(Released: Aug 15, 1975)
The Thakur recruits Veeru and Jai
Former police chief Thakur Baldev Singh employs two petty criminals Veeru and Jai to apprehend a psychotic bandit Gabbar Singh who has been terrorising the Thakur's village of Ramgarh.
Veeru and Jai are close pals, who work together as small-time thieves and share everything. They had encountered the Thakur in the past (as seen in a flashback), where after being caught by him trying to rob a train, he let them free temporarily to help him fight off bandits. The three succeeded in doing so, but as the Thakur lay unconscious after sustaining a wound, Veeru and Jai disputed over leaving him for dead and escaping (Veeru) or letting him live and facing jail (Jai). The call was decided over a coin toss, which Jai won.
Remembering that experience, Veeru and Jai are reluctant to help the Thakur in catching Gabbar, but the reward for bringing Gabbar to the Thakur alive is too great to ignore. After some difficulty in trusting each other, the Thakur demands Veeru and Jai's word and eventually Jai promises that they will do the job and he and Veeru decide to stay in Ramgarh to repel attacks from Gabbar's large gang.
The tyranny of Gabbar
Following one such attack, Jai and Veeru threaten to walk away from Ramgarh, leaving the villagers to defend themselves, after the Thakur simply stands stationary when he had the chance to help Veeru by throwing him a gun. The Thakur finally tells them the real reason why he wants Gabbar.
Some time ago, the Thakur had caught Gabbar and had him imprisoned only for the dacoit to escape and plot an evil revenge against him. Gabbar made his way to the Thakur's home and cold-bloodedly, killed his two sons, daughter, daughter-in-law and his only grandson. The only person in the family to survive this massacre was the Thakur's younger daughter-in-law, Radha.
The Thakur tracked down Gabbar but this time, the tyrant held the upper hand thanks to his gang and tortured him, ruthlessly amputating both his arms with a sword. Thakur had shrouded his disability from Veeru and Jai, but now it was clear why he could not physically help them.
In Gabbar's camp, the tyrant interrogates the three survivors from the last battle over why they were defeated by only two men. Displaying his psychotic nature once more, he subjects his men to a twisted version of Russian Roulette where all three survive against the odds. Laughing uncontrollably at the bizarre occurrence, Gabbar shows signs of humour and forgiving as the three men express sheer relief as everybody begins to laugh. Gabbar then suddenly uses the three remaining bullets to shoot the three men dead.
Back in Ramgarh, the cynical young Jai and lively Veeru find themselves growing fond of the villagers, taking pity on their sufferings under dacoit tyranny. Some of the villagers evoke more than fondness. Veeru is attracted to Basanti, a feisty, talkative young woman who makes her living driving a horse-cart. Jai is drawn to Radha, the Thakur's reclusive widowed daughter-in-law, who very subtly returns his affections but neither Jai or Radha ever act on their attraction.
The duo also befriend other villagers and instill a belief of freedom from Gabbar's villainous regime. Among these are the blind imam and his son, Ahmed, and Basanti's aunt, who takes a liking to Veeru and hopes that he will marry her niece.
However, there is another group of villagers who oppose the presence of Veeru and Jai and claim that Gabbar has terrorised Ramgarh even more ever since their arrival. Stating that they will not risk their children's lives, they demand that Veeru and Jai leave, until the Thakur berates them for their cowardice.
As both Gabbar Singh and Ramgarh suffer casualties, the battle approaches its climax when Basanti is abducted and Veeru and Jai follow. As Basanti is forced to dance on broken glass. Jai and Veeru steadily break through Gabbar's defences. Soon Veeru is able to get to Basanti, freeing her and escaping, while Jai holds back the dacoits from a distance with a rifle. Once Veeru and Basanti are safe, Jai slowly draws back and heads for his friends, only to be wounded grievously by a bullet as he is running away.
Jai is reunited with Veeru and Basanti where they realise they are running out of ammunition. As Veeru is unaware of his fatal condition, Jai orders him to go back to the village where he can take Basanti and then return with ammo. Veeru does not want Jai to face the bandits alone, so he suggests that Jai should go. The two dispute once more and resort to what has been their only method of resolution over the years - the coin. As it was earlier in the film, Veeru loses the toss and goes back to the village.