Twenty-year-old Simon (Bruce Davison) is a San Francisco university student who wants to fit in and meet girls. For that reason, he starts attending student sit-in protests related to the treatment of black people and Vietnam war politics. Simon is not politically engaged in any way until he meets a girl called Linda (Kim Darby), who he likes and wants to get to know better. She tells him that she is very serious about the protests and fully committed to the cause, so she cannot be with him unless he is all in. As their relationship develops, their tensions with the police rise, leading to a startling crescendo.

The script written by Israel Horovitz was loosely based on James Simon Kunen's book  The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary , with the author of the book making a small cameo in the movie. François Truffaut was originally intended to helm the film, but ultimately dropped out, allowing Stuart Hagmann to jump in. Since this was Hangmann's feature debut, and he came from the world of commercials, it is only natural that he wanted to give it his all, which meant overly ambitious camera movement, sometimes to the characters’ detriment—as the critics later wrote in their reviews. But despite its failure to draw audiences into theaters and make critics like it,  The Strawberry Statement  succeeded in winning the Jury Prize at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival.