The film follows the plot of the original Shakespearean play. In Renaissance era Italy a recently spurned teenaged courtier Romeo Montague goes to a feast in his home city of Verona to get his mind off his lost love. There he meets Juliet Capulet and, in spite of the fact that they are both children of feuding families, they fall in love at first sight. The pair decide that they must be together and enlist the help of the people they trust most to help them elope. Romeo's father figure and priest, the Friar Laurence, marries the couple secretly with the aid of Juliet's loyal nursemaid.
When Juliet's cousin Tybalt insults Romeo his recent and still secret marriage to Tybalt's cousin makes him refuse to fight. Mercutio, Romeo's closest friend, battles Tybalt in his place and is killed in the impromptu duel. In revenge for his fallen beloved friend, Romeo duels Tybalt and kills him. The result is Romeo's banishment from Verona by the prince in lieu of the death penalty someone who committed murder would usually receive.
Juliet's father Old Capulet arranges for her to marry the rich Count Paris, unaware of his daughter's marriage to his enemy's son and his nephew's murderer. With the help of Friar Laurence, Juliet puts an intricate plan into motion with the assurance that Romeo will be informed of the plot. To escape her impending marriage to Count Paris and be reunited with Romeo, Juliet takes a potion created by the Friar that will make her seem dead but which only lasts for forty-two hours. Once Juliet awakens after her burial in the Capulet family tomb she is to meet with Romeo and the pair will run away together.
Unfortunately, the news of her false death reaches Romeo before Friar Laurence's letter does. Distraught and unaware of that fact that his love actually lives, Romeo goes to Juliet's tomb and drinks a poison, killing himself beside her body. Juliet wakes soon after and tries to kill herself by kissing the poison from his lips. Failing that, she takes his dagger and stabs herself to death. At the couple's joint funeral their warring families come together and agree to end the feud that inadvertently caused their children's deaths.