Dr. Richard Kimble, a prominent Chicago vascular surgeon, arrives home to find his wife Helen fatally wounded by a one-armed man. Kimble struggles with the killer but he escapes. The lack of evidence of a break-in, Helen's lucrative life insurance policy, and a misunderstood 9-1-1 call result in Kimble's conviction of first-degree murder. Being transported to death row by bus, his fellow prisoners attempt an escape. The pandemonium sends the bus down a ravine and into the path of an oncoming train. Kimble escapes the collision and flees. Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard and his colleagues Renfro, Biggs, Newman and Poole arrive at the crash site and begin the search for Kimble. Kimble sneaks into a hospital to treat his wounds and alter his appearance. He eludes the authorities, but Gerard corners him at the edge of a storm drain over a dam. Kimble leaps into the raging water and escapes.
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 a Louisiana nursing home in 1999, Paul Edgecomb becomes nervous while watching the 1935 film Top Hat. He is with his elderly friend Elaine, who becomes concerned, and Paul tells her that the film reminded him of his past, when he was a prison officer in charge of death row inmates at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary during the summer of 1935. The scene shifts to 1935, where Paul works with fellow guards Brutus "Brutal" Howell, Harry Terwilliger, and Dean Stanton. Unlike the other guards, Paul is a very calm guard and is sympathetic with some inmates.
Rozat "Rusty" Sabich (Ford) is a prosecutor and the right-hand man of District Attorney Raymond Horgan (Dennehy). When his colleague, Carolyn Polhemus (Scacchi), is found raped and murdered in her apartment, Raymond insists that Rusty take charge of the investigation. The election for District Attorney is approaching and Tommy Molto (Joe Grifasi), the acting head of the homicide division, has left to join the rival campaign of Nico Della Guardia (Tom Mardirosian).
Nick Parsons (Bruce Greenwood) and his wife Elizabeth (Ashley Judd), known as Libby, wealthy residents of Whidbey Island, Washington, borrow a friend's yacht and set off sailing for the weekend. After a session of love making, Libby falls asleep. She wakes to find her husband missing and blood all over her hands, clothes, legs, and the boat's floors. A Coast Guard vessel appears and Libby is spotted holding a bloody knife she found lying on the deck. She is arrested, humiliated in the media, tried, and convicted of her husband's murder.
Two white supremacists (Nicky Katt and Doug Hutchison) come across a ten-year-old black girl named Tonya (Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly) in rural Mississippi. They violently rape and beat Tonya and dump her in a nearby river after a failed attempt to hang her; she survives, and the men are arrested.
John "Jack" Sommersby (Gere) left his farm to fight in the American Civil War and is presumed dead after six years. Despite the hardship of working their farm, his apparent widow Laurel (Foster) is quite content in his absence, because Jack was an unpleasant and abusive husband. She even makes remarriage plans with one of her neighbors, Orin Meacham (Pullman), who despite his own hardships (such as a wooden foot, which he wears to replace one that was lost in the war) has been helping her and her young son with the farmwork.
The film begins with the sentencing of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), a notorious murderer. Between the reading of the sentence and the execution, the story of his life is told in flashback, beginning with his abandonment at birth in a French fish market. Raised in an orphanage, Grenouille grows into a strangely detached boy with a superhuman sense of smell. After growing to maturity as a tanner's apprentice, he makes his first delivery to Paris, where he revels in the new odors. He focuses on a redheaded girl (Karoline Herfurth) selling yellow plums, following her and repeatedly attempting to sniff her, but startles her with his behavior. To prevent her from crying out, he covers the girl's mouth and unintentionally suffocates her. After realizing that she is dead, he strips her body naked and smells her all over, becoming distraught when her scent fades. Afterwards, Grenouille is haunted by the desire to recreate the girl's aroma.
