Since his early adolescence, Zachary "Zack" Mayo (Richard Gere) has been living in the Philippines with his alcoholic and promiscuous father, U.S. Navy chief boatswain's mate Byron Mayo (Robert Loggia), following the suicide of his mother (who is never named in the story). Now, having recently returned to the United States and just graduated from college, Zack notifies his father that he has decided to sign up for the Navy's Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) in order to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a Navy pilot and flying jets. Despite Byron's objections, Zack leaves for AOCS, hoping that the choice will greatly improve his life.
In 1991 in New York City, 11-year-old Alyssa "Ally" Craig is waiting with her mother for the subway on the F Line at 18th Avenue and McDonald Avenue. Suddenly, the pair are mugged by two young men who then shoot her mother before boarding the train. Ally is left scarred by the events and refuses to travel by subway again.
Carola (Hoss), a German woman living in Switzerland, is on holiday with her boyfriend in Kenya. She falls in love with Maasai warrior Lemalian (Ido), who is visiting dressed in the clothing of his area. At the airport on the way home she decides to stay. It turns out that Lemalian has gone to his home village in the Samburu District. Carola travels to the area, and stays at the house of another European woman. Lemalian hears about her stay and comes to meet her. Eventually they start living together.
Ex-football star Mike Gambril and singer Terry McKay, each of whom is engaged to marry someone else, meet on a flight to Sydney. The plane makes an emergency landing and passengers must wait until a piece of equipment is delivered.
1802, London. The mysterious Lord Steyne (Gabriel Byrne) goes to a painter's studio where he has agreed to buy a painting of a young woman. The young Rebecca "Becky" Sharp (Angelica Mandy), then a girl of ten, insists on having ten guineas, instead of four guineas, as the price of the painting. The painter explains that the model in the painting is Becky's mother, the painter's late wife. Steyne agrees to pay the higher amount and leaves with the painting. The young Becky is seen moving to Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies after her father's death.
Nine years before, Jesse and Céline had met and had a brief encounter in Vienna. Jesse's new novel, This Time, was inspired by that night, and becomes a bestseller. He does a book tour in Europe, including Paris. He does a reading at the noted bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Flashbacks express elements of his time with Céline in Vienna. Three journalists attend the reading to interview Jesse: one is convinced the book's main characters meet again, another that they do not, and a third who wants them to but is doubtful that will occur. As Jesse speaks with the audience, his eyes wander and he sees Céline there, smiling at him.
Naina Catherine Kapur (Preity Zinta) is a bespectacled 23-year-old Punjabi MBA student who is quite pessimistic and cynical towards her life and relationships. The movie opens up to Naina visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. She relates how whenever she misses her father, she comes to the park. Upon returning home, we see Jenny (Jaya Bachchan), Naina's widowed mother who is on the phone discussing a loan extension for their centrally situated restaurant which isn't doing so well. Upon Naina's father's passing, all the house's responsibilities have fallen on her. Naina begins looking through the mail to find another private and confidential letter addressed to her mother, among many others she periodically receives. She also finds a letter from a Punjabi matrimonial service, Kunwari Kudi (meaning: Single Girl) that her grandmother and her aunts have enlisted in hopes of marrying off Naina to a Sikh sardar man. Naina's grandmother Lajjo (Sushma Seth), and Naina's aunts Kammo (Shoma Anand) and Vimmo (Kamini Khanna) are religious aspiring musicians who often perform for their neighbor, Chadda (Dara Singh) and to the horror and inconvenience of many of their other neighbors. There are also Naina's younger siblings in the home, including Shiv (Athit Naik), Naina's disabled biological brother and Gia (Jhanak Shukla), Naina's adoptive sister. There is much tension in the Kapur household as Lajjo is resentful towards Gia and Jenny as she believes Jenny's decision to adopt Gia is what led to her husband's suicide and the failing financial condition of their family, thus causing her to be affectionate with Naina and Shiv, while being cold to Gia. She thinks that Gia is the main problem in the house. She believes that the problems in the house started after Gia is adopted. There is also much religious tension in the house as Jenny practices Christianity while Lajjo practices Sikhism.
Nine years have passed since Before Sunset. Jesse and Céline have become a couple and parents to twin girls. Jesse struggles to maintain his relationship with his teenage son, Hank, who lives in Chicago with Jesse's ex-wife. After Hank spends the summer with Jesse and Céline on the Greek Peloponnese peninsula, Jesse drops him off at the airport to fly home. Jesse is a successful novelist, while Céline is at a career crossroads, considering a job with the French government.
The film starts on June 16, 1994 with Jesse meeting Céline on a train from Budapest and striking up a conversation with her. Jesse is going to Vienna to catch a flight back to the United States, whereas Céline is returning to university in Paris after visiting her grandmother. When they reach Vienna, Jesse convinces Céline to disembark with him, saying that 10 or 20 years down the road, she might not be happy with her marriage and might wonder how her life would have been different if she had picked another guy, and this is a chance to realize that he himself is not that different from the rest; in his words, he is "the same boring, unmotivated guy." Jesse has to catch a flight early in the morning and does not have enough money to rent a room for the night, so they decide to roam around in Vienna.
Former Congressman and now Judge Cass Timberlane is a middle-aged, incorruptible, highly respected man who enjoys good books and playing the flute. He falls for Jinny, a much younger girl from a lower class in his small Minnesota town. At first, the marriage is happy, but Jinny becomes bored with the small town and with the judge's friends. She leaves him for an affair with a lawyer, Timberlane's boyhood friend. Eventually abandoned by her lover, Jinny returns to her husband and becomes the good wife. The novel is Lewis' examination of marriage, love, romance, heartache and trust.
1928 Kansas: Wilma Dean "Deanie" Loomis (Natalie Wood) is a teenage girl who follows her mother's advice to resist her desire for sex with her boyfriend, Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty), the son of one of the most prosperous families in town. In turn, Bud reluctantly follows the advice of his father, Ace (Pat Hingle), who suggests that he find another kind of girl with whom to satisfy his desires.
A pair of onetime teenage sweethearts and lovers, Ken (Richard Egan) and Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire), come from different social strata. Ken was a self-supporting college student, working as a lifeguard at the Maine resort of Pine Island, while Sylvia's nouveau riche family stayed as guests of the owners one summer between years at college. After their love affair, they married other people. Twenty years on, Sylvia has a son, Johnny (Troy Donahue), and Ken a daughter, Molly (Sandra Dee).
In 1930, fishermen in the small Catalan port of Esperanza make a grim discovery in their nets, the bodies of a man and a woman. The resultant ringing of church bells in the village brings the local police and the resident archaeologist, Geoffrey Fielding (Harold Warrender), to the beach. Fielding returns to his villa, and, breaking the "fourth wall", retells the story of these two people to the audience.
Marianne "Manina" Stuart (Joan Fontaine), a prominent concert pianist, meets David Lawrence (Joseph Cotten), a businessman, on a flight from Rome to New York. Their plane is diverted to Naples for engine repairs, and they decide to kill time by doing some sight-seeing.