Evangelist Jerry Falwell (Richard Paul) sues Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, after the magazine publishes a satire featuring Falwell describing having sex with his mother in an outhouse. Flynt is found not guilty of libel but guilty of inflicting emotional distress. After his AIDS-stricken wife, Althea (Courtney Love) drowns in the bathtub, Flynt convinces his lawyer Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton) to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court, saying he "wants to be remembered for something meaningful". Isaacman argues that satire of public figures is protected under the First Amendment as free speech and wins.
The final scene shows Flynt alone and watching home videos of his late wife. The viewer is told that Flynt's shooter was never caught, and he remains confined to a wheelchair, Isaacman is still his lawyer, and anti-pornography activist Charles Keating (James Cromwell) was later convicted of fraud in the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal.