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Teacher B.T. Cates is taken to court for teaching Darwin's theories. That results in a debate between famous lawyer Henry Drummond and fundamentalist politician Matthew Brady; the first defends the teacher while the latter prosecutes.
Director Stanley Kramer can't overcome the trepidations of a verbose courtroom drama, so he lets his two actors, Spencer Tracy and Fredric March dominate and go at each other, pretending it's a deep play of ideas.