Based on true events, Foxcatcher tells the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. When Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is invited by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move on to the du Pont estate and help form a team to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics at his new state-of-the-art training facility, Schultz jumps at the opportunity, hoping to focus on his training and finally step out of the poverty striken situation Olympic caliber athletes like he and his revered brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Driven by hidden needs, du Pont sees backing Schultz's bid for Gold and the chance to "coach" a world-class wrestling team as an opportunity to gain the elusive respect of his peers and, more importantly, his disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave). Trapped in du Pont's majestic but suffocating world, Mark comes to see his benefactor as an egotistical, arrogant, and selfish megalomaniac and grows increasingly contemptuous. Though initially supportive, du Pont's mercurial personality turns and he begins to lure Mark into an unhealthy lifestyle that threatens to undermine his training. Soon du Pont's erratic behavior and threatening psychological game-play begin to erode the athlete's environment, stability, and motivation. Meanwhile du Pont becomes fixated on Dave, who exudes the confidence du Pont lacks. du Pont eventually realizes he is unable to buy the respect he so desperately desires from the world's greatest wrestlers. Fueled by du Pont's increasing paranoia and alienation from the brothers, the trio is propelled towards a tragedy no one could have foreseen.
Dave Schultz and Mark Schultz are brothers, Olympic gold medal winning wrestlers (both from the Soviet-bloc boycotted 1984 Olympics), and training partners. As the older who had earlier success, Dave has always been the leader between the two, Mark largely in his shadow, even in his own successes which are seen largely as Dave's doing. In 1987, Mark is recruited by fifty year old John du Pont - of the chemical company du Ponts - to train under his tutelage at his family's estate, Foxcatcher, which du Pont would use as the name for his camp of athletes. Despite not knowing anything about du Pont, Mark is convinced largely out of John's sense of nationalism and seeming pride for the sport, greater public exposure which he feels would give Mark and the sport the glory they so rightly deserve, especially in the United States. In addition, du Pont would largely give Mark free reign to choose his training partners. Dave is offered the same deal through Mark, but turns it down as he does not want to uproot his family to move to the Foxcatcher estate in Pennsylvania. du Pont sees himself as a Renaissance man and philanthropist, his other interests including ornithology, about which he is a published author, philately, and being a freestyle wrestler in his own right. In the short term, Mark, Dave and John all have the same goal: Mark winning the 1987 World Championship and the gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Despite they having these same goals, other priorities for what they are doing, especially du Pont's, would tear the relationship between the three apart, most specifically as du Pont feels like he is loosing control in front of a worldwide audience, which is all the more important seeing as to his relationship with his mother, Jean du Pont.
U.S. Olympic wrestling champions and brothers Mark Schultz and Dave Schultz join "Team Foxcatcher", led by eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont, as they train for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, but John's self-destructive behavior threatens to consume them all.
- Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) speaks at an elementary school in place of his brother, Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), who is also an Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler. Despite his achievements, Mark lives in relative squalor. He is contacted by philanthropist and wrestling enthusiast John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), an heir to the E.I. du Pont family fortune, who arranges to fly Mark to his sprawling 800-acre estate,"Foxcatcher Farm", located in the western Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square in Delaware County, Pennsylvania and shows Mark the lavish 14,000-square foot, $600,000 private wrestling training facility called the Foxcatcher National Training Center that du Pont has had built on his property. Du Pont then invites Schultz to join his private wrestling team, "Team Foxcatcher", where he will coach, train for the World championship, and be paid handsomely. Mark accepts the offer with du Pont urging him to enlist his brother Dave as well. Dave declines for the sake of his wife and two kids who are settled where they live, however, so Mark moves to du Pont's estate alone.
