The film opens with Clopin, the King of the Beggars of Paris, telling a group of children the legend of Quasimodo, the deformed Hunchback bellringer of Notre Dame Cathedral. Twenty years ago, a group of gypsies attempted to smuggle themselves into Paris, but they were caught by the ruthless Judge Jehan Frollo. One woman refused to hand over the bundle she was carrying and fled. Jehan pursued her on his horse, eventually cornering her at the doors of Notre Dame Cathedral. She banged on the door, crying out for sanctuary. Jehan caughts up to her and tried to take the bundle, killing her in the process. Jehan was then shocked to learn the bundle was a deformed baby. He tried to drop it down a well but was halted by his brother, the Archdeacon Claude Frollo. Frollo took the child and decided to raise it as his own in the bell tower, naming him Quasimodo. Clopin then leaves to prepare for the upcoming Festival of Fools to be held later that day.
Quasimodo watches the festivites from the tower and is joined by Frollo. Quasimodo tells Frollo that he wants to get out and join in, but Frollo reminds him that the world will react cruelly to his appearance and tells him that the only place he is safe is within the bell tower. After Frollo leaves, Quasimodo begins to hallucinate and begins to speak to his "friends," three talking stone gargoyles. They convince Quasimodo to sneak out and join the Festival of Fools anyway.
Frollo meets with his brother and they are greeted by Phoebus de Chateaupers, a soldier who has arrived in Paris to become Captain of the Guard. Here, we see the differing views of the brothers on Paris' gypsy infestation; Jehan sees them as vermin and wants to wipe them out, while Frollo seeks to help them and bring them into the church. The trio then head down into the square to watch the Festival of Fools.
Quasimodo uses some spectacular acrobatics to climb down the cathedral and take his place among the crowds. After the gypsies gather and sing, Clopin emerges and welcomes a dancer to the stage; his own daughter, Esmeralda. Esmeralda catches the attention of many men in the crowd, including Quasimodo, Phoebus and most importantly, Frollo. When the time comes to find the Pope of Fools, Quasimodo is accidentally shoved on stage and is chosen to be crowned. Frollo is shocked when he sees him. Quasimodo catches his glare and realizes that he's in trouble.
Once the celebrations end, the gypsies take their leave. However, in the confusion, a cowardly poet named Pierre Gringoire accidentally stumbles upon their secret hideaway, the Court of Miracles. As per gypsy law, Gringoire is to hanged for this, lest he marry a gypsy. Taking pity on the hapless man, Esmeralda agrees to marry him to save his life.
The following day, as punishment, Jehan orders Quasimodo to be whipped in the main square by a brutal soldier named Pierrat Torterue. Between beatings, a dehydrated Quasimodo begs for some water, but no one helps him. That is, until Esmeralda sees what is happening and she brings him a drink, winning his heart. Angered, Jehan sends guards to pull her off the stage, but she uses a magic trick to get away, retreating into the cathedral where she claims the law of sanctuary to keep her safe.
Frollo watches Esmeralda praying from the shadows, and then watches as Phoebus creeps up on her. At first she fights him off, but he explains that he doesn't believe she deserves prison or worse, and allows her to remain in the church. Frollo approaches her and encourages her to stay as long as she needs. She gratefully hugs him, and he sneaks a sniff of her hair.
Esmeralda next meets Quasimodo, and explains to him that the outside world isn't as cruel as Frollo makes out. Quickly falling in love with her, Quasimodo decides to help her escape by scaling the cathedral walls. Esmeralda thanks Quasimodo, then flees. Quasimodo returns to the bell tower, where he speaks with the gargoyles again, telling them that he thinks Esmeralda is an angel. Meanwhile, Frollo sees that he has begun to develop lustful feelings for Esmeralda, and desperately begs the Virgin Mary to release him, or show him a way to release himself. A shadow of a cross directs him to the burning fireplace, which he believes is a sign. A guard then informs Frollo that Esmeralda has escaped.
