It is November 5, 1997, and England is run by a tyrannical regime called Norsefire. The head of the government is Adam Susan, known as the Leader. The Leader resides at the Head (government offices) and rules England with an iron fist, making use of his government’s institutions: the Finger (law enforcement), the Nose (counter-terrorism), the Ear (phone surveillance), the Eye (video surveillance), and Jordan Tower (propaganda). The Leader controls England using an advanced computer called Fate.
A sixteen-year-old girl, Evey Hammond, goes out into the night to begin her career as a prostitute. She’s apprehended by a group of Fingermen—police officers—and arrested. The Fingermen say that they’re going to rape and then kill her. Before they can touch her, however, a cloaked figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask attacks the men and rescues Evey. The figure takes Evey to a roof, and points out the Houses of Parliament. Parliament then explodes, and the figure acknowledges that it was he who blew it up.
In the aftermath of the explosion, the Leader speaks with the leaders of each branch of Norsefire: Eric Finch (the Nose), Derek Almond (the Finger), Brian Etheridge (Ear), and Conrad Heyer (Eye). The Leader demands that Finch track down the terrorist responsible for the bombing and kill him. At Jordan Tower, Lewis Prothero prepares to broadcast information. His programmer, Roger Dascombe, explains to Derek Almond that Prothero is the “Voice of Fate.” Prothero reads information gathered and predicted by the Fate Computer.
The “terrorist” blindfolds Evey and takes her to his home, the mysterious “Shadow Gallery.” There, he introduces himself as V, and shows Evey his home, full of books, music, and art, all of which the Norsefire government has banned for being “subversive.” V asks Evey to tell him about herself. She explains that there was a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, resulting in the destruction of most of the world. In the following years, the brutal Norsefire regime rose to power. It rounded up blacks, homosexuals, and radicals, and sent them to camps to die. Evey’s mother died when Evey was young, and Evey’s father was taken to a camp afterwards.
The next day, V kidnaps Prothero. In the Shadow Gallery, V reminds Prothero of his past: Prothero used to be a sadistic guard at the Larkhill Prison, a place that was in actuality a concentration camp. V tells Prothero that V was “the man in Room V,” an admission which terrifies Prothero. V then burns Prothero’s prized doll collection, an act that leaves Prothero insane. A new broadcaster takes over as the Voice of Fate, but England begins to lose its trust in the media.
The Leader thinks about his relationship with the English people. He admits to being a fascist, and dismisses all talk of liberty and rights. His only love, he thinks privately, is the Fate Computer itself. Shortly afterwards, V goes to the Old Bailey (a famous London landmark) and has a conversation with the statue of Lady Justice outside. He accuses Lady Justice of betraying him. Afterwards, he blows up the Old Bailey.
Evey, still at the Shadow Gallery, tells V that she wants to help him to thank him for saving her life. V dresses Evey as a prostitute and sends him to his next victim: Bishop Anthony Lilliman. Lilliman regularly has sex with child prostitutes—a fact which many government officials are aware of, and condone. Alone with Evey, Lilliman attempts to seduce her. Evey opens the window, and V jumps inside. He forces Lilliman to take Holy Communion—Lilliman, terrified, does so, only to learn that the communion wafer is laced with cyanide. Evey is upset by V’s actions, and protests that killing is immoral. Meanwhile, investigating Lilliman’s murder, Finch discovers that Lilliman was a chaplain at Larkhill Prison, and worked alongside Prothero.
V accomplishes his next murder alone. He goes to the house of Delia Surridge, an aging doctor who is secretly in a relationship with Eric Finch. Delia worked at Larkhill Prison as a researcher. One prisoner, she remembers, was held in Room V. He became super-strong, and underwent a mental transformation as a result of the drugs she gave him. The prisoner used fertilizers to escape from Larkhill. One night, Delia wakes up and finds V standing over her. Delia explains that she regrets her involvement in Larkhill—V nods, and says he’s killed in her sleep, with a painless injection. Derek Almond, detecting trouble at Delia’s home, goes to investigate. There, V kills him easily. Finch, investigating the killings, finds Delia’s diary, including descriptions of a “Man from Room V.” He realizes that V has been killing off Larkhill workers for the last four years.
Evey continues to live with V in the Shadow Gallery. She tries to kiss him one night, and V suggests that she thinks he’s her father. Evey is shocked, but she realizes that V is right. V leads Evey, blindfolded, away from the Shadow Galley, and slips away from her—Eve is now completely alone in London.
Meanwhile, Rosemary Almond, Derek Almond’s widow, is denied a pension by the government. Impoverished, she’s forced to turn to men like Roger Dascombe for help, even though they only seem to be interested in having sex with her.
V hijacks Jordan Tower and broadcasts a message in which he urges the people of London to rise up against their tyrannical leaders and be their own masters. In the aftermath of the incident, Mr. Finch quarrels with the new head of the Finger, Peter Creedy, who mocks Finch for loving Delia Surridge. The Leader sends Finch on a short vacation to clear his head.
