Ryan Jeffers suffers a disability to his leg preventing him from trying out for sports and fitting in with other kids at school. He is currently the waterboy of his school's football team and has a crush on quarterback Brad's girlfriend. He often seeks escape through comic books and dreams of adventure, hiding the depression of his disability from his mother Kathryn.
One day, the owner of his favorite restaurant, his friend Ming, gives him a manuscript of Tao representing the five elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Wood and Metal. He advises Ryan to live his life no matter his physical limits. That night, Ryan and his best friend Chucky are approached by Brad and his friends who suggest an initiation for their group. Leading them to a water plant, Ryan is told he needs to cross a narrow pipe in order to sign his name on a wall of graffiti. Ignoring Chucky's protests, Ryan attempts to cross the pipe. During this time, a water pipe opens up and throws Ryan into the water.
Ryan wakes in a strange forest and is attacked by assailants who are drawn off by a creature from the lake. He screams and runs in fear, but soon realizes his leg works. He meets a dwarf-like man named Mudlap where a beautiful girl named Elysia drives him off. She tells Ryan that he is in Tao. Ryan tells her about the manuscript, which had been stolen with his backpack. Believing it to be the Manuscript of Legend, Elysia takes Ryan to Master Chung and he meets four of the five warriors, anthropomorphic kangaroos each representing an element: Lai, Warrior of Wood; Chi, Warrior of Fire; Tsun, Warrior of Earth; and Yee, Warrior of Metal. He is told that Yun, the Warrior of Water had left them following an earlier conflict. Ryan thinks that the creature that saved him is Yun and that he has the manuscript. He is told that the manuscript would be sought by Komodo, a warlord who betrayed the Warriors and is stealing from the Lifesprings of Tao in order to stay young forever where the Warriors are protecting the last Lifespring. While talking to Elysia, Ryan is captured by Mantose, Barbarocious, and Dullard, but is saved by Yun who admits he doesn't have the book leading Ryan to believe Komodo has it. He convinces Yun to return to the Lifespring.
Ryan flees, wanting to return home, but Mudlap leads him into General Grillo's arms and he is saved by Chung. Yun, Yee and Chi go after the manuscript and fall into a trap after being betrayed by Elysia, who joined Komodo as vengeance against Yun for killing her brother by accident. They are nearly killed in a trap, but narrowly escape using their skills and they return to the Lifespring to prevent Komodo from ambushing the others. Komodo attempts to kidnap Ryan, but instead fights Chung. The battle is brutal, but Chung is defeated and killed by Komodo who then makes off with Ryan.
When Ryan awakens at Komodo's palace, Elysia explains of Yun killing her brother and tries to convince him to read from the book so that Komodo could possibly invade his world for more Lifesprings. Ryan realizes he can't read the book and this upsets Komodo, who tries to strike Ryan down. Elysia interferes and is struck down by Barbarocious. Komodo kills Barbarocious in rage as Ryan escapes. Komodo, now growing unhinged, returns to the Lifespring and challenges the Warriors to one-on-one combat, splitting into five versions of himself. He taunts and defeats the warriors while Ryan, after getting an apology from Mudlap for his betrayal, finds an inscription in the manuscript. Facing Komodo and taunting him, Ryan tricks Komodo into using his power on him, weakening him so that the warriors can use their powers to purify his spirit, reforming him to a kind man while purifying his surviving army. Ryan, now mortally wounded, is surrounded by his friends and Yee astonishes everyone by thanking Ryan as he speaks for the first time in many years.
Suddenly, Ryan is back at the water plant before crossing the pipe. Realizing his desperation to fit in led to his accident, he changes it this time and refusing to go through with it. The water pipe opens like it did before, trapping Brad on the other side. His insults to his friends only prompt them to leave him behind for the police to find.
That night at home, Ryan apologizes to his mother for an earlier argument. When he goes to bed, he offers to tell his dog, Bravo, about Tao.Mario Yedidia as Ryan Jeffers, a young boy with a disabled leg.
Angus Macfadyen as Komodo, an evil warlord and sorcerer that seeks to conquer Tao.
Marley Shelton as Elysia, a young woman who lives in Tao
Jack Tate as Yun, the Warrior of Water and Virtue of Benevolence
Scott McNeil as Yun (voice)
Doug Jones as Yee, the Warrior of Metal and Virtue of Righteousness
Doug Parker as Yee (voice)
Don W. Lewis as Lai, the Warrior of Wood and Virtue of Order
Dale Wilson as Lai (voice)
J. Todd Adams as Chi, the Warrior of Fire and Virtue of Wisdom
Doug Parker as Chi (voice)
Adrienne Corcoran as Tsun, the Warrior of Earth and Virtue of Loyalty
Kathleen Barr as Tsun (voice)
Chao-Li Chi as Master Chung, the master of the Warriors
Michael J. Anderson as Mudlap, a dwarf-like creature.
Tom Towles as General Grillo, one of Komodo's henchmen.
Lee Arenberg as Mantose, one of Komodo's henchmen.
Dennis Dun as Ming, the owner of Ryan's favorite restaurant.
Roy Cebellos as Willy Beest, a humanoid cape buffalo.
Jay Brazeau as Willy Beest (voice)
Jason Hamer as Mosely, a humanoid rhinoceros.
Garry Chalk as Mosely (voice)
Don W. Lewis as Mayor Keena, the mayor of the village where Master Chung lives.
Ian James Corlett as Mayor Keena (voice)
Teryl Rothery as Kathryn Jeffers, Ryan's mom.
Ricky D'Shon Collins as Chucky, Ryan's best friend.
Michael Dubrow as Brad, a quarterback at Ryan's school.
Ying Qu as Barbarotious, a female follower of Komodo.
Venus Terzo as Barbarotious (voice)
Stuart Kingston as Dullard, one of Komodo's henchmen.
Drew Reichelt as Dullard (voice)
Michael Vickerman as Dragoon Commander, a full-armored minion of Komodo that leads his Dragoons.
Colin Murdock as Dragoon Commander (voice)
Warriors of Virtue received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics. Film critic Kale Klein of the Carlsbad Current-Argus was so physically distressed by the film that he actually vomited during the initial screenings. On an episode of Siskel and Ebert, Gene Siskel voted thumbs down and described Warriors of Virtue as "Generic junk made for the international action market, a cheap hybrid of Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles and Captain Planet." It currently has an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews.
A second film titled Warriors of Virtue: The Return to Tao was released on October 22, 2002. It was directed by the first film's co-writer Michael Vickerman with Nathan Phillips replacing Yedidia as Ryan Jeffers along with Nina Liu as Amythis, Shedrack Anderson III as Chucky and Kevin Smith (his final role) as Dogon, a villain bent on taking over our world and Tao.