The queen of a kingdom was pregnant when she fell ill. The only cure was a magical flower. However, there was another woman, Mother Gothel, had been using the flower to preserve her youth. The newborn princess had golden hair with the power of the flower so Gothel kidnapped her and named her Rapunzel. Mother Gothel kept the girl locked away so no one else could see her. The king and queen searched for the princess, but couldn't find her. Every year on the princess's birthday they released floating lanterns into the sky in hopes she would see them and come home.
Rapunzel had always wanted to see the lights, so for her 18th birthday she asked Mother Gothel if they could go, but Mother Gothel said she could never leave the tower. In the meantime, Flynn Rider, a thief, and his two henchmen stole the princess's crown. They were pursued by guards lead by Maximus, a horse. Flynn escaped to Rapunzel's tower, but betrayed his henchmen in the process. Rapunzel knocked Flynn out, hid the crown, sent her mother on a long errand, and before convincing Flynn to lead her to the lights. After a stop at The Cuddly Duckling (where Rapunzel inspired a group of ruffians to pursue their dreams), the two were caught and Rapunzel had use her magical hair to escape. Flynn began to trust her and revealed that his real name is Eugene Fitzherbert and he is a penniless orphan.
Mother Gothel returned early to the tower and found Rapunzel missing, so she went out to search for her and found her while Flynn is gone. Rapunzel wouldn't return home and believed that Flynn may be falling in love with her, but Mother Gothel reminds her that Flynn is only interested in the crown which she leaves with Rapunzel.
On their way to the kingdom, they met Maximus who agrees to postpone chasing Flynn for a day to help Rapunzel. They attended the festival associated with the lanterns, and at twilight Flynn takes them out in a boat to watch the lanterns above the kingdom. Rapunzel returned the crown, but Flynn set it aside and they almost kiss. However, Flynn, spotted his former henchmen on the shore and paddled in, he returned the crown to them, saying he has something better. The henchmen agreed: they wanted Rapunzel's magical hair as well. They knocked out Flynn and sent him adrift toward the castle with the stolen crown. Rapunzel saw him with the crown and felt betrayed. Mother Gothel knocked out the henchmen and took Rapunzel home.
Once home, Rapunzel looked around her room and noticed the symbol of the kingdom hidden in all her artwork and realizes she's the lost princess. Flynn is captured at the castle, but escaped with the help of Maximus and the ruffians Rapunzel had befriended. He went to the tower where he found Rapunzel chained as Mother Gothel tries to take her somewhere else. Gothel stabbed Flynn and Rapunzel agrees to go quietly if Gothel will let her heal Flynn. Rapunzel began to heal him, but Flynn cut off her hair to free her. Mother Gothel dies and turns to dust without the power of the hair, and Flynn dies from his injuries. Rapunzel cried over him, and the tear restored him. Rapunzel, now a brunette, reunited with her family and the kingdom rejoiced.