Zoolander is a 2001 American comedy film directed by and starring Ben Stiller. The film contains elements from a pair of short films directed by Russell Bates and written by Drake Sather and Stiller for the VH1 Fashion Awards television specials in 1996 and 1997. The short films and the movie feature Derek Elijah Zoolander, a dimwitted male model played by Ben Stiller. The film involves Zoolander becoming a pawn in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia by corrupt fashion executives.
The dim-witted but good-natured Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) is ousted as the top male fashion model by the rising star, Hansel (Owen Wilson), and his reputation is further tarnished by a critical article from journalist Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor). After his fellow male model colleagues are killed in a "freak gasoline-fight accident", Derek announces his retirement from modeling and attempts to reconnect with his father Spencer (Jon Voight) and brothers by helping in the coal mines. Derek's delicate methods make him an impractical miner, and his family rejects him. Meanwhile, fashion mogul Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell), loosely based on German fashion eccentric, Lars von Bennigsen, and model agent Maury Ballstein (Jerry Stiller) are charged by the fashion industry to find a model that can be brainwashed to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia, allowing them to retain cheap child labor in the country. Though Mugatu has previously refused to work with Derek for any show, Derek accepts Mugatu's offer to star in the next runway show. Mugatu takes Derek to his headquarters, masked as a day spa, where Derek is conditioned to attempt the assassination when the song "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is played. Matilda, who felt partially responsible for Derek's retirement, is suspicious of Mugatu's offer, and tipped off by an anonymous caller, tries to enter the spa, but is thrown out. Matilda tries to voice her concerns to Derek once he leaves, but he ignores her. Matilda follows Derek to a pre-runway show, where he loses to Hansel in a "walk-off" judged by David Bowie. Matilda receives another anonymous call to meet at a nearby cemetery. Matilda along with Derek find the anonymous caller is hand model J.P. Prewett (David Duchovny), who explains that the fashion industry has been behind several political assassinations, and the brainwashed models are soon killed after they have completed their task. Before J.P. can explain more, Katinka (Milla Jovovich), Mugatu's chief henchwoman, and her aides attack the group, forcing Derek and Matilda to flee. They decide to go to Hansel's home, the last place they believe Mugatu will think to look, and Derek and Hansel resolve their differences while partaking of Hansel's collection of narcotics. While recovering, Derek also finds that he is falling in love with Matilda. Derek and Hansel break into Maury's offices to find evidence of the assassination plot, but cannot operate his computer to find them. Derek leaves for the show, Hansel following later with the computer in hand, believing that, as told to him by Matilda "the files are inside the computer". Matilda tries to intercept Derek before the show, but Katinka thwarts her attempt. As Derek takes the runway, Mugatu's disc jockey starts playing "Relax", enacting Derek's mental programming. Before Derek can reach the Prime Minister, Hansel breaks into the DJ booth, and switches the music to Herbie Hancock's "Rockit", breaking Derek's conditioning. Hansel and the DJ have a brief fight before Hansel eventually unplugs the system, moments before Derek was about to snap the Prime Minister's neck. Mugatu attempts to cover up the incident, but Hansel offers Maury's computer as evidence, smashing it to the ground which he believes would release the incriminating files. Though the evidence is destroyed, Maury steps forward and reveals he had backed up the files, and offers to turn over the evidence of the assassination plot after years of guilt for his complicity in the conspiracy. Mugatu attempts to kill the Prime Minister himself, but Derek stops him by unleashing his ultimate model look, the "Magnum", that stuns everyone. Mugatu is arrested, and Derek is thanked by the Prime Minister. At Derek's hometown, Spencer proudly acknowledges his son's achievement. In the film's dénouement, Derek, Hansel, and Maury have left the fashion industry to start "The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too". Derek and Matilda are shown as now having a son named Derek Zoolander Jr, who has already developed his first modeling look.