Following his parents’ death in Africa, John Clayton has been be raised by an ape, was known by the name Tarzan, but eventually left Africa and for his parents’ home in England, along with the woman he fell in love with and married, Jane Porter. He is asked by Belgian King Leopold to go to Africa to see what he has done there to help the country. Initially, he refuses. But an American, George Washington Williams, wants him to accept so he can accompany him. He says that Leopold might be committing all sorts of atrocities to achieve his goal, like slavery. Clayton agrees and his wife insists that she accompany him because she misses Africa. When they arrive, a man named Rom, who works for Leopold, attacks their village and captures Tarzan and Jane. With Washington’s help he escapes and sets out to rescue Jane by going across the jungle. Washington joins him despite being told that he might not make it.
In the late 1800's, a conference was held to divide up the African Congo region. King Leopold of Belgium seized control of the land's minerals, which resulted in large profits for his country. When the resources began to run dry, Leopold sent Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to secure more minerals.Rom leads a large group of men into the Congo where they find a large rock formation that looks like a face. In the fog, the men hear a sound. A spear is thrown and hits the ground. Rom's men open fire, killing dozens of African tribesmen. Other members of the tribe stand above the rocks and retaliate by killing all of Rom's men. Rom is approached by the leader, Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou). In his hand are three little mineral rocks. Mbonga says he can give Rom all the minerals if he brings him one particular man. Rom agrees and says he only needs a name.In England, the Prime Minister (Jim Broadbent) speaks to John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgard), who is invited by King Leopold to head an expedition to Boma. George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) urges John to go, as he is really Tarzan, the famed ape man that lived in the jungle and was raised by apes and has now returned to civilization to claim his place as the last surviving Greystroke family member of the Greystroke estate. John declines the invitation, to the dismay of George and the PM. George follows John outside and tries to persuade John to consider otherwise, and to let him join. John changes his mind and agrees.We see a flashback of decades earlier when John's father had kept himself and his wife Alice in a treehouse as she gave birth. Alice died, and John II buried her. Moments later, John II was attacked and killed by a band of gorillas. In the treehouse, an ape named Kala (Madeleine Worrall) and her son Akut (Matt Cross) find the baby John. Kala adopted him as her own.In the present, John finds his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) conducting a lesson to a group of children. John makes a bird sound, which excites the children as they know he is Tarzan. Later, John tells Jane about the expedition trip. She thinks he is asking her to come, but he tells her she cannot. He worries for her since they have already lost a baby. She leaves disappointed, but he later finds her up in a tree and says she may join.John, Jane, and George take their trip to the Congo. John sees three lions that he knew since they were cubs, and they greet each other (as lions would). The three then encounter a friendly tribe that knew John and Jane during their stay in the jungle. At night, the tribe sings a song that Jane says is "The Legend of Tarzan". As she describes it to George, we see Tarzan as a child trying to live among the apes. The ape leader Kerchak (William Wollen) beat up the boy until Kala intervened.Rom and his men take another ship toward the location where he knows he will find John. They attack the tribe's camp and tie up John and Jane. Rom also shoots the tribe's leader in front of everyone. He captures Jane and several tribe members while John rolls away down a hill. George and the remaining tribe members chase after the villains, but they get away. George finds John and unties him.John sets out to find Jane and the tribe members. George thinks it's a bad idea, but he still follows John, along with seven other members. It is time for him to become Tarzan once again.We see another flashback from the past when Jane first went to the jungle and met Tarzan. At that time, he did not speak or understand a word of English and he began to sniff her. When he started to sniff in certain areas, she pushed him off and scared him away.In the present day Congo, Tarzan and George swing from vines onto the train carrying the tribe members. Tarzan finds a train car full of men that want to kill him. He quickly kicks all their asses. The biggest men enters the car, but Tarzan kicks him out the train in seconds. The tribe members are freed.Rom plans to use the tribe members as slaves in his expedition. On the boat, he has one member and very good friend of Tarzan and Jane, Wasimbu, caged over the water. Jane yells something to Wasimbu in his language, making Rom drop the cage into the water. Jane jumps in and breaks Wasimbu out. They swim to the shore and avoid gunfire and a hungry hungry hippo.Tarzan and George separate from the members so that Rom and his men don't try to kill them. The two encounter Akut, now grown. Tarzan knows he has to fight Akut because he will consider Tarzan a deserter for leaving the jungle. The two fight each other, but Akut overpowers Tarzan. George kneels and bows before Akut so that neither of them get killed.Another flashback shows the reason why Mbonga wants Tarzan. His only son Kulonga (Charles Babalola) killed Kala with an arrow. Tarzan retaliated and killed Kulonga. As he held a dying Kala in his arms, Mbonga's people brought Kulonga's body back to his father.In the present, Tarzan and George find Rom and his men bringing a recaptured Jane toward Mbonga's tribe. The tribesmen attack Tarzan, but he fights them off with ease. Mbonga faces Tarzan and fights him. Tarzan overpowers him and holds his knife to Mbonga's throat. He decides not to kill Mbonga because he wants to help his tribe, knowing that Rom would just kill them all to get what he wants.Rom and his men prepare to ride off on their boat to meet with other miners and explorers. Their camp is trashed by a stampede of wildebeest. Tarzan rides one toward the boat. Jane makes it to safety while Tarzan hops on the boat. He increases the pressure on the boat's engine. Rom chokes him out with his rosary beads. Tarzan calls upon some crocodiles to come toward the boat. He grabs Rom with his legs and holds him as he breaks the beads with his neck muscles. Tarzan releases Rom and lets the crocs eat him. The boat then explodes, destroying the minerals. Tarzan appears behind Jane and kisses her.George returns home and exposes Leopold's dealings to the rest of the world. Tarzan and Jane stay in the jungle as they welcome their first child.The film closes with Tarzan swinging through the trees with his ape family.