Based on a novel, adapted by Peter Krikes and Steve Meerson, and directed by Andy Tennant, Anna and the King is a biographical drama detailing the story of teacher Anna Leonowens, played by Jodie Foster, and her relationship with the King of Siam, portrayed by Chow Yun-fat. A widow, Anna and her son come to Siam so that Anna can serve as a teacher to the king's many children. Although the king is fascinated by Anna, she does not return the attention at first. The king uses her as an instrument of proof that his country is not so mired in traditionalism as his European adversaries believe. His goals to keep his country out of colonizers' hands and his love for his children begins to earn him Anna's hard-won favor.
This favor is lost, however, when he beheads one of his concubines, after Anna protests punishment of the woman, in order to retain the upper hand in front of his people. Despite her anger towards him, she offers him helping in protecting and hiding his children from his military general Alak, played by Randall Duk Kim, who means to overthrow him and murder his heirs. Alak and the king meet on a bridge that the king has had lined with explosives, from which Anna and her son save the king with a ruse in which they use a horn and fireworks to imitate approaching British soldiers.
General Alak is abandoned by his men and left at the mercy of the king who refuses to kill him, leaving instead. Having no such qualms, Alak shoots at the retreating king and misses. The shot hits an explosive on the bridge and blows away both it and the usurper. Back at the palace the king realizes he is in love with Anna. She and her son leave Siam and return to England. The king's heir takes the throne and moves the country into a new more progressive era.