Bathsheba Everdeen (Carey Mulligan) is a young woman, an orphan, beautiful and independent girl. She has a passionate personality and it sometimes gets her trouble. While helping out on her Aunts farm she meets the neighbor, a shepherd named Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), and they begin a flirtation. One day he proposes and she is caught off gaurd and tells him she doesn't want to be married and he could never tame her. That same night, his dumb dog drives his sheep off a cliff and they all die and he loses his farm.
Bathsheba finds out she has inherited her uncle's farm, with 1000 acres, a large house, and a big staff. She throws herself into being a great master and farmer.
Gabriel is wandering looking for work when he meets beautiful Fanny who tells him about the farm nearby that needs help. She tells him she is engaged to a handsome soldier.
Gabriel finds the farm and there is a fire in progress. He helps save the barn and the harvest, and then finds out Bathsheba is the owner and she gives him a job as a shepherd.
Fanny (Juno Temple), who used to work at Bathsheba's farm is heading for the church for her wedding where her fiance, Sgt Troy is eagerly waiting. She ends up at the wrong church by mistake and he believes she has jilted him at the alter. He is devastated and they don't see each other again.
Bathsheba meets a handsome older farmer next door named Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and because he is aloof to her, she impulsively sends him an anonymous valentine just to annoy him. He figures out it was her and becomes obsessed with her and proposes. She apologizes for the joke and says she will consider it even though she is not really interested.
She meets Sgt. Troy (Tom Sturridge) one evening and he tells her she is beautiful and comes by the farm to woo her. She is overwhelmed by his good looks and charm, and impulsively marries him. He gives up his military career to immediately take control of the farm and her finances and begins gambling and making terrible business decisions. Bathsheba realizes quickly that she has made a terrible mistake. Boldwood is very distraught that she has married.
One day Sgt. Troy runs into Fanny and she is very pregnant. She explains why she wasn't at the wedding and he vows to find a home for her and the child and tells her to meet him under a bridge the next day. Fanny tries to make it but dies before he meets her. Her body and the baby's corpse are transported to Bathsheeba's farm since that is her last known address. When she arrives Bathsheba figures out that Sgt Troy was Fanny's lover. He returns to the farm and declares his love for Fanny and disappears. He goes to the ocean and tries to drown himself.
When everyone gets news that Sgt. Troy is dead, Boldwood immediately begins plans to get Bathsheeba to marry him. He offers to pay Sgt. Troy's gambling debts and save her farm if she marries him. She agrees to consider it. She asks Gabriel what to do since he has been a loyal friend to her and she believes he is indifferent to her and will give an objective opinion. Gabriel says he is not objective. He only advises her to do what is right.
Boldwood throws a huge party for the whole village on Christmas Eve and he plans a public proposal which he is certain Bathsheba will accept, though he believes she and Gabriel have secret feelings for one another. Before he can, she goes outside and Sgt. Troy is there. He tells her he faked his death but now he is back because he needs money and he wants to sell the farm for cash. He grabs her and at that moment Boldwood shoots him in the chest and kills him. Boldwood goes to prison.
Gabriel decides to move to the USA. After he leaves, Bathsheba chases him and begs him to stay. She says that they were sweethearts once. He says that he will stay if she allows him to love her and marry her. She says he needs to ask her again. Instead he kisses her and they walk home together.