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In the 1890s, Daniel Plainview, a struggling silver miner, finds his true wealth in petroleum extraction while taking the orphaned child, H.W., as his own for a valuable family man image. In 1911, Plainview gets a tip on a valuable supply on the struggling Sunday family ranch in the impoverished Little Boston, California. In his quest to acquire the property, Plainview meets the sanctimonious Eli Sunday, the young reverend of the local church with his own ambitions for his diocese and the profit from the oil. As the oil wells begin, an escalating conflict arises between exploiters of many kinds while Plainview's canny ruthlessness gradually sinks into a slowly mounting malevolent madness. In doing so, it begins to drive every emotional bond away that all the wealth he gains can never replace.