Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, a sports agent writes the truth about the business, and after losing his job with the company he struggles to keep clients. His fiancée ends their engagement, but one woman believes in his principles and works for him.
Sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) talks about talented young athletes but notes that quarterback Frank Cushman (Jerry O’Connell) is his most important client. Jerry operates behind the scenes. He meets people and says he is going to a meeting. He works in a tall building at Sports Management International. He sits around a large table. On the phone he talks to his athletes. Jerry notices that the business has gotten worse lately. One of his clients tells a boy he cannot sign his name on that brand of card. Another boy tells Maguire that his father has had four concussions and asks someone to tell him to stop.
At a Miami conference Jerry says he had a breakthrough. He started writing a mission statement for the future of their company. Soon he had written 25 pages. He believes they should protect their clients. He remembers that his mentor Dicky Fox told him the key is personal relationships. Jerry believes he should have fewer clients. He takes it in to make copies with the title “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business.” He puts a copy in the mail box of everyone in the company.
In his bedroom he watches television and makes a call asking about the manuscripts.
Jerry goes to work, and many employees applaud him.
On a plane Jerry is sitting next to Bobbi Fallon who says she is producing coke commercials. She asks him to tell her about his fiancée. He says they were hiking, and he decided not to propose. Then back at the hotel he heard the wedding march and asked her to marry him. A mother with a child overhears him.
At the airport Jerry learns that the mother Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger) is looking for her son Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki). He offers to help and points to him on the luggage conveyor. She tells her boy that he scared her. She thanks him and says she loved his memo and calls it revolutionary. She likes the part about embracing the virginal and forcing commerce to give a little back for the greater good. She says that was inspired and admires him for putting himself out there. They are swinging her boy, and he says he does not mind. He offers them a ride, and she says they have to go to Manhattan Beach. She admits she drank too much coffee. She says her sister Laurel is there to pick them up. He says it was a pleasure meeting her and walks off. She tells her boy that it would take a classy babe to snag him.
Jerry is having sex with Avery Bishop (Kelly Preston) as she shouts, “Never better.” They stop, and she offers to get him something from the kitchen. He says they don’t have to tell each other everything. At a table they sit in the nude and eat strawberries.
At his bachelor party men congratulate Jerry, and he smokes a cigar. They watch a video of women talking about Jerry. Several say that he cannot be alone. Some criticize him for lacking intimacy or lying; others say they love him.
Jerry comes to work, and in his office Marcee Tidwell (Regina King) says that Rod is very upset. Jerry says hello to her boy. Marcee says she is pregnant and does not want bullshit. The agent Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) opens the door, and Jerry introduces him to Marcee. She asks if he called their house, and Bob stays out and closes the door. Marcee complains he put her husband in a waterbed commercial when the four jewels of endorsements are shoes, cars, clothing lines, and soft drinks. She majored in marketing, and she and her husband came to play.
Jerry meets Bob Sugar at a restaurant for lunch. Bob says he came there to fire him. Jerry says it is a crowded restaurant so that he won’t make a scene. Jerry calls him ungrateful and says he wrote that he wants fewer clients. Bob feels sorry for himself that he had to fire his mentor and asks Jerry to get beyond himself. Jerry says he is over it, and he wants all his clients and Bob’s too. Bob says, “Whatever,” and Jerry leaves the restaurant.
Jerry goes back to the office and falls on the floor. He tells Wendy to bring him his numbers. He tries to make a call, but the line is busy.
On the street Bob is calling Frank Cushman who says he just wants to play football. Bob says Maguire melted down, and he got him a Doritos endorsement.
Jerry tells Wendy to keep calling Cushman.
Bob is handed another phone and talks to Martinez.
Jerry tells Carlo that he will cut his commission of 25% to SMI by 7%.
Bob warns Martinez that Maguire’s problem was due to drugs and advises him not to let him represent him in the draft.
Jerry asks his client to listen to his heart and gets bad news.
In the office Dorothy learns that Maguire was fired. Jerry and Bob talk to their clients on the phone, and most seem to be staying with SMI and Bob. They both call Kathie Sanders.
Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) shouts on the phone to Jerry who asks to meet him in person. Jerry is told that he has eight calls, and Rod keeps on talking. Rod says he has an ant problem in his house. He complains no one is looking out for him. Jerry asks if he is in or out. Rod says he wants to stay in Arizona. He and his wife like him, and he will stay with him. Rod asks him to show him the money, and he jumps up and down. He says he has Bob Sugar on the other line. He makes Jerry repeat the phrase several times. In the office they hear Jerry shouting, “Show me the money!” and “I love black people.” Rod says he is still his agent and hangs up.
