Based on Strindberg’s play, a woman, who was brought up to be equal, has rejected her fiancé and has an affair with her servant.
In 1888 Sweden during a summer festival Miss Julie (Anita Bjork) dances with the servant Jean (Ulf Palme) and then chooses someone else. Jean goes home and tells the cook Kristin (Marta Dorff) about Julie, her fiancé, and him riding. Julie whips her dog and her fiancé. Jean says that ended her engagement. Julie comes in and asks Jean to drive her to the barn. Julie spies on a couple cavorting.
In the house Jean squeezes Kristin’s breasts. Julie comes back in and asks Jean for a drink and to kiss her foot. Julie dances with Jean outside. She describes her dream of falling, and he tells of his dream about climbing. Julie asks Jean to kiss her hand, and he warns her. She asks him to speak to her as an equal.
Jean tells of his childhood. Young Jean (Jan Hagerman) is told to stay away from young Julie (Inger Norberg). He smells, runs away, and is chased; he is caught in the river and whipped. Young Jean washes and goes to church to see young Julie. He tells Julie he wanted to die.
Celebrating people come. Julie gets in a boat, and Jean rows. They hide in his room, where he has a gun. Julie and Jean finish dressing. He suggests they go to Switzerland. Julie feels regret. Jean admits he did not want to die but had dirty thoughts. Julie calls him dirty. She gets drunk and recalls her mother.
Countess Berta (Lissi Alandh) does not like marriage but has a baby girl. Julie says she was dressed as a boy and taught that girls are equal. She did men’s work, and men were given women’s work. The estate did badly, and her father, Count Carl (Anders Henrikson), changes. He plans to marry, but Berta refuses. Carl toasts friends, and the house burns. Paintings are removed, and Berta appears as a bride. Young Julie is saved by her father. Julie says they borrowed money and rebuilt. The money came from his wife’s lover. Carl shoots himself but survives.
Julie says she promised her mother before she died that she would not let any man enslave her. Julie wants to marry Jean, but he does not agree. He tells her to get money and to leave alone. Jean talks with Kristin. Julie comes back ready to go and wants Jean to go with her. Jean tells her not to take her birdcage, and he kills the bird. Julie asks Kristin to go with them. Kristin says she is going to church and sends away the driver. Carl comes home. Julie and Jean consider cutting their throats. Carl finds Julie dead.
This classic drama explores the social changes involved as women strive for equality with men but still have to handle strong social traditions. By trying to be like a man this woman finds herself being oddly cruel to others and herself.