Joe Buck (Jon Voight) leaves his job as a dishwasher in a small town in Texas, and gets on the bus heading for New York City. There he plans to use his considerable (from what the local girls have told him) manly talents to make a splash with (and a good living from) wealthy, high-society women. He is dogged by flashbacks to experiences from his childhood -- suggestions of violence, sexual abuse and abandonment -- yet somehow he has retained an upbeat spirit of hopefulness, joy, and enthusiasm for life. His kindness and generous spirit is heart-rending, and of course, his na vet makes him an easy target in the big city. He does not learn from being ripped off initially, but his trusting spirit remains intact when he meets the sickly and streetwise Ratso (Dustin Hoffman). 'My name is Enrique Salvatore Rizzo ... Call me Rico ... I'm not Ratso ... In my own home, call me Rico.' After initially conning Joe out of twenty dollars, they eventually become friends, companions, and soul mates. With Ratso taking over the management side of the hustling operation, they set about finding the wealthy women with whom Joe hopes to make his fortune, not just for himself, but for Ratso, too. As Ratso's health becomes more of an issue, Joe faces dark choices, leading him to actions he never anticipated.