A group of townsfolk head off to find Shrek, a solitude-loving ogre, hoping to capture him for a reward. While outside, they tell cautionary tales about what ogres do to humans, but Shrek interrupts to set the record straight. Shrek tells them they are thinking of giants, not ogres, and explains that ogres are actually much worse. After roaring loudly, he reminds them to run away. The scene shows two reoccurring themes used in the film, fairytales and misrepresentation.
Duloc soldiers of set up a trade-in stall for fairytale creatures. As creatures with magical powers are imprisoned in cages, Donkey pretends not to speak. When an accident sprinkles him with fairy dust he flies away, taunting the soldiers. Unfortunately, the magic wears off and Donkey makes a run for it, bumping into Shrek. Shrek scares off the soldiers and Donkey decides to stick around. Shrek is not as enthusiastic about his new houseguest.
Shrek accuses Donkey of coming into the house but quickly realises it's not Donkey. When Snow White is pushed onto his dining room table, Shrek learns there are more uninvited guests than he realises. Outside, Shrek learns that evil Lord Farquaad has evicted all the fairytale creatures. Shrek announces he will visit Farquaad personally to fix the issue. The crowd cheers and crown Shrek their hero. Shrek and Donkey leave for the Lordship of Duloc.
Fairytale-hating Lord Farquaad tortures the Gingerbread Man to learn the location of the other creatures. When the Magic Mirror arrives, it tells Farquaad he will only be king if he marries a princess. The mirror shows him Today's Eligible Bachelorettes, a game that imitates contemporary reality TV. Farquaad chooses Princess Fiona but doesn't wait to hear she is cursed to transform into an ogress. Meanwhile, Shrek and Donkey have arrived, finding Duloc castle eerily quiet.
Shrek and Donkey defeat the soldiers Lord Farquaad set upon them. Farquaad crowns Shrek the winner and tells him he's "won" a mission. Shrek protests, explaining he was already on a quest to get his swamp back. Farquaad cuts a deal. Donkey and Shrek set out on their new quest to rescue Princess Fiona. Along the way, Shrek explains that ogres have layers and that there is more to ogres than people know.
Shrek manages to intimidate a mob attempting to hunt fairytale creatures for a reward by exaggerating his eerier characteristics.
While Princess Fiona sleeps, Shrek tells Donkey of all the ogre histories written in the stars. Donkey doesn't believe him, but Shrek tells him that "sometimes things are more than they appear", which is also a clue about Fiona. Donkey presses Shrek about his seclusion and Shrek reveals he is unhappy with the way people judge him. After breakfast, Fiona surprises them by not being as ladylike as they expected, echoing Shrek's sentiment about judging before knowing.
Shrek is pushed to his limits when his once-peaceful swamp is inundated with new residents after Duloc's ruthless ruler, Lord Farquaad, evicts them from his kingdom.
Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona's friendship grows as they travel to Duloc. Donkey interrupts a special moment between Shrek and Fiona, reminding them of the sun setting. Panicked, the princess escapes to a house to avoid Shrek seeing she is cursed. After convincing Shrek to tell Fiona his true feelings, Donkey goes to find the princess and discovers her secret. As Fiona tells Donkey of the curse, Shrek mishears their conversation and believes Fiona thinks he's ugly.
The princess finally decides to tell Shrek her secret, but Shrek is already hurt. Shrek rejects her and Lord Farquaad arrives to ask for her hand in marriage, she accepts, thinking it will break the spell. Donkey tells Shrek to go after the princess, but Shrek yells to leave him alone. Everyone is sad and isolated. Donkey arrives at the swamp and confronts Shrek about his behaviour. The two friends reconcile and head to the kingdom to stop the wedding.
Shrek interrupts the wedding to tell Princess Fiona how he feels and Fiona reveals her secret to Shrek. Lord Farquaad orders their arrest, but Donkey arrives on Dragon to save them. Dragon eats Farquaad and the town cheers, freed of the lord's oppressive reign. Fiona takes love's "true form" and discovers that beauty is more than skin deep. Back at the swamp, Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Dragon, the fairytale creatures and the townsfolk live in harmony, happily ever after.
During his visit to Duloc to protest the presence of unwanted migrants to his swamp, Shrek becomes involved in a tournament to determine who will rescue a princess on behalf of Lord Farquaar.
In their attempt to rescue Princess Fiona from atop the castle, Shrek and Donkey face a major obstacle.
Princess Fiona is "rescued" by a legendary outlaw during their voyage from the castle to Duloc.
Princess Fiona turns the trope of a lady needing rescuing on its head by using an unlikely skill.
Donkey attempts to comfort Princess Fiona when she is at her most vulnerable.
After meeting her soon-to-be husband for the first time, Princess Fiona insists on a specific time for her wedding.
Shrek storms the church to declare his love for Princess Fiona.
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