Victorian era England. Artist Basil Hallward is painting the portrait of the handsome young man Dorian Gray in his workshop. Dorian, marvelling at his own portrait, wishes that the painted image of himself would age instead of himself, who would remain young and handsome forever.
Basil introduces Dorian to his friend, Lord Henry, who holds a hedonistic worldview and scorns traditional moral values. The young man falls under the hedonistic influence of Lord Henry.
Dorian is enamoured with the young actress Sibyl Vane, whom he considers to be a picture of beauty and talent. The young woman, who lives modestly with her mother and brother James, swoons over Dorian and calls him Prince Charming.
Dorian, Basil, and Lord Henry see Sibyl perform the female lead in Romeo and Juliet. Sibyl, too nervous to act, performs poorly and fails to impress the audience. Embarrassed, Dorian brutally rejects Sibyl. Unable to bear her lover’s indifference, Sibyl commits suicide. Her brother James swears to avenge his sister’s death. Meanwhile, Dorian notices that the portrait, a reflection of his spiritual metamorphosis, has changed: a subtle sneer of cruelty and a wrinkle has appeared on his face.
Conscience-stricken because of the changes in his portrait, Dorian reflects on what he has done. Dorian decides to reconcile with Sibyl, but Lord Henry informs him that the young actress has killed herself.
Influenced by the morally poisonous Lord Henry, Dorian becomes more and more vicious. It is reflected in the changing face of his portrait, while Dorian himself remains just as young and handsome. Basil stills believes Dorian to be innocent and continues to support him through difficult times.
Years later, a drunk seaman accosts and tries to kill Dorian at a port tavern. He recognizes the man as Sibyl’s brother James. Dorian escapes physical death by a trick of fate, but his portrait has become even more hideous.
Upon hearing the terrible rumours circulating about the once honourable Dorian Gray, Basil tries to reason with him showing him love and care. However, Dorian blames his fate on Basil, and violently stabs him to death.
Left void and lonely, Dorian comes to the conclusion that ‘the portrait is the last vestige of my conscience. I need to destroy the witness of my crimes’.
In a rage, he takes a knife and stabs the picture. The servants of the house awaken on hearing a cry from his room. On entering the room, the servants find an unknown old man, stabbed in the heart, his face withered and decrepit; beside him is the portrait of a young man restored to its original beauty. The servants identify the disfigured corpse as Dorian Gray.