Jerry carries a box of stuff and pretends he is flipping out. He says he helped build that office, and he says treating people and manners are important. He says the fish are coming with him, and he scoops one out with a net and puts it in a plastic bag. He asks who will come with him, and no one says anything. He says it is embarrassing and asks Wendy who says she is three months away from a pay increase. He says okay, and Dorothy stands up and says she will go with him. He thanks her, and she walks out with him.
In the elevator Dorothy asks Jerry if he will have a medical program. He assures her and says they will do all right. A romantic couple gets in the elevator, and they use sign language, kiss, and go out. Jerry wonders what he said, and Dorothy says he signed, “You complete me.”
In a house women are meeting in a support group. In the kitchen Dorothy says to her sister Laurel Boyd (Bonnie Hunt) that she will have medical. She asks where her son Ray is and tells Laurel not to leave him with a divorced women’s group while she is lecturing her. Dorothy finds Ray and takes him away from the group.
At home Avery tells Jerry that if he keeps his superstar quarterback Cushman in Texas that others will stay with him. She says he told her that, and he says he was trying to sleep with her at the time. She tries to build him up and says he is not a loser. He gets upset, and she says she meant something else.
Jerry collects himself and finds Matt Cushman (Beau Bridges) in the back of the house. Jerry starts to warn him about staying with SMI, but Matt says he has decided to stay with Jerry who hugs him. Matt said he told himself if he shows up, we stick with him. Frank comes in, and Matt says he wants him to be picked first in the draft. Matt tells Jerry he has his word.
Jerry is driving and singing to rock music.
Dorothy answers the phone and tells Jerry that Avery had to fly to Atlanta. She says her son and nanny are there too. Jerry says he signed Cushman again, and they are back.
In a car as Dorothy drives, Jerry on the phone tells Avery they will meet her at the airport gate. Dorothy asks Jerry if Tidwell smokes. Jerry cites sports statistics to her son. He gets out of the car and asks them to wish him luck.
Jerry sees Rod and shakes his hand. Then he greets Frank Cushman who is surrounded by reporters.
Later Jerry finds Rod and builds him up as the best wide receiver in the game. He has him walk with him in the hotel lobby, and Jerry introduces him. They do an interview. Jerry tells Rod that may have worked. Rod asks where his endorsements are. Jerry says he has to get back to Cushman. Rod complains that Rebok ignores him. Jerry advises him to take the chip off his shoulder. Jerry tells him to take care and walks off.
Jerry meets with Frank and Matt Cushman and says they have to make a decision. He says that San Diego traded with Denver to get the first pick. Frank says reporters have been calling him, and Jerry advises him to say “No comment” for the next twelve hours. Jerry answers the phone and listens to Bob Sugar make his pitch while he smiles. He says, “No comment” and hangs up. Jerry asks Matt to sign something to show that he is with him, but Matt says not now. Jerry asks if he knows what is going on there. Matt says that Denver wanted to deal with Sugar. Jerry asks if Sugar told him that and asks if he empowered Sugar to negotiate behind his back. Matt says he is sorry and that he is learning. They both say they love his son. Jerry says he has experience dealing with Denver, but Bob Sugar is a kid. He says Matt made a rookie mistake. If he wants Denver, he will fix it up for him. He asks Matt if he signed anything with Sugar, and he admits they signed an hour ago while Jerry was in the lobby with a black man.
Jerry and Avery are walking in the NFL draft room and arguing, and she says she has to finish her job. She asks if she can be honest, and he prefers loyalty. She says they agreed on “brutal truth,” but he says she added the word “brutal.” She admits she is not sensitive and does not cry at movies. She puts her hands on his shoulders and says that she does love him. He says it is over and asks her if something is missing. She says he has never been alone and can’t be alone. He says it is over. She says no one has ever dumped her. He says he is not trying to make history. She says she climbed El Capitan and can make this work. He says no and that he never wanted to hurt her. She slugs him in the face and in the stomach. He falls on the floor, and she says she is too strong for him to hurt her. She calls him a loser and walks away.
Jerry’s mentor says, “Roll with the punches; tomorrow is another day.”
Jerry with Rod calls a taxi, and Rod asks if they arrived in a limo. Jerry and Rod are watching Rod cry on a TV show, and Rod says everyone cries on that show. Jerry says he is screwed. He says he lost the number one draft pick the night before the draft.
On a plane Rod tells Jerry that he has a shelf life of ten years. Jerry orders another drink, and Rod says anyone else would have left him. Rod says he will show him the money.
Jerry comes home and finds he has no messages. He sits on the floor and looks in his phone book.
