The remake centers on Antonio "Tony" Montana (Pacino). Tony is a Cuban refugee deported to Miami during the Mariel Boatlift of 1980, during which Fidel Castro sent off not only the relatives of Cuban-Americans abroad, but also the dregs of his jails. After arriving in America, Tony gets his green card by killing a former Castro official who tortured several people to death, including the brother of a Miami drug cartel boss named Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia).
Tony and his buddy Manolo "Manny" Ribera (Steven Bauer) take on a job for Frank's right-hand man Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham), which involves dealing with Colombian drug dealers. The job goes straight to hell, and in a memorably violent scene, Tony is forced to watch as another friend is killed with a chainsaw. Manny rescues Tony and they kill the dealers, getting away with both the money and the cocaine.
Tony and Manny, having proven themselves in Lopez's eyes, go to work for him. Tony meets Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), Frank's mistress, and starts getting eyes for her himself. He starts to develop aspirations for taking over Frank's business, and gets the chance to move up in the ranks when he meets Bolivian drug kingpin Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar), who fills him with dreams of greater things and also has Suarez executed for being a (alleged) police informant. Tony's new way of handling things causes a falling-out with Frank, who sends a corrupt cop to intimidate him and a couple of hitmen to kill him. Tony kills the hitmen and escapes. Tony and Manny confront Lopez and the corrupt cop in Lopez's conference room and kill them both.
With Lopez gone, Tony wastes no time in skyrocketing right to the top of Miami's drug trade. He's got it all — money, power, and a beautiful wife in Elvira. But not everything is well and good in Tony's new kingdom. His success has attracted the attention of law enforcement, his family wants nothing to do with him, and he's becoming increasingly addicted to his own product, which feeds an ever-increasing paranoia that alienates everyone around him, which culminates in him gunning down Manny after catching him with Tony's sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), whom Manny had married just prior and who Tony is very protective of. The protectiveness is so extreme it carries incestuous overtones — an element inspired by the earlier movie.
Tony's world comes crashing down when he gets caught in a major sting operation. Forced to assist in a hit orchestrated by Sosa to get his name cleared, Tony has a change of heart after seeing the target's wife and children get into the car to be destroyed and kills the hitman rather than kill innocents.
Sosa responds by sending an army of assassins to take Tony and his operation down. They besiege Tony's opulent mansion and kill everyone in it, including Gina. With no way out, Tony decides to go out with all guns blazing, and in a furious final stand preceded by the most famous quote of the movie, he blows away a score of Sosa's assassins with an M16 and an M203 grenade launcher before they finally take him down for good.