Philadelphia, 1999. In a violent home invasion, engineer Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is forced to witness the rape and murder of his wife and young daughter by Clarence James Darby (Christian Stolte) and his accomplice Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart). Prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is unable to use DNA evidence to securely convict both accused. Unwilling to take a chance on lowering his high and yet unbeaten 96% conviction rate, he chooses to make a deal with Darby (the actual murderer), letting him plead guilty to a lesser charge, in return for testifying against Ames. Ames is falsely found guilty of masterminding the break-in and both murders and is sentenced to death. Shelton feels betrayed by Rice's actions, as he had pleaded with him not to make the deal and to at least try convict both of them, and because he chose to release the actual killer. Darby serves his shortened sentence and is released just a few years later.
In Los Angeles in 1928, single mother Christine Collins (Jolie) returns home to discover her nine-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), is missing. Reverend Gustav Briegleb (Malkovich) publicizes Christine's plight and rails against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for its incompetence, corruption and the extrajudicial punishment meted out by its "Gun Squad" led by Chief James E. Davis (Feore). Several months after Walter's disappearance, the LAPD tells Christine that he has been found alive. Believing the positive publicity will negate recent criticism of the department, the LAPD organizes a public reunion. Although "Walter" (Devon Conti) claims he is Christine's son, she says he is not. Captain J. J. Jones (Donovan), the head of the LAPD's Juvenile Division, insists the boy is Walter and pressures Christine into taking him home "on a trial basis".
In 1815 Edmond Dantès, second mate of a French trading ship, and his friend Fernand Mondego, a representative of the shipping company, head to the isle of Elba to seek medical attention for their ailing captain. Dantès and Mondego are chased by British Dragoons who believe they are spies for the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte himself comes to their aid, stating that they are not his agents. As payment for using his physician, Bonaparte asks Dantès to deliver a letter to a certain Monsieur Clarion in France. The captain dies, however, and they leave Elba. On returning to France, Dantès is reprimanded by the ship's first mate, Danglars, for disobeying orders. However, the company's boss, Morrell, commends Dantès' bravery, promoting him to captain over Danglars, who is left fuming. Mondego intercepts Dantès' fiancée, Mercédès, and tries to seduce her. When he hears of Dantès' promotion, Mondego realizes that Dantès and Mercédès would soon be married.
The film tells the story of middleweight boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, whose conviction for a Paterson, New Jersey triple murder was set aside after he had spent nearly 20 years in prison. Narrating Carter's life, the film concentrates on the period between 1966 and 1985. It describes his fight against the conviction for triple murder and how he copes with nearly twenty years in prison.
Five French soldiers are convicted of self-mutilation in order to escape military service during World War I. They are condemned to face near certain death in the no man's land between the French and German trench lines. It appears that all of them were killed in a subsequent battle, but Mathilde, the fiancée of one of the soldiers, refuses to give up hope and begins to uncover clues as to what actually took place on the battlefield. She is all the while driven by the constant reminder of what her fiancé had carved into one of the bells of the church near their home, MMM for Manech Aime Mathilde (Manech Loves Mathilde; a pun on the French word aime, which is pronounced like the letter "M". In the English-language version, this is changed to "Manech's Marrying Mathilde").
Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is shown in Belfast stripping lead from roofs of houses when security forces home in on the district with armoured cars, and a riot breaks out. Gerry's father, Giuseppe Conlon (Pete Postlethwaite), later saves him from IRA punishment, and he is sent off to London to stay with his aunt, for his own good. Instead, he finds a squat, to explore, as he puts it, "free love and dope". One evening by chance he gains entry to a prostitute's flat and he steals the £700 he finds stashed inside; on that evening in Guildford there is an explosion at a pub that kills four off-duty soldiers and a civilian, and wounds sixty-five others.
After moving from Michigan to Florida, Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute, meets Selby Wall in a gay bar. After initial hostility and declaring that she is not gay, Aileen talks to Selby over beers. Selby takes to Aileen almost immediately, as she likes that she is very protective of her. Selby invites her to spend the night with her. They return to the house where Selby is staying (temporarily exiled by her parents following the accusation from another girl that Selby tried to kiss her). They later agree to meet at a roller skating rink, and they kiss for the first time. Aileen and Selby fall in love, but they have nowhere to go, so Selby goes back to her Aunt's home.