The Bicycle Thief starts with some men standing around a staircase in Rome, Italy. The men are waiting to hear back for a job. One man steps down and starts to call out names of others. The first name that is called is the name of the main character, Antonio Ricci ( Lamberto Maggiorani). Since Antonio isn’t standing with the group of men, someone comes over and tell’s him to stand with them. After standing there, Antonio gets a job. Antonio will be going around posting advertisements all over Rome. Antonio is also told that he’s going to need to have a bicycle for the job. Although Antonio knows he doesn’t have a bike, he tells the man that he will have one by tomorrow. Antonio then runs home to tell his wife, Maria (Lianella Carell). He spills the great news to her, and she gets angry. Maria gets angry because she knows that at one point Antonio had a bike, but sold it for food. Maria starts to tear off the bed sheets and clean them so they can sell them for a bike. She also asks Antonio to make a stop somewhere after getting the bike He seems to be very confused about what she’s up to, but she wont tell him. Maria goes inside, only to say that she wants to go see the many who gave Antonio work. Antonio doesn’t believe her and tells her that they need to leave.
On Antonio’s first day of the job he is atop a ladder hanging a poster when a young man comes and snatches his bicycle away. Antonio attempts to chase the man down but is thrown off the trail by the associates of the thief. Antonio is then advised that most stolen goods end up at Piazza Vittorio. Antonio, a few friends, and his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola) go to Piazza Vittorio the next morning is search of the bicycle. They spot a bike that looks like the one Antonio owns and they have the police check it, but the serial numbers don’t match, it is not the same bicycle. Antonio and Bruno decide to check the Porta Portese, while there, Antonio spots the thief with an older man. They pursue the thief but he eludes them. Antonio approaches the old man and demands he tell them who he is. The old man will not budge and he walks away. Antonio and Bruno follow the old man into a church where they once again interrogate the old man. This time then old man eludes them leaving them at a dead end. Bruno than rebukes his father and Antonio suddenly becomes furious and slaps his son out of anger. Bruno begins to cry, but Antonio apologizes immediately. Antonio requests that Bruno wait atop a bridge while he searches for the old man, while looking for him Antonio hears people screaming that a boy is drowning. Antonio rushes over scared that it is his son Bruno, but luck is finally on his side when he discovers the boy is not Bruno and he is okay. Antonio decides to take Bruno out for a pizza and a bottle of wine so they can get drunk together. Unfortunately the restaurant is more high class and do not have pizza so they decide to have mozzarella on bread. While eating, Antonio and Bruno have forgotten their troubles, but they then were reminded of them when Antonio spots a wealthy family eating. With no options left Antonio decides to go se the seer for help. Antonio and Bruno, cutting everyone in line, approach the seer who then tells Antonio, “You will find it now, or not at all.” Discouraged by this, Antonio and Bruno give the seer money and leave. Outside of the seers home a man is walking by. Antonio recognizes the young man as the thief. They pursue him and eventually catch him. Antonio then demands they man give him his bicycle back, but the man claims he has no idea what he is talking about. A group of people surrounds Antonio demanding he leave the young man alone.