A pre-credits scene shows an episode of the popular game show 'To Tell the Truth' set in 1977 where three contestants appears claiming to the panelests to be the legengary Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) who impersonated an airline pilot, a lawyer, and doctor, as well as scammed people on three continents for millions of dollars... all before reaching the age of 19.
The film begins in 1969, with FBI agent Carl Hanratty Jr. (Tom Hanks) arriving at a French prison to meet the flu-stricken Frank Abagnale Jr, who attempts to escape from the prison prior to his extraction to the USA for a series of crimes.
The scene flashes back to six years earlier. 16-year-old Frank Abagnale Jr lives in New Rochelle, New York with his father Frank Abagnale, Sr. (Christopher Walken), and French mother Paula (Nathalie Baye). Frank's father cons a woman into lending him a suit for Frank Jr., who later acts as a driver for Frank Sr. in a ruse to get a loan from Chase Manhattan Bank. When the loan is denied (due to a series of IRS tax frauds by Frank Sr.), the family is forced to move from their grand home to a small apartment, with tension building within the family.
Frank soon realizes that his mother is having an adulterous affair with his father's friend Jack (James Brolin) and feeling that he will not fit in at his new school, poses as a substitute teacher in his French class for a short time. Eventually trouble builds between Frank's mother and father, who file for divorce and ask Frank to choose who he will live with. Horrified, Frank runs away from home, using checks that his father had given him. When Frank runs out of money, he begins to use confidence scams. Frank's cons grow ever bolder and he even impersonates an airline pilot. He forges Pan Am payroll checks and succeeds in stealing over $2.8 million by staying in fancy hotel suites, and eating at expensive...