In 1944, a young German hero soldier falls in love with a young French woman who owns a small cinema in Paris, and wants her to host the premiere of his movie. The woman in question is Shosanna Dreyfus.
Early June 1944, Paris. Shosanna Dreyfus is removing the letters from the cinema marquee, at night, when she's approached by a young German soldier, named Frederick Zoller. The young man asks her what film will be playing tomorrow, and Shosanna tells him that it will be a Max Linder festival, to which Zoller replies that he always preferred to Chaplin. He also asks her if it's her cinema, to which Shosanna says yes, her aunt left it to her. Zoller thanks Shosanna for organizing the German film night, with the French girl telling him that it wasn't her choice, but he's welcome. As Zoller continues the conversation, Shosanna's frustration keeps increasing until she finally gives up, climbs down the ladder, calmly telling Zoller goodnight and goes inside with the letter basket, saying she'll finish her work tomorrow morning. Zoller asks her name, and she irritatingly gives him her papers. Zoller sees that her name is Emmanuelle Mimieux, complementing her name before returning her papers back. Zoller then introduces himself, and after an awkward stare, he tells her good night and leaves.
The next day, Shosanna is in a bistro, smoking and reading a book. Zoller sees her through the window and enters the place, to say hi to her. A passive aggressive Shosanna rejects his attempts of conversation, hinting that she doesn't like German soldiers, which should have been obvious to him. Zoller replies that he's more than a uniform, but Shosanna rebuffs him, telling him that he wants a French girlfriend, he should try Vichy. Zoller's reply is interrupted by an officer, named Wolfgang, a captain (Hauptmann) in the Wehrmacht, who is amazed at meeting Zoller and congrats him telling him that he brings great honor to Germany, before departing. Shosanna, being curious as to why would a simple German soldier get so much attention from an officer, asks him if he's someone's soldier. Zoller says that most German soldiers are someone's son and sits at Shosanna's table, but is immediately interrupted by another German soldier, Walter Frazer, who is accompanied by his French girlfriend, Babette. The duo enter the room and congratulate Zoller, asking for his autograph. The French girl tells Shosanna that she's lucky to have a war hero with her, but Zoller interrupts her, saying that Emmanuelle is not his girlfriend. After the duo leave, joining Wolfgang's table in the other room, Shosanna, having determined that Zoller is a war hero, becomes more curious of the German soldier and asks him what did he do to become one. Zoller tells her that he was trapped in a church tower in a fortified city, against 300 enemy soldiers. He managed to kill 250 of them over the course of 3 days, after which the rest of the enemy forces withdrawn. For this, Joseph Goebbels decided that his exploits will be turned into a film, Stolz der Nation ("Nation's Pride"), where Zoller will be playing himself. Shosanna then suddenly decides she doesn't want anything to do with him, and leaves furiously, wishing him good luck with his film.
Sometime later, possibly in the same day or the next, we see Shosanna cleaning the cinema marquee letters, while Marcel, her lover, is seen carrying two film canisters, that he purchased from a truck seller. He enters the cinema asking Shosanna if she needs anything, to which she says no, and leaves her alone on the ladder outside. As she cleans the letters, a car stops, with a driver and a Gestapo Major climb down from the car. The Gestapo Major asks Shosanna is she's Mimieux and if this is her cinema. Shosanna says yes, and then Major asks her to get in the car, which she eventually does. The Major and the driver both then follow.
