On the eve of the American Civil War in 1861, Scarlett O'Hara lives at Tara, her family's cotton plantation in Georgia, with her parents and two sisters. Scarlett learns that Ashley Wilkes—whom she secretly loves—is to be married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, and the engagement is to be announced the next day at a barbecue at Ashley's home, the nearby plantation Twelve Oaks.
Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Grace (Maria Bello) attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of their friends, Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis) Birch. The children go for a walk in the neighborhood and approach a campervan that is parked outside a house nearby. There is music playing, which suggests there is somebody inside. After dinner, both families' younger daughters, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, go missing.
In December 2002, Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, loses a libel case involving allegations he published about billionaire financier Hans-Erik Wennerström. He is sentenced to three months in prison and a hefty fine. Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but damaged surveillance agent and hacker, is hired by Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of the wealthy Vanger family, to investigate Blomkvist. Vanger then hires Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who vanished on Children's Day in 1966. Vanger believes that Harriet was murdered by a family member.
Artist Jennifer Spencer and her sister are raped by a group of boys, after being betrayed by female friend Ray Parkins. The brutal rape leaves Jennifer's sister permanently catatonic. Ten years later, Spencer seeks revenge. She kills one of the rapists (George Wilburn) with two shots—one in the groin and one in the head—from a .38 snubnosed revolver. Spencer then leaves San Francisco because of the subsequent police investigation. Once relocated in the town of San Paulo, Spencer begins restoring its boardwalk's historic carousel near the beach where the rapes occurred.
Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) seems to have picked up the pieces of his life and moved on, and is now dating L.A. radio reporter Geri Nichols (played by Bronson's real-life wife Jill Ireland). They go to pick up Kersey's daughter Carol (Robin Sherwood) from the hospital, where her doctor says that despite traumatic catatonia, Carol has begun to speak again. Paul, Geri, and Carol spend the afternoon at a carnival. While waiting in line for ice cream, Paul gets pick-pocketed by five gang members (named Nirvana, PunkCut, Stomper, Cutter and Jiver). He catches up with Jiver, after a brief struggle, denies taking Paul's wallet. Paul lets him go.
The film starts with the Polaroid photograph of a dead man. As the sequence plays backwards the photo reverts to its undeveloped state, entering the camera before the man is shot in the head. This is followed by interspersed black-and-white and color sequences, with the black-and-white sequences taking place chronologically before the color sequences.
Emma (Monica Potter) and John Collingwood (Tony Goldwyn), and their daughter, competitive swimmer Mari (Sara Paxton), head out on vacation to their lake house. Shortly thereafter, Mari borrows the family car and drives into town to spend some time with her friend Paige (Martha MacIsaac). While Paige works the cash register at a local store, she and Mari meet Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), a teenager passing through town who invites them both back to his roadside motel room to smoke some marijuana. While the three are hanging out in the motel room, Justin's family members return: Krug (Garret Dillahunt), Justin’s father; Francis (Aaron Paul), Justin’s uncle; and Sadie (Riki Lindhome), Krug’s girlfriend.
In a god-forsaken, off-season French seaside town we meet "Mellie" (Marlène Jobert), who watches a mysterious stranger step down from the bus into the pouring rain. He follows and eventually rapes her, while her husband (an airline navigator) is away from home.
Travis Bickle, an honorably discharged U.S. Marine, is a lonely and depressed man in New York City. He becomes a taxi driver to cope with chronic insomnia, driving passengers every night around the boroughs of New York City. He also spends time in seedy porn theaters and keeps a diary. Travis becomes infatuated with Betsy, a campaign volunteer for Senator and presidential candidate Charles Palantine. After watching her interact with fellow worker Tom through her window, Travis enters to volunteer as a pretext to talk to her, and takes her out for coffee. On a later date, he takes her to see a Swedish sex education film, which offends her, and she goes home alone. His attempts at reconciliation by sending flowers are rebuffed, so he berates her at the campaign office, before being kicked out by Tom.
A Christian musical procession waits outside a prison for Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae), a recently reformed female prisoner, who had been convicted of murdering a young schoolboy, Won-mo. The case, a national sensation because of her young age at the time of the murder and innocent appearance, earns her a lengthy prison sentence, reduced because of her apparent spiritual transformation in prison and her good conduct toward other inmates, results in the nickname of the "Kind-Hearted Geum-Ja". As Lee Geum-ja emerges from prison, she immediately sidesteps the procession, intent on revenge.
Paul Kersey is an architect living in Manhattan with his wife Joanna and daughter Carol Toby. One day, Joanna and Carol are followed home from the store by a group of thugs who break into the apartment, fatally injure Joanna and sexually assault Carol.
Lucas is a member of a close-knit Danish community and works at a local kindergarten. Divorced, he struggles to maintain a relationship with his teenage son, who lives with his ex-wife, but enjoys wholesome interaction with the children at the kindergarten. His coworker Nadja makes advances towards him and eventually moves in as his girlfriend.
Marjorie (Fawcett) is a young woman who works in a museum and lives with two female roommates, Pat (Woodard) and Terry (Scarwid) in Los Angeles. One night, while getting into her car, she is attacked at knifepoint by a masked assailant (Russo), who forces her to touch him sexually.
Harry Brown (Michael Caine), an elderly man who was once a decorated senior NCO in the Royal Marines and a veteran of Northern Ireland, currently lives on a London council estate ruled by violent gangs and spends most of his time playing chess in the local pub with his best friend, Len Attwell (David Bradley). Drugs are dealt openly in the pub. When the hospital phones to tell him that his wife, Kath, is dying, Harry is too late to see her one last time because he is too scared to take the quicker underpass route, where a gang holds court. His wife is laid to rest next to the grave of their thirteen-year-old daughter, Rachel, who died in 1973.
Chris McCormick (Margaux Hemingway) is a highly paid fashion model whose image serves as the driving force of the ad campaign for a popular brand of lipstick and can be seen in magazines and on billboards all around the world. Gordon Stuart (Chris Sarandon), a part-time composer and full-time music teacher, eagerly accepts Chris's 13-year-old sister Kathy's (Mariel Hemingway) invitation to come to a secluded beachside photo shoot, so Chris can listen to some of his music. But Chris is too busy to give any of her time to Gordon and suggests that they meet another day at the apartment she shares with Kathy. Gordon agrees and shows up at the apartment at the date and time that she mentioned. Though Chris has clearly forgotten about the invitation, she lets him in and politely sits down as he plays her a tape of one of his compositions. What she hears is not easy on her ears, but she smiles as it plays and pretends to appreciate it until a phone call from her lover, Steve Edison (Perry King), thankfully interrupts them and allows her to escape to her room, away from the noise and the very creepy Gordon.