Nine cases of primary non-lymphoblastic, non-Hodgkin's large cell lymphomas of the mediastinum characterized by a highly pleomorphic histologic appearance are described. The patients, four women and five men, were aged 30 to 65 years. All patients presented with symptoms referable to their tumors, including cough, chest pain, dyspnea, pleural effusion, and superior vena cava syndrome. Clinical and pathologic staging in all patients showed that the bulk of the tumor was confined to the chest cavity at the time of initial diagnosis, with local infiltration into the neck, lung hilum, and surrounding mediastinal structures. Three different histological growth patterns were observed: one composed of a diffuse proliferation of pleomorphic, highly atypical cells with bizarre nuclear features that closely resembled a high grade sarcoma; another one composed of sheets of large, epithelial-appearing atypical cells suggestive of anaplastic carcinoma; and another pattern characterized by a pleomorphic proliferation of large lymphoid cells admixed with numerous scattered Reed-Sternberg-like cells reminiscent of the lymphocyte-depleted variant of Hodgkin's disease. Immunohistochemical studies on paraffin-embedded tissue sections in all cases showed positive staining of the tumor cells with CD20 and CD45 antibodies and negative staining with a large panel of markers, including broad-spectrum keratin, CAM 5.2, carcinoembryonic antigen, epithelial membrane antigen, vimentin, actin, desmin, HMB 45, S-100 protein, CD3, CD15, CD30, and CD45RO. Because of their location restricted to the anterior mediastinum, frequent lack of recognizable lymph node architecture, and bizarre cytologic features, the present group of lesions posed difficulties for diagnosis, their correct identification was achieved through the application of a panel of immunohistochemical markers. An awareness of these unusual histologic appearances of primary large cell lymphoma in the mediastinum and inclusion of a broad panel of lymphoid markers are therefore recommended for the evaluation of pleomorphic, undifferentiated malignant neoplasms of this anatomic region.