In a restaurant, we see Joseph Goebbels himself, talking to the people around the table about the performance of the Americans at the Olympics, and how "American gold can be measured in Negro sweat". Shosanna is seen escorted by the Major to Goebbels table, where Zoller greets her, and wondered if she would have accepted his invitation, which irritates Shosanna, as this was anything but an invitation. Zoller then presents Shosanna to Goebbels, his translator Francesca Mondino and to the Gestapo Major Dieter Hellstrom, the man who "honored the invitation". Goebbels then talks to Shosanna through Francesca, who translates from German to French for Shosanna. He tells her in a friendly tone that he's gotten quite annoyed at her, as Zoller has done nothing but talk about her and her cinema. Francesca then tells Shosanna that Zoller has tried to persuade Goebbels to change the premiere of Zoller's film to her cinema, but as she finishes talking, Zoller interrupts, saying that he wanted to tell her that. Francesca excuses herself, but Goebbels intervenes, asking what the problem is. Francesca tells him that Zoller wanted to inform her of this change of plans, but Goebbels is outraged, and tells the Gestapo Major that he has not yet decided to change the location of the cinema, as he wants to ask Emmanuelle some questions. Goebbels then asks Shosanna about the facilities of her cinema: the number of opera boxes, the number of seats. He determines that her cinema is smaller than The Ritz, the original cinema where he wanted to hold the premiere of the film. Zoller however, intervenes, telling Goebbels that this is not actually a big problem. The way he sees it, by having fewer seats, he can make this event more exclusive, and as such, people will fight for places, and that way only the more loyal people will be attending this event. Goebbels is visibly intrigued by this idea, and complements Zoller, by playfully slapping him with a towel. He decides to hold a private screening at Shosanna's cinema, before he can decide if he wants to change the location of the film premiere. But when Goebbels asks Emmanuelle what films she has, Hans Landa appears.
Zoller introduces Landa to a frightened Shosanna, saying that he's responsible for the security of the film premiere. Francesca and Goebbels excuse themselves, while Landa stops Shosanna, saying that he wants to have a little talk with her. Zoller rudely asks him what discussion, which bemuses Landa, asking him if he questions his order, to which Zoller denies, saying that his authority is beyond question, but his reputation does precede him, which concerned him. Goebbels defends Zoller, saying that the boy was just concerned about the girl, and yes, his reputation does precede him. Landa says that he just wants to have a small chat with the new cinema's owner, nothing else. He then joins Shosanna's table, and asks her if she tried the strudel, saying that it's not terrible. He orders two strudels, and espresso for him and a glass of milk for Emmanuelle. He proceeds to ask her how she met Zoller, but stops when the waiter brought the strudels, and excuses himself, saying he forgot the cream. After the waiter brings the cream, Landa asks Shosanna to try to strudel, which she does, with Landa doing the same. Shosanna then tells him that she inherited the cinema from her aunt and uncle, Jean-Pierre and Ada Mimieux, both passed away during the war. He then learns of Marcel, a French-African man, who is the projectionist in the cinema. Due to obvious race issues, he asks Shosanna that she should operate the film projector, as Goebbels would not approve of a black man operating a film projector during his screening. He then offers Shosanna a German cigarette and then tells her that he wanted to ask her another question. After a tense moment, Landa chuckles and excuses himself saying he forgot what it was, and was probably nothing. Landa then kisses Shosanna's hand and leaves. As soon as he's out of the picture, Shosanna has a panic attack, realizing she almost got discovered.
That night, the Nazi party is seen leaving the cinema auditorium, after having seen "Lucky Kids" for the screening, while Marcel watches from the upper level. Goebbels praises Emmanuelle's cinema, saying that he admired its modesty, feeling almost "church-like", though he would like to decorate it, to make the place more alive. He asks her if she liked the film, to which Emmanuelle says she likes Lillian Harvey, which causes Goebbels to explode in rage, saying to never mention that name again, and exits the cinema in rage. Shosanna returns to the lobby, thinking. Marcel, panicked, asks her what are they going to do, to which Shosanna says nonchalantly that they're gonna host a German film premiere. He tells him that she intends to burn the cinema during the night of the film premiere, against the protests of Marcel, and that he will help her. Since nitrate film prints are very flammable, she intends to ignite all of the 350 film prints, to burn down the cinema. But before she does that, she asks Marcel if the old filming equipment from the attic still works, to which Marcel confirms, saying that he recently recorded a guitarist in a cafe and that it works excellent. Shosanna tells Marcel that she wants to use it to make a film just for the Nazis.
