Paris in the 15th century: The jester Clopin tells some children the story of Notre Dame's bellringer. It starts on a dark night when a group of gypsies try to sneak into the city. But they're catched by Judge Claude Frollo who persecutes all people who are different than the "normal" citizens. A female gypsy tries to escape, but Frollo goes after her because he suspects her to be a thief. Before she is able to claim sanctuary at Notre Dame Frollo pushes her down the stairs in front of the cathedral and she's deadly injured. Then Frollo tries to kill the deformed infant the woman was hiding from him, but the archdeacon of Notre Dame can stop him. He orders the judge to care for the child in order to save his soul. Frollo agrees on one condition: The boy has to stay in the belltower forever.
Twenty years later: Quasimodo still lives in the tower of Notre Dame. His greatest wish is to get out even if it's just for one day. On this day there's a celebration at Paris, the Festival of Fools. Quasimodo's only friends, the three gargoyles Victor, Laverne and Hugo encourage him to go there in disguise, because Frollo would never allow him to join the celebration. After paying him a short visit and reminding Quasi of his obeyance Frollo returns to the Palace of Justice. Meanwhile Phoebus, the new captain of the guard, arrives in Paris. On his way to Frollo to report for duty he helps the gypsy Esmeralda and goat Djali to escape from some soldiers who persecute them. At the Palace of Justice Frollo explains Phoebus that their most important aim is to get rid of the gypsy society. Together they head to the festival where Quasimodo already hides among the dancing and drinking people. Then Clopin announces the next attraction: Esmeralda's dancing performance. The crowd is excited, even Frollo although he starts to believe that she is a witch.
After the dance Clopin and Esmeralda crown the king of fools. Quasimodo gets the title and now Frollo knows that the bellringer has disobeyed him. The soldiers start to humiliate him and the celebrating people join them. Esmeralda rescues Quasi, but Frollo wanted to punish him so in his opinion he now has a reason to get her arrested. Some soldiers try to catch her, but she tricks them and disappears. Quasimodo returns inside Notre Dame. Not noticing that Phoebus follows her Esmeralda also enters the church. After a short combat the gypsy realises that he means no harm to her. Suddenly Frollo and the other soldiers appear. The archdeacon protects her from the judge, but she is now trapped inside Notre Dame. She prays for her people and follows Quasimodo up the bell tower. At first he is very shy, but then he shows her his home and helps her to escape. Back in the tower he chases Phoebus away who came back to appologize for trapping Esmeralda.
In the Palace of Justice Frollo is hallucinating and sees Esmeralda dancing inside his fireplace. He blames her for his desire and wants her to be his own or to be burned on the stake. On the next morning her orders Phoebus and the other soldiers to search everywhere in the city for Esmeralda. They arrest all gypsies they can find because they don't give away her whereabout. As the miller confesses that he's offering some gypsies shelter from time to time Frollo orders Phoebus to burn down the house. The captain disobeys because he doesn't want to kill innocent people. For this insubordination Frollo wants to behead him, but Phoebus can escape with Esmeralda's help. He gets injured by an arrow so Esmeralda begs Quasimodo to hide the soldier inside Notre Dame. The bellringer agrees although he is very sad and disappointed as he discovers that the two have fallen in love. He hides Phoebus from Frollo, who tells Quasi that he knows where the secret hideout of the gypsies is. After he is gone Quasimodo and Phoebus search the Court of Miracles with a map Esmeralda had given the bellringer the day before.
Down at the catacombs they run into a gypsy ambush and try to warn them, but Clopin thinks they are s spies and wants to hang them. Esmeralda arrives just in time to save her friends. Suddenly Frollo appears with his army. They are all arrested and Quasimodo is brought back into the belltower. At the next evening Esmeralda shall be burned. The stake is already set on fire when Quasimodo frees himself and escapes with the unconscious Esmeralda into the church while th soldiers under Frollo's command attack the cathedral. Phoebus leads the citizens of Paris in the fight against the invaders. During the battle Frollo reaches the belltower where he tries to kill Quasimodo