Under the harsh feudal system in the Anatolia region of Turkey in the 1920s, Abdi Aga (Peter Ustinov), an illiterate tyrant with pretentions of learning, owns five impoverished villages along with their inhabitants including Memed (Simon Dutton), a rebellious young man who decides to escape into the mountains and become a brigand. He takes with him his 17 year old girlfriend Hatche (Leonie Mellinger).A threat to the Aga's authority, Memed is pursued and in a confrontation the Aga's nephew is killed. Hatche, though innocent, is captured and charged with his murder. A distraught Memed determines to rescue her but has to plan his move carefully for there is now a price on her head. In the meantime his chivalry and determination to free his people has won the hearts of the brigands who vow their allegiance to him.