Dorothy tells Laurel that Jerry is coming over after losing his top client. Laurel is cynical; but Dorothy says he is engaged, and she is part of something she believes in. Laurel opens the door and lets Jerry in. He gives her a hug, and Laurel calls her sister. He says he is glad she is home. He takes off his dark glasses, and she sees his bloody eye. He says he broke up with Avery, and she says that is too bad. She says it is a bad cut. She has him sit down and gets aloe vera for the cut. He asks for a drink. In the kitchen Laurel says she heard. Laurel says she warmed up some food. They bump into each other, and Dorothy has to change her shirt.
Ray comes in and tells Jerry that the human head weighs eight pounds. Jerry answers his phone and hands it to Ray. Rod talks, and Ray asks if he is a football player.
Laurel tells Dorothy to be practical and asks which shirt she wants to wear. Dorothy says she has had three lovers in four years, but none of them were as good as a good book and a bath.
Ray hangs up the phone, and Jerry laughs. Jerry says his father worked for United Way for 28 years and wished they had given him a more comfortable chair. Ray says when his dad died, his mommy took him to the zoo. Jerry says he wants to talk about his dad. Jerry says that in his whole life he wanted to talk. Ray wants to go to the zoo. Ray notices that Jerry used the word “fuck” and says he won’t tell. Ray goes out, and Jerry thanks him for listening. Dorothy brings in two beers, and they toast. Jerry stands up to make a speech. He tells her not to worry about her future. He says if she comes after him, she will lose. He says he is the king and is drunk. He sits down next to her on the sofa, and she examines his eye injury. She says she cares about the job, but she mostly wants to be inspired. He agrees, and she says she is working with him because of the memo. He says it is a mission statement. He kisses her and apologizes for putting his hand on her breast. He stands up and talks about embarrassment. She tells him not to worry and calls him “boss.” He says that makes him feel like Clarence Thomas. He feels like harassing her, and she says she may not sue. He puts on his sunglasses, says good evening, and goes out. As she stands at the door, outside he says he is back.
Jerry watches Rod practice with the Arizona Cardinals, and Dennis Wilburn (Glenn Frey) tells him to meet him at a bar.
At the bar Jerry calls, and Dennis says something came up. He says Rod is too short, and Jerry asks him for a favor. Dennis says he drove the prices up for years, and now he has to wait in line. He hangs up.
Jerry tells Rod while he is in the shower-room that he talked to Dennis. Rod tells Jerry he wants respect. Jerry tells him that this is a renegotiation. Jerry asks him to remember how he felt when he began playing football when it was not for money. Jerry gets upset, and Tod asks him to breathe and talk to him. Jerry says he does not know what he goes through. He asks Rod to help him so that he can help him. Rod laughs and says he is hanging on by a thread. Jerry says he will see him in Los Angeles and leaves the locker-room.
Jerry’s mentor says, “Unless you love everybody, you can’t sell anybody.”
Jerry walks through an airport.
When Jerry comes in, Dorothy tells him that Dennis called from Arizona and will fax them an offer on Tidwell that will make him glad. She says they could use that commission. He apologizes for the other night. He says if they are working together, they cannot have atmosphere. He promises he will not take advantage of her in that way again. She says they have things to do and will just be alone. She starts to leave, and he invites her to dinner. She says she knows a place.
The divorced women are all talking as Jerry comes in and asks for Dorothy. Laurel tells him where he will find her.
The baby-sitter asks Jerry where he is taking her. Jerry calls him the nanny, but the guy says he is an “au pair.” Ray runs in and hugs Jerry’s leg. He gives Ray a Cardinals shirt and other gifts. Laurel takes the energy bar away from him. Dorothy appears in a black dress that Jerry likes. He asks if he is dressed okay, and she nods. She asks the au pair not to keep Ray up late. She says goodbye to Ray who asks Jerry for a hug. Jerry hugs him. Ray likes it, and Dorothy smiles.
Dorothy and Jerry go out the front door, and Laurel brings the keys that Dorothy forgot. Dorothy tells her that is the first time she ever saw Ray kiss a man like he did his father. Laurel agrees that was thrilling but advises her not to cry at the beginning of a date or be a shoulder for him to cry on. Dorothy runs to catch up with Jerry, and they smile at each other.
In the restaurant Jerry tells her about his breaking up with Avery. He says somebody is always to blame. Dorothy says that maybe love should not be such hard work. He says it does not happen every day. Three Mexican musicians ask if they want a song for lovers. She says they just work together, and he gives them some money. She says she knows what he means. Her marriage to Roger was not that good before … Then she suggests that they not tell their sad stories. She says she will be right back. The musicians come over and play while she is gone.
