Mowgli is the five year old son of Nathoo, an Indian tour guide. Nathoo is guiding a group of soldiers in the jungle. Among them is Colonel Geoffrey Brydon, his five year old daughter Katherine "Kitty" Brydon and Dr. Julius Plumford. Mowgli and Kitty are extremely close friends and often give signs of a young romance. Kitty gives Mowgli a bracelet which once belonged to her mother. The group soon learn that Shere Khan, the mighty tiger, is on the move, because he knows some of Brydon's men have broken the jungle law by killing several animals for fun, to which Shere Khan opposes. Later that night, Shere Khan attacks the camp, killing Nathoo and two of Brydon's men. Mowgli and his pet wolf cub are lost in the confusion - Mowgli is now assumed to be dead. The next day, Bagheera the panther finds Mowgli and his wolf cub - he brings them to the wolf pack who adopt them. Mowgli also befriends Baloo the bear cub. The boy develops a strong bond with the animals.
Years later, Mowgli finds Monkey City whilst chasing a small monkey who has stolen the bracelet belonging to Kitty. In the City, King Louie refuses to give the bracelet back, and he summons his pet and guardian, Kaa, an enormous and deadly python. Kaa engages Mowgli in a fierce duel, but Mowgli eventually defeats Kaa, and is given back the bracelet afterwards.
Kitty and her father have returned to India. She again encounters Mowgli, but they do not recognize one another. Kitty is in a relationship with William Boone, a loyal yet arrogant soldier. Mowgli enters the Man Village in search of Kitty. Kitty recognizes Mowgli when she sees he is wearing the bracelet she gave him when they were children. Boone and his men place Mowgli in prison. Kitty and Dr. Plumford decide that they must help Mowgli learn the ways of man again. Kitty and Mowgli find themselves falling in love but Brydon does not approve of this because he believes Mowgli is unacceptable for Kitty for being raised by animals, despite being relieved that Mowgli is alive.
Boone, meanwhile, has discovered a dagger which Mowgli was in possession of. He learns that this treasure comes from Monkey City and he decides that he must force Mowgli to show he and his men the way to the city. Boone asks Kitty to marry him, to which she accepts. Mowgli leaves the village as he believes he does not belong there. Kitty calls off her engagement to Boone after his cruel treatment to Mowgli and Brydon decides to send her back to England.
The next day, Boone teams up with Sgt. Harley, Lt. Wilkins, Buldeo, and Tabaqui in order to capture Mowgli so they can get to the treasure. They nearly succeed until Baloo intervenes and is shot. The men then call bandits to ambush Kitty and her father. One of the bandits shoots Brydon in the leg, but Bagheera and the wolf pack intervene and kill most of the bandits. Boone and his men threaten to kill Kitty and her father if Mowgli does not lead them to the treasure. Mowgli agrees to take them.
The next morning, Harley sinks in quicksand after trying to catch Mowgli after he escapes with Bagheera's aid. The rest of the group apart from Brydon, who is left to die by Boone, set off on the trail. Mowgli leads Brydon back to the village on an elephant and promises to bring Kitty back. As the expedition continues, Tabaqui engages in a fight-to-the-death with Mowgli (in which Mowgli wins) and Wilkins is mauled by Shere Khan. As the remaining group reaches the temple, Buldeo chases Mowgli and tries to shoot him but inadvertently sets off a booby trap, burying himself alive. Only Mowgli, Kitty and Boone reach the treasure room. Mowgli defeats Boone in a fierce sword fight and he and Kitty escape. Boone starts gathering treasure when Kaa (summoned by King Louie) suddenly appears and scares Boone into falling into the moat. Boone is weighed to the bottom by a treasure-filled backpack, and after seeing the skeletons of Kaa's past victims, he is ambushed and killed by the huge snake.
Outside the temple, Mowgli and Kitty are confronted by Shere Khan. Mowgli and Shere Khan stare one another down until Shere Khan sees Mowgli as a creature of the jungle - fulfilling a dream Mowgli had once had. Because of this, the honorable Shere Khan spares Mowgli and Kitty and allows them to go. When Mowgli and Kitty return, they are delighted to see Brydon and Baloo, both of whom have been cured by Dr. Plumford. Mowgli is now Lord of the Jungle and he and Kitty share a passionate kiss under a waterfall.
- The US release has Kenny Loggins's song Two Different Worlds during the end credits, whereas the opening track simply plays in international releases.
- While the film has Disney's involvement in the credits (including the plain green text-based Walt Disney Pictures logo), other regional versions of the film do not mention at all Disney's involvement in the credits; e.g. the "WALT DISNEY PICTURES PRESENTS" opening credit in the default release is replaced with "SHARAD PATEL PRESENTS" and the end credit "DISTRIBUTED BY BUENA VISTA PICTURES DISTRIBUTION, INC" and the plain green text-based Walt Disney Pictures logo are not seen at all.
- Anirudh Agarwal's name is incorrectly spelled in the credits as "Anirudh Agrawal".
- Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli, the main protagonist
- Cary Elwes as Captain William Boone, a ruthless and arrogant man and the main antagonist.
- Lena Headey as Katherine "Kitty" Brydon, Mowgli's love interest
- Sam Neill as Colonel Geoffrey Brydon/Narrator
- John Cleese as Dr. Julius Plumford
- Jason Flemyng as Lt. John Wilkins
- Ron Donachie as Sergeant Harley
- Faran Tahir as Nathoo
- Sean Naegeli as Mowgli, age 5
- Joanna Wolff as Kitty Brydon, age 5
- Stefan Kalipha as Buldeo
- Anirudh Agarwal as Tabaqui
- Liza Walker as Alice
- Rachel Robertson as Rose
- Natalie Morse as Margareta
- Rick Glassey as Sergeant Claibourne
- Gerry Crampton as Sergeant Major
- Amrik Gill as Butler
- Baloo - Casey - A male brown bear (Ed Gale as Baby Baloo (uncredited)).
- Bagheera - Shadow - A male black panther.
- Grey Brother - Shannon - A female Indian Grey wolf.
- King Louie - Lowell - A male Bornean orangutan.
- Shere Khan - Bombay - A male Bengal tiger owned by Randy Miller.
- Kaa is portrayed by both a computer-generated and a real anaconda. Other trained animals were monkeys, elephants, camels, horses, zebus, and wolves.
Filming took place in India (Bombay and Jodhpur) and parts of the southern United States (South Carolina and Tennessee).
The movie was adaptated into a 1996 game, which includes clips from the film, while providing an original story and new characters.
The game follows the player in his/her quest to save the jungle. Soldiers have stolen King Louie's crown and the player must recover it to prevent the jungle from losing its magic. The player is aided by a Scotsman named Ilgwom ("Mowgli" spelled backwards) and his chimpanzee, Lahtee, while also guided by a spirit made from Mowgli's memories.