Ethan Edwards arrives home to his brother Aaron and his wife Martha and their children, three years after the Civil War has ended. Reverend Captain Samuel Johnston Clayton comes looking for help searching for the people who broke into a nearby cattle ranch and stole some cows. Ethan and a young man who Aaron and Martha have raised, the part-Cherokee Marty, go with Clayton. When they find the cattle slaughtered, they realize the deed was done by a local Comanche tribe on a death raid.
When Ethan and Marty return home they find Aaron, Martha and their son Ben have been killed and the daughters Debbie and Lucy has been kidnapped. The remaining men set out to kill the Comanches and rescue Lucy and Debbie. They are attacked by the Comanches that kidnapped Lucy and Debbie and most of the men head back to the town. Only Ethan, Marty, and Lucy's beau, Brad, continue on in search of the girls. On the trail, Ethan finds Lucy has been killed and he buries her. When Brad finds out, he charges a group of Comanche and is killed. Ethan and Marty carry on, looking for Debbie, sure that the Comanches will raise her as one of their own until she can have children.
One year later, Ethan and Martin arrive back at the Jorgensen ranch where Laurie Jorgensen greets Marty with a kiss. Laurie has been waiting for Marty for two years, but when Ethan leaves the next morning without telling Marty, Marty leaves Laurie behind in order to finish his search for Debbie. Ethan has gone to a trading post after receiving a letter saying that someone has seen Debbie alive. The man who gave Ethan the information, Futterman, plans to kill them, but Ethan guns Futterman down before he can.
Ethan and Marty carry on through the winter, eventually finding an old friend, Mose Harper, in a New Mexican bar. There they learn about the whereabouts of Scar, the Comanche war chief who kidnapped Debbie. When they find him, they sit down with him in his tent and see that he has taken Debbie as one of his wives. Debbie later comes to Marty and Ethan and tells them she is a Comanche now. Ethan wants to kill Debbie, but Marty won't let him.
Ethan is hit with an arrow by a Comanche as he fires a shot at Debbie. A battle ensues between the Comanche and Marty and Ethan. When the battle is over, they return to the Jorgensen farm to find Laurie is about to be married to Charlie McCorry. Marty and Charlie get into a fight for Laurie's hand, when a Union soldier arrives asking Clayton to join forces to go after Comanche tribe led by Scar. The next day, Marty infiltrates the Comanche camps, kills Scar after finding Debbie, and successfully brings Debbie back to the Jorgensens'. At the farm, everyone goes inside except Ethan, who goes back to his horse to continue living a rugged Western life.