Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson & Jeremy Irons
In a remote village in France, Balian, a blacksmith, is haunted by his wife's recent suicide, following the stillbirth of their child. A group of Crusaders arrive at the small village and one of them approaches Balian, introducing himself as his out-of-wedlock father, Baron Godfrey of Ibelin. Godfrey, having learned of Balian's recent losses, attempts to persuade Balian to join him as they travel to Jerusalem, in the hope he will eventually take his place as Godfrey's heir. Balian quickly refuses, and, after resupplying and resting, the Crusaders ride on. Shortly afterwards, the corrupt town priest (Balian's half-brother) reveals that his wife's body was beheaded before burial (a customary practice in those times for people who committed suicide, to ensure the soul cannot enter heaven) and he has taken the crucifix she wore. Enraged at these insults, Balian slays the priest with the sword he is working on. Knowing he will be executed if he stays, Balian quickly decides to follow his father after all, in the hope of gaining redemption and forgiveness for both his wife and himself. Shortly after he catches up to his father, soldiers from the village arrive to arrest Balian. Godfrey refuses to hand him over and, though they win the ensuing fight, most of Godfrey's band are killed. Godfrey himself is wounded by an arrow and, though he is not killed outright, it becomes clear as their journey continues that he will soon die.
In Messina, Godfrey, on the brink of death, knights Balian and orders him to serve the King of Jerusalem and protect the helpless. He ultimately shares with him his vision of a 'kingdom of conscience', morality, and righteousness in the Holy Land, where Muslims and Christians can peacefully coexist, before finally succumbing to his injuries. On Balian's subsequent journey to Jerusalem, his ship is hit by a storm, leaving Balian as the sole survivor of the wreck, though a horse also survives but runs away as Balian tries to mount it. Tracking the horse into the desert, Balian soon finds himself confronting a Muslim cavalier, and his servant, over possession of the horse. Balian slays the horseman in single combat, but spares the servant, asking him to guide him to Jerusalem. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, Balian releases his prisoner who then tells him the name of his slain master, and Balian says that he will pray for his soul. As his prisoner departs, he says that, "Your qualities will be known among your enemies before ever you meet them". After being accepted as the new Lord of Ibelin, Balian soon becomes acquainted with the main players in Jerusalem's political arena: King Baldwin IV, stricken by leprosy yet nevertheless a wise and most sensible ruler, Princess Sibylla, King Baldwin IV's sister, and Guy de Lusignan, Sibylla's scheming, bloodthirsty, and intolerant husband. Despite the respect Baldwin engenders from the combined Christian and Muslim population of Jerusalem, Guy, who is determined to rule after Baldwin's inevitable early death, seeks to precipitate a war that will allow him to dispose of the Muslims and claim the Kingdom for Christians alone.
Guy and his co-conspirator Raynald of Chatillon massacre a Muslim trade caravan. Saladin, leader of the Muslim forces seeking to retake Jerusalem, attacks Kerak, Raynald's castle, to bring him to account for his crime. Balian decides to defend Kerak castle from Saladin's cavalry, in order to protect the innocent villagers surrounding the castle. Though outnumbered, he and his knights charge Saladin's cavalry, allowing the villagers time to flee to the castle; the quick battle ends as a stalemate with Balian's capture. In captivity, Balian encounters the 'servant' he freed, Imad ad-Din, learning he is actually one of Saladin's Generals, who then returns the favor, freeing Balian to Kerak. King Baldwin IV then arrives with his main army, successfully negotiates a Muslim retreat with Saladin and averts a potential bloodbath. At Saladin's camp, several of his Generals are angry that he made a truce, but Saladin dismisses these complaints as a foolhardy rush to war; he will only launch an attack against Jerusalem after ample preparation, when he feels he is strategically strong enough. Baldwin beats Raynald and orders his arrest, but the stress of the events causes him to collapse, and his physicians discover he will die shortly.
Saladin's forces besiege the walls of Jerusalem Baldwin attempts to pair Balian to Sibylla, which Balian does not accept as he refuses to be associated with the necessary murder of Guy; such political intrigue being counter to Balian's morality. After Baldwin finally dies, Sibylla succeeds her brother and therefore names Guy as her King Consort of Jerusalem. Guy, now free to do as he pleases, releases Raynald, unsuccessfully tries to have Balian killed by several Templar Knights and has Raynald provoke Saladin to war by murdering Saladin's sister. Subsequently, in their arrogance, they march to the desert without adequate food and water to fight Saladin, leaving Jerusalem unguarded except for Balian, his personal knights and the townspeople. Saladin's army ambushes Guy and Raynald (the Battle of Hattin) and the Crusader army is annihilated. Guy and Raynald themselves are captured; Saladin slits Raynald's throat, and then marches on Jerusalem. Saladin's siege of Jerusalem is three days of battle wherein Balian demonstrates tactical skill in knocking down siege towers and holding the line when a section of city wall is opened. Having proven their resolve, Balian surrenders Jerusalem to Saladin when Saladin offers the inhabitants' safe passage to Christian lands. Balian points out that when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem a hundred years previously, they massacred the Muslim inhabitants, but Saladin assured him that he is a man of honor, and, keeping his word, allows Balian and his people to leave. In the marching column of citizens, he finds Sibylla, and convinces her to come with him.
Later, Balian is back in his French village. A column of crusader knights rides through, led by King Richard I of England, who tells Balian that they are commencing a new Crusade to retake Jerusalem from Saladin. King Richard seeks Balian, the defender of Jerusalem, to join him, but Balian answers that he is only a blacksmith. After visiting the grave of Balian's first wife, he and Sibylla ride into the sunset. An explanation is given that King Richard failed in his Crusade, negotiated a shaky truce with Saladin after three years of war, and that "even today, peace in the 'Kingdom of Heaven' remains elusive".