The story begins at Slate & Co where Cliff Vandercave the executive vice president of Industrial Procurement is talking with his assistant Sharon Stone about how they're going to swindle the company and flee to Rocka Poko with the whole company's fortune and all they need is "an ignorant stooge" to complete this scheme which leads to a live action version of the original show of Fred leaving work and taking his family to a Drive-in movie. Fred and Barney have just finished work and are driving down the road listening to the radio. Barney is very happy because he has the chance to adopt a child and thanks Fred for the loan of money he gave them, however Fred makes Barney promise not to tell Wilma what he's done.
The two arrive home and Fred goes to his house where he is pounced on by Dino and welcomed home by Wilma and Pebbles. When Fred has settled down to relax Wilma questions him about the money missing from their savings account because she was going to use it to buy a new garbage disposal. Her husband confesses that he gave the money to the Rubbles to help them adopt a child. Wilma adores him for this act of kindness, but Fred whispers that he also bought a new bowling ball. Later at the adoption agency Barney and Betty are introduced to their adoptive son Bamm-Bamm (short for Bamm-Bamm-Bamm) who was raised by wild Mastadons. They take him home and after giving him a bath, haircut and a new set of clothes he becomes a new member to the Rubble family.
Fred and Barney are at the Bowlarama, their team the Water Buffalos only need one more strike to win. Fred does the last strike his unusual way from the original series of tiptoing (hence his nickname Twinkletoes). The Water Buffalos win and celebrate. Barney reads out a poem about how Fred helped him and ends with "As I stand before my peers and vow, I'll pay him back someday somehow." His friend sobs untill he makes an enormous puddle of tears on the ground and tells Barney how beautiful it was and invites him to have a celebration drink. Fred returns home truimphantly with his trophy, but discovers to his horror that his mother in law Pearl Slaghoople has come for a visit. After a bitter arguement Fred ends it with telling her that one day he will be a "real somebody" and Wilma will get everything she deserves. She leaves and they go to bed with Fred putting out the empty milk bottle and Baby Puss outside who instantly goes back in through the window.
It is Lunch Time at Slate & Co and Fred and Barney are eating lunch with the rest of the employees when Mr. Vandercave appears and tells them that they are now introducing their their new Executive Placement Programme, an apititude test would be given and the winner would be a vice president with a obscene salary and a shiny nameplate. Fred hears this and sees it as a way for him to be somebody. The day of the test begins with Mr. Vandercave giving them one hour to complete it. They all start with Barney easily filling in every question, but Fred does terribly and his friend sees him looking miserable and on the verge of giving up. The test finally ends with Vandercave asking them to slip their tests in their envelopes and leave them on his desk. Barney offers to take Fred's test to Vandercave for him, he sees how terrible Fred's answers are and remembers his promise to pay him back so he switches the tests by putting them in the opposite envelopes. Later in Mr. Vandercave's office, Miss Stone arrives with the results making their "unsuspecting dupe" Fred Flintstone who seems to have scored the highest. Mr. Vandercave announces Fred as the winner much to everyone's surprise and they celebrate.
Fred wakes up and gets ready for his first day as Vice President. At Slate & Co Fred tells Barney that he won't be one of those people who makes it big and then forgets where he came from and that he has big plans to help his fellow employees. With some last encouraging words from Barney and a loan of money, Fred enters the building and is welcomed by Mr. Vandercave who takes him to his office and introduces him to Miss Stone as his new secretary. The office Dictabird talks to him and tells Fred that he has experience and should take some advice from him, but Fred rudely refuses. In Mr. Vandercave's office, Miss Stone is making the finishing touches to a forged construction form, but Mr. Vandercave suggests that they should do a test to make sure that he does whatever they say, which means firing Barney. Fred is deeply upset and at a party to celebrate his promotion, he fires Barney in public. Barney doesn't seem as upset and asks Fred why he was fired. His friend reveals that he got the lowest score on the Aptitude test. Wilma and Betty are shopping and trying on new outfits with Bamm-Bamm destroying a Crystal ornament stall. Betty presents her credit card to the cashier, but he tells her that the credit card is now useless. Betty is heartbroken and fears that she might lose Bamm-Bamm for lack of money to support him. Wilma assures her that will never happen. At Slate & Co Mr. Slate is having a meeting, Fred arrives late and takes his seat. Mr. Vandercave unveils a model of machinery that will be able to construct Modular housing units.
