The movie opens with A US Government label stating that the following tape was a recorded sighting of case designate, "Cloverfield" and that it was recovered at the site formerly known as Central Park.
The tape opens with Rob (Michael Stahl-David), recording an apartment stating that Beth's dad was gone. He moves through the apartment to Beth's (Odette Yustman) room where she's sleeping on her bed. He wakes her up and they share a touching moment before the tape fast forwards to them talking about how Beth had never been to Coney Island.
Fast forward again to Lily (Jessica Lucas), handing the video camera to Jason (Mike Vogel), Rob's brother, saying that it's up to him to record testimonials at Rob's going away party that night.
Later on, Jason is at the party and quickly hands off the camera to Rob's best friend Hud (T.J. Miller) saying that he has to do it instead and mentions to him that Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), would be showing up to the party. It's apparent that Hud has some feelings for this girl because he quickly forgets about it and agrees.
Hud goes around the room and records testimonials from the party guests and sure enough Marlena shows up and he quickly tries to get her to look at the camera but it's obviously apparent that she finds Hud annoying and quickly runs off.
Another jump occurs and everyone starts to yell to be quiet and Rob enters the room completely surprised.
Rob starts mingling with the guests before he starts looking distressed and asks if Beth is still going to show up. Later, Beth does show up, but with another guy as well. The two share a very tense moment at the door and soon part ways before Hud tries tracking her down and asks her if she wants to say something to the camera. She declines, but Hud keeps persisting until she agrees to talk in the kitchen. She starts to say how she wishes Rob the best for himself, before Rob walks into the room and asks if they can talk. The two are obviously having a fight and they walk back in to Rob looking very angry and quickly say to Beth's date, "Good luck tonight". Beth then leaves and it is obvious that Rob is upset over more than what he's letting on. Hud tries to get Rob to explain, only to have robbed notice the camera and he sternly asks Hud if he had changed the tape out before recording, he says no and Rob is obviously upset (The tape being the recording of Rob and Beth's trip to Coney Island). (Pardon me if this scene is out of alignment, but it's not too far away from being correct) Hud and Jason quickly track down Lily and force her into a side room where she confesses that Rob and Beth had had sex; this is cause for much discussion because Hud starts going guest to guest telling them of their actions. Jason and Hud then lead Rob out to the balcony and start giving him reassuring advice about his situation with Beth, and Jason says that everything will work out for him.
All of a sudden, a large explosion is heard and the camera starts to glitch, they head back in and hear a news report saying that a tanker ship had capsized out in New York's harbor. They all decide to get to the roof for a better view of what had happened. On the roof everyone is discussing over what could have possibly happened, and Hud then remarks how Rob should've got out of town earlier. A large explosion occurs behind Rob deep within the city and asteroid like objects start pelting the buildings around them. Soon everyone is running down the stairwell and burst out onto the streets and soon the head of the statue of liberty comes flying through the air and lands in the street, a glimpse of the monster is recorded by Hud and everyone in the street gathers around to look at the playback.
Marlena who had since disappeared, shows up covered in dust from the buildings and Lily starts to comfort her. Marlena looks terrified and explains that, "it started eating them." Rob, Jason, Hud, Lily, and Marlena decide that getting out of the city would be their best possible bet to find out just what was going on. Soon after the group is shown crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and Rob gets a call on his phone. It turns out to be Beth who sounds like she's in trouble, unfortunately, the group gets split up, and Jason gets pushed along with the crowd. Jason is recorded by Hud as he scales a post to try to get a better view of where they were when a massive tail suddenly comes across the bridge and smashes down on to Jason's position, devastating the structure of the bridge and it begins to collapse.
The four run back and gather around Lily who is crying and Rob who is entirely phased out by the death of his brother. Rob is entirely angry because his phone has died and runs into a nearby department store that is being looted. He's looking around madly for a battery for his phone while Hud records the monster footage from the TV. Rob then listens in to his phone only to hear a message from Beth saying that she was bleeding and couldn't move. Rob decides to go after Beth and takes to the streets. Not much time passes before the monster shows up in full view and the military start firing upon the monster (Which looks like a praying mantis mixed with a slug). They take cover, and when they are able to, the group heads into the subway system to hide. Rob gets a call from his Mom and explains to her that Jason had died, and while this is going on Hud tries yet again to hold a conversation with Marlena. Soon after, they decide that walking the subway tunnels would be the safest course of action, and start heading down the line.
