The BFG (2016 film)

The BFG (titled onscreen as Roald Dahl's The BFG) is a 2016 American fantasy animation adventure film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Melissa Mathison and based on the 1982 novel of the same name by Dahl. The film stars Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader. In the film, a 10-year-old orphaned girl named Sophie befriends a benevolent giant dubbed the "Big Friendly Giant", who takes her to Giant Country, where they attempt to stop the man-eating giants that are invading the human world.

Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Spielberg
Produced by
Screenplay byMelissa Mathison
Based onThe BFG
by Roald Dahl
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited byMichael Kahn
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
  • May 14, 2016 (2016-05-14) (Cannes)
  • July 1, 2016 (2016-07-01) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States[3][4]
Budget$140 million[5]
Box office$183.3 million[6]

Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall began development on a live-action adaptation of The BFG back in the 1990s, and various screenwriters were hired to work on the screenplay in the subsequent years. DreamWorks acquired the screen rights to Dahl's book in September 2011, and Marshall and Sam Mercer joined as producers, Mathison as screenwriter and Kennedy as executive producer. Spielberg was announced as director in April 2014, alongside his production company Amblin Entertainment as co-producer. Principal photography commenced in March 2015, marking Spielberg's first directorial film for Walt Disney Pictures, which co-financed the film.[7]

The BFG premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2016, and held its North American debut at the El Capitan Theater on June 21, 2016.[8] The film was released in the United States in Disney Digital 3-D, RealD 3D, IMAX 3D,[9] and conventional theatrical formats on July 1, 2016, the same year of Dahl's centennial. Although the film received generally positive reviews from critics, it grossed only $183 million against its $140 million budget, making it a box office bomb.[10][11][12][13]


Sophie, a 10-year-old girl who lives in a London orphanage after her parents died when she was a baby, stays awake reading through the nights due to her insomnia. At 3 in the morning, or what she calls the "witching hour", she sees an elderly giant outside her window who captures her and takes her into Giant Country. There, he explains that Sophie must stay with him for the rest of her life because she saw him and must not be allowed to reveal the existence of giants. He also explains that she will put herself at risk if she goes out in the open, as nine other giants inhabit Giant Country, all of whom are man-eaters and favor the taste of children.

When Sophie awakes, the Fleshlumpeater, the infantile leader of the man-eating giants, enters the smaller giant's home and smells Sophie. The Fleshlumpeater nearly devours Sophie before exiting. The giant gives Sophie some replacement clothes, as hers are ruined, and Sophie convinces him to take her to Dream Country to catch dreams together. As they leave, they accidentally wake up the Bloodbottler, the more intelligent and cunning second-in-command to the Fleshlumpeater, who awakens the other man-eating giants. They torment and bully the friendly giant by throwing him around like a football and rolling him down a hill in a garbage truck. As the pair escape during a thunderstorm which drives the man-eating giants into the cave, the Fleshlumpeater and the Bloodbottler find Sophie's blanket (which she had dropped before) and plan to find her. Climbing up the mountain, Sophie tells the giant that he shouldn't allow the other giants to bully him.

The pair arrives in Dream Country and catch a dream each. While there, the giant reveals that his only other alias (other than "Runt" which the other giants call him, as they are much larger) is "the Big Friendly Giant" and Sophie decides to call him "BFG". The two then head to London to spread good dreams to sleeping children. As they do so, Sophie realizes that she has lost her blanket. The BFG realizes that the other man-eating giants know about her and she wakes up outside the orphanage. He explains that the last human child he took and raised was discovered and eaten by Fleshlumpeater's group. She throws herself out of her window in the hope he will appear again to catch her, and he does.

When they return to the BFG's home, the other giants barge in and upend the place looking for Sophie, destroying much of the BFG's hard work. Sophie evades detection and the enraged BFG finally stands up to them and drives them off with a hot fire iron. While hidden, Sophie finds the home of the last human to live with the BFG before becoming a victim of Fleshlumpeater's group. She leaves his jacket on his bed and finds a portrait of Queen Victoria amongst his belongings. From this she devises a plan to forge a nightmare and give it to Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom. The nightmare consists of giants eating the children of England, the British Army fighting the giants, and Sophie appearing on her windowsill.

