In the film, Comrade Z (a leader of the resistance) has been assassinated and his killers, including the chief of police, are indicted. Instead of the expected positive outcome, however, the prosecutor mysteriously disappears and a right-wing military junta takes over. The security police set out to prevent "a mildew of the mind," an infiltration of "isms" or "spots on the sun."
As the closing credits roll, instead of listing the cast and crew, the filmmakers list the things banned by the junta. They include: peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, Socrates, Eugene Ionesco, Sartre, Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which has been scrawled on the sidewalk as the film's final image, as a symbolic reminder that "the spirit of resistance lives."
Based on a novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Z was nominated for a large number of awards, including an Oscar for Best Picture and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Languge Picture, and was named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and National Society of Film Critics Awards. The film also was also nominated for a Golden Palm award at the Cannes film festival. The soundtrack was also a hit.