East Berlin, 1984. Glasnost is still a long way off; the population is under the thumb of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi), the East German secret police. The Stasi is considered one of the most effective intelligence services in the world. The Stasi's goal was to know everything. The successful playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his lover, the actress Christa Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), are popular intellectual stars in the GDR. But their actions and especially thoughts are not always in line with the ideology of socialist utopia. The Minister of Culture is very interested in Christa-Maria and commissions the Stasi agent Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) to eavesdrop on the two. As usual, the bureaucratic Wiesler dutifully begins this task. Above their flat, in the attic, he eavesdrops on their lives day and night. But the more he is drawn into their world of thoughts, the more he struggles to maintain his loyalty to the state.