The Greatest Showman Review Essay

The Greatest Showman Plot Summary

The plot of "The Greatest Showman" is quite predictable and simple, and at first, I decided to summarize it before you will read my review with detailed analysis.

The movie starts when the young Phineas who saw himself being a ringmaster in the mirror. Because of his father’s work as a tailor, Phineas met Charity, The daughter of Benjamin Hallet. Phineas and Charity became friends but their time together was not too long because Charity was sent to finishing school so they started writing letters to communicate with each other.

During this time, both of them started to have romantic feelings for each other and when they became adults Phineas married Charity and was blessed with two daughters. Charity was satisfied with what they have but Phineas wanted to have more and so he fooled the bank to loan him money using the ship registry that he took from the old company that he worked for as collateral to buy a wax museum.

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The museum had little to no customers and their family expense were getting to them. His daughters suggested that he should show something “alive” so he hired “freaks” to perform in his museum. The show was a big hit and was getting more and more customers each day but at the same time, protesters also increased. Phineas did not stop here and hired Phillip Carlyle who was hesitant in joining but agreed in the end in the condition of taking 10 percent of the show’s income.

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Carlyle was attracted to Anne Wheeler, a trapeze artist and an acrobat. After some time, Phillip found a way to invite the whole crew to a party with Queen Victoria. During this time, Phineas met Jenny Lind who was a great singer. He convinced her to perform in America and having him as her manager. Phineas started to distance himself from his old crew while his family longed for him. During their tour, Lind started having romantic feelings for Phineas but turned her down resulting to Lind quitting during their tour. This made Phineas return home early only to find his circus burning, Phillip badly injured and his family leaving him in the following day. Phineas went to a tavern while feeling depressed and was spotted by his old crew. Though feeling betrayed, his old crew still accepted him, and now motivated Phineas went to his wife to med their relationship. Now with his crew back and his family with him, Phineas started to do their show once again with the help of Phillip as his partner. After some time, Phineas gave full responsibility for the circus to Phillip so he can focus on his family.

Characterization in The Greatest Showman

For me, the movie is great with a lot of singing and dancing and that's why I decided to write the review of "The Greatest Showman". Unlike most movies that show these things, the characters are “freaks” who work their way to be accepted in their community by the means of showing their “irregularities” in the circus. The characters having their own talent and unique traits are the things that made the movie unique and fun to watch one example of this is the protagonist of the film Phineas Barnum who is the ringmaster and also the owner of the circus lived with his father when he was a child. They were very poor and lived a very hard life which contributed to the death of his father possibly during winter. Phineas was creative to the point that he could think of creating a show that shows “freaks” and earn money from it.

This is also evident when he sold used newspapers to earn money for his survival in the harsh world. In my opinion, this made him long for success and fame and also made him work hard even though a lot of people were against his show which was evident when protesters started showing up in his circus. One trait that was evident in Barnum was the way he wanted to be superior which is seen when stood at his table and shook hands with O'Clancy who would later be called the Irish giant. Another moment where his trait is evident is when he negotiated with Phillip Carlyle. Instead of calling him a partner he instead called him an overcompensated apprentice and gave him only 10% of the share from the profit from their circus. For me, Barnum being persuasive, creative and knowing the hardship of life makes him a good entrepreneur. Another character worth mentioning is Charles Stratton. He was the first “freak” that Barnum hired. He is a short man that lived with his mother. Being too short for a normal human being, his mother tried to hide him when Barnum asked where his son is. When Charles Stratton was hired in the circus, he has a stage name known as “General Tom Thumb”. He rides a horse and dresses like a soldier which closely resembles Napoleon Bonaparte who was a famous military commander in France. Just like all the “freaks” in the movie, at first, he was shy, but Barnum persuaded him to show himself to the audience and this made him enjoy what he was doing which is clearly opposite to how he lived his life. For me, Charles being part of Barnum’s show made him brave and a little bit cocky which is evident when he was talking to the Queen of England.

The toy soldiers in his room are an indication that he dreams of becoming a soldier one day but is unable to be one because of his height. Seeing Charles having this dream but becoming a performer to act as a soldier made me realize that in the world we live in, a person cannot do everything that He/She wants but there are certain things that only that person can do. For me Charles Stratton’s height and dream of becoming a soldier makes him unique. These things are also what make him the only character who can act as “General Tom Thumb” Lettie Lutz also known as “the bearded lady” is also a character that has a unique trait which is her beard and her beautiful voice. Lettie works as a Washerwoman. While washing clothes, she sings but hides herself from her co workers and the people around her because of her beard. When Barnum approached her, she asked him to leave but instead, Barnum exposed her, and she became conscious of herself. She asked Barnum to leave her alone but was moved when Helen, the daughter of Barnum gave her the flyer that was calling for “unique persons”.

