Bigger Than Life (1956)


Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.


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Movie Info

A seriously ill schoolteacher becomes dependent on a "miracle" drug that begins to affect his sanity.


James Mason
as Ed Avery
Barbara Rush
as Mrs. Lou Avery
Walter Matthau
as Wally Gibbs
Robert F. Simon
as Dr. Norton
Christopher Olsen
as Richie Avery
Roland Winters
as Dr. Rurich
Rusty Lane
as La Porte
Kipp Hamilton
as Pat Wade
Betty Caulfield
as Mrs. La Porte
Virginia Carroll
as Mrs. Jones
Renny McEvoy
as Mr. Jones
Billy Jones
as Mr. Byron
Natalie Masters
as Mrs Tyndal
Lewis Charles
as Dr MacLennan
Gus Schilling
as Druggist
Alex Frazer
as Clergyman
Mary Carver
as Saleslady
Eugenia Paul
as Saleslady
Nan Dolan
as Dr. Norton's Nurse
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Critic Reviews for Bigger Than Life

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (6)

Mason's gift for cold-eyed madness is heightened by Ray's exuberantly lurid approach.

Dec 11, 2017 | Full Review…

James Mason has picked a powerful subject for his first 20th-Fox production and delivers it with quite a bit of dramatic distinction in carrying out the supervisory duties and as the male lead.

Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It's hard to think of another Hollywood picture with more to say about the sheer awfulness of 'normal' American family life during the 50s.

Oct 23, 2007 | Full Review…

Those who remember the creeping terror and eeriness of Mr. Roueché's real-life yarn will be sorry to learn that there is little terror or eeriness in the film.

Jun 24, 2006 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

This is Rebel Without a Cause for the grown-up world.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

The film presents viewers with an ambiguity that's almost Brechtian in its political implications.

Mar 20, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Bigger Than Life


I liked it. Actually, I really, really liked it. Give me more. Damn it, I need MORE!

Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

wow. james mason is seriously frightening as he slowly loses his grip on reality due to prescription drug addiction. a great look under the idyllic facade of the 50's

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

this film made me get n the edge of my seat.

erika bruhns
erika bruhns

Super Reviewer


Bigger Than Life is a movie I've looked forward to for a few years since seeing Martin Scorsese's Journey Through American Movies. Seeing James Mason in the throes of psychosis about to murder his son and claiming GOD WAS WRONG for not having Abraham kill Isaac was enough to add this to my must see list. Bigger Than Life is a hell of a lot like a Douglas Sirk movie with less saturated colors and slightly less melodrama. Mason is great as the All-American dad who goes nuts after getting addicted to cortisone and Walter Matthau as his plot device/friend. As good a job as Mason did in his decent into madness, Nicolas Ray's direction was the real standout here. Worth the ride if you can get your hands on it.

Michael Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

Bigger Than Life Quotes

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