Mark stays in a homey guest house ("the chalet") and is greeted there later in the night by du Pont, wanting to ensure his guest is comfortable. Through training with his new teammates and du Pont's financial support, Mark excels with Foxcatcher, winning Gold at the 1987 World Wrestling Championships. Du Pont gives him much praise and wants the world to see him as a great coach and mentor. Du Pont introduces Mark to cocaine. During this period, du Pont confides in Mark, whom he now calls a true friend, and tells him how his mother, Jean du Pont (Vanessa Redgrave) paid a boy to act as his friend. Jean du Pont tells her son that she believes that the sport of wrestling is a "low sport" and doesn't like seeing him be low. One day, Mark and his teammates in Foxcatcher take a morning off from training to watch mixed martial arts (MMA) on TV. Angered by this (as well as Mark insisting that his brother will not join Team Foxcatcher), du Pont verbally and physically rebuffs him, saying that he'll enlist Dave by any means necessary.
Dave decides to move with his family to Pennsylvania so he can join Foxcatcher. His stable training environment threatened by du Pont, Mark decides to work and train alone, pushing du Pont and even Dave away. As Team Foxcatcher prepares to enter the preliminaries for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, du Pont's mother is escorted into du Pont's gym to watch him coach his team. He awkwardly demonstrates basic maneuvers for her and the other wrestlers. Jean leaves in disgust after seeing du Pont give his back to his student.
At the preliminaries, Mark performs poorly, losing his first match. Deeply angered by his failure, Mark violently destroys his room, sobs deeply, and goes on an eating binge. His brother Dave manages to break into his room and is alarmed at his brother's condition. Mark breaks a personal weight cutting record losing 12 lbs in 90 minutes to make weight; As Mark exercises, Dave prevents du Pont from speaking with Mark. Mark defeats 2-time NCAA Champion and NCAA "Outstanding Wrestler" Mike Sheets and makes the Olympic team. Dave notices that du Pont is absent, learning that he left for Pennsylvania after being told his mother had died. After returning to the estate, Mark tells Dave that "you and I both know that I can't stay" at Foxcatcher once the Olympics are over and asks Dave to leave with him as well. A documentary funded by du Pont about his exploits with Team Foxcatcher is made, during which Dave is asked to praise him as coach and mentor. Mark loses his matches in Seoul.
Mark leaves du Pont's estate, but Dave negotiates a deal with du Pont to continue to support him financially so he can pursue competition. Dave continues to live at du Pont's estate and train with Foxcatcher. Du Pont is bewildered by his devotion to his family and independence from his control.
Eight years later du Pont is sitting alone in his mansion's trophy room on January 26, 1996 watching the documentary made on Team Foxcatcher which ends with Mark giving a glowing compliment to du Pont at a ceremony depicted earlier. Du Pont then calls his bodyguard and drives to Dave Schultz's nearby home where he finds him in the driveway working on his car. As Schultz approaches du Pont's car John rolls down his window as asks him "Do you have a problem with me?" As a puzzled Dave replies "No" to the question, without another word du Pont summarily shoots him at close range three times with a .44 caliber handgun and drives off as Dave dies in his wife's (Sienna Miller) arms after she had called 911. After a two day siege with the heavily armed du Pont holed up in his mansion surrounded by 75 police officers which includes a 30-man SWAT team, du Pont is seized and arrested by Newtown Township police, a department of which he had been an unpaid but full badge carrying member since the 1970's, and is charged with first degree murder by Delaware County's District Attorney (and now U.S. Congressman, R-PA7) Patrick Meehan and Delaware Country Prosecutor Joe McGettigan (who also put Jerry Sandusky behind bars). The film ends showing Mark as he later competes and wins a bare-knuckle "No-Holds-Barred" cage fighting match with the crowd's cheers ringing in his head.
Dave was posthumously inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame and was survived by his wife and two children. Mark never wrestled again after the 1988 Olympic games, switched sports to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Grappling, and ended his athletic career going out a winner in the Ultimate Fighting Championships IX in 1996. Mark now speaks professionally for Keppler Speakers on overcoming adversity and winning. His book "Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John du Pont's Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold" is a New York Times best-seller. After a three week trial and seven days of jury deliberation, on February 25, 1997 du Pont was found guilty but mentally ill of murder in the third-degree. According to prosecutor Meehan, du Pont was the richest American ever tried for murder. Du Pont was eventually transferred from Norristown State Hospital where he had undergone psychiatric treatment to Laurel Highlands State Prison in Somerset, PA, where he died of natural causes almost 14 years later on December 9, 2010 at age 72.