This made her join Barnum’s circus. At first, she hesitated to show herself and hid behind the curtain, but Barnum persuaded her to show her talent. Through the whole show, she sings very good and she gained confidence with herself even though some people still degrade her for having her beard. For me, Lettie’s situation of having a beard while possessing a beautiful voice is a great combination because her talent in singing is very good which attracts people and at the same time, she has a beard that surprises everyone. Having this situation can also mean as her beard being mistakes and her singing as good deeds. Her great singing can overcome the negative attention to her beard which makes the people around her recognize her as a person with a great voice rather than a girl who has a beard. Though not one of the freaks, one character who is also unique is the partner of Phineas Barnum in the show business, Phillip Carlyle. A playwright that had a good life and came from a wealthy family, Barnum persuaded him to join the circus as his apprentice with a ten percent share of the income of the show. After some time, Phillip was the one taking care of the circus while Barnum was on tour with Jenny Lind. Phillip tried saving Anne Wheeler who he thought was still inside the burning building and this caused him to almost die if not for Barnum saving him.

When he recovered from his injuries, he agreed to help Barnum build the circus making them partners. After some time, Barnum entrusted the whole circus to Phillip, so he can focus on her family.


I have reviewed "The Greatest Showman" movie and here are my points of view accordingly to my experience and analysis.

-  For me, Phillip is a person who plays safe because when he saw the expenses of the tour that Barnum wanted, he confronted him and told him that it would be too risky. A unique thing about Phillip is he chooses to go with the circus rather than living his life as one with the regular people. This made him lose everything that he had. This is evident when he was confronted in the theater by her parents and he rejected their advice to know her place.

-  For me, Phillip’s actions try to tell us that we should follow our dreams, not what others want us to be because we are the ones that own our life. Not other people.

-  For me, the Greatest Showman tells me that uniqueness is something to be proud of and we should never hide it, instead we show it to the world. Things that were given to us should be treasured and most of all we must be happy with what we are and who we are. The characters with their acts, traits, uniqueness and their lives are great examples of this and it is also what makes the movie “the greatest showman” a great movie. Combining music and dancing with the peculiar characters, it is a one-of-a-kind movie that can both inspire you and at the same time entertain the audience.

Works Cited

  1. Barfield, R. (2019). The Greatest Showman: A P. T. Barnum Story. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 47(2), 76-85. doi: 10.1080/01956051.2018.1532035
  2. Christen, C. T. (2019). Moving Past Disability Inspiration: The Greatest Showman and Its Critics. Disability Studies Quarterly, 39(3). doi: 10.18061/dsq.v39i3.6631
  3. DeAngelis, M. (2018). "The Greatest Showman": Movie Review. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from
  4. Fogel, C. I. (2019). The Circus Comes to Town: The Greatest Showman and American Spectacle. Film Criticism, 43(1), 1-18.
  5. Jorgensen, J. (2019). The Greatest Showman and The Fantastical World of P.T. Barnum. The Journal of American Culture, 42(3), 273-285. doi: 10.1111/jacc.12947
  6. Karpinski, N. C. (2019). The Greatest Showman: A Celebratory or Superficial Tribute to P. T. Barnum's Legacy? American Studies in Scandinavia, 51(1), 74-87.
  7. Miller, L. K. (2018). How "The Greatest Showman" Rekindles Our Imagination. Christianity Today, 62(1), 58-59.
  8. Piazza, M. A. (2018). The Greatest Showman: A Hollywood Treatment of P. T. Barnum. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 38(1), 153-156. doi: 10.1080/01439685.2017.1411489
  9. Sandlin, J. A. (2020). The Greatest Showman: The Problems and Perils of Popularizing Popular Culture. American Behavioral Scientist, 64(4), 571-585. doi: 10.1177/0002764219878245
  10. Tucci, J. A. (2019). Reinventing the "Freak Show": The Greatest Showman and the Production of Disability. In Disability, Normalcy, and the Everyday (pp. 143-156). Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-19715-3_9
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Greatest Showman Review Essay. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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