Giant (1956)

Well, they say everything is bigger in Texas, including its films, apparently. A giant story. A giant load of themes. Giant characters with giant lifestyles. And certainly, a giant runtime. If anything, this is a film that certainly does live up to its name. 

"an interesting portrait of Texas culture of the time that is also universal to the American mood of those twenty years it portrays"

The multi-generational melodrama follows Texas cattle rancher, Jordan "Bick" Benedict Jr. (Rock Hudson) as he struggles to accept the changing times of Texas and in America. On a trip to Maryland, he meets Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) who is the opposite of Bick in almost every ideological sense. But despite this, the two undoubtedly have a connection and are soon married. The couple return to the cattle ranch, Reata, which has been run by the Benedict family for generations. Though Leslie initially struggles adjusting to this new life, she just might be the change that the ranch and Bick need, whether they realize it or not. From there the film covers about twenty years and all of the personal and social changes that the Benedict family face, including the rise of the oil industry, as seen through the character of Jett Rink (James Dean), racism, and patriarchy.

What Giant does well is keeping its characters and their relationships to each other interesting through the passage of much time. The social changes constantly keep Hudson and Taylor’s characters at odds, forcing both of them to understand their respective point of view, but also allowing both of them to evolve over the course of the picture. Dean’s character of Rink is the industrial change that shakes up Benedict’s whole foundation of his family’s legacy. Benedict is no longer the man on top when Rink strikes oil. The battle between old money and new money is a constant reminder and annoyance that Bick is no longer the definition of success in Texas. And when Bick and Leslie have kids, they also prove to be figures of change, not wanting to continue on the family’s business and legacy. This painful acceptance of unwanted but inevitable change is greatly portrayed by the cast’s powerful performances and the grand cinematography. 

However, this film is not without its problems…

The film tries to take a jab at patriarchy, but anytime Taylor’s character would speak up, directly addressing the issue, she was repeatedly shut down, of course. And rather than standing her ground and having it out with Hudson, she quickly apologizes. As the years progress in the film, she eventually seems to settle into her role of the good housewife and mother. Taylor gives a great performance, but it is sad to see a film where her head-strong, independent, and socially progressive character eventually bows down to her husband and the norm of her gender. Sticking up to Hudson’s ideals in the beginning showed much promise for her character, but sadly it was a waste, or rather it was more a reinforcement of women’s “proper” place.Giant (1956)

Giant also seems to misstep in the realm of racism. Just like its handling of patriarchy, Giant initially poses as a film that takes a stance on the ridiculous and harmful consequences of racism, but it cannot seem to make up its mind on what to say. Leslie repeatedly shows her humanity through treating the Mexican house servants as real people and finding them a proper doctor to care for them. The film also shows one of the young Mexican kids growing up to become a fine American patriot to be respected when he fights for the country in a time of war. And eventually, Benedict’s kid, Jordon (Dennis Hopper) ends up marrying and having a family with one of the Mexican women from the little village, which, of course, causes all kinds of controversy among the Texas town they live in. It is great to see a film from this era address and even scrutinize racism, and I praise it for doing so. But by the end, it backtracks. In its conclusion, it seems that Bick still won’t change. Despite having a grandchild that is half-Mexican, and even having a redemption moment by getting into a fist fight with someone when a diner refused to serve a Mexican family, Bick admits himself he cannot shed his racism. He tells Leslie that he cannot see his grandchild as any more than a “wetback,” and Leslie just brushes this off. Is Bick the symbolic figure for stubborn American racism? It seems so. The film, like Leslie, does not condemn him for this, but rather makes peace with it to much of the viewer’s disappointment. 

Considering the time of release, it only makes sense that the film arrives at the conclusion that it does. This is a film that had every opportunity to make a bold statement, but it never seems to fully commit. Perhaps we can just mark it up to a product of its time. 

Overall, Giant is a bit over-bloated and cannot seem to fully decide what it wants to say. But it is an interesting portrait of Texas culture of the time that is also universal to the American mood of those twenty years it portrays. If you have 3+ hours to spare then give it a go. 

The new 4K release of Giant is now available courtesy of Warner Bros.

3/5 stars


Giant (1956)

Blu-ray Details

4K Ultra HD + Digital HD

Home Video Distributor: Warner Bros.
Available on Blu-ray
- June 21, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian, Spanish, Dutch
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; French: Dolby Digital Mono; German: Dolby Digital Mono; Italian: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

If you have the endurance and your butt isn’t too sore, then you will strike gold with the commentary track, but other than that, the special features are nothing but dry land.


The new 4K Ultra-HD offers a clean and sharp image for the picture, virtually free of any noticeable debris scratches. There is a nice pop in color in some scenes that show very vivid reds, greens, and blues that are certainly eye-catching in the predominantly neutral-colored landscape. The only noticeable issue that arises is that quite a bit of the frames, especially in key close-ups appear very blurry. But, overall, this is a pretty good restoration.


The 2.0 mono soundtrack upgraded to a DTS-HD Master Audio track does give the film a nice little boost, especially in big moments like when James Dean strikes oil on his little piece of land. Dialogue, sound effects, and the grand score all come in clean and clear.



  • Commentary by George Stevens, Jr., Ivan Moffat, and Stephen Farber

Special Features:

  • None

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  3/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3/5 stars

Film Details

Giant (1956))

MPAA Rating: unrated.
201 mins
: George Stevens
Fred Guiol; Ivan Moffat
Elizabeth Taylor; Rock Hudson; James Dean
: Drama | Western
The legendary epic that's as big as Texas.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You want to know something, Leslie? If I live to be ninety, I will never figure you out."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 24, 1956
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 21, 2022.
Synopsis: Wealthy Texas rancher Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) shakes things up at home when he returns from a trip to the East Coast with a love interest, the refined Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor). Bick and Leslie get married, but she clashes with his sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge), and wins the admiration of the ambitious young Jett Rink (James Dean). Bick and Jett form a tense rivalry that continues to surface as the years pass and fortunes change in this sweeping drama.


Giant (1956))