The year is 2054. Murders can be now be stopped before they even occur thanks to the sophisticated techniques of the PreCrime police unit headquarter in Washington, D.C. The method by which the PreCrime unit prevents murders is through a mixture of advanced technology and Precogs. Precogs are three human beings with powers of precognition that allow them to visualize crimes about to happen.
The PreCrime unit is being audited for its effectiveness and efficiency by Danny Witwer of the Dept. of Justice when the latest previsualization of an imminent murder arrives courtesy of the three Precogs who are essentially prisoners of the system. Their vision of the future puts the finger on John Anderton. Anderton just so happens to be a Captain with the PreCrime program and a hotshot one that always gets his man at that. Anderton is quite the shining marvel of PreCrime efficiency he once was, however, as he has spiraled into depression and drug abuse since his son Sean went missing and the subsequent separation from his wife Lara.
The victim of Anderton’s murder is identified as Leo Crow and the countdown to the crime is just 36 hours away. Even though Anderton claims to have never even met someone named Leo Crow, he flees for his life as a widespread dragnet is instituted by Witwer. Anderton’s escape allows him to track down the person who created the technology which allows the Precogs to previsualize criminal behavior. During their conversation, Anderton learns on rare occasions one of the three Precogs will experience a vision of the future crime that differs from the other two. This divergence from unanimity is referred to as a “minority report” and most of these reports originate from the Precog named Agatha. This ghost in the machine has been suppressed from becoming public knowledge, of course, because if known it could serve to call the entire PreCrime system’s credibility into question. Anderton realizes that his only hope to prove his innocence and avoid arrest for a crime he didn’t even commit is to make his own minority report public.
Technological advancement in surveillance have essentially stripped everybody of their privacy in the future. Even eyeballs come under attack of scanners looking to mine every last ounce of data from potential consumers. As a result of this technology, Anderton must seek out a black market eye transplant in order to keep his identity secret so he can remain underground. He then sneaks back into the Pre-Crime headquarters and proceeds to abduct the PreCog Agatha which causes a system wide stoppage since everything depends on the three psychics working in tandem.
A visit to a hacker becomes necessary in order to download the minority report involving the murder of Leo Crow, but no such report appears to exist. What Agatha does reveal is the image of Ann Lively who was drowned to death by a hooded figure a few years before.
As the 36 hour countdown draws increasingly near, Anderton makes Agatha accompany him to Leo Crow’s home. While there he discovers a collection of photographs of various children. Among the children is Anderton’s missing son, Sean. When Crow arrives homes, Anderton accuses him of being a serial killer of children and intends to carry out the murder the PreCogs have fingered him for, but when Agatha convinces him that he now possesses the power to change his own future as a result of becoming conscious of the narrative. Crow further complicates that narrative, however, with his admission that he’s not really a child killer at all. The truth is that he agreed to allow himself to be set up and murdered by Anderton as a kind of warped insurance agreement by which he ensures the financial stability of his own family through the one-time premium payment of his life. Since Crow now also possesses the power to change his future by coming conscious of the narrative, he chooses to reach for Anderton’s gun and pull the trigger…killing himself and thus ensuring the financial stability of his family.
Leaving the dead body behind, Anderton drags Agatha along as he flees to his estranged wife’s home on the outskirts of the city. While enjoying this brief sanctuary, Anderson discovers that the drowning victim Lively was actually Agatha’s own mother who, under the influence of a drug addiction, sold her daughter to the Pre-Crime program. In her attempt to get her back after going clean, she was murdered. Anderton figures outs that he was being framed for the murder of Crow because he discovered this connection between Lively and Agatha.
What Anderton doesn’t know is that Witwer has now reached the same conclusion about Anderton’s actual involvement in the death of Crow. Investigating further to determine why someone would frame him for that murder, he studies the footage of Lively’s death which reveals that the successful drowning was actually the second attempt on her life. The first attempt had been averted by the Pre-Crime system and the subsequent attempt occurred mere minutes later. When Witwer informs the department’s director, Lamar Burgess, he gets a bullet from Anderton’s gun as a reward.
When reveals to Burgess that he is hiding at her place, he is arrested for killing both Crow and Witwer and sentenced to wearing a device that keeps his perpetually in a twilight state while his body in imprisoned.
Meanwhile, Agatha is put back in place among the other PreCogs and the PreCrime system comes back online. Burgess consoles Lara and inadvertently reveals that he is hooded figure that murdered Agatha’s mother. In response, Lara manages to disarm the device imprisoning Anderton’s brain functions and Anderton in turn manages to reveal Burgess as the murderer by showing the entire video of Agatha vision of the killing during a formal banquet celebrating the success of the PreCrime unit. Suddenly, the system issues a report that Burgess will kill Anderton.
When Burgess and Anderton finally confront each other, it is explained that the reason he killed Lively so soon after the first attempt was that he knew it would be ignored by the techs servicing the system as just an echo of the first attempt that would be ignored. Having learned a valuable philosophical lesson from Agatha about the capacity to change one’s future when one becomes aware of it, Anderton points out that Burgess is sitting on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, Burgess can kill Anderton and validate the PreCrime system, but spend the rest of his life in brain sleep prison. On the other hand, he can avoid prison by sparing Anderton’s life at the price of invalidating the PreCrime system.
Burgess chooses to change his future through a third option: he shoots himself.
In the aftermath, the Pre-Crime system gets shut down anyway and all those imprisoned as a result of it are released. Anderton and Lara reconcile and will soon be raising a new baby. The Pre-Cogs are taken from their own prison and allowed to live the rest of their lives in a sort of freedom on an island.