Terry Gilliam wrote the script with Tom Stoppard and directs Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry, a low-level government employee, often daydreaming of saving a beautiful maiden.
One day he is assigned the task of trying to rectify an error created by a government mishap: causing the incarceration and execution of Mr Archibald Buttle instead of the suspected terrorist, Archibald "Harry" Tuttle. When Sam visits Buttle's widow, he discovers Jill Layton (Kim Greist), the upstairs neighbour of the Buttles, is the same woman as in his dreams.
Jill is trying to help Mrs Buttle find out what happened to her husband, but has gotten sick of dealing with the bureaucracy. What she doesn't realise is that she is now considered a terrorist friend of Tuttle for trying to report the mistake of Buttle's arrest in Tuttle's place to bureaucrats that would not admit such a mistake. When Sam tries to approach her, she is very cautious and avoids giving Sam full details, worried the government will track her down.
During this time, Sam comes in contact with the real Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), a renegade air conditioning specialist who once worked for the government but left due to the amount of paperwork.
The superb cast includes Michael Palin, Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins and Peter Vaughan.