Meanwhile, Evey has begun living with a middle-aged gangster named Gordon. Evey seems to be attracted to Gordon. They spend time at the Kitty Kat Hiller Club, which is also frequented by Rosemary Almond, who eventually is forced to work as a showgirl. Gordon feuds with the gangster Alistair Harper. One day, Harper kills Gordon by stabbing him with a sword, and Evey vows revenge on Harper. One night, she waits outside the Kitty Kat Killer club and prepares to shoot Harper. Before she can, however, she is knocked out and dragged to a prison.
When Evey wakes up, she finds herself in a mysterious cell. A guard drags her to a room, where she’s tortured and ordered to give up information about V. Evey refuses. In her cell, she finds a letter written by a woman named Valerie. Valerie, Evey reads, was an actress who was arrested by the Norsefire government for being gay. Valerie is imprisoned at Larkhill Prison, but she never gives up her integrity or her dignity. Valerie’s message inspires Evey to withstand her own torture.
One day, after many weeks of torture, the guard takes Evey to a shadowy room, where a figure tells her to sign a statement saying that V kidnapped her, or else she’ll be shot. Evey bravely refuses to sign the statement. Afterwards, she realizes that she’s been held in a “fake” prison. The guard is a plastic dummy, and the shadowy figure is a dummy with a tape recorder imbedded in its head. Evey walks out of her prison, and finds that she’s been in the Shadow Gallery the entire time: V has been the one torturing her day after day. Evey is furious with V for torturing her. V explains, very calmly, that he did so to free Evey from the prison of her own happiness, and show her the power of courage and integrity. Evey is at first furious with V, but eventually she screams into the rain, and seems to embrace her new identity. She kisses V’s mask and thanks him for setting her free.
The Leader begins to lose his mind when he sees a message on the Fate Computer that says, “I love you.” The strength of the Norsefire regime is further compromised when V blows up the Ear and Eye headquarters. V makes a broadcast on his own broadcasting network in which he tells the people of London to “do as they please.” As a result of V’s actions, riots break out throughout England. In the Shadow Gallery, V offers to kill Alistair Harper on behalf of Evey, but Evey insists that V do no such thing.
In the days following V’s bombings, Rosemary Almond buys a gun from Alistair Harper. Peter Creedy, recognizing that the Leader is becoming weak and unstable, pays Harper to organize a private army, which Creedy will shortly use to overthrow the Leader. At the same time, Helen Heyer, an ambitious, cold-hearted woman, plans to use Harper to overthrow Creedy and install her husband, Conrad Heyer, as the new Leader of England.
Meanwhile, V reveals to Evey that he has had access to the Fate Computer for the past four years, and he was the one responsible for the “I love you” message that drove the Leader insane. V shows Evey other parts of the Shadow Gallery, including his collection of explosives, and a subway train that connects to the tracks of the London underground.
Eric Finch has been on vacation for some time now—his loyal number two, Dominic Stone, is now the head of the Nose. While Finch is away, he decides to take LSD in order to think as V thinks. He goes to Larkhill Prison and has an acid trip. At the end of his trip, he is reborn with a new, intuitive mind. He walks away from Larkhill, back to London. On his way, he sees the Victoria train station, and realizes that it’s V’s lair. He goes into the station and finds V. In the ensuing fight, Finch shoots V.
In order to restore confidence in the government, the Leader goes out in public to make a speech. While he’s in public, Rosemary Almond kills him in vengeance of his indifference to her pain. At the hospital, Finch appears and tells the remaining government officials—including Conrad and Helen Heyer—that he shot V.
V, still alive but bleeding heavily, crawls back to the Shadow Gallery, where Evey is waiting. V explains to Evey that she must never remove his mask, even after he dies. He also tells her that there is a block in the subway lines, and begs Evey to give him a “Viking funeral.” Evey is enormously moved by V’s death, and puzzled by his requests. She contemplates removing V’s mask. Eventually, she realizes that she must not diminish V by reducing him to “one man.” She leaves V’s mask on, recognizing that V is more powerful as a symbol than as a man. She decides to take V’s place as an anarchist revolutionary.
In the aftermath of the Leader’s assassination, Peter Creedy takes over Norsefire. He announces that if V doesn’t appear that night, he should be presumed dead. Harper betrays Creedy and slits his throat, saying that he’s had a “better offer” from Helen Heyer. Before his death, V had arranged for Conrad Heyer to be sent a video of Helen Heyer having sex with Harper. Conrad is infuriated: he attacks Harper, and in the ensuing fight, both men are mortally wounded. Helen Heyer returns to her home to the sight of her own husband bleeding to death. Disgusted, she leaves him to die.
Massive riots break out throughout London. On the night of November 9, “V” (in actuality, Evey, wearing a cloak and Guy Fawkes mask) appears before a huge crowd. V explains that she is immortal, and will use her boundless power to blow up the Norsefire government’s headquarters at Downing Street. Following this speech, “V” sends the subway car, filled with both explosives and V’s dead body, toward St. James, realizing that V was giving her directions for how to blow up Downing Street.
Evey as “V” then saves Dominic from the riots in London, and takes him to the Shadow Gallery. When Dominic wakes up, he finds a cloaked figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask standing over him. The cycle of apprenticeship has continued, with Evey as the teacher instead of the student.
It is unclear what will become of England, now that there is no government to lead it. Outside London, Eric Finch walks by himself, calmly smoking a pipe.