In 1821, Don Diego De La Vega (Anthony Hopkins) fights against the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence as Zorro, a mysterious swordsman who defends the Mexican peasants and commoners of Las Californias. Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), the governor of the region, learns of De La Vega's alter ego, and attempts to arrest him. De La Vega's wife is killed during the scuffle. Montero imprisons De La Vega and takes his infant daughter, Eléna, as his own. Twenty years later Montero returns to California as a civilian, alongside Eléna (Catherine Zeta Jones), who has grown into a beautiful woman. Montero's reappearance coincides with De La Vega's escape from prison. He encounters a thief, Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), who, as a child, once did Zorro a favor. De La Vega decides that fate has brought them together, and agrees to make Alejandro his protégé, grooming him to be the new Zorro. Murrieta agrees to undergo De La Vega's training regimen in order to be able to take revenge on Captain Harrison Love (Matt Letscher), Montero's right-hand man, who was responsible for killing Murrieta's brother, Joaquin.
In 1850 (nine years after the events of the first film), California is voting on whether to join the United States of America as a state. A wild gunman with wooden teeth, Jacob McGivens, attempts to steal some ballots, but Zorro chases after him and recaptures the votes. In their scuffle, McGivens pulls off Zorro's mask. A pair of Pinkerton agents recognize him as Don Alejandro de la Vega. Zorro fashions a makeshift mask from his costume and rides off on his stallion, Tornado, to deliver the votes to the governor. Upon returning to his mansion, Alejandro is greeted by his loving wife, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Elena believes that Alejandro can now up give his alter ego, but Alejandro is sure that the people will still need him. The next day, after sending their son Joaquin to school, Elena is confronted by the Pinkertons, who disclose their knowledge of Zorro's identity. Soon after, Elena is forced to have Alejandro served with divorce papers.
Set in an indeterminate year of the 1840s, the film opens in a villa in Madrid, Spain, where Don Diego Vega (George Hamilton), the archetypal Spanish Don Juan, is in bed with a beautiful woman who, we learn shortly, is not his wife, but someone else's. The couple are caught by her husband, Garcia, who "is not in Barcelona", as they had previously thought. Diego, with considerable panache, fights Garcia and his five brothers with swords. During the fight, Diego's mute servant Paco (Donovan Scott) reads a letter (via gestures) from Diego's father requesting that Diego return to California [then a part of Mexico]. Diego and Paco escape by jumping from a high wall directly into a waiting carriage.
Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power) is urgently called home by his father. To all outward appearances, he is the foppish son of wealthy ranchero and former Alcade Don Alejandro Vega (Montagu Love), having returned to California after his military education in Spain. Don Diego is horrified at the way the common people are mistreated by the corrupt Alcalde, Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg), who had forced his father from the position. Don Diego then adopts the guise of El Zorro ("The Fox"), a masked outlaw, who becomes the defender of the common people and a champion for justice. Meanwhile, he romances the Alcalde's beautiful and innocent niece, Lolita (Linda Darnell), whom he grows to love. As part of his plan, Don Diego simultaneously flirts with the Alcalde's wife Inez (Gale Sondergaard), filling her head with tales of Madrid fashion and culture and raising her desire to move there with her corrupt husband. In both his guises, Don Diego must contend with the governor's ablest henchman, the malevolent Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone). He eventually dispatches the Captain in a fast-moving rapier duel-to-the-death, forcing a regime change, Don Diego's plan all along.
The Mark of Zorro tells the story of Don Diego Vega, the outwardly foppish son of a wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro in the old Spanish California of the early 19th century. Seeing the mistreatment of the peons by rich landowners and the oppressive colonial government, Don Diego, who is not as effete as he pretends, has taken the identity of the masked Robin Hood-like rogue Señor Zorro ("Mr. Fox"), champion of the people, who appears out of nowhere to protect them from the corrupt administration of Governor Alvarado, his henchman the villainous Captain Juan Ramon and the brutish Sergeant Pedro Gonzales (Noah Beery, Wallace Beery's older half-brother). With his sword flashing and an athletic sense of humor, Zorro scars the faces of evildoers with his mark, "Z".
Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro)'s son, Cesar (Douglas Fairbanks), is in Spain finishing his education. While Cesar is showing off to friends his remarkable prowess with the whip, he accidentally clips off the feather shako on the hat of Don Sebastian (Donald Crisp) of the Palace Guard. Although Cesar apologizes immediately, Sebastian is unforgiving. Their duel is interrupted by a runaway bull. Trapped on the ground with his sword belt tangled in his boot, certain to be gored by the bull, Sebastian is saved at the last minute by Cesar. This further infuriates him. The action is observed by Queen Isabella (Stella De Lanti) and her guest, Austrian Archduke Paul (Warner Oland); she requests Cesar's company immediately. Another friend of Cesar, Don Fabrique Borusta (Jean Hersholt), offers to bring him to Her Majesty.
Au début du XIX siècle, de retour d'Espagne où il faisait ses études, Don Diego de la Vega découvre que Los Angeles est tyrannisée par le commandant de la garnison de cette petite ville de la Californie espagnole. Le jeune noble décide alors de combattre ces abus de pouvoir et prend les armes sous le nom de Zorro (renard en espagnol).
A man returning home after having fought in the Civil War discovers that corrupt politicians have taken over the county and are terrorizing and shaking down the citizens. He dons the costume of his ancestor, the famous Zorro, and sets out to bring them to justice.
It's 1865 and the telegraph is heading west. George Crane, wanting to keep law and order out of his territory, is out to stop the construction. One of the main engineers on the job is Ken Mason, the grandson of the original Zorro. As Crane hires his men to stop the work, Mason finds himself in the legendary role his ancestor originated.
Zorro (Robert Livingston) has been captured and set for execution, charged with the murder of the new Governor (Robert Warwick) in Spanish California, as the Governor was marked with a "Z". Zorro escapes, and reveals his identity to the Governor's daughter, Isabella (Heather Angel). However, Isabella then has Don Diego arrested. He convinces Isabella that the Commandante (Sig Ruman) was the real killer, as the "Z" on the Governor was backwards. Eventually, Isabella helps free Don Diego, the Commandante is killed, and Diego and Isabella reunite.
Following the discovery of gold in Mexican California in 1844, Russian Cossacks led by Count Ivan Raspinoff, in collusion with General Jason Burr, attempt to invade California and turn it into a Russian Colony with Burr as its dictator. In doing so they round up slaves to work the mines and General Burr has Don Loring's brother and father murdered to acquire their ore-rich land.
In contemporary (for the 1937 production) California, villain J. A. Marsden aims to take over the California-Yucatan Railroad with the aid of his henchman El Lobo. The rightful owners, Joyce and Phillip Andrews, naturally object. Their parter, Don Manuel Vega summons his nephew, James Vega, to help them as he is the great grandson of the original Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega. He is disappointed, however, to find that his nephew is a useless fop (presumably Don Manuel had not paid too much attention to his family history).
The mysterious Don Del Oro ("Lord of Gold"), an idol of the Yaqui Indians, has emerged and attacks the gold trade of the Republic of Mexico, planning to take over the land and become Emperor. A man named Francisco is put in charge of a fighting legion to combat the Yaqui tribe and protect the gold, but he is attacked by men working for Don Del Oro. Zorro comes to his rescue, but it is too late for him. Francisco's partner recognizes Zorro as the hidalgo Don Diego Vega. Francisco asks Diego, as Zorro, to take over the fighting legion and defeat Don Del Oro.