Dorothy on the phone says Buddy has a good heart and that she loves him.
At the door Jerry gives her the left-overs. He hesitates, and she kisses him and says goodnight. They look at each other, and he accidentally breaks the straps on her dress. They laugh, and he kisses her chest. He ties the straps around her neck and kisses her. She says he should not come in or come in depending on how he feels. He says the same for her. He is kissing her, and she asks if he wants to do this. He says yes.
Dorothy comes in and says hi to the au pair and asks about Ray. He asks how it went with the sports boy, and she says it is still going. He wishes her well. The au pair Chad comes out and tells Jerry to treat her right. Chad gives Jerry a jazz tape to play.
In her bedroom Dorothy takes off Jerry’s t-shirt, and he begins to remove her dress. He lies on her and says this will change everything. She asks if that is a promise. He asks what that jazz music is, and they both laugh.
Laurel in her room can hear them laughing.
In the morning Jerry gets up and gets dressed.
In the kitchen Dorothy tells Laurel she will get him up. Laurel says she is worried because she is trusting him, and he may have no emotional stability. Dorothy asks if she should let this guy go. Jerry overhears them. Dorothy says she loves him for the man he wants to be.
Ray says hi to Jerry. Laurel discovers that Jerry is there, and he comes into the kitchen. He makes a cynical comment to Laurel and kisses Dorothy. He and Ray enjoy their cereal.
Later Jerry hands the cupcakes to Dorothy and says they will soon have a real office. Marcee complains to Jerry, and Dorothy says he has integrity. She says he is broke and is working for Rod for free. They are impressed, and Dorothy tries to show them something; but Jerry stops her. Rod asks Jerry what he should do. Marcee interrupts and advises him to reject the shitty contract and become a free agent. She says he is strong, and Rod kisses her. Jerry says that if he gets injured, he gets zero. Rod says it won’t happen. Jerry mentions risk, and Rod asks him to bet on him as he bet on Jerry. They shake hands, and Marcee hugs and kisses Rod.
Dorothy gets in a car and tells Jerry that she is going to take the job in San Diego. He tells her not to talk like that. She says he cannot afford her. He says they will stay afloat and asks her not to leave. She smiles.
A director tells Jerry to get Rod on a camel. They argue, and Jerry and Rod decide to leave. As they walk away, Jerry asks him about dating a single mother. Rod says he was raised by a single mother. He says they do not date because they have been to the circus. Rod says he has to be fair to her; he has to have a talk. If he does not love her, he has to tell her. Jerry says she is amazing.
Jerry and Chad are putting things in a moving van. Laurel tells Dorothy that she is doing the right thing. They watch Jerry hug Chad, and Laurel says she feels sympathy for him. Jerry tells Ray they will like it San Diego. He will see him on the weekend. Jerry closes the door of the U-Haul truck, and Laurel tells Dorothy to get in the car. Jerry kisses Dorothy and says he will see her soon. She says if the week turns into a longer time, do not forget what he wrote. She says he is better than the Bob Sugars, and she kisses him goodbye. Jerry tells her to wait and says they could get married. He asks if she would stay and asks her to marry him. He pulls down her dark glasses and sees she is crying. She kisses and hugs him. They laugh happily, and Dorothy tells Laurel they are getting married.
In the wedding ceremony Ray stands between them and holds up a heart-shaped pillow. At the party Rod sings “What’s Going On.”
In the kitchen Laurel tells Jerry that if he messes this up, she will kill him.
Dorothy and Rod watch a video of Jerry at the wedding. He comes in and says he is going to release it to ESPN. Rod says that is all right. Rod says he did not have the talk and says that was another way to go.
In a game Rod Tidwell catches a pass. In the press box Jerry sees Dennis who admits he is having a good game. Jerry says he will miss him next year.
Marcee and the family are watching the game, and she tells a boy not to use a word.
In the locker-room a woman interviews a naked player. Rod is sitting quietly.
Outside Rod signs an autograph and talks with Jerry as they walk. Rod says he did not get him his ten million. Rod tells him to go home to his wife, and he asks how it is going. Jerry says not everyone has what he has. Rod asks why he married her, and he says because she is loyal. He says it grew from there. Rod laughs and says it is not sexy. Jerry asks Rod if they are really friends. He asks if they can talk frankly. Jerry says he does not have his ten million because he is a pay-check player. He plays with his head and not with his heart. If he will play with his heart, then Jerry will show him the money. Jerry says when they call him a shrimp, he defends him. Rod says he does not want to be friends, and Jerry asks why. Rod tells him not to use that word. Jerry says he will see him in L. A., and Rod shouts angrily that he is all heart. He gets on the team bus.
