Three decades after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the First Order has risen from the remnants of the fallen Galactic Empire and seeks to eliminate the New Republic. Luke's sister, General Leia Organa, leads the Resistance in opposition of the First Order while also searching for Luke.
Leia sends pilot Poe Dameron to the planet Jakku to obtain an incomplete map of Luke Skywalker's location from village elder Lor San Tekka. However, First Order stormtroopers led by Kylo Ren attack the village, killing Tekka in the process, and capture Poe. Poe's droid, BB-8, flees with the map and meets scavenger Rey near a junkyard settlement. Meanwhile, stormtrooper FN-2187 frees Poe and the two escape in a TIE fighter; Poe dubs FN-2187 "Finn". The two crash on Jakku, with Finn presuming Poe to be dead. He meets Rey and BB-8, and the three escape Jakku in the Millenium Falcon. Shortly afterwards, they encounter Han Solo and Chewbacca in a larger ship, but are forced to flee when rival gangs pursuing Han attack them. The gang inform the First Order that Han Solo is aboard the Falcon.
At the First Order's Starkiller Base, a planet converted into a superweapon capable of destroying entire star systems, Kylo Ren and General Hux are summoned by Supreme Leader Snoke, who commands them to use the superweapon for the first time. Snoke questions Ren's ability to handle emotions pertaining to his father, Han Solo, but Ren insists that Han means nothing to him. Meanwhile Han explains to Rey that in the past, Luke tried to rebuild the Jedi Order, but went into exile after an apprentice turned to the dark side of the force and slaughtered the other apprentices.
The crew of the Falcon arrive at the planet Takodana to meet Maz Kanata at her castle, who offers assistance in getting BB-8 to the Resistance. Meanwhile, Rey discovers Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber and flees into the woods upon experiencing several disturbing visions. Meanwhile, the First Order uses Starkiller Base to destroy the Republic capital. The First Order then attacks Takodana in search of BB-8. However, Resistance forces led by Poe, who had survived the earlier crash, arrive and force the First Order to retreat. However, Rey is captured by Ren during the battle.
While Han, Chewbacca and Finn are brought to the Resistance base on D'Qar, Rey is interrogated by Ren. However, Rey manages to resist his mind-reading attempts and, realizing that she can use the Force, escapes by using a Jedi mind trick on a nearby guard. As Starkiller Base prepares to destroy D-Qar, the Resistance devises a plan to destroy the superweapon by targeting a critical facility. Han, Chewbacca and Finn infiltrate the facility, find Rey, and plant explosives. Han confers with Ren, imploring him to abandon the dark side, but Ren refuses and kills Han. Enraged, Chewbacca shoots Ren, injuring him. Meanwhile, the Resistance launches an attack on Starkiller Base, critically damaging the superweapon.
Ren pursues Rey and Finn into the forest, leading to a lightsaber fight between Ren and Finn that leaves Finn grievously injured. Rey defeats Ren, but before she can finish him off, they are separated by a fissure as the planet begins to explode. Chewbacca rescues Rey and Finn as Starkiller Base explodes while Ren is evacuated by Hux. On D'Qar, the Resistance celebrates Starkiller Base's destruction while Rey, Leia and Chewbacca mourn Han's death. Astromech droid R2-D2 awakens and reveals the rest of the map. Using the map, Rey arrives on the planet Ahch-To, where she finds Luke Skywalker in exile.