Paddy Chayefsky's Oscar-winning slice-of-life drama is a heartwarming story about Marty Pilletti (Ernest Borgnine), a lonely Bronx butcher. Marty is a burly but gentle man, easing into middle age without much hope for romance or a career.
He lives at home with his mother (Esther Minciotti), a kind but life-smothering woman, and a small circle of dead-end friends. Marty has no self-confidence and feels he's dumpy and unattractive.
While it takes some doing, Marty's mother finally convinces him to go to the Stardust Ballroom in Manhattan, where he meets a plain-looking schoolteacher named Clara (Betsy Blair), whose life appears to mirror his own. He asks Clara to dance and soon they are smitten with one another.
But to Marty's surprise and frustration, his friends put her down and his mother is hostile to her. Swayed by his friends and his mother, he doesn't call Clara back. But sitting at the bar with his friends the next night, Marty decides he has had enough, and defying his enclosed little world, he rushes to a phone booth to call Clara.
As Marty shouts to his friends, You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog. And I'm a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night ... You don't like her? That's too bad!