Big Trouble in Little China begins as Jack Burton, a big-talking truck driver, meets with his restaurant owner/friend Wang Chi in San Francisco’s Chinatown. After winning a bet with Wang, Jack accompanies him to the airport to pick up Wang’s Chinese fiancée Miao Yin—mainly because he wants to make sure Wang pays up on that bet.
Once there, a street gang named the Lords of Death attempts to kidnap another Chinese girl at the airport as her friend, attorney Gracie Law, waits for her to arrive. The gang intends to sell the girl as a sex slave, but after Jack intervenes, they take Miao Yin instead.
Jack and Wang track this gang to a back alley in Chinatown. There they witness a funeral procession that erupts into a fight between two ancient Chinese societies called the Chang Sing and Wing Kong. However, once some warriors named The Three Storms: Thunder, Rain, and Lightning arrive on the scene with weather-themed powers, they easily take out the Chang Sing.
Jack guns his big-rig into the crowd; running over a decrepit old man named David Lo Pan. Thinking he just killed an innocent old man, Jack jumps out of his truck, but he finds Lo Pan is not only unharmed, but glowing with ancient magic. Wang hurriedly pushes Jack through adjacent alleys, and away from the scene before they are harmed themselves. While the two men do escape the carnage, the gang steals Jack’s truck.
The guys head back to Wang’s restaurant where Gracie Law waits for them. Also there is Wang’s buddy, Eddie Lee, and a mystical Lo Pan foe named Egg Shen. They tell Jack all about an ancient magic and sorcery brought to America from China, but Jack gives two fucks about Oriental voodoo. He just wants his truck back.
The group decides to infiltrate a brothel where they believe the gang is holding Miao Yin. While quite difficult, they manage to break into it. However, the Three Storms rip open the ceiling and fly off with Miao Yin before our heroes can stop them. The Storms immediately take the girl to their master, Lo Pan.
Soon, Jack and Wang track down a business Lo Pan uses as a front for his evil doings. They impersonate some electricians to gain access to it. However, Rain of the Three Storms shows up, and easily takes the men down. Thunder ties them up, and then gives them a little beating before the two meet Lo Pan in his crippled old man form.
We learn that Lo Pan needs a special green-eyed girl to break an ancient curse, and Wang’s Miao Yin is such a proze. You see, centuries ago, Lo Pan was a great warrior and even better wizard. Unfortunately for him, the first sovereign emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, defeated him in an epic battle.
To punish Lo Pan, the Emperor cursed him with incorporeality. Although Lo Pan can temporarily take the form of a decrepit body, to break that curse once and for all, he must marry a Chinese woman with green eyes to appease the God of the East named Ching Dai. Then he must immediately sacrifice her to satisfy the old Emperor.
Soon Jack and Wang’s friends arrive to save them, but Lo Pan’s thugs capture them too. Jack, Wang, and Eddie eventually manage to take down Thunder and escape. Once free, they release many, many women held captive there too. During the escape, this wretched orangutan-looking creature appears, and snatches Gracie up before she can escape. Lo Pan is quick to notice that Gracie has green eyes, too, and he decides to sacrifice her for good measure.
Egg Shen, the Chang Sing, Wang, and Jack regroup before heading back to Lo Pan’s lair. On the way, Egg pours each one of the group a magical potion. After Jack drinks his, he feels kind of invincible. As they enter Lo Pan’s lair, they interrupt his wedding ceremony, and all Chinese heck breaks out.
Wang and Rain have a sword fight to the death which sees Wang as the victor. Meanwhile, Jack and Gracie chase after Lo Pan in his restored living form. Jack throws his knife at Lo Pan, but misses. Lo Pan picks it up, says goodbye to Jack, and throws it back at him. Jack catches it midair, throws it back again, and hits Lo Pan right between the eyes; killing him dead. They say it’s all in the reflexes.
Thunder sees Lo Pan dead, and explodes with rage; killing himself. Meanwhile Lightening corners Jack, Wang, Gracie, and Miao Yin, and uses his powers to collapse the walls around them. Egg throws them a life line, and the four climb up the rope to safety. However, when a stone Buddha falls onto Lightening, it promptly kills him dead.
On the way out, our heroes find Jack’s truck in mint condition before taking out Lo Pan’s remaining thugs. They free themselves, and head back to the safety of the restaurant for a little celebration.
Once there, Wang and Miao continue on with their preparation to get married. Eddie looks like he’s going to hook up with reporter Margo Litzenberger, and Egg sets off on a long overdue vacation. Although Jack’s attracted to Gracie, he leaves her standing alone to be a truck driver again. He doesn’t even kiss her goodbye.
As Jack heads out, that wretched orangutan-looking creature pops his head out the back of Jack’s truck. The sole survivor of Lo Pan’s minions, he stows away as Jack’s unknown co-pilot for a happy ending.