Based on Samuel Taylor’s play and directed by Billy Wilder, a chauffeur’s daughter is in love with a rich playboy, and the older brother, who is devoted to business, tries to get his brother to marry the daughter of a merger partner.
On a wealthy Long Island estate the chauffeur Thomas Fairchild (John Williams) has a daughter named Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn), who watches David Larrabee (William Holden) dancing at a party with Gretchen Van Horn (Joan Vohs). He sees Sabrina in the garden and walks past her to drink with Gretchen on the tennis court. Sabrina sees them, cries, and runs up to her room. Her father is sending her to the best cooking school in Paris. She hears the song “Isn’t It Romantic?” and writes a suicide note to her father. She goes into the garage, closes the door, and starts the motors of eight cars. She starts coughing and opens a window. Linus Larrabee (Humphrey Bogart), opens the door, comes in, and stops the motors. He finds Sabrina under a car. He has her breathe fresh air and carries her upstairs.
Sabrina attends the Paris cooking school and learns to crack eggs. Her father reads a letter from her to the servants. David arrives in a sports-car, and Fairchild drives Linus to his office. In the car he dictates a memo to David about coming to work or retiring. Sabrina admits to Baron St. Fontane that her mind is not on cooking because she is unhappily in love. David chooses not to hear a letter from Sabrina, and a servant says he is getting married.
David demands to see his brother Linus and interrupts a meeting. David complains about a news article saying he is going to marry Elizabeth Tyson, the daughter of a sugar titan. Linus says he proposed to her father. David tells Linus to marry her, but Linus says he is too busy with business. Linus says Larrabee is going to make plastics out of sugar cane.
Sabrina writes to her father to thank him for two wonderful years in Paris. She writes she has learned how to live. Sophisticated Sabrina waits at the Glencove station, and David stops to pick her up, not recognizing her. He drives her home, and she says her father is in transportation. The servants welcome her home. David asks her out but remembers their party. Her father tells Sabrina that David is engaged.
At the party David dances with Elizabeth Tyson (Martha Hyer), and he keeps saying, “Yes, dear.” He sees Sabrina in a Parisian gown. David causes a drink to spill on Elizabeth, and he dances with Sabrina, who admits she had a crush on him. David’s mother Maude says Sabrina has changed. Linus is demonstrating his plastic to men. Four servants watch Sabrina dance with David. Linus dances with Elizabeth. Sabrina asks David if he wants to kiss her. They plan to meet on the tennis court. David gets Champagne and puts glasses in his back pockets. Linus takes David to their father Oliver Larabee (Walter Hampden), who tells David to respect Fairchild. David has been married three times. Linus says David can marry Sabrina and gets him to sit on the glasses. Linus goes to Sabrina, and they discuss David. She expects Linus to deal with her, and he offers her $25,000. Linus dances with her while David is having the broken glass removed. Linus kisses her for David.
Linus brings a plastic hamac to suffering David with a hole for his butt. David asks Linus to keep an eye on Sabrina and to help him. Elizabeth comes in to play Scrabble with David. Linus goes to change and finds his father smoking in his closet. Linus says Sabrina wants love, and he is volunteering.
Linus and Sabrina go sailing and play a phonograph. She thinks he walks alone, but he says it is not by choice. She suggests he go to Paris. They come home, and Sabrina tells her father that Linus is quite human.
In the car Fairchild hears Linus arrange for a date and asks to be excused from driving them. Linus says he is going to ship Sabrina back to Paris. Tipsy Sabrina talks with Linus in the board room. He says he is taking a boat to Paris. They dine out, and he says he wants someone really nice. They dance, and he wishes he were his brother. As he drives, she adjusts the brim of his hat and sings a French song. David is waiting for them by the garage and says his stitches are coming out on Thursday. She asks David to kiss her and says she does not want to go out with Linus.
Elizabeth tells Linus about her wedding plans and leaves with her father. Linus tells his father that he is sending Sabrina back to Paris, but he is not going with her. Sabrina goes in the Larrabee building and calls Linus and says she can’t see him. He asks her to say what is on her mind, and he goes down the elevator to her. He takes her up to his office. He asks her why she won’t see him. He is hungry and asks her to cook. She is crying and says she has been in love with David her whole life. She is sad he is going to Paris without her. She finds the ship reservations and embraces him happily. He says he was going to send her alone because she got in the way of business. He has presents for her, but she just takes one ticket.
In the morning Linus dictates many changes of plans and is sending David on the boat. David walks in and says Sabrina gave him a goodbye kiss. David slugs Linus, who says they are even. Linus tells David to take the boat with Sabrina. David says Linus is in love with her.
Fairchild drives Sabrina to the dock, and she says she got over David. The board is waiting for David. Linus sees the boat sailing and says they are to sign the Larrabee-Tyson merger but that it has sailed away. David comes in, kisses Elizabeth, and says he will sign the contracts. David says the newspaper has Linus leaving with Sabrina. David says she is taking Linus for his money. Linus slugs David, who says Linus is in love with Sabrina. Linus leaves and takes a tugboat to the ship to join Sabrina.
This witty comedy explores the contrast between the very rich and servants that exists even in American society; but of course the difference is that one may move from one class to another. The two brothers represent the opposites of a playboy and a workaholic, but the comedy and the romance manages to reverse their roles.