Penniless prospector Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) struggles to make a living hacking away at the earth, in the hope of finding silver. When he unexpectedly strikes oil in one of his prospects, he travels around California, until he has become a successful oilman.One day a boy, Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) comes to him talking of a place where the oil is actually bleeding out of the ground. Intrigued, Plainview travels to the area, known as Little Boston, and encounters the Sunday family, including Paul's devoutly Christian brother Eli (Dano again). Plainview manages to swindle the family out of their land, and begins his most ambitious and successful project yet. However, an explosion in one of the biggest wells deafens his son H.W., and the boy is heartlessly sent away to boarding school. By now Plainview is becoming richer and richer, and more powerful than ever, yet his success turns him into a monster; he feels as if no man is his equal, and shrivels up into an embittered, vicious old husk of a man.