During the late 18th century, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters—Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia live in rural England. As the Bennets have no sons, their estate, Longbourn, is destined to be inherited by Mr. Bennet’s cousin, Mr. Collins, a pompous clergyman. Mrs. Bennet, meanwhile, is eager to secure her daughters’ futures through suitable marriages; she is delighted when wealthy bachelor Charles Bingley moves into Netherfield, a nearby estate.
Bingley is introduced to the local society at an assembly ball, along with his haughty sister, Caroline, and his aloof friend, the handsome and rich Mr. Darcy. Bingley is enchanted with Jane, while Elizabeth takes an instant dislike to Darcy after he coldly rebuffs her and later makes demeaning remarks about her that she overhears. While visiting the Bingleys, Jane falls ill and must stay to recuperate. When Elizabeth later walks to Netherfield to see Jane, she verbally spars with both Caroline and Darcy.
Later, the Bennets are visited by Mr. Collins, who rapturously praises his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Collins intends to propose to Jane, but Mrs. Bennet informs him that she will likely be engaged. Undaunted, Mr. Collins instead pursues Elizabeth. Meanwhile, the charming Lieutenant Wickham of the newly-arrived militia captures the girls’ attention. Wickham, who is connected to the Darcy family, wins Elizabeth’s sympathy by claiming Mr. Darcy denied him his rightful inheritance.
At the Netherfield ball, Elizabeth is startled by Darcy’s abrupt request for a dance. While dancing, Elizabeth taunts him with witty sarcasm and Darcy responds in kind. During the evening, Elizabeth notes Bingley’s infatuation with Jane, while her close friend, Charlotte, believes Bingley may interpret Jane’s reserved manner as indifference.
The next day, Collins proposes to an appalled Elizabeth, who strongly declines, angering her mother. When the Bingley party unexpectedly return to London, Elizabeth dispatches a heartbroken Jane to the city to stay with their aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, hoping to re-establish contact between Jane and Bingley. Shortly after, Elizabeth is astonished that Charlotte, fearing spinsterhood, has accepted Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal. Months later, Elizabeth visits the newly-married Mr. and Mrs. Collins who reside on Lady Catherine’s manor estate, Rosings. When they are invited to dine there, Elizabeth is surprised that Darcy, who is Lady Catherine’s nephew, is present, along with his friend, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Darcy exhibits a friendlier manner towards Elizabeth. At church the next day, Colonel Fitzwilliam, unaware Jane is Elizabeth’s sister, casually mentions that Darcy recently separated Bingley from an “undesirable” match.
Distraught, Elizabeth leaves, but Darcy follows and proposes marriage, declaring he loves her “most ardently” despite her inferior rank. Elizabeth angrily refuses, citing his treatment of Jane and Wickham. Darcy defends his belief of Jane’s disinterest in Bingley. Darcy criticizes the Bennet family’s occasional social impropriety, excluding Elizabeth and Jane. Elizabeth hurls furious words at Darcy, leaving him angry and heartbroken. Darcy later presents Elizabeth a letter in which he describes Wickham’s true character and exploits, including his squandering the bequest Darcy’s father left him. Wickham also attempted to seduce Darcy’s 15-year-old sister, Georgiana, into eloping, prompted by her fortune. Darcy also explains his reason for separating Bingley and Jane. Elizabeth privately acknowledges she misjudged Darcy and that his criticisms regarding her family are partially valid.
Several months later, Elizabeth accompanies the Gardiners on a trip to the Peak District. Their tour includes Pemberley, the Darcy estate. Elizabeth agrees to go only after hearing that Darcy is away. Elizabeth is awed by Pemberley’s grandeur. She unexpectedly runs into Darcy, who has returned early. He invites her and the Gardiners to dine at Pemberley the next day. Darcy’s mannerism has softened considerably, and Georgiana, having heard her brother’s flattering reports about Elizabeth, says she already likes her.
Jane has sent an urgent letter saying their sister, Lydia, has run off with Wickham. Elizabeth tearfully blurts this out to Darcy and the Gardiners, then decides to return home. Darcy leaves, and Elizabeth never expects to see him again. At Longbourn, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet fear their disgraced daughter has socially ruined them and destroyed their other daughters’ chances for good marriages. A week later, Mr. Gardiner sends news that the pair has been discovered in London and are now married. The newlyweds return to Longbourn, and Lydia lets slip to Elizabeth that it was actually Darcy who had found them, paid for their wedding, and arranged Wickham’s military assignment.
Bingley returns to Netherfield, and he and Darcy soon visit Longbourn; Bingley proposes to Jane, who accepts. Late that night, Lady Catherine arrives to see Elizabeth and demand she never become engaged to Darcy, a request Elizabeth refuses. While walking the moor early the next morning, she meets Darcy, who regrets his aunt’s actions. He professes his continued love, and Elizabeth, her feelings radically altered, accepts his proposal.
Mr. Bennet gives Elizabeth his consent to marry after assurances she truly loves Darcy. In the film’s U.S. release, an additional last scene shows the happy newlyweds outside at Pemberley.