Abigail Fortescue eagerly awaits the first printing of The Daily Telegraph. The paper contains her first story as a journalist, on how the opening of a new railway in India makes it theoretically possible for someone to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. But when the paper emerges hot from the presses, she is furious: a man’s name has been put on her piece.
She rushes to the tony Reform Club, where her father, Bernard—the publisher of the Telegraph—spends most days. His acquaintances Nyle Bellamy and Phileas Fogg are debating the story, with Fogg defending the proposition and Bellamy teasing him about his own failed plan to travel across the world. Fogg only got as far as Dover when he tried.
Abigail’s appearance at the males-only club causes a ruckus; her father promises to speak with her at his office that afternoon, telling her that his readers wouldn’t have read a story by a female journalist. After she has angrily left and Fogg has enjoyed the same meal he eats every single day, he suddenly decides that he will demonstrate the article’s veracity: he will be the first person to go around the world in 80 days.
Everyone in the club laughs. Bellamy offers Fogg ten thousand pounds if he is successful, betting that Fogg won’t even make it out of England. Fogg raises it to twenty thousand then takes the bet. He will begin his journey today and return to the Reform Club by 1:00 pm on Christmas Eve.
Why the sudden brazenness in such an unadventurous man? Fogg has just received a postcard with a clock on its front and one word on the back: “coward.” It’s one of several he has kept, the others depicting far-off locations, which he now packs, along with money and newspaper articles about various technological innovations such as a hot-air balloon constructed by a Monsieur Lôme in France. He also pockets a flask inscribed to him as a dear “fellow traveler.”
He needs a companion for his adventure, but his creaky old manservant Grayson has barely left the house in twenty years and can’t carry a cup of tea without spilling half of it. So Fogg sends a message from the Reform Club asking an agency for their best valet.
The message never gets to the agency. Passepartout, a waiter at the Club, intercepts it as it’s leaving, spotting a new position for himself. He needs to leave the Club, having just fled both an affair with a maid there and an ensuing fight with another employee.
When Passepartout presents himself to Fogg, he claims to know numerous languages and be perfect for the job. They quickly set off and board a ship to France.
They find another companion on board. Abigail has convinced her father to pay her to shadow Fogg and report on his endeavor in a regular column, despite Bernard’s objections that Fogg is entirely unprepared for the adventure. Abigail will write under her mother’s maiden name, Fix, to escape being the daughter of the publisher.
Fix announces her project to Fogg as he is barfing over the side of the boat from seasickness and losing his hat to the wind. He refuses to let her report on him; as Passepartout explains to Fix later, Fogg knows he will fail and doesn’t want her publicity. Fix, unlike Fogg, recognizes Passepartout from the Reform Club.
Passepartout is nervous to stop in Paris, even if it’s just to change trains. That plan is quickly derailed when the trio arrive to find protests in favor of the late Commune government underway and the police shutting down all the railways. As Passepartout calls for a cab amidst the unrest, Fix is knocked over by a man whom Passepartout recognizes. Passepartout deposits Fix in the cab, then hauls Fogg and his luggage over.
As the cab pulls away, Passepartout sets off to arrange a carriage to Italy. Fix follows, curious about Passepartout, leaving Fogg alone in the cab. It is soon stopped by a crowd, and Fogg is pulled from it while his luggage is picked through. Fleeing with only his carpetbag and Fix’s suitcase, he is caught by children, who only stop grabbing things from the bags when a nun appears and scolds them. She then asks for a donation from Fogg. He decides to return home.
But first he must find Fix—he doesn’t want to leave her behind in the tempestuous streets of Paris. She has followed Passepartout to the place where his father was killed by firing squad for being a revolutionary. While he tells Fix about his father’s death, his brother Gérard appears, along with two men, including the one who knocked Fix down outside the train station.
Gérard is a revolutionary like his father: he helped set up the Commune government. He offers Fix the story of a lifetime, and urges her and Passepartout to join him and his comrades. They go to an abandoned building across from a new police station.
President Adolphe Thiers is due to visit the station today. He is responsible for the violent overthrow of the Commune, and is the object of the ongoing protests. Gérard plans to assassinate him. After forgiving Passepartout for leaving France for a wandering life following the death of their father, Gérard says that at least they will die together. After he kills Thiers, the police will storm the building and kill everyone there.
But as Thiers is leaving the police station, Fogg calls out to him, asking for help in finding Fix. Fix calls to Fogg, hoping he can help her and Passepartout escape. As Gérard fires, Fogg moves towards Fix’s voice—and is hit.
The police open fire on the building, killing Gérard’s comrades. Gérard tells Passepartout and Fix to run, and is then killed. As Passepartout and Fix make their way out of the building, they find Fogg, who was saved from the bullet by the flask in his coat pocket. He asks Passepartout to take him to a place in a newspaper clipping he has, and Passepartout leads the way through the sewer. They flee the police, finally coming to Fogg’s destination: Monsieur Lôme’s workshop, where a hot-air balloon is waiting.
As the police bang on the door, Fogg tries to convince Lôme to fly them to Italy. When Lôme explains that he was meant to fly the balloon with his late wife, for whom it is named, Fogg tells him that no one knows more about lost opportunities than he himself does—and Lôme agrees to let him take the balloon, although Lôme won’t join them. Make my wife proud, he tells the trio as they fly away.
When night falls, Fogg asks Fix to chronicle his journey after all. He shares the last drops of a drink with her and Passepartout from his flask, which now has a bullet embedded in it, covering the name of whoever gave it to him—and saved his life.