Later in Fred's office, Miss Stone arrives with the forged documents, Fred gets curious about what these documents could be about, he recalls to Miss Stone how contractors can be extreme swindlers and tries to read them over. To stop him from doing this Miss Stone tries to seduce him, Fred almost gives in untill Wilma suddenly appears and gives Fred her idea of letting the Rubbles live with them untill they get back on their feet. Fred is in the meeting room looking out the window at his friends enjoying themselves outside, he accidently breaks the model and when Miss Stone arrives he pretends not to know anything. Fred asks her if this invention could put a lot of his friends out of work, Miss Stone pretends not to know and asks Fred if she didn't get him into too much trouble with Wilma the other day. Fred assures her that Wilma still loves him. Miss Stone tells Mr. Vandercave that she's worried by Fred's questions and feels that they should call the whole scheme off. Mr. Vandercave responds by giving Fred a distraction of a huge bonus. In no time at all, Fred is squandering his money on a new car, house remodelling and new clothes, while poor Barney is going through many painful methods of work including a crash test driver. Barney and Betty begin feeling that the Flinstones are becoming too full of themselves and not being friends to them anymore.
Back at his office Fred is getting ready to leave to take Wilma to a restaurant called Cavern on the Green, Mr. Vandercave arrives with an enormous stack of documents that he promises will give the employees some well needed time off. Despite the Dictabird's warning to read them before signing, Fred ignores him and signs them anyway. At Cavern on the Green, Fred and Wilma are having a good time with Betty sitting down fed up. Barney who is now working there as a buseboy sees on the news that Fred had fired every employee at the company and after a bitter argument with Barney revealing that he switched the tests, the Rubbles leave. Wilma is shocked by Fred's behaviour and leaves too for her mother's house taking Pebbles and Dino with her leaving Fred all alone. Next Morning Fred is met with an angry crowd of employees and heads straight to the file room where he finds the real documents and discovers Mr. Vandercave's true intentions. He is confronted by the mastermind himself who tells him that he's given him all the credit since it was his name on the forms including spending so much money on luxuries and marks Fred as an embezzler.
Fred is now a fugitive on the run who hides out at a hotel. A news broadcast is shown of Fred embezzling, Wilma who is viewing this remembers the Dictabird in Fred's office and with Betty sets off to Slate & Co to clear her husband's name. Fred who is now in a disguise, finds refuge in a cave and chats with one of the employees who was fired, but he accidently gives himself away and a huge mob chases him down the road. After retrieving the Dictabird, Wilma and Betty start heading off to find Fred and clear his name. Mr. Vandercave and Miss Stone are in his office. Miss Stone finds that there is only one ticket to Rocko Poko which means that Mr. Vandercave has doublecrossed her. They hear noise and see Wilma and Betty leaving the building with the Dictabird. Mr. Vandercave knows that listening to that bird would spoil everything and decides to go into another devious scheme. Meanwhile Fred is caught and taken away to be lynched, Barney now a Sno Cones salesman suddenly appears and after admitting that he caused this mess gets set up for lynching too. Fred apologizes for being mean to Barney and tells him that he's the best friend he could ever have. Wilma, Betty and the Dictabird arrive and Dictabird forces Fred to say sorry, then the mob realizes that Cliff was the one who dismissed them and they let Fred and Barney go.
