Set in Rome after the WW2, where jobs are hard to get. Ricci feels so lucky when he gets a job as a bill poster. However, as a condition of employment, he must have a bike. Unfortunately, he has pawned his only bike. His wife finds a solution: pawn the sheets so they can get the bike back. On his first day working, the bike is stolen. Reporting the theft to the police doesn't much help and Ricci and his son Bruno must try to find the bike themselves all around the city.
In his despair, for the loss of the bike means the loss of the good job, Ricci even visits a fortune teller. In earlier scene we see he reproves his wife for doing so. The fortune teller doesn't give him a solution anyway, for she cannot tell him where to find the stolen bike, as he expected. Later, Ricci almost thinks that he has lost Bruno when he hears someone is drowning. Knowing that his son is okay, he celebrates by taking Bruno to a restaurant. Ricci buys for them expensive meals, because he realizes Bruno is more precious to him than money. The ending is very moving. Again, driven by despair, Ricci only know that he must have a bicycle at any cost. On the other hand, Bruno's eyes are opened, and he sees that the father he adores is only human as well.