In September 1939, Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish-Jewish pianist, is playing live on the radio in Warsaw when the station is bombed during Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland which caused the outbreak of World War II. Hoping for a quick victory, Szpilman celebrates with his posh family at home when learning that Britain and France have declared war on Germany. German troops soon enter Warsaw and the Nazi authorities implement measures to identify, isolate, financially ruin and reduce the Jewish population in Warsaw. Jews are ordered to provide their own identifying armbands with the Star of David.
A mute Scotswoman named Ada McGrath is sold by her father into marriage to a New Zealand frontiersman named Alisdair Stewart, bringing her young daughter Flora with her. The voice that the audience hears in the opening narration is "not her speaking voice, but her mind's voice". Ada has not spoken a word since she was six years old and no one, including herself, knows why. She expresses herself through her piano playing and through sign language, for which her daughter has served as the interpreter. Flora later dramatically tells two women in New Zealand that her mother has not spoken since the death of her husband who died as a result of being struck by lightning. Ada cares little for the mundane world, occupying herself for hours every day with the piano. Flora, it is later learned, is the product of a relationship with a teacher with whom Ada believed she could communicate through her mind, but who "became frightened and stopped listening," and thus left her.
In 1965, Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) is a professional musician and composer who has been relatively successful in the exhausting life of a musician. However, in an attempt to enjoy more free time with his young wife, Iris (Glenne Headly), and to enable him to compose a piece of orchestral music, the 30-year-old Holland accepts a high school teaching position.
Cinquante-huit ans après Fantasia, ce film est composé de huit séquences illustrant huit morceaux de musique classique, interprétés pour la plupart par l'Orchestre symphonique de Chicago sous la direction de James Levine. Chaque séquence est précédée d'une courte présentation par des artistes ayant travaillé pour les studios Disney.
Le film est composé de sept séquences illustrant huit morceaux de musique classique, réorchestrés et dirigés par le chef d'orchestre Leopold Stokowski à la tête de l'Orchestre de Philadelphie. La dernière séquence illustre deux morceaux et un intermède sépare la séquence 4 et 5. Chaque séquence est précédée d'une courte introduction où l'orchestre est en ombre chinoise.
A former world-famous conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre orchestra, known as "The Maestro," Andrey Simonovich Filipov, had had his career publicly broken by Leonid Brezhnev for defending Jewish musicians and is reduced to working as a mere janitor in the theatre where he once conducted, becoming an alcoholic in the process.
In an African desert millions of years ago, a tribe of man-apes is driven from their water hole by a rival tribe. They wake to find a featureless black monolith has appeared before them. One man-ape realizes how to use a bone as a tool and weapon; the tribe kills the leader of their rivals and reclaims the water hole.
The story begins in 1823 as the elderly Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) attempts suicide by slitting his throat while loudly begging forgiveness for having killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) in 1791. Placed in a lunatic asylum for the act, Salieri is visited by Father Vogler (Richard Frank), a young priest who seeks to hear his confession. Salieri is sullen and uninterested but eventually warms to the priest and launches into a long "confession" about his relationship with Mozart.
The film opens with a montage of images of Manhattan and other parts of New York City accompanied by George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, with Isaac Davis (Woody Allen) narrating drafts of an introduction to a book about a man who loves the city. Isaac is a twice-divorced, 42-year-old television comedy writer dealing with the women in his life who quits his unfulfilling job. He is dating Tracy (Mariel Hemingway), a 17-year-old girl attending the Dalton School. His best friend, college professor Yale Pollack (Michael Murphy), married to Emily (Anne Byrne), is having an affair with Mary Wilkie (Diane Keaton). Mary's ex-husband and former teacher, Jeremiah (Wallace Shawn), also appears. Isaac's ex-wife Jill Davis (Meryl Streep) is writing a confessional book about their marriage. Jill has also since come out of the closet as a lesbian and lives with her partner, Connie (Karen Ludwig).
A man (Geoffrey Rush) wanders through a heavy rainstorm finding his way into a restaurant. The restaurant's employees try to determine if he needs help. Despite his manic mode of speech being difficult to understand, Sylvia learns that his name is David Helfgott and that he is staying at a local hotel. She returns him to the hotel and despite his attempts to engage her with his musical knowledge and ownership of various musical scores, she leaves.
In futuristic London, Alex DeLarge is the leader of his "droogs", Georgie, Dim and Pete. One night, after getting intoxicated on "drencrom" (milk laced with drugs), they engage in an evening of "ultra-violence," which includes beating an elderly vagrant and fighting a rival gang led by Billyboy. After stealing a car, they drive to the country home of writer F. Alexander, where they beat Mr. Alexander to the point of crippling him for life. Alex then rapes his wife while singing "Singin' in the Rain".
Claude Eastman (Dudley Moore) is a composer and the conductor of a prestigious symphony who has recently married beautiful Daniella (Nastassja Kinski), a much younger woman. While travelling, he sends a message to his friend Norman Robbins (Albert Brooks) to keep an eye on his wife, but the message is garbled by Claude's Italian valet Giuseppe (Richard Libertini), and instead of looking after Daniella, Norman hires a private detective named Keller (Richard B. Shull) to investigate her.
Intense young "tough" Thomas Seyr is a 28-year-old real estate broker involved in shady business deals. His business partners, Fabrice and Sami, spend much of their time ruthlessly chasing squatters and illegal immigrants out of the buildings they have procured and trying to work their way around government housing regulations. Thomas is born to this kind of work; his father, Robert, is also involved in dodgy enterprises and sometimes calls upon Thomas to beat up people who refuse to pay. Tom shows a protective and defensive attitude toward his father who doesn't always appreciate what his son does for him–so much so that when his father introduces his new girlfriend to Tom, Tom undermines her to her face, and insults her to his father, insisting she is an opportunistic "whore." Later, when he tries to enlist her help to watch over his father, she tells him they broke up due to Robert changing his attitude and she is aware of Tom's backstabbing because Robert told her. Robert by this time is in danger from a Russian gangster, Minskov (Anton Yakovlev) who scammed him out of 300,000 Euros and Tom is worried for his safety.