SynopsisA driver (Ryan Gosling), who remains unnamed, works in Shannon's (Bryan Cranston) garage, picks up occasional stunt driving work, and moonlights as a getaway driver. His driving skills and precision are made evident when he helps two burglars evade police and split up at the Staples Center's crowded parking lot. The “Driver” always works anonymously, never for the same people twice, and makes a point of allotting them only five minutes to do their business.
Shannon approaches Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks), a Jewish mobster, for backing a scheme to buy a NASCAR racecar and have the “Driver” race it. Bernie agrees to back the plan with $300,000 after “Driver” exhibits his driving skills. Bernie is in business with fellow mobster Nino (Ron Perlman), who, it is learned later, once had Shannon's pelvis broken because he overcharged for his services.
The “Driver” becomes involved with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), when their car breaks down at a grocery store. The “Driver” and Irene appear to be slowly developing a romantic connection when her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), comes home from prison. Standard owes "protection money" to Cook (James Biberi) from his time in prison. Cook beats him for it and threatens to come after Irene and Benicio if Standard does not do a job for them.
Concerned for Irene, the “Driver” agrees to help Standard placate Cook by robbing a pawn shop. Also participating in the heist is Blanche (Christina Hendricks), a woman associated with Cook. The job goes fatally wrong as Standard is shot dead by the pawn shop owner. As the “Driver” and Blanche escape, they are pursued by a mysterious car - Cook double-crossed them, planning to steal the money from them after they completed the job.
The “Driver” and Blanche elude their pursuers and hide out in a motel room. There they discover that the amount of the stolen money was much more than they had been told. Two of Cook's men attack them in the motel room, killing Blanche with a shotgun blast and injuring the “Driver” before he kills both of them.
The “Driver” confronts Cook and learns that Nino has been behind the heist all along. Nino resents the East-Coast Italian mob and has engineered the job to get at them.
The “Driver” attempts to make a deal with Nino: exchange the money for Irene's safety. However, Nino sends a hitman, whom the “Driver” brutally kills in an elevator while Irene cowers in terror. After Bernie kills Shannon and the “Driver” kills Nino, they both meet in a restaurant, ostensibly to broker another deal of money for safety. In the parking lot afterward, as the money is pulled from the trunk of the car belonging to the “Driver,” Bernie stabs the “Driver” in the abdomen. The attack is not fatal, however, and the “Driver” stabs and kills Bernie, leaving his body on the ground next to the satchel of money. The story ends with the “Driver” driving through the night.