Frollo flies into a wild fury and initiates a city-wide manhunt to find Esmeralda. During the terror, Phoebus sees that Frollo's gone mad and tries to stop him, but to no avail. Frollo interrogates an innocent family who he believes are harbouring Esmeralda, then orders Phoebus to execute them to make an example of them. Phoebus refuses, then flees. However,Torterue shoots Phoebus in the back and he falls off of a bridge into a river. Esmeralda stealthy pulls him out and brings him back to Notre Dame for refuge. Phoebus dies with Esmeralda and Quasimodo by his side. Esmeralda then hides as Frollo arrives.
Frollo quizzes Quasimodo, telling him that he believes he helped Esmeralda escape. Frollo bluffs that he has located the Court of Miracles and is planning on descending upon and letting Jehan kill all those within. After Frollo leaves, Quasimodo and Esmeralda race over to the Court of Miracles to warn them of the coming attack. Jehan follows them with his soldiers and has the criminals rounded up. Esmeralda is interrogated and forced to give a false testimony claiming that she killed Phoebus. Hoping to release himself from his unholy desires, Frollo has her sentenced to death.
The gypsies gather in the square where Esmeralda is to be burned at the stake. Quasimodo is locked in the tower and can only watch helplessly. Esmeralda's rescue comes from an unlikely source; Gringoire, having fallen in love with Esmeralda, charges in and saves her, dragging her into the cathedral to safety. In spite of the cries of sanctuary, Frollo orders the soliders to break down the door.
Meanwhile, Quasimodo hears some commotion in the cathedral and discovers Jehan, attempting to loot the vault, using the execution as a distraction. Quasimodo attacks him, and during the struggle Jehan reveals his true origin. Enraged, Quasimodo impales Jehan on a wall hook, killing him. He then hears what's happening outside and goes to defeat his beloved bell tower.
The gypsies, led by Clopin, incite a riot, and a massive street battle erupts between the criminals and the guards. Members of both sides attempt to climb into the cathedral, but Quasimodo fights all of them off. He then pours molent copper onto the street to try and keep intruders out. In the street below, Torterue fatally stabs Clopin in the chest, but is subsequently killed by the molten copper, which lands on his head.
Frollo manages to break into the cathedral alone and heads up into the bell tower. In the battle, Quasimodo kncosk Gringoire out, but he was already seperated from Esmeralda, who is found by Frollo. Now alone with her and overcome by his lustful desire, Frollo drags Esmeralda into Quasimodo's bedroom and attempts to rape her. However, Quasimodo bursts in and finds them. Overcome with rage, Quasimodo charges at Frollo, dragging him out of the room and violently beating him. Frollo at first tries to explain himself, then begs for mercy, but Quasimodo refuses to listen and lifts Frollo above his head. With his last act, Frollo plunges a dagger into Quasimodo's back. Quasimodo then throws Frollo from the cathedral to his death.
In the streets below, the gypsies prevail and the guards are driven out of the square, while the crowds cheer. Esmeralda is reunited with Gringoire, and having finally grown to truly love him, she passionately kisses him. Quasimodo looks on and smiles, then crawls into the bell tower. When Esmeralda and Gringoire hear the bell ringing, they follow him and find Quasimodo lying on the floor. Esmeralda is horrified when she sees Quasimodo's wound and knows that he is dying. She and Gringoire help the hunchback up onto a table and stay with him until he dies. The bell continues to ring, but soon stops emitting noise shortly thereafter. The bell then continues to swing silently above it's dead master.
Ewan McGregor - Quasimodo
Olga Kurylenko - Esmeralda
Alan Rickman - Claude Frollo
Mathieu Almaric - Jehan Frollo
Jean Reno - Clopin
Vincent Cassel - Pierre Gringoire
Chris Hemsworth - Phoebus de Chateaupers