The families return and find Pearl and Dino tied up with the children gone and a note saying: If you want to see your kids again, bring the Dictabird to the Quarry at Dawn. No Police. At the Quarry of Slate & Co, Fred along with Barney brings the bird and Mr. Vandercave reveals Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm to be tied up to a cart on the conveyer belt of the now constructed machine. After Fred hands over the Dictabird, Mr. Vandercave pulls the lever that activates the machine and runs away. The Dictabird savagely bites his hand. The two friends try to shut off the machine with no success. Barney uses the machine's catapult to get to the top, while Fred remembers how he had wrecked the model of it earlier. The Dictabird suddenly appears and so does Mr. Vandercave armed with a rock catapult pistol who precedes to kill them. Suddenly he is knocked out with his case of stolen money by Miss Stone who wants revenge for her former partner's doublecross. Fred puts a large rock in the catapult and launches it just as Barney has left the machine. The machine falls apart and a dirty grey substance oozes out of the wreckage.
Mr. Vandercave is scrabbling on the ground for his money and is stopped by Fred who is determined to pay him back for all the misery he caused. The villain tries to run away, but Fred uses a big round boulder as a bowling ball and knocks him down. Staggering to his feet after the hearing Police sirens in the distance, Mr. Vandercave flees for his life only to be covered in the grey substance from the wreckage of the machinery that falls down a nearby hill just above him.
Later the Police who have come with Wilma and Betty get the full story from the Dictabird and Miss Stone is arrested. But Fred promises that he'll tell them how she helped him and they may let her off easy. Suddenly Mr. Slate shouts for Fred and shows Mr. Vandercave stuck solid under a hardened substance. Fred explains what had happened about the machinery going haywire with the rocks getting crushed and mixing with the water. His boss is very impressed and calls it Concrete after his daugther Concretia saying that the Stone Age is now over and promotes Fred to President of the entire Concrete division. But after a gesture from Wilma, Fred turns it down remembering what had happened before and just asks for his old job back, two weeks paid vaction for all the employees, an Annual Cost and Living increase and little packets of Ketchup for the lunch room. His Boss agrees.
After all the excitement everyone is hungry, Fred offers to treat them all to a breakfast of Snake and Eggs. But when he asks Barney for a loan, his friend gets furious and chases him all around the quarry. The movie then ends with a live action version of the original ending of the Drive-in movie, the Flinstone family getting something to eat, going home and Fred being locked out of the house by Baby Puss. He pulls on the handle, knocks loudly on the door and screams at the top of his voice: "WILLLLLMMMMMMMA!"
- John Goodman as Fred Flintstone
- Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble
- Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma Flintstone
- Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble
- Kyle MacLanhan as Cliff Vandecave
- Halle Berry as Sharon Stone
- Jonathon Winters as Grizzled Man
- Mel Blanc as the voice of Dino
- Elizabeth Taylor as Pearl Slaghoople
- Dann Florek as Mr. Slate
- Elanie and Melanie Sliver as Pebbles Flintstone
- Hllyur and Marino Sigurossor as Bamm-Bamm Rubble
The Flintstones received mostly negative reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 3.7 out of 10 from 42 reviews. Metacritic gave the film a 38 out of 100, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews", based on 15 reviews. Famous film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, on their show Siskel and Ebert, both gave the film two thumbs down.
The film's plot was criticized for containing similarities to an adult film, and for being very confusing. The visuals, however, were praised for remaining faithful to the original cartoon series. John Goodman, who played Fred Flintstone, was praised for his acting.
Rosie O'Donnell, the actress for Betty Rubble, was widely criticized for her acting and received a Golden Raspberry for Worst Supporting Actress. Elizabeth Taylor, who played Wilma's mother Mrs. Pearl Slaghoople, was also nominated for Worst Supporting Actress, but lost to O'Donnell. The film was also nominated for Worst Remake or Sequel, but lost to a different film.
By contrast, the film received four Saturn Awards for Best Fantasy Film, Best Costume Design, and Best Supporting Actress, with O'Donnell and Halle Berry winning.
Joseph Barbera, the co-founder of Hanna-Barbera, was impressed with the film's visuals, but wasn't impressed with the plot.