has time to hang out with Billy.
MacMillan asks Josh to come up with proposals for a new line of toys. He is intimidated by the need to formulate the business aspects of the proposal, but Susan says that she will handle the business end while he comes up with the ideas. Nevertheless, he feels pressured and longs for his old life. When he expresses doubts to Susan and attempts to explain that he is really a child, she interprets this as fear of commitment on his part and dismisses his explanation.
Josh learns from Billy that the Zoltar machine is now at Sea Point Park. He leaves in the middle of presenting the proposal to MacMillan and the other executives. Susan also leaves and encounters Billy, who tells her where Josh went. At the park, Josh finds the machine, unplugs it, and makes a wish to become "a kid again". He is then confronted by Susan, who, seeing the machine and the fortune it has given him, realizes that he was telling the truth. She becomes despondent at realizing their relationship is ending. He tells her that she is the one thing about his adult life that he wishes would not end and suggests that she use the machine to wish herself younger. She declines, saying that being a child once was enough, and takes him home.
After sharing an emotional goodbye with Susan, Josh becomes a child again before reuniting with his family. The film ends with Josh and Billy hanging out together as the song "Heart and Soul"—the version that Josh and Mr. MacMillan played in the toy store earlier in the movie—plays over the credits.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a "Certified Fresh" 97% rating based on 74 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Refreshingly sweet and undeniably funny, Big is a showcase for Tom Hanks, who dives into his role and infuses it with charm and surprising poignancy." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
The New York Times praised the performances of Moscow and Rushton, saying the film "features believable young teen-age mannerisms from the two real boys in its cast and this only makes Mr. Hanks's funny, flawless impression that much more adorable." John Simon of the National Review described Big as "an accomplished, endearing, and by no means mindless fantasy".
The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Screenplay. At the Golden Globe Awards, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, while Hanks was nominated for (and won) for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
The film is number 23 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In 2000, it was ranked 42nd on the American Film Institute's "100 Years…100 Laughs" list. In June 2008, AFI named it as the tenth-best film in the fantasy genre. In 2008, it was selected by Empire Magazine as one of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time."
Big was part of a series of twin films featuring an age-changing plot produced in the late 1980s, including Like Father Like Son (1987), 18 Again! (1988), Vice Versa (1988), 14 Going on 30 (1988), and the Italian film Da grande (1987). The latter Italian film has been said to be the inspiration for Big.
The film opened at No. 2 with $8.2 million in its first weekend. It would end up grossing over $151 million ($116 million in the US and $36 million internationally). It was the first feature film directed by a woman to gross over $100 million.
In 1996, the film was made into a musical for the Broadway stage. It featured music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr., and a book by John Weidman. Directed by Mike Ockrent, and choreographed by Susan Stroman, it opened on April 28, 1996, and closed on October 13, 1996, after 193 performances.
The first attempt at adapting the film as a TV series came in 1990, with a sitcom pilot produced for CBS that starred Bruce Norris as Josh, Alison LaPlaca as Susan, and Darren McGavin as Mr. MacMillan; it was not picked up as a series.
On September 30, 2014, Fox announced that a TV remake, loosely based on the film, was planned. Written and executive produced by Kevin Biegel and Mike Royce, it dealt with what it means to be an adult and kid in present times.
The fictional Zoltar Speaks fortune telling machine portrayed in the film was modeled after the real-life 1960s machine Zoltan, the name differing by one letter. In 2007, the Nevada-based animatronic company Characters Unlimited was awarded a trademark for Zoltar Speaks and began selling fortune telling machines with that name.
The film is referenced in the 2019 DC Extended Universe film Shazam!. In the scene in which Doctor Sivana chases Billy Batson into a toy store, Billy unknowingly steps onto a Walking Piano and briefly plays it before being knocked out a window by Sivanna. Additionally, both films' plots center around a child who is magically transformed into an adult.