They head to Buckingham Palace where upon waking from her nightmare, the Queen and her maid Mary find Sophie on the windowsill as in the nightmare with the BFG outside in the palace grounds. Sophie and the BFG inform the Queen, Mary, and Mr. Tibbs that the child-eating beasts in her dream are indeed real and must be stopped at all costs before they cause any more harm to her subjects. After a large breakfast they all enjoy, the Queen soon dispatches soldiers to Giant Country.

The BFG plans to give the man-eating giants the regretful nightmare Sophie caught the night before, so they will be more compliant once caught. As she smashes the jar, they are almost all immediately consumed by guilt, but the Fleshlumpeater awakens and intercepts the nightmare before it can affect him. Despite this, the British army's helicopters effortlessly ensnare and capture him and the other giants. They are lifted away onto an isolated island where numerous snozzcumbers and a large crate of snozzcumber seeds are left with them, much to their fury.

In the aftermath, Sophie begins living in the Queen's palace with Mary while the BFG returns to Giant Country to resume giving dreams to people and begins growing a wide variety of vegetables inspired by his time in England. The film ends with Sophie narrating that whenever she feels lonely, which is less often than before, she talks to him. He can still hear her. Leaning out of her window, she says "Good Morning, BFG". At his writing desk, the BFG hears her words and smiles.


  • Mark Rylance as the voice and motion-capture of The BFG, an elderly, benevolent 24-foot giant whose name is short for the "Big Friendly Giant". He is called "Runt" by the other giants.[14]
  • Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, an orphan who befriends The BFG.[15] Roald Dahl named her after his own mother, who was similarly caring and determined.
  • Penelope Wilton as Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom.[16]
  • Jemaine Clement as the voice and motion-capture of The Fleshlumpeater, a 54-foot giant who is the de facto leader of the man-eating giants.[16]
  • Rebecca Hall as Mary, Queen Elizabeth's maid.[16]
  • Rafe Spall as Mr. Tibbs, Queen Elizabeth's butler.[17]
  • Bill Hader as the voice and motion-capture of The Bloodbottler, a disheveled 43-foot man-eating giant with cowlick hair who is Fleshlumpeater's advisor and the most intelligent of the group.[18]
  • Michael Adamthwaite as the voice and motion-capture of The Butcher Boy, an overweight, immature man-eating giant who is the youngest of the group. He collects cars and wears clothes made of circus tents.[16]
  • Daniel Bacon as the voice and motion-capture of The Bonecruncher, a dark-skinned, bald-headed man-eating giant.[16]
  • Chris Gibbs as the voice and motion-capture of The Gizzardgulper, a burly, bearded 39-foot man-eating giant who wears a helmet and is the shortest of the group.[16]
  • Adam Godley as the voice and motion-capture of The Manhugger, a very tall and slim man-eating giant who wears a vest and shorts.[16]
  • Paul Moniz de Sa as the voice and motion-capture of The Meatdripper, a well-groomed man-eating giant with Mohawk hair.[16]
  • Jonathan Holmes as the voice and motion-capture of The Childchewer, a balding man-eating giant who is Meatdripper's best friend.[16]
  • Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as the voice and motion-capture of The Maidmasher, a small-headed man-eating giant.[16]
  • Marilyn Norry as Mrs. Clonkers, the head of the orphanage where Sophie was living.
  • Chris Shields, Matt Frewer, and Geoffrey Wade as The Queen's Generals

Adamthwaite, Bacon, Gibbs, Godley, Holmes, Moniz de Sa, and Ólafsson also make cameos as minor London characters. William Samples and Ruby Barnhill's father, Paul Barnhill, make cameos as the palace staff members.



Producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy began development on a live-action adaptation of The BFG in 1991, and set the project up at Paramount Pictures.[19] Husband and wife screenwriters Robin Swicord and Nicholas Kazan wrote a screenplay adaptation in 1998, with Robin Williams in negotiations for the title role.[20][21][22] Williams attended a read-through, which according to Michael Siegel was "surprisingly disappointing".[23] Williams' trademark improvisational style clashed with the BFG's unique language.[23] Siegel elaborates, "He was sort of improvising on the jumbled language. And it was clunky. It was strangely not working. It was harder than it looks even for Robin. It didn't quite deliver."[23] By 2001, the script had been rewritten by Gwyn Lurie, and was greeted with positive feedback from the Dahl estate.[24] Terry Jones and Ed Solomon also attempted screenplay drafts.[23] While the screenplay lingered in development hell, Paramount subsequently lost the film rights and they reverted to the Dahl estate.[23]

In September 2011, DreamWorks acquired the film rights to the book; Kennedy and Marshall were announced to produce, with screenwriter Melissa Mathison adapting the story.[25] Initially, John Madden was hired to direct; however, in April 2014, Steven Spielberg was announced as the director, with Madden now listed as executive producer with producer Michael Siegel.[26] Kennedy had initially thought of Spielberg as director, but hesitated asking him until a more concrete screenplay was presentable.[27] Spielberg stated, "The BFG has enchanted families and their children for more than three decades. We are honoured that the Roald Dahl estate has entrusted us with this classic story."[28] Walden Media agreed to co-produce and co-finance the film with DreamWorks and Amblin in March 2015.[29] A month later, Walt Disney Studios—which was under prior agreement to distribute the film through its Touchstone Pictures banner—also joined the production as a co-producer and co-financier, and shifted the film from a Touchstone release to a Walt Disney Pictures production instead.[30] Consequently, The BFG is the first Disney-branded film directed by Spielberg, though he has previously produced several films for the studio.[31][32] Similarly, as a result of Amblin Partners' restructuring, DreamWorks did not receive a marquee credit—placement of the studio's production logo on marketing materials and opening titles—and instead, DreamWorks' marquee credit shifted to Amblin Entertainment.[33][34] The film is the second adaptation of the novel following the 1989 direct-to-television animated film. It is also Disney's first feature-length adaptation of a Roald Dahl work since 1996's James and the Giant Peach.


Mark Rylance was cast in the film's title role in October 2014.[14] Spielberg had approached Rylance with the role during the filming of Bridge of Spies.[35][36] Spielberg was quoted as saying that "Mark Rylance is a transformational actor. I am excited and thrilled that Mark will be making this journey with us to Giant Country. Everything about his career so far is about making the courageous choice and I'm honoured he has chosen The BFG as his next big screen performance."[37][38] Rylance performed the character through motion capture, a process which he referred to as "liberating".[39] In mid-November 2014, it was revealed that a ten-year-old student of Lower Peover School, Ruby Barnhill, had auditioned for the film. She had to learn six pages of dialogue in preparation for a possible role as the orphan Sophie.[40] After a lengthy search, on December 16, Barnhill was cast in the role, about which she said, "I feel incredibly lucky and I'm so happy." Spielberg stated that they "have discovered a wonderful Sophie in Ruby Barnhill."[15] Bill Hader was set to star in the film in an unspecified role on March 27, 2015.[18] On April 13, 2015, the rest of the cast was announced, which included Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Jemaine Clement, Michael David Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Adam Godley, Jonathan Holmes, Paul Moniz de Sa, and Ólafur Ólafsson.[16]


Principal photography on the film began on March 23, 2015, in Vancouver[16][41] and concluded on June 12, 2015.[42] Weta Digital worked on the film's visual effects.[43] It is Mathison's final film following her death on November 4, 2015.


John Williams composed and conducted the film's musical score, marking the twenty-seventh collaboration between Spielberg and Williams.[44] Williams was announced as the film's composer in March 2015.[45] During the process of writing the score, Williams compared the film to "a child’s ballet where there are dances involved," elaborating, "The BFG tries to capture dreams with his net and does something that almost looks like a Ray Bolger or Fred Astaire dance; It is an amazingly musical and choreographic sequence which required the orchestra to do things that are more associated with musical films."[46] Williams found similarities with the scoring of Home Alone, admitting that writing music for The BFG “was really an opportunity to compose and orchestrate a little children’s fantasy for orchestra."[47] The soundtrack was released by Walt Disney Records on July 1, 2016.[48]

The BFG (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Film score by
ReleasedJuly 1, 2016
StudioSony Pictures Studios
GenreFilm score
LabelWalt Disney
ProducerJohn Williams
John Williams film scores chronology
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The BFG (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Track listing

All music is composed by John Williams.

