The film follows the life and trials of P.T. Barnum.
It starts off with a young Barnum vowing to not treat his kids as he was treated. We see him then lose his job and have to tell his family. Broke and down on his luck, he manages to get a loan from the bank and opens a museum of the macabre and strange. However when this fails he enlists the help of some "freaks" and puts on a show.
A reported uncovers it's all a fraud and people who don't like the act force him to find other means to make money. After finding a Swedish singer and going on tour with her, his circus feels neglected and gets into a fight with locals.
When the singer quits and it ruins Barnum he returns to his circus to find the building on fire and watches it burn to the ground, only to rebuild with what is now considered a circus.
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