In fifteenth century Paris, the townspeople are celebrating the festival of Epiphany where Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer, is elected the Pope of Fools. Quasimodo later attempts to kidnap the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda, with whom Frollo has grown increasingly obsessed. Esmeralda is saved by Captain Phoebus, with whom she falls madly in love. Quasimodo is put on trial for the attempted kidnapping of Esmeralda, and he is put in the stocks by a deaf judge who misinterpreted Quasimodo''s own deafness. Afterwards, Esmeralda has pity on Quasimodo and brings him water to ease his suffering.
Meanwhile, Esmeralda seduces Phoebus and he easily agrees to her wants, in spite of the fact that he is marrying another woman. During the rendezvous between Phoebus and Esmeralda, Frollo watches, having been invited by Phoebus. In a jealous rage, Frollo stabs Phoebus and flees. Esmeralda faints, and the arriving soldiers accuse her of the crime. Esmeralda is brought to trial and convicted for Phoebus'' murder, even though he survived. Frollo visits her in her cell and confesses his love. He offers to help her escape, but she believes life without Phoebus is not worth living. Frollo again tried to save her before her execution, and just before she is about to be hanged, Quasimodo dramatically storms down from the cathedral, takes her and runs back in, claiming the right of sanctuary. While at the cathedral, Esmeralda is still repulsed by Quasimodo''s ugliness, but nonetheless uses him to try and bring Phoebus back to her, whom she has found out is alive.
The Parliament of Paris votes to strip Esmeralda of her sanctuary.
In an attempt to save Esmeralda from the Parliament, the thief clans of Paris organize an assault on the cathedral. This leads to an enormous riot in which Quasimodo, unaware that the brigands were only trying to help Esmeralda, not harm her, flings down stones, timber, and molten lead. Esmeralda escapes with the playwright Gringoire and a disguised Frollo. Frollo reveals himself and demands her love in order to save her life. When she insults him for being ''old and ugly'', Frollo tosses her to Sister Gudule, a gyspy hating recluse, and storms off to Notre Dame. While she initially calls for the guards, Sister Gudule realizes that Esmeralda is actually her long-lost daughter. At the mention Phoebus'' name, Esmeralda jumps up excitedly, crying his name, and exposes her presence to the soldiers looking for her. Phoebus watches the whole thing from the home of his fiancée and does nothing. The soldiers kill Gudule and proceed to hang Esmeralda. From the cathedral, Quasimodo sees Esmeralda hanged. He witnesses the dejected Frollo and thinks that the archdeacon was the cause of the girl''s death. In a fit of rage, Quasimodo shoves him off a balcony, before abandoning Notre-Dame. Years later, in a repository of executed criminals, Quasimodo''s skeleton is found hugging the skeleton of Esmeralda.