United States, nineteenth century. PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman) just lost his job as a clerk because the company he worked for has gone bankrupt. Eager to offer his wife Charity (Michelle Williams) and his two daughters the life he had always promised them, Barnum embarks on a colossal project: create a great and amazing circus show. For this, this inventor of the show bussines will look for unique artists, from dwarfs, to bearded women, tightrope walkers and all kinds of imaginative shows. His motto: to do something new you have to do something unconventional.