2."The Witching Hour"4:41
3."To Giant Country"2:33
4."Dream Country"10:10
5."Sophie's Nightmare"1:57
6."Building Trust"3:25
8."Dream Jars"3:30
10."Blowing Dreams"3:46
11."Snorting and Sniffing"2:13
12."Sophie's Future"2:30
13."There Was a Boy"3:30
14."The Queen's Dream"3:08
15."The Boy's Drawings"3:05
16."Meeting the Queen"3:00
17."Giants Netted"2:03
19."Sophie and the BFG"8:09
Total length:64:33


The BFG premiered on May 14, 2016, at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, in an out of competition screening.[49] Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures distributed the film worldwide, except for territories in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, where the film's distribution rights were sold by DreamWorks' international partner, Mister Smith Entertainment, to independent distributors.[30][50]

Disney released a teaser trailer on December 9, 2015.[51] A second trailer was released on April 5, 2016.[52] A third trailer was released on May 16, 2016.[53] The film held its North American premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on June 21, 2016.[8] It was released in the United States on July 1, 2016.[54] Paramount Pictures distributed the film in the U.K. on July 22, 2016.[55] DreamWorks' financial partner, Reliance Entertainment, released the film in India on July 29, 2016.[56] Huaxia Film Distribution released the film in China.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The BFG on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on November 29, 2016. The film debuted in third of the home media sales chart for the week ending on December 2, 2016.[57]


Box office

The BFG grossed $55.5 million in North America and $127.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $183.3 million, against a production budget of $140 million.[6]

In the United States and Canada, The BFG opened alongside The Legend of Tarzan and The Purge: Election Year at 3,357 theaters, and was projected to gross $22–32 million in its opening weekend.[58][59] The film was notably vying for drawing family audiences with the studio's own Finding Dory.[5] It made $775,000 from its Thursday previews; however, the low figure was not surprising, given how family films tend to attract fewer audiences during late-night showings.[60][61][62] This was followed by a $7 million opening day (including previews) and a disappointing $18.6 million opening weekend, which Deadline Hollywood called "an awful start for this film which is estimated to cost $140 million".[63][64] Forbes noted that Steven Spielberg's films tend to have long runs, irrespective of their opening numbers. However, it also pointed out that the July 4th weekend proves to be a non-leggy release schedule and most films released during this time end up making only twice their holiday total over the course of their domestic theatrical run.[65] The New York Times called the opening figures "a colossal misfire".[66]

Due to the film's poor performance in North America, the film was considered a box office disappointment.[10][11][12][13] As a result of its low opening numbers in North America, the film needed greater financial success in its international markets, as pointed out by David Hollis, Disney's distribution chief, saying, "we're going to be reliant in a lot of ways on international [audiences]".[66] Internationally—during its opening weekend—where the 4th of July weekend is not a holiday, the film opened to $3.9 million in its opening weekend from two markets, Australia and Russia.[67] In Australia, it opened to $2 million placing third while in Russia it debuted second with $1.9 million, which tops the entire runs of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and War Horse. In the United Kingdom, where the book is more well known, it opened to $6.9 million.[68]

In China, the release was handled by Huaxia Film Distribution. While it benefitted from a robust marketing effort including Spielberg's presence in the country itself, it suffered from a three month long delay after its North American release. It had an estimated $13.8 million opening, debuting at second place behind Operation Mekong.[69][70] Many Chinese online reviews criticized Spielberg for making the film "too juvenile" for adults.[71]

The BFG is one of the lowest-grossing films of Spielberg's career, specifically in North America, when accounting for inflation and one of the year's biggest flops, but The Hollywood Reporter noted that Disney would be able to withstand the losses due to the success of Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory.[72] The site also highlighted that the financial losses for Disney could be $90–100 million based on theatrical returns alone.[73]

