In 1815, convict Jean Valjean is released on parole by prison guard Javert after serving a nineteen-year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread and numerous escape attempts. Valjean is refused employment due to his paroled status. He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne, but Valjean steals his silver during the night. When he is captured by the constables, the Bishop tells them that the silver was given as a gift, securing Valjean's release. The Bishop urges Valjean to do something worthwhile with his life. Moved by the Bishop's grace, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start a new life under a new identity.
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.
Maria is a free-spirited young Austrian woman studying to become a nun at Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg in 1938. Her love of music and the mountains, her youthful enthusiasm and imagination, and her lack of discipline cause some concern among the nuns. The Mother Abbess, believing Maria would be happier outside the abbey, sends her to the villa of retired naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp to be governess to his seven children—Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl. The Captain has been raising his children alone using strict military discipline following the death of his first wife. At first, the children treat Maria as they did their former governesses—playing tricks on her as a way of gaining their father's attention. Maria responds with kindness and patience, and soon the children come to trust and respect her.
A Baker and his Wife wish for a child but suffer under a curse laid upon the Baker's family by a Witch who found the Baker's father robbing her garden when his mother was pregnant. The Baker's father also stole some beans which caused the Witch's mother to punish her with the curse of ugliness. The Witch offers to lift the curse, but only if the Baker and his Wife obtain four critical items for her: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.
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.
In the year 1919, the Opéra Populaire holds a public auction to clear the theatre's vaults. The Vicomte de Chagny purchases a papier-mâché music box in the shape of a monkey and eyes it sadly as Madame Giry, an aged woman dressed in black, watches him. The auctioneer then presents a shattered chandelier as the next item up for bid, explaining that it once played a key role in "the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opéra." As the chandelier is displayed for all to see, it flickers to life and slowly ascends to its original place in the rafters as the audience is transported back in time to the year 1870.
In 1846, a barber named Benjamin Barker arrives in London, accompanied by sailor Anthony Hope ("No Place Like London"). Fifteen years earlier, he had been falsely convicted and sentenced to penal transportation from London by the corrupt Judge Turpin, who had lusted after Barker's wife Lucy ("The Barber and His Wife"). Barker adopts the alias "Sweeney Todd" and returns to his old Fleet Street shop, situated above Mrs. Nellie Lovett's meat pie shop ("The Worst Pies in London"). From her, he learns that Turpin raped Lucy, who then poisoned herself with arsenic. The couple's daughter, Johanna, is now Turpin's ward, and, like her mother before her, the object of Turpin's lust ("Poor Thing"). Todd vows revenge, and re-opens his barber shop after Mrs. Lovett returns his straight razors to him ("My Friends"). While roaming London, Anthony becomes enamored of Johanna, but is caught by Turpin and driven away by his corrupt associate, Beadle Bamford ("Green Finch and Linnet Bird", "Alms! Alms!", "Johanna").
In a cinema in Buenos Aires on July 26, 1952, a film is interrupted when the news breaks of the death of Eva Perón, Argentina's first lady, at the age of 33. The nation goes into public mourning. Ché, a member of the public, marvels at the spectacle and promises to show how Eva did "nothing, for years." The rest of the film follows Eva Duarte (later Eva Duarte de Perón) from her humble beginnings as an illegitimate child of a lower class woman to her rise to become First Lady and Spiritual Leader of the Nation of Argentina, with Ché assuming many different guises throughout Eva's story.
In Harlem, 10-year-old Annie Bennett lives in foster care with several other girls in the care of the cruel Colleen Hannigan. She spends each Friday waiting outside the restaurant Domani's where she believes her parents will return to collect her.
A criminologist narrates the tale of the newly engaged couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss who find themselves lost and with a flat tire on a cold and rainy late November evening. Seeking a telephone, the couple walk to a nearby castle where they discover a group of strange and outlandish people who are holding an Annual Transylvanian Convention. They are soon swept into the world of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a self-proclaimed "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania". The ensemble of convention attendees also includes servants Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, and a groupie named Columbia.
Tracy Turnblad is an overweight high school student living in Baltimore, Maryland ("Good Morning Baltimore"). She and her classmate Penny Pingleton watch the The Corny Collins Show, a local teen dance television show, together ("The Nicest Kids in Town").
In 1905, Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman living in the Russian village of Anatevka, explains to the audience what keeps the Jews of Anatevka going is the balance they achieve through following their ancient traditions, comparing their precarious circumstance to a fiddler on a roof: trying to scratch out a pleasant tune, while not breaking their necks. The fiddler appears throughout the film as a metaphoric reminder of the Jews' ever-present fears and danger, and also as a symbol of the traditions Tevye is trying to hold on to as his world changes around him. While in town, Tevye meets Perchik, a radical Marxist from Kiev. Tevye invites Perchik to stay with him and his family, and as a deal, offers him food, in exchange for Perchik tutoring his daughters.
In Edwardian London, Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), a scholar of phonetics, believes that the accent and tone of one's voice determines a person's prospects in society. In Covent Garden one evening he boasts to a new acquaintance, Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White), himself an expert in phonetics, that he could teach any person to speak in a way that he could pass them off as a duke or duchess at an embassy ball. Higgins selects as an example a young flower seller, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), who has a strong Cockney accent. Eliza's ambition is to work in a flower shop, but her thick accent makes her unsuitable. Having come from India to meet Higgins, Pickering is invited to stay with the professor. The following morning, Eliza shows up at Higgins' home, seeking lessons. Pickering is intrigued and offers to cover all expenses if the experiment should be successful.