Magicians J. Daniel Atlas, Merritt McKinney, Henley Reeves, and Jack Wilder each receive a tarot card leading them to a New York City apartment, where they discover hologram technology with instructions from an unknown benefactor. A year later in Las Vegas, they perform as “the Four Horsemen” in a show funded by insurance magnate Arthur Tressler. Their final trick appears to transport an audience member inside the vault of the Crédit Républicain bank in Paris. Stacks of euros are drawn into the vault’s air vents and showered on the Las Vegas crowd; the Paris vault is found empty of its recent shipment of euros.
FBI agent Dylan Rhodes and Interpol agent Alma Dray question the Horsemen but have no evidence to hold them, and turn to Thaddeus Bradley, a former magician turned magic debunker. Thirty years ago, Lionel Shrike, a magician exposed by Thaddeus, attempted to relaunch his career, but died inside a safe during a failed escape trick. Thaddeus demonstrates how the Horsemen used a mock vault under the Las Vegas stage, and explains that they stole the money before it arrived at the bank, replacing it with flash paper which ignited without a trace. He reveals that they manipulated the audience participant to attend the show, where he was hypnotized into helping to perform the final trick.
Thaddeus and the FBI follow the Horsemen to their next show in New Orleans, where the magicians transfer over $140 million from Tressler’s private accounts to the audience, made up of people whose insurance claims were denied by Tressler’s company in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The magicians elude arrest, and a vengeful Tressler hires Thaddeus to expose them. Alma suspects the Horsemen are connected to “the Eye”, a mythical, elite group of magicians rumored to have access to real magic, who steal from the rich to give to the poor. Dylan discovers the Horsemen replaced his cell phone with a bugged clone, allowing them to remain ahead of the investigation.
The FBI track Dylan’s real phone to the New York apartment, where three of the Horsemen escape while Jack destroys their documents. Pursued by the authorities, he loses control of his car in a fiery crash. Unable to save Jack, Dylan recovers papers pointing to the Horsemen’s next crime: stealing millions in cash from the Elkhorn Company’s safe. The FBI find the safe missing and intercept it, only to discover that it contains nothing but balloon animals. They converge on the Horsemen’s final show at 5 Pointz, where the magicians appear with a farewell message to the crowd. As they leap off the roof, Dylan attempts to shoot them but Alma intervenes, so he misses. The three Horseman disappear in a shower of counterfeit money.
The real money from the Elkhorn safe is found in Thaddeus’ car and he is arrested, presumed to be in league with the Horsemen. Dylan visits him in jail, and Thaddeus deduces that the Horsemen duped the FBI into following a duplicate safe, allowing Jack, who faked his death using a duplicate car and a cadaver stolen from a morgue, to break into the real safe (which was never stolen but was actually hidden behind a giant mirror to trick the FBI into thinking that it was) and frame Thaddeus with the stolen money. Thaddeus realizes that Dylan is the mastermind behind the Four Horsemen’s plots. At the Central Park Carousel, Daniel, Merritt, Henley, and Jack are welcomed by Dylan as the newest members of the Eye.
Meeting Alma at the Pont des Arts, Dylan reveals that he is Shrike’s son. He created the Horsemen to seek retribution for his father’s death: the Elkhorn Company’s faulty safe led to the accident; Thaddeus ruined his father’s career; and the Crédit Républicain and Tressler’s insurance company failed to pay out his father’s life insurance. Alma, having fallen in love with Dylan, agrees to keep his secret, and they attach a love lock to the railing, throwing the key into the Seine.
In a post-credits scene, the Horsemen drive to a desert junkyard, and find a set of locked crates with the symbol of the Eye.