In the summer of 1958, Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) meets local boy Danny Zuko (John Travolta) at the beach while on vacation and they soon fall in love. As the summer comes to an end, Sandy worries about returning home to Australia and never seeing Danny again, but he assures her that it is only the beginning for them.
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a young dancer in a prestigious New York City ballet company, lives with her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer herself. The company is preparing to open the season with Swan Lake. The director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), has to cast a new principal dancer after forcing Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) into retirement. Thomas wants the same ballerina to portray the innocent, fragile White Swan as well as her dark, sensual twin, the Black Swan. Nina auditions for the part, performing flawlessly as the White Swan, but not quite able to emulate the characteristics of the Black Swan. Although Nina does not do well during her audition, she approaches Thomas and asks him to reconsider her as the lead role. He tells her she is the ideal dancer to cast as the White Swan, but she lacks the passion needed to correctly portray the Black Swan.
In 1927, Roxie Hart sees star Velma Kelly perform ("All That Jazz") at a Chicago theater. Wanting stardom for herself, she begins an affair with Fred Casely, who claims to know the manager. After the show, Velma is arrested for killing her husband Charlie and sister Veronica, who were in bed together. A month later, Casely admits to Roxie that he has no showbiz connections and just wanted her body. Enraged, she shoots him dead. She convinces her husband Amos to take the blame, telling him she killed a burglar in self-defense. As Amos confesses to the detective, Roxie fantasizes that she is singing a song devoted to her husband ("Funny Honey"). However, when the detective brings up evidence that Roxie and Casely were having an affair, Amos recants; Roxie furiously admits what really happened and is arrested. Ambitious District Attorney Harrison announces he will seek the death penalty.
In Fall 1995 in Detroit, Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith Jr. (Eminem), a young and unhappy blue-collar worker from a poor family, struggles with various aspects of his life. He has moved back north of 8 Mile Road to the rundown trailer home in Warren, Michigan of his alcoholic mother Stephanie (Kim Basinger), his little sister Lily (Chloe Greenfield), and Stephanie's abusive live-in boyfriend Greg (Michael Shannon). Although encouraged by his friends, who hail him as a talented rap music artist, Jimmy worries about his potential as a musician, particularly due to his lack of confidence. This caused him to panic during a rap battle one night at a club called The Shelter, and leave the stage humiliated.
Anthony "Tony" Manero (John Travolta) is a 19-year-old Italian American man from the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. Tony lives with his parents (Val Bisoglio and Julie Bovasso), and works at a dead-end job in a small hardware store. The stagnant monotony of his life is temporarily dispelled every Saturday night when Tony is "king of the dance floor" at 2001 Odyssey, a local disco club. Tony has four close friends: Joey (Joseph Cali); Double J (Paul Pape); Gus (Bruce Ornstein); and the diminutive Bobby C. (Barry Miller). A fringe member of this group of friends is Annette (Donna Pescow), a neighborhood girl who longs for a more permanent physical relationship with Tony.
After eight months of treatment for bipolar disorder, Pat Solitano is released from a mental health facility in Baltimore, and returns to Lansdowne, Pennsylvania into the care of his father Patrizio and mother Dolores. Pat soon learns that his estranged wife, Nikki, has moved away, and that his father is out of work and resorting to illegal bookmaking to earn money with the hopes of opening a restaurant. Pat is determined to get his life back on track and reconcile with Nikki, who obtained a restraining order against him after a violent episode sent him away.
In the summer of 1963, Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is vacationing with her affluent Jewish American family at Kellerman's, a family friendly resort in the Catskill Mountains. The younger of two daughters, Baby is planning to attend Mount Holyoke College to study the economics of underdeveloped countries and then enter the Peace Corps. She was named after Frances Perkins, the first woman in the U.S. Cabinet. Her father, Jake (Jerry Orbach), is the personal physician and friend of Max Kellerman (Jack Weston), the resort's owner. Baby is befriended by Max's smart aleck grandson Neil (Lonny Price).
