Germany, 1917 – In the middle of World War I, across a field of dead bodies, German soldiers run through the trenches to prepare for their next attack. One young soldier, Heinrich Gerber (Jakob Schmidt), is forced into action, trying to hide in a panic while thinking of his next move. He charges in head-on, stabbing an enemy soldier in the chest before he meets his own end. Later, the bodies of the soldiers are recovered, their tags are broken, and their uniforms are removed and washed for other future soldiers to use.

The country is in the third year of the war. 17-year-old Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer) joins his friends, Albert Kropp (Aaron Hilmer), Franz Muller (Moritz Klaus), and Ludwig Behm (Adrian Grünewald), as they prepare to enlist in the German army. They gather with their classmates and listen to an inspirational speech from their principal, encouraging them to fight for their country so that they may return home as heroes. As they receive their uniforms and guns, Paul is given Heinrich’s old uniform.

The men are taken into Paris, where several men at the base are already injured. The French soldiers start initiating a gas attack, prompting the men to wear masks. They make it into the trenches, where Paul meets Stanislaus “Kat” Katcinzky (Albrecht Schuch) and Tjaden Stackfleet (Edin Hasanovic). The men spend the evening in the trenches, with Paul and Albert keeping watch. A bullet is fired, hitting Paul’s helmet but not injuring him. Soon, the French begin firing upon the Germans, forcing them to hide in a bunker. The attacks get more fierce until the bunker begins to collapse, with some soldiers trapped and killed under the rubble.

In the morning, Paul is pulled out from the ruins of the bunker. He helps to recover tags from the dead soldiers, but he ends up finding Ludwig’s corpse, missing an eye and a leg. Paul takes a moment to weep and mourn his friend.

18 months later, German official Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Brühl) meets with the Supreme Army Command as they go over the many recent losses of soldiers over the past year. The men have gathered to negotiate an armistice with Allied powers.

In Champagne, France, Paul and Kat sneak into a farm and steal a goose. They succeed before the farmer emerges and shoots at them. The men share the goose with Albert, Franz, and Tjaden. They cook the goose and sing a hearty song. Later, the men observe a group of French women walking by, and Franz manages to get friendly and go off with one of them. He returns to their camp with the woman’s scarf, and the men take turns sniffing it.

The men later receive letters from loved one. Kat, who is illiterate, asks Paul to read to him a letter from his wife. While reading, Paul learns that Kat and his wife lost a son. Kat admits to Paul that he doesn’t feel that he would be able to readjust to civilian life when all is said and done.

Later on, the soldiers go off to recover 60 missing recruits. Paul and Albert come across the building they were hiding in, and Kat determines that they all died because they took their gas masks off too soon.

Erzberger boards a train to the Forest of Compiegne to talk to the Allied powers of a ceasefire. General Friedrichs (Devid Striesow) doesn’t plan to back down, thinking the French are attempting to force unfair conditions upon them, and he is confident in the recruits set to arrive in the coming months. Erzberger and his comrades meet with General Ferdinand Foch (Thibault de Montalembert), who gives the Germans 72 hours to agree to their non-negotiable conditions for the ceasefire to go into effect.

Paul and his unit are woken up in the middle of the night to prepare for a French attack. As the morning comes, the attack commences, and the Germans begin laying into the French. Paul jumps into the French trenches and personally kills some soldiers. They hop back into their own trenches as tanks start to arrive. Albert is cornered and attempts to surrender, but he is set on fire and shot. Paul is horrified by the scenes he witnesses, and he also spends time with a French soldier that he wounded in his final moments, begging the man’s corpse for forgiveness after finding a picture of the man’s wife and son.

After Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates his position, Erzberger is given orders from field marshal Paul von Hindenburg to agree to the Allied conditions. The soldiers learn of the war’s impending end and begin celebrating. Paul makes it to the field hospital with the wounded, including Tjaden, who has become crippled. When Paul and Kat attempt to give Tjaden food, he grabs a fork and commits suicide by stabbing himself in the throat over his predicament, all while Paul and Kat try in vain to save him.

Erzberger and his men meet with Foch once more, who refuses to agree to a compromise, and the Germans sign the document for the ceasefire. The news spreads to the soldiers. Paul and Kat sneak into the farm once again to steal another goose, but they are caught by the farmer and are chased off. When they make it into the woods, they split up, and Kat is fatally shot by the farmer’s son. Paul carries Kat back to a hospital, but he is already dead.

The soldiers gather in a crowd as Friedrichs addresses them. Hoping to end the war on a high note for Germany, he orders an attack for 10:45 for the men to kill as many French soldiers as possible. The soldiers are disheartened but forced back into the battlefield. Paul goes in and kills as many soldiers as he can. He stumbles into a trench hole where he fights one French soldier before another emerges from behind and impales him with a bayonet. Moments later, as the clock strikes 11:00, the war is announced as being over. Paul manages to walk outside before he dies.

The remaining German recruits gather the tags of their fallen comrades. One recruit that Paul had saved earlier finds his body, holding the scarf that Franz had been given.

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Paul Baumer and his friends enlist in World War I, thinking they will be viewed as heroes for their country. Almost immediately, they witness the horrors of the battlefield firsthand, with Paul losing all three of his closest friends. He befriends a seasoned soldier, Kat, bonding with him through the experience.

German officials led by Matthias Erzberger attempt to negotiate a ceasefire with Allied powers. General Ferdinand Foch gives the Germans 72 hours to comply with their conditions in order to sign, and Erzberger later agrees when Foch refuses to hear any compromises. While the soldiers learn about the end of the war, General Friedrichs orders them to engage in an attack with 15 minutes before the ceasefire goes into effect. Paul kills as many soldiers as he can but dies just moments before 11:00 when the war is announced as being over.