The film centers on five graduate school students in Iowa who live together in a rustic home: Jude (Cameron Diaz), Pete (Ron Eldard), Paulie (Annabeth Gish), Marc (Jonathan Penner), and Luke (Courtney B. Vance).
After Zack (Bill Paxton), a Desert Storm veteran, helps move Pete's car, the group invite him to have dinner at their home. However, Zack turns out to be a racist and Holocaust denier who praises Adolf Hitler, leading to a tense political debate with the liberal students. The evening takes a turn for the worse when the veteran snaps and holds a knife to Marc's throat, threatening to kill him and rape Paulie. When Zack releases Marc, Pete holds a knife to Zack's throat, but Zack easily incapacitates Pete and breaks his arm. Marc fatally stabs Zack in the back to defend his friend, and the group decides to cover up the murder. Paulie regrets that Zack is dead even though he threatened her and Marc.
After a long discussion led by Luke, the students decide to follow up this event by inviting other conservatives for dinner to murder them, reasoning this would "make the world a better place". The students lay down a procedure for each murder. The guest will be given every opportunity to change his/her mind and recant his/her beliefs. If the guests fail to change his/her ways by dessert, the group offers the guest poisoned white wine from a blue decanter and raises a toast. The bodies are buried in the group's vegetable garden.
Guests include a homophobic protestant reverend (Charles Durning); a misogynistic, chauvinistic rape apologist (Mark Harmon); a Neo-Nazi; an anti-environmentalist (Jason Alexander); a racist, anti-Semitic Nation of Islam fundamentalist; an anti-abortion activist; a censorship advocate; a man who beats homeless people (the only dinner guest who momentarily considers recanting his beliefs, until his hosts, in their bloodlust, goad him away from reformation); and critics of gay rights, all of whom are murdered. After ten murders, misgivings begin to surface within the group as a couple of them grow indecisive regarding the justification of their actions. Infighting and guilt compel the group to spare a teenage opponent of mandatory sex education, despite the protests of Luke and Pete.
Sheriff Alice Stanley (Nora Dunn), who investigates the whereabouts of a missing girl named Jenny Tyler (Elisabeth Moss) comes upon the group. By coincidence, the main suspect in the case is Zack, the first victim, who was also a convicted sex offender. Sheriff Stanley grows suspicious of the students’ behavior and interrogates Pete, Marc and Paulie at their home. After finding Stanley trespassing in their back yard, Luke—who is becoming increasingly unhinged—kills Stanley unbeknownst to the rest of the group.
During a school break, Luke and Pete meet famous conservative pundit Norman Arbuthnot (Ron Perlman) and invite him to dinner. (Throughout the movie, brief segments of radical statements made by Arbuthnot had been appearing on the TV that the group had been watching in their home.) During the dinner, Norman stymies the group with his moderate and persuasive arguments, all of which the usually argumentative group have difficulty debunking. He even admits that he says more radically conservative things mostly for attention.
The frustrated students all suspiciously excuse themselves to the kitchen to determine Norman's fate. Jude warns him not to drink the wine in the blue bottle by saying, "It was left out too long and has gone bad." After a brief discussion, only Luke still wishes to kill Norman, calling him Hitler. After a tense altercation, where he aims a gun at Jude, Luke is dissuaded and breaks down into tears. Meanwhile, Norman examines the group's home and pieces together their murderous activities. When the students return to the table, Arbuthnot presents the group with glasses of wine and offers them a toast but does not drink himself, with the excuse that he does not want to be too intoxicated to fly his private plane. He puffs on a huge cigar and says, "Don't worry, I didn't pour any of the bad wine."
A closing shot of a painting portrays all five students collapsed on the floor, with Norman standing next to the blue bottle and smoking his cigar. The film ends with audio of Norman speculating about his possible presidential bid to a cheering crowd, pledging to do the people's will and describing himself as the people's "humble, humble servant." In the closing voice-over, Norman explains his reluctance to accept his fans' urging to take on the responsibility of "the highest office in the land" by saying, "I already have."
Only logged in users may leave a review.