While walking, the group (Rob, Lily, Hud, and Marlena) hears a strange noise, and Hud turns on the camera light to reveal that dozens of rats are racing away from their rear. A strange clicking and roaring is heard and Rob comes around to turn on the camera's night vision setting. As soon as it activates, many strange creatures looking like overgrown vicious beetles, are seen hanging from the tunnel walls and start descending upon them. Marlena is quickly tackled and Hud falls behind, but to his luck Marlena comes to his aid and hits the creature until it lets him go. They race into a nearby station to get their bearings and realize that Marlena had been bitten severely and was bleeding. They head up to a department store, where Marlena looks extremely sick at this point and complains of being dizzy and soon after, they are caught by soldiers who were running a command post out of the mall center.
The commander explains that they have no idea what's going on either and that their only solution at this point is to keep bombing it with passing F-15's. Hud turns to Marlena who says, "Hud, I don't feel so good..." Her eyes are now bleeding and is noticed by a doctor who screams, "She's been bitten!" Bio-suited soldiers grab her and take her into a tent, where her shadow is shown quickly expanding and then blood splatters all over the walls of it.
The commander then tells Rob that if he's absolutely hell bent on getting Beth, that he had better do it by 0600 hours, because they were going to initiate "Operation Hammerdown", an obvious last ditch attempt to destroy the monster by leveling Manhattan. He says their last opportunity to be able to leave would be at a set up base, where helicopters would transport survivors out of the city to safety.
Outside, the group finds the apartment building where Beth is, only to see that the tower had been toppled over against a neighboring skyscraper. Hud then says that it might be too hard for them to reach the top if they tried to enter Beth's building, where he proposes to take the other building to the top and to cross over where it leaned on the side.
They scale both buildings and end up in Beth's apartment where her shoulder has been impaled on a piece of rebar. The three of them lift her off of the bar and move to leave. As they are crossing the rooftop again, the monster appears a couple blocks away smashing through more buildings.
The group (Now Rob, Beth, Lily, and Hud) starts running down the streets towards the base with the monster close by battling nearby forces. They get to the helicopter only to be separated from Lily, who is pushed onto a helicopter and taken away. The rest get on their own helicopter and are taken overhead where they see the monster below getting bombed by a stealth fighter.
Hud starts cheering and proclaims, "Yeah! They got it!", when only seconds later the monster erupts from the dust and debris of the surrounding building and takes down the helicopter.
The camera skips ahead and is staring into the ground. We hear Rob, Beth, and Hud struggling to get out and Hud drops the camera to the ground. Sure enough, Hud jogs back over to pick up the camera only the hear screams from Rob and Beth saying, "Hud! No!”
Hud looks up with the camera and it is suddenly apparent to him that he's standing right beneath the monster. It stops, and notices Hud, who seems paralyzed with fear. In a flash, the monster grabs Hud in its jaws, and starts throwing him around like a ragdoll. The camera falls to the ground, and just happens to land next to Hud's body where it starts to focus in and out on his face. Rob grabs the camera and starts running with Beth looking for cover. The two find shelter underneath a bridge in the park and sit down. Rob seems like he can no longer comprehend the events that have occurred, and he turns the camera onto himself and starts explaining to the camera about how 7 hours ago something attacked the city and that if someone finds the recording, that they’ll know more than he ever did. He says his goodbyes, and hands the camera over to Beth who is crying and just says, "I have no idea why this happened..."
It is now 6:42 am and a bombing run collapses the tunnel onto them. Rob's voice can be heard yelling to Beth, "I Love You!" before another bomb hits and it's assumed that this kills them. The tape then reverts back to the Coney Island visit and Rob tells Beth to say something before it dies, she simply says, "It was a great day", and the movie ends.
NOTE - Sent in by England:
It isn't mentioned in the movie but part of the film's viral marketing campaign explains... At the end of cloverfield, the object seen falling into the ocean is a satellite. The monster was on the ocean floor dormant for thousands of years (J.J. A said this in an interview) A japanese company that produces a soft drink called Slusho! were deep sea mining for a new flavor that they had discovered when they awoke the monster. What's funny is that this company is the same one that Rob was going to Japan to work for.
For more on the CLOVERFIELD / SLUSHO / HEROES connection - GO HERE
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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ALMOST EVERYONE DIES AND THE MILITARY DESTROYS MANHATTAN.
They die in this order:
1) Jason Hawk (Rob's brother) - dies on the Brooklyn Bridge when the monster attacks while everyone is trying to flee Manhattan, this happens about 20 minutes in.
2) Marlena - She gets bitten by one of the mini monsters in the tunnels and ends up exploding once they reach military help in the mall
3) Hud - Gets mauled by the monster right near the very end after the helicopter crash while getting PERFECT footage of the monster.
4+5) Rob and Beth - Supposedly get blown to pieces after the military imposes the HammerDown code and destroys the city, after identifying themselves on tape and embracing, telling each other they love each other.
Lily gets into a helicopter and is separated from Hud, Beth and Rob. It is not really known what happens to her. They don't show her helicopter wrecked.