In the first scene of the film, hooded men chase a lone man through a snowy forest. A shot rings out and the opening credits roll.
The protagonist, Troy McGreggor, finds a map belonging to his late father, who was shot seven years earlier, as the first scene depicts. Troy’s father, Thomas, was an archeologist who met his untimely death after becoming involved in a plot with a mysterious cult led by a strange man named Satoris (Shane Marceau). The orphaned Troy decides to follow the map to learn about the circumstances of his father's death. The cultists learn about Troy and his father's map and begin chasing him in a black Ford Torino, but Troy escapes by outrunning them on his 10-speed bicycle. The cultists refuse to give up, however, and in a final attempt to escape, Troy jumps into the back of a battered pickup truck heading into the Alberta countryside. The truck belongs to a drifter with the unusual name of Zap Rowsdower. At first Rowsdower considers turning Troy over to the police, but after Troy helps him to fix his broken-down truck, he decides to let Troy stay with him. At a campfire that night Troy asks Rowsdower lots of questions, which irritates the grumpy Rowsdower, who drinks lots of beer and rubs his tattooed left arm as if he's in pain.
The map leads Troy and Rowsdower all over Alberta, through some hidden caves, and finally to the unkempt house of a grizzled fugitive by the name of Mike Pipper (Ron Anderson). Pipper was a partner of Troy’s father and has been hiding in the woods from Satoris for seven years. Pipper reveals that the cultists are the last descendants of an ancient and advanced race called the Ziox, who had inhabited the area long before the Indians, and whose civilization was destroyed by their god in a month-long rainstorm after they turned to worshiping unholy idols. According to Pipper, the Ziox built a great city that was more advanced than "anything the ancient Egyptians or Romans ever knew." He believes that Satoris wants to raise the buried city in hopes that it will restore power to the Ziox and allow him to conquer/rule the entire world. Pipper also casually mentions that Rowsdower once belonged to the evil cult and may have killed Troy’s father. Rowsdower reveals he has the cult’s insignia branded on his arm, like the other cultists. Satoris seems to be able to torment Rowsdower through the mark, as we see Rowsdower writhing in agony while asleep, presumably having a Satoris-induced nightmare.
Eventually, Troy is captured by Satoris and his cult, who use the map to locate their ancient idol. Satoris means to make Troy the titular final sacrifice. It’s up to Rowsdower to save Troy and put an end to the cult’s activities. Pipper gives him his horse and an old rifle, and directs him to the ancient Ziox sacrifice site that he was able to decipher from Troy's map. Rowsdower stumbles upon the site of the idol and begins to duel with Satoris, who reveals that when the moment came, Rowsdower could not bring himself to kill Troy’s father and Satoris had to do it himself. Satoris is about to kill Rowsdower when Troy manages to intervene, shooting the cult leader in the back with Rowsdower’s rifle. Satoris’ death causes the destruction of the idol and the reemergence of the lost city of Ziox, indicating that Satoris was the true final sacrifice. Instead of bringing about evil, the risen city (as Pipper had foretold) is actually a force for good, and Satoris' cult breaks up as its members are freed from his evil influence. Troy and Rowsdower observe the rise of the lost city from the ground, then the two heroes drive off together.
The Final Sacrifice arose as the project of a film student named Tjardus Greidanus, who was enrolled in the filmmaker program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. The film was completed with a budget of approximately $1,500 using cameras borrowed from the school. Christian Malcolm, who starred as Troy, was a fellow student of Greidanus and co-wrote the screenplay.
Since making the film, Greidanus has gained success as a director of making-of documentaries, including several for the films of Michael Mann. Malcolm has continued working on stage and screen, and Mitchell continues to work as a stage actor and musician.
The Final Sacrifice was released under the title of Quest for the Lost City on VHS and Laserdisc, although it is currently out of print.
The film was shot in Water Valley, Alberta and Cremona, Alberta.
In 1998, the film was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, as experiment #910. The Final Sacrifice was one of fewer than ten movies made in the 1990s that went on to appear on MST3K, which ran from 1988 to 1999, and subsequently became a cult favorite among fans of the TV series.
The episode featuring the film was released on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 - XVII DVD collection by Shout! Factory on March 16, 2010. It includes an interview with star Bruce J. Mitchell discussing the film and the MST3K treatment. It was selected by fans to appear on the MST3K 2016 Turkey Day Marathon.