It is an alternate future in the year 2026 from a 1926 point of view. The city of Berlin, Germany, now called Metropolis, has become a sprawling modern megalopolis, much like the present 21st century of Dubai, with an art deco flavor to it. The city is sharply divided between the privileged wealthy and working classes, who spend their days endlessly toiling at boilers and machinery to keep the city running. They live underground with artificial lighting in nondescript high rise apartments reminiscent of the Soviet Union during the communist era.
There is a track and field decathlon competition at a stadium similar to ancient Greece with Freder, the son of the master of Metropolis, John Fredersen, participating in it, detailing the nice life the privileged live in. Later on, Freder is in a pleasure garden with a beautiful woman, peacock, and fountain. While he is enjoying a moment with the woman, an attractive young peasant girl named Maria comes out of the door with a group of children showing them how the other half lives and insisting they are their brothers and sisters. Freder is intrigued by this.
Freder goes into a place full of machinery and finds a bunch of workers mechanically toiling away. He can't believe what he is seeing and that men are subjected to such inhumane conditions. One of the machines reaches a temperature above boiling point and kills a worker. Freder witnesses this and imagines it to be the ancient sacrificial temple Moloch, probably due to a Catholic upbringing. After witnessing this, Freder very conveniently walks outside to a taxi driver in a 1924 Opel waiting for him.
After Freder enters the taxi, the audience is given a visual treat of the city of Metropolis, with Freder and the taxi passing through two lights for access on a bridge, then a huge megalopolis of bridges, cars, skyscrapers, biplanes, and a very large skyscraper as a symbol of the Tower of Babel.
John Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis, is a cold, businesslike man with a staff of accountants and working in a huge office with automated curtains, a desk full of push buttons, a picture telephone, and a screen of stocks, much like Wall Streets Dow Jones.