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.
Fotoula "Toula" Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) is going through an early midlife crisis. At thirty, having had her childhood, adolescence and adult life plagued by bad luck, she feels that she is the only woman in her family who has "failed" at being a typical Greek girl. Her family expects her to be more like her 33-year-old sister Athena (Stavroula Logothettis) and marry a Greek boy, make Greek babies, and "feed everyone until the day she dies." Instead, Toula is stuck working in the family restaurant in Chicago, "Dancing Zorba's." Frumpy and cynical, she fears that she is doomed to be stuck with her life as it is and always has been. One day while at the restaurant, Toula briefly becomes enamored with and embarrasses herself in front of Ian Miller (John Corbett), a handsome school teacher.
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 1593 London, William Shakespeare is a sometime player in the Lord Chamberlain's Men and poor playwright for Philip Henslowe, owner of The Rose Theatre. Shakespeare is working on a new comedy, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter. Suffering from writer's block, he has barely begun the play, but starts auditioning players. Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, who has seen Shakespeare's plays at court, disguises herself as "Thomas Kent" to audition, then runs away. Shakespeare pursues Kent to Viola's house and leaves a note with the nurse, asking Thomas Kent to begin rehearsals at the Rose. He sneaks into the house with the minstrels playing that night at the ball, where her parents are arranging her betrothal to Lord Wessex, an impoverished aristocrat. While dancing with Viola, Shakespeare is struck speechless, and after being forcibly ejected by Wessex, uses Thomas Kent as a go-between to woo her. Wessex also asks Will's name, to which he replies that he is Christopher Marlowe.
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 1912, a teenage boy named Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) from Devon, England, witnesses the birth of a Bay Thoroughbred foal and subsequently watches with admiration the growth of the young horse. Much to the dismay of his mother Rose (Emily Watson), his father Ted (Peter Mullan) buys the colt at auction, despite their needing a more suitable plough horse for the farm work. Albert's best friend, Andrew Easton (Matt Milne), watches as Albert teaches his colt many things, such as to come when he imitates the call of an owl by blowing through his cupped hands.
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 the fictional "Verona Beach", the Capulets and the Montagues are arch-rivals. The animosity of the older generation—Fulgencio and Gloria Capulet and Ted and Caroline Montague—is felt by their younger relatives. A gunfight between the Montague boys led by Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, and the Capulet boys led by Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, creates chaos in the city. The Chief of Police, Captain Prince, reprimands the families, warning them that if such behavior continues, their lives "shall pay the forfeit of the peace".
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.