The story begins within a little German town in the year 1914. While a military parade takes place next to a school, some students, in the company of Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres), the protagonist. He is a volunteer at the army after being encouraged by professor Kantorek who glorifies the military. At the training camp, they undergo sadistic drills under sergeant Himmelstoss, and recruits are sent to the frontline. They arrive at a war-torn French town amid enemy shells and meet some suspicious veterans. Among them were Tjaden and Sergeant Katczinsky, also known as Kat.
That same night, the recruits are sent out to set barbed wires under kat’s commands. One of them loses his sight due to an explosion and upon running in panicky, gets killed. Upon Kemmerick risking his life to save him, he earns a scolding from Kat.
A few days later, Kemmerich gets injured in a shell attack by the French. As the assaults continue, the number of casualties continues to rise, and the German soldiers are forced to retre3at. Soon afterward, they mount a successful counter-strike hence regaining their initial position but lose almost half of their company.
When Paul visits Kemmerich in hospital, he discovers that his leg has been amputated and soon afterward, he succumbs. Paul retrieves Kemmerich’s boots. As the war progresses, Paul seeks shelter within a crater. However, he is joined by a rival French soldier also seeking refuge. Out of panic, Paul stabs him. However, the heavy fighting keeps him in the crater with the dying out soldier. He becomes very remorseful for his action. After suffering a wound in a subsequent battle, he gets leave to return home.
At home, his family cannot believe his account of the war. Professor Kantorek asks Paul to encourage other schoolboys to join the military, but he refuses. He gets ridiculed and returns to the front to find everyone dead. In another attack, Kat gets wounded, and Paul tried to save him but gets killed in the fighting. In the last scene, Paul tries to touch a butterfly in a trench but gets struck by a bullet.