- If you are so desperate for a French girlfriend... I suggest you try Vichy. (Shosanna)
- I thought I was just a uniform. (Zoller)
- Get your ass in that car. (Hellstrom)
- American Olympic gold can be measured in Negro sweat. (Goebbels)
- It appears I've created a monster. A strangely persuasive monster. (Goebbels)
- Wait for the cream. (Landa)
- Lilian Harvey! Never mention that name again in my presence! (Goebbels)
- You mean we wouldn't need any more explosives?
- Chapter Three is the only chapter throughout the movie where someone doesn't die, and the only chapter where English is not spoken.
- Zoller says he always preferred the director and actor Max Linder to Charlie Chaplin, although Linder never made a masterpiece like "The Kid".
- Zoller's character is also inspired by the American World War I hero Alvin C. York. In 1941, his exploits were narrated in the film Sergeant York by Howard Hawks with Gary Cooper.
- The book that Shosanna reads in the French bistro, is the French edition of the yellow "The Saint in New York" by Leslie Charteris. The book, published for the first time in 1935, is the fifteenth volume starring Simon Templar, known as "The Saint", an anti hero described by the author himself as a sort of modern Robin Hood.
- Shosanna sarcastically invites Zoller to go to Vichy if it is so interested in having a French girlfriend. After the armistice signed by France and Germany 22 June 1940, the French territory was divided into two parts: the northern part was occupied by Germany while the southern part remained independent and the city of Vichy became the seat of the new government. In reality, the "Republic of Vichy" was independent from Germany on paper, since it was actually a puppet state maneuvered in all respects by the Third Reich. Shosanna basically tells Zoller to go an screw a collaborator or a whore or both.
- The cigarettes smoked by Shosanna in the bistro are the "Gitanes". The original package with the fan and the oranges was produced from 1927 until the mid-'40s.
- The matches seen on the table where Shosanna sits bear the inscription "Au Café Liliana".
- When Major Hellstrom "invites" Shosanna to come with him, the film in the cinema The Gamaar programming is Le Corbeau.
- Both Goebbels and Shosanna are presented through a still image and yellow text written on the screen. The same technique was used to introduce O-Ren and Elle Driver in Kill Bill Vol. 1.
- In the film, his title card identifies him as "The number two man in Hitler's Third Reich". In reality, this point is debatable. Some may argue that Heinrich Himmler (who's missing from the film) was Hitler's number two. Other candidates include Martin Bormann (Who is present and killed at the cinema), or Karl Dönitz (another not present). Dönitz was named Hitler's successor as Staatsoberhaupt (Head of State) after he commited suicide, with the title of Reichspräsident (President) and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and was the Grand Admiral of the Kriegsmarine in 1943 until the end of the war.
- However, since the film is set in an alternate universe, it is possible that there are plausible, yet unrevealed reasons for their absences.
- Goebbels's affair with Francesca Mondino bears a similarity with his affair with the real life Czech actress Lída Baarová.
- The cigarettes smoked by Landa are "Eckstein" (brand name actually exists).The cigarettes that Landa offers Shosanna are "Reininger - Emil Jannings" (invented brand).
- When Francesca mentions former UFA actress Lilian Harvey, Goebbels throws a tantrum and screams never to mention that name in his presence. Lilian Harvey had to flee Nazi Germany in 1939 after helping Jewish choreographer Jens Keith to escape to Switzerland.
- A song from the soundtrack of Lucky Kids sang by the same Lilian Harvey is part of the soundtrack of Inglourious Basterds.
- In a deleted scene which takes place in the Maurice restaurant, Goebbels is shown to be angry when he hears that Emmanuelle's cinema only shows classical German films and none of his, moreso when Zoller tells him that she's also a "formidable film critic". Tarantino intended this exchange to show that Goebbels is either unsure of the quality of his films or he's offended that his films aren't on par with German classical cinema.