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.
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.
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.
The Fabulous Baker Boys, Jack (Jeff Bridges) and Frank (Beau Bridges), are brothers living in Seattle, making a living playing in lounges and music bars, their gimmick being that they play intricate jazz and pop-flavored duets on matching grand pianos. Frank handles the business aspect while Jack, single, attractive, and more talented as a player, feels disillusioned and bored with the often hackneyed material they play. He is, nonetheless, able to live a comfortable and responsibility-free existence because of Frank's management, sleeping where and with whom he pleases. Frank has a wife and family he adores, but Jack has no personal connections in his private life, other than Eddie, his soulful but aging Black Labrador, and Nina, the lonely child of a single mom living in his building, who walks Eddie and takes piano lessons from Jack. In all other respects, professionally and personally, Jack's life is a series of empty one-night stands. Now and again, he plays the challenging music he really cares about at a local jazz club.
Erika Kohut is a piano professor at a Vienna music conservatory. Although already in her forties, she still lives in an apartment with her domineering mother; her father is a long-standing resident in a psychiatric asylum.
Marc, cascadeur équestre, se retrouve en chaise roulante à la suite d'un accident sur un tournage : jeté à bas de son cheval Othello, il est piétiné par celui-ci. Florence est chargée du dossier d'indemnisation par la compagnie d'assurances. Mais Marc refuse le compromis proposé. De son côté, Florence supporte de plus en plus difficilement les pressions exercées par sa compagnie à l'encontre de Marc, qu'elle va finalement protéger de la malhonnêteté des assureurs. Elle se prend d'affection pour Marc, déterminé à remonter sur son cheval, et qui va lui redonner la passion du piano.
Fictionalized romance in the 19th century of musicians Clara Wieck Schumann (Katharine Hepburn), Robert Schumann (Paul Henreid) and Johannes Brahms (Robert Walker). Clara gives up her thriving career as a concert pianist to devote herself to her struggling composer husband Robert. Unable to cope with disappointment and failure, Robert dies in an asylum, leaving poor Clara to cope with seven children and mounting debts.
D'un côté de la cloison, un créateur de casse-têtes, investi, taciturne et misanthrope qui ne peut travailler que dans le calme complet. De l'autre, une jeune pianiste fraîchement installée dans son nouvel appartement. Elle prépare un concours important et doit beaucoup répéter pour le réussir. Entre eux, une cloison minuscule, créant une cohabitation forcée, sonore et aveugle. Après de multiples tentatives de se repousser, ils se mettent d'accord sur des périodes d'utilisation de leur espace sonore. Le temps aidant, ils décident « de vivre ensemble » sans se voir. La perplexité de leurs entourages proches se mue en reconnaissance. La date du concours se rapproche et leurs relations se tendent.
The story is told in medias res as a series of flashbacks. Max Tooney, a musician, enters a secondhand music shop just before closing time, broke and badly in need of money. He has only a Conn trumpet, which he sells for less than he had hoped. Clearly torn at parting from his prized possession, he asks to play it one last time. The shopkeeper agrees, and as the musician plays, the shopkeeper immediately recognizes the song from a broken record matrix he found inside a recently acquired secondhand piano. He asks who the piece is by, and Max tells him the story of 1900.
In Vienna in the early twentieth century, Lisa (Joan Fontaine), a teenager living in an apartment complex, becomes fascinated by a new tenant, concert pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan). Stefan is making a name for himself through energetic performances. Lisa becomes obsessed with Stefan, staying up late to listen to him play, and sneaking into his apartment and admiring him from a distance. Despite her actions, they only meet once and Stefan takes little notice of her.
A washed-up classical pianist, Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan (Charles Aznavour), bottoms out after his wife's suicide — stroking the keys in a Parisian dive bar. The waitress, Lena (Marie Dubois), is falling in love with Charlie, who it turns out is not who he says he is. When his brothers get in trouble with gangsters, Charlie inadvertently gets dragged into the chaos and is forced to rejoin the family he once fled.
Paul Dietrich is an extremely gifted but disillusioned classical pianist running out of time to prove himself. He logically knows it is time to give up his attempts to enter piano competitions and instead accept a salaried position as a music teacher. Paul also needs to help his mother and his seriously ill father, but he decides to travel to San Francisco for an international piano competition. Doing so could cost him his job waiting for him in Chicago; nevertheless, he wants to try his luck for the last time before passing the age limit to compete.