SinopsisThe unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) lives in a low-rent apartment building and works as a mechanic, stunt driver, and getaway driver. His driving skills and precision are evident when he helps two burglars evade police and split up at the Staples Center's crowded parking garage. The Driver works anonymously, never for the same people twice, and allots them only five minutes to do their business. Shannon (Bryan Cranston) owns the garage where the Driver works and sets up his other jobs. Shannon borrows $300,000 from mobster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and buys a stock car for the Driver to race. Bernie agrees to back the plan after he sees the Driver's skills. Bernie's business partner is a Jewish mobster named Nino (Ron Perlman) who once had Shannon's pelvis broken when he found out Shannon overcharged him.
The Driver helps his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), when Irene has car trouble at a local market. Later, Irene has her car towed to Shannon's garage, and the Driver gives her and Benicio a ride home. The Driver begins spending more time with Irene and Benicio and even has dinner with them after Irene's husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), comes home from prison. Standard owes "protection money" to an Albanian gangster, who goes by the name Cook (James Biberi), dating back from his time in prison. Cook beats Standard and threatens to come after Irene and Benicio if Standard does not rob a pawn shop.
The Driver agrees to help Standard placate Cook by driving Standard to and from the pawn shop. Blanche (Christina Hendricks), a woman associated with Cook, also participates in the heist. The job goes wrong, and Standard is shot dead by the pawn shop owner as he returns to the car. The Driver leaves with Blanche and the money, but a car follows him and tries to run him off the road. The Driver eludes the other vehicle, and he and Blanche hide out in a motel room. The Driver discovers that the amount of money is much more than he expected for a pawn shop robbery. He threatens to hurt Blanche if she does not tell the truth. She tells him the car belonged to Cook, and they planned to double-cross the Driver and Standard and take the money for themselves. Suddenly, two of Cook's men attack them in the motel room, killing Blanche with a shotgun blast to the head and injuring the Driver before he kills them both.
The Driver confronts Cook in his strip club and learns that Nino has been behind the heist all along. Nino later explains to Bernie that the money from the pawn shop belonged to the East Coast Mafia. Fearing retaliation if it becomes known who was behind the robbery, Bernie stabs Cook to death and tells Nino to take care of the Driver while he takes care of Shannon. The Driver agrees to give Nino the money in exchange for Irene and Benicio's safety. However, Nino sends a hitman to their apartment building. The Driver and Irene unknowingly ride the elevator with the hitman, but the Driver notices his concealed gun. The Driver gives Irene a quick kiss before overpowering the hitman, dispatching him by repeatedly stomping on his head before a stunned Irene. Bernie finds Shannon attemping to flee town and slits Shannon's wrist in his garage with a straight razor.
The Driver follows Nino to the Pacific Coast Highway in his car and t-bones him. With Nino wounded and weakened, the Driver drowns him in the Pacific Ocean. Bernie calls the Driver, telling him to meet at a Chinese restaurant. The Driver then makes a final phone call to Irene, to tell her he was leaving and thanking her for her time with him. At the restaurant, Bernie promises Irene and Benicio's safety in exchange for the money, but not the Driver's. In the parking lot, Bernie stabs the Driver in the abdomen as he pulls the money from the trunk of his car. The Driver then stabs and kills Bernie, leaving his corpse on the ground next to the satchel of money. Later that evening, Irene knocks on the Driver's apartment door, but there is no answer. The film ends with the Driver driving through the night.