Critical response

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 75% based on 284 reviews and an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The BFG minimizes the darker elements of Roald Dahl's classic in favor of a resolutely good-natured, visually stunning, and largely successful family-friendly adventure."[74] On another aggregator, Metacritic, the film has a score of 66 out of 100 based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[75] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[76]

Justin Chang of Los Angeles Times called Rylance's performance a "brilliant amalgam of performance-capture technology and peerless screen presence."[77] Scott Mendelson of Forbes described the film as "a charming, intelligent, and witty little adventure movie with strong special effects work in the service of a most unassuming story."[78] Mendelson also commended the film's smaller scope in story, as well as Rylance and Barnhill's interaction.[78] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph called the film "a significant technical accomplishment", adding that "the infinitesimally detailed motion-capture technology alone, which stretches Rylance’s human performance to gargantuan proportions, is river-straddling bounds beyond anything that’s come before it."[79] Critic Matt Zoller Seitz highly appreciated Spielberg's direction of the film, giving the film three and a half out of four stars. Seitz remarks, "I can imagine some adults finding the movie dull; 'Nothing happens', they'll say. 'And it's too nice.' But I can imagine other adults loving the film for helping them remember what it's like to be young enough to hide from a movie monster because he's big and weird-looking and then laugh because he's kind of silly..."[80]

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter compared the film objectively to Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, as a "conspicuously less captivating, magical and transporting experience than its classic forebear."[81] Peter Debruge of Variety, however, compared the film favorably to E.T., writing, "this splendid Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their heads around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history, resulting in the sort of instant family classic “human beans” once relied upon Disney to deliver."[82] A. O. Scott of The New York Times praised the film's digital effects and visual style as "exquisite", though he felt that the film lacked the excitement found in Spielberg's previous fantasy films.[83]

Richard Brody of The New Yorker stating that it "plays like a forced march of fun, a mandatory strain of magic and a prescribed dose of poetry, like a movie ready-made for screening in classrooms when a teacher is absent." Brody, however, observes that "Spielberg is the BFG who's menaced by bigger and more monstrous giants who aren't interested in edifying their audiences but merely in consuming them—consuming the consumer, so to speak."[84] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "technically impressive but listless and tedious... painfully cutesy, silly and gross rather than whimsical and funny." He thought that the film moved far too slowly and was missing a "sense of wonder and adventure", saying that he'd "rather see every one of Spielberg's previous films before having to sit through "The BFG" again".[85] Cole Smithey described the film as a "drab affair". Giving The BFG one star out of five, he criticized its "creepy style of animation [and] dragging tempo".[86]


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Annie Awards February 4, 2017 Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production Claude Schitter, Benjaman Folkman, Gary Boyle, David Caeiro and Luke Millar Nominated [87]
British Academy Children's Awards November 20, 2016 BAFTA Kids' Vote The BFG Nominated [88]
Evening Standard British Film Awards December 8, 2016 Best Actor Mark Rylance Nominated [90]
Golden Tomato Awards January 12, 2017 Best Kids/Family Movie 2016 The BFG 5th Place [91]
London Film Critics' Circle January 22, 2017 Young British/Irish Performer of the Year Ruby Barnhill Nominated [92]
Satellite Awards February 19, 2017 Best Original Score John Williams Nominated [93]
Best Visual Effects The BFG Nominated
Saturn Awards June 28, 2017 Best Fantasy Film The BFG Nominated [94]
Best Director Steven Spielberg Nominated
Best Writing Melissa Mathison Nominated
Best Actor Mark Rylance Nominated
Best Performance by a Younger Actor Ruby Barnhill Nominated
Best Music John Williams Nominated
Best Editing Michael Kahn Won
Best Production Design Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg Won
Best Costume Design Joanna Johnston Nominated
Best Special Effects Joe Letteri and Joel Whist Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 5, 2016 Best Motion Capture Performance Mark Rylance Won [95]
Women Film Critics Circle December 19, 2016 Best Animated Female The BFG Nominated [96]
World Soundtrack Awards October 20, 2016 Film Composer of the Year John Williams (also for Star Wars: The Force Awakens) Nominated [97]


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