In 1986, Eric "Eazy-E" Wright enters a crack-house to sell drugs, but, it is soon raided by the police, who gain entry into the house via a battering ram. Eazy escapes through the house's rear window. Later, Eazy goes to a club with Lorenzo "MC Ren" Patterson to see friends Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, O'Shea "Ice Cube" Jackson and Antoine "DJ Yella" Carraby, who perform the song "Gangsta Gangsta", while Eazy and Ren stand in the audience. After Dre leaves the club, he is arrested after breaking up a fight involving his brother, Tyree. Eazy bails him out the next day. The next morning, Dre talks to Eazy about investing money into a start-up record label, in order to record a track that Cube has written. Cube and Dre want rappers H.B.O.(Homeboys Only) to record the track. Eazy agrees to fund the project. After a conflict arises during the recording session, H.B.O. leaves and Dre convinces Eazy to perform the track. They record and release "Boyz-n-the-Hood". Jerry Heller approaches Eazy and asks if he can be their manager. The group accepts Heller's offer. While performing "Dopeman", they garner the attention of Bryan Turner, a producer at Priority Records, with which they sign. Afterwards, N.W.A commences recording their debut album, "Straight Outta Compton", with Heller. During one of the sessions, they are harassed by some police officers. Frustrated by the situation, Cube writes "Fuck tha Police".
Alexandra "Alex" Owens (Jennifer Beals) is an eighteen-year-old welder at a steel mill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who lives with her dog Grunt in a converted warehouse. Although she aspires to become a professional dancer, she has no formal education, and works as an exotic dancer by night at Mawby's, a neighborhood bar and grill which hosts a nightly cabaret.
In the year 1900, a depressed British writer named Christian (Ewan McGregor) begins writing on his typewriter ("Nature Boy"). One year earlier, Christian moved to the Montmartre district of Paris to become a writer among members of the area's Bohemian movement. He soon encounters, living directly upstairs from him, a loose troupe of performers led by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo). Toulouse-Lautrec and the others ask for Christian's help, and his writing skills allow them to finish their proposed show, "Spectacular Spectacular", that they wish to sell to the owner of the Moulin Rouge, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent). The group arrives at the Moulin Rouge as Zidler and his "Diamond Dog Dancers" perform for the audience ("Lady Marmalade/Zidler's Rap (Can Can)/Smells Like Teen Spirit"). Toulouse arranges for Christian to see Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star courtesan, in her private quarters to present the work, unaware that Zidler is promising Satine to the wealthy and unscrupulous Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh), a potential investor in the cabaret ("Sparkling Diamonds" medley).
John Clark (Richard Gere) is a lawyer with a charming wife (Beverly, played by Susan Sarandon) and loving family, who nevertheless feels that something is missing as he makes his way every day through the city. Each evening on his commute home through Chicago, John sees a beautiful woman staring with a lost expression through the window of a dance studio. Haunted by her gaze, John impulsively jumps off the train one night, and signs up for ballroom dancing lessons, hoping to meet her.
Mike (Tatum) has big plans for a business of his own but pays his bills through a series of odd jobs, most notably performing as the star stripper at Xquisite Strip Club in Tampa, a club owned by Dallas (McConaughey), who has dreams of creating an "empire" of strip clubs.
The story begins in traditional video style, as several of the film's characters are recorded and asked a series of questions about why they dance. The film then cuts to Moose (Adam G. Sevani) and Camille (Alyson Stoner) who attend New York University. Moose is majoring in electrical engineering after promising his father that he would not dance anymore. While touring the campus, he sees a pair of Limited Edition Gun Metal Nike Dunks worn by Luke Katcher (Rick Malambri). Moose follows the shoes and then accidentally stumbles upon a dance battle, where he beats Kid Darkness (Daniel Campos) from the dancing crew "House of Samurai". Luke takes him back to his place, an old warehouse converted into a club. Luke shows Moose the House of Pirates, his dance crew, where he later teams up with them to compete in the World Jam dance contest against their rivals, the House of Samurai dance crew. But then, Jacob (Keith Stallworth), a member of House of Pirates, informs Luke that the warehouse will be put up for auction if the overdue rents are not made.
In Baltimore, Maryland, Andie West (Briana Evigan) pursues her big dream of becoming a street dancer. Following the death of her mother to cancer, Andie lives with her mother's best friend, Sarah (her guardian), but in reality, Andie feels like she does not belong anywhere. Although she is doing poorly at school, it is her dream for dancing that brings something special into her life. She trains with her dance crew, the "410" (pronounced four-one-oh, as in the area code for Baltimore), to keep the title of the illegal competition, 'The Streets.' Sarah is aware of the crime and harassment by the 410 and after an argument with Andie, she decides to send her to live with her Aunt Alice in Texas, but Andie, fed-up with Sarah's arguments, runs away.