We first meet Hughes as a twentysomething millionaire, having already made a fortune improving the design of oil-drilling bits. He goes to Hollywood intent on getting into the burgeoning film business, and thanks to his relentless perfectionism, he is soon the king of LA making Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani) a star and enjoying a romance with Katharine Hepburn (a scene-stealing Cate Blanchett).
But Hollywood's old-boy network never fully accepts Hughes, and in time his passion for flying begins to reclaim his attentions. Soon he's designing new planes, setting air speed records, flying around the world, and risking his life testing aircraft. Hughes also finds time to romance Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).
But as his ideas become bolder, he becomes more eccentric, leading to bitter feuds and, eventually, a descent into madness.
Also look out for Jude Law, Willem Dafoe and Ian Holm.