Paris in the 1880s. Georges Duroy is a poor office clerk. At a club he meets an old friend, Forestier, who invites him to his home where he meets Mrs. Madeleine Forestier and her friends Clotilde de Marelle and Virginie Rousset. Step by step Georges finds ways to improve his social and financial status. He uses his wit and powers of seduction to charm wealthy women, and as he goes from nothing to money all hell breaks loose and things happen and end up looking bad for him.