From the beginning of time, the Minions (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) started out as little organisms floating beneath the ocean. Once they fully matured, they made their way to the surface. The narrator (Geoffrey Rush) guides us through their brief history looking for a master to serve. They first encounter the T-Rex. The Minions love following her, until they accidentally cause a boulder to roll the T-Rex all the way to a lava pit. Their next boss was a caveman, but they got him eaten after giving him the world's first fly swatter to use on a bear. Over time, the Minions end up crushing the Pharaoh in Egypt under the pyramid they built for him, they accidentally burn Dracula in the sunlight, and they ruin Napoleon's plans for conquering.
The Minions run into an ice cave in Antarctica for sanctuary. There, they build their own civilization, but they get bored and restless without having a master. One day, a Minion named Kevin decides to go out and find a new boss. He asks for volunteers, but no one is eager to help, except for a little Minion named Bob. Reluctantly, Kevin accepts Bob's help, along with a third Minion named Stuart.
The three ride a boat across the ocean for days, to the point of starvation. Finally, they end up in New York City in 1968. The Minions are amused by the culture of the era, particularly Stuart with the guitars (he loves to play). Bob, however, already misses the rest of the tribe. His brothers comfort him, and they find shelter in an unoccupied room. While watching TV, the reception gets bad, and Bob goes to fix it. They get a secret channel for villains and criminals that advertises Villain Con, where the most notorious supervillains gather to find henchmen, like the currently popular villain Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), the world's first female supervillain. Kevin, Stuart, and Bob think they've found the person they've been looking for.
The three try to hitch a ride to Orlando, Florida where the convention will be held. They're picked up by Walter and Madge Nelson (Michael Keaton and Allison Janney), along with their three kids. They are a family of bank robbers, and they stop on the road to hold up a bank and get away with the money. The cops chase after them quickly. Walter and Madge fire paint at the cops, while Bob grabs a rocket launcher and causes a mess that gets the cops off the Nelson's tail. Impressed by their work, they allow the Minions to tag along, as they are also headed to Villain Con.
The group makes it to Villain Con through a secret entrance. There, the Minions depart from the Nelsons and go looking for a new master. They come across Professor Flux (Steve Coogan), who has many clones of himself from the future, until one of them accidentally kills the original Flux, causing all of them to disappear. The time then comes for the main event, with hundreds of crooks gathering for Scarlet Overkill's big entrance. She comes flying in with her rocket-powered dress and the crowd loves her. Scarlet offers up the chance for a lucky few to be her newest henchmen. She challenges them to steal a ruby out of her hand. The Minions eagerly run ahead until Scarlet takes down a man twice her size. Bob's teddy bear Tim gets lost in the madness, so he and his brothers go hunting for it. They end up taking the ruby out of Scarlet's hand without her noticing. She announces that the Minions will be her new henchmen, while the Nelsons watch them proudly.
Scarlet brings the Minions to her place in London. There, they meet her husband Herb (Jon Hamm), a groovy inventor that immediately likes the Minions. Scarlet tells the Minions that she needs them to help her steal Queen Elizabeth's (Jennifer Saunders) crown. She settles them into their room and recites to them a bedtime story, which we see in stop-motion form with the Minions as three little pigs and Scarlet as the Big Bad Wolf. She REALLY wants the crown as part of a childhood goal when she had little to her name and was always mocked. She threatens to destroy the Minions if they fail her. Kevin and Stuart get scared by the story, but Bob is sleeping like a baby.
Back in Antarctica, the rest of the tribe has gotten along with three yetis as their bosses, until they accidentally kill the main yeti by crushing its head with a giant block of ice. Kevin calls one of the Minions and tells them to head to London. The tribe runs out of the cave as they're being chased by the other yetis, and they make their way to London.
Herb gives the Minions some of his gadgets for the mission. He gives Bob a pair of mechanical arms, Kevin gets a lava lamp gun that shoots actual lava, and Stuart gets a hypnosis hat. They go into the Tower of London and encounter three guards. Stuart hypnotizes them into a big dance number, letting them pass into the crown room. The head guard in there, while blind, manages to hold off the Minions long enough for the crown to be delivered to Elizabeth. The Minions chase after Elizabeth's carriage while the police chase them. Stuart gets in the carriage and is fought by Elizabeth. They run the carriage into a park where Bob hits the Sword in the Stone. He pulls Excalibur out of the Stone using his mechanical arms, and the police bow to him.
Bob is crowned the new King of England. Scarlet sees this on the news and is furious. After giving a speech to the people of London, Bob enjoys his time in the Palace until Scarlet confronts him and his brothers, calling them traitors. Bob abdicates the throne to Scarlet so she can be queen, but she locks the Minions in the dungeon to be tortured by Herb. The torture devices fail to work on the Minions since they have weird body shapes.
Scarlet is preparing for her coronation, while the Minions escape the dungeon and head out to apologize to Scarlet. They come across a funeral and snatch a wreath with an apology note. They get to Westminster Abbey and end up running over a chandelier because Bob and Stuart are scared by a bee. The running causes the chandelier to unscrew from its base. Scarlet looks up and sees Kevin as the chandelier falls on her. She emerges with her rocket dress, enraged. She orders the other villains to execute the Minions. They run into town and avoid the angry mob. Kevin evades them and runs into a pub where Elizabeth is drinking and arm-wrestling. On the TV, Scarlet takes over a news broadcast to show Kevin that she's taken Bob and Stuart, and she will kill them if he doesn't give himself up by dawn.
Kevin breaks into Herb's lab and steals his weapons. The angry mob finds him, and he ends up stumbling into a machine that causes him to grow into a giant and destroy the Overkills' place. He stomps into town as Scarlet have placed Bob and Stuart on top of a huge pile of explosives, and she even takes Tim away from Bob. She and Herb light it up, but Kevin snatches his brothers before they get blown up. The rest of the Minions then arrive to watch the showdown. Scarlet fires a bunch of missiles at Kevin, but she keeps missing, and he knocks her against several buildings. Scarlet comes back and fires her biggest missile at Kevin. He holds it back and looks at his brothers before putting the missile in his mouth. Scarlet grabs Herb to escape, but Kevin grabs onto the dress. With the missile still in his mouth, he lets it go so it can explode. Bob cries, thinking Kevin is dead, while the others mourn him as well, until Kevin comes sailing down using his overalls as a parachute, even managing to get Tim back for Bob.
Kevin, Stuart, and Bob are seen as heroes by the people of London. Elizabeth is re-crowned as queen. She presents the three with gifts as repayment for their services. Bob is given a tiny crown for Tim. Stuart is given a snowglobe as a joke from Kevin and Elizabeth, but she gives him a guitar, which he plays awesomely onstage...until he smashes it and takes the snowglobe. Finally, Kevin is knighted. Suddenly, Elizabeth notices her crown is missing. The Minions spot Scarlet and Herb (having survived the explosion) in the crowd making off with the crown. As they are running, they are suddenly frozen in their tracks by a little boy...GRU. He takes the crown from Scarlet and heads off on his rocket with his puppy Kyle. The Minions are in awe of this evil little child. Before leaving, Bob gives Scarlet the tiny crown to make her happy. The entire tribe of Minions then chase after Gru, now knowing who they really want as their master.
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