Rod catches passes in various games. Laurel dines with Dorothy and Ray. Rod gets another cat scan because of another concussion.
In a restaurant Marcee tells Rod no more salt because she does not want him dehydrated on Monday Night Football. Marcee tells him, Jerry, and Dorothy how violent the black films are. She says she hates seeing movies without Rod, and they kiss. Jerry kisses Dorothy. Marcee says her baby is coming, and they all get up.
At home Dorothy asks Jerry what he was thinking, and he says he was worrying about Rod getting injured. Dorothy says she does not know his noises yet. They ask why they love each other. Ray comes in and cuddles next to Jerry in bed.
At night on a step Dorothy and Laurel talk.
In his yard on the phone Jerry says he will be in Phoenix for Monday Night Football. Dorothy sits down, and he tells her he is going to Indiana on Tuesday. She says the whole thing is not fair. He asks her to let him help. She says she took advantage of him, and she did it with her kid. She thought that love was enough and took his proposal as real. She says she can do something about it now. He says he is not a guy who runs; he sticks. She says she does not need him to stick. He asks if she is talking about his soul. She says she deserves that. He asks what if he is not built that way. She says she thinks they made a mistake. He says he is great at friendship and bad at intimacy. She knows that from his bachelor party video because she watched it. He says he does not like to give up, and she says she needs to make the best of things and his need to be responsible. She says if they do not discuss it now, they could spend ten years being polite. She says they should take his road-trip as a long break. He asks about Ray, and she says he will be friends with him. He says he will take him to the zoo. He asks if this is a break-up. She says it is not easy for her. She has a great a guy who likes her kid, and he likes her a lot; but she can’t live like that because that is how she is built. He kisses her chest, and she gets up and goes into the house.
The mentor says if the heart is empty, the head does not matter.
Jerry sits by Ray as he is sleeping. He kisses him and cries.
Jerry takes another plane.
Rod is ready for a game, and Bob Sugar asks where his agent is. Rod says he does not know. Sugar says he belongs with the big money, and Jerry tells Bob to get away from his guy. Bob asks Rod to give him a call and leaves. Jerry tells Rod he missed him. The Cardinals are playing the Cowboys and are hoping to make the playoffs. Rod’s family is watching on television. Jerry watches from the press box. Rod catches a passes and is hit hard. He catches another for a first down. With little time left, the Cardinals are three points behind. The quarterback is sacked. Tidwell catches a pass in the end-zone and is knocked out. Jerry runs down to the field.
Rod’s younger brother says he told them that he was too small for the NFL, and Marcee angrily attacks him. They get a call from Jerry, and he tells Marcee that he is unconscious. Doctors are taking care of him. He urges her to stay calm. She is crying and asks him to do whatever he can. The replay shows that he landed on his neck. Rod wakes up and asks to enjoy it for a moment. He gets up, and his family is relieved. The crowd applauds, and he does a dance for them. He tries to climb up into the stands.
After the game Dennis tells Jerry that he knows. Rod comes out and is surrounded by photographers. He embraces Jerry, and they both cry. A player asks Sugar why they don’t have that kind of relationship. Jerry answers the phone, and Rod tells Marcee that he loves her. Jerry runs.
Laurel is talking with the divorced women. Jerry arrives in a taxi and sees the women through the window. Dorothy confesses that she has been judgmental. She says maybe men are the enemy, but she still loves them. Jerry comes in and says hello. He sees Dorothy and tells her to wait. He says he is not letting her get rid of him. He says their little company had a very big night, and she smiles. He says that is nothing if he could not share it with her. He says he misses his wife. He recognizes they live in a cynical world and are in a business of tough competitors. He says, “I love you; you complete me.” She says he had her at hello. He goes to her, and they hug each other.
Rod is interviewed on a TV show and says he will not cry. The man says the Arizona Cardinals are offering him a contract for $11.2 million. Rod shouts for joy and says he loves his wife, baby, his brother, and his team-mates. Then Rod remembers his agent Jerry Maguire.
In a park Jerry and Dorothy are playing with Ray. Jerry watches him throw a baseball and asks her if she saw that. The three walk together and talk.
The mentor Dicky Fox says he does not have all the answers. He says he failed as much as he succeeded; but he loved his wife and his life, and he wishes you his kind of success.
This romantic drama depicts the competitive business of sports agents who try to negotiate high salaries for relatively short careers. An agent with heart hopes to reform the business and finds himself almost pushed out of it; but he finds a woman who believes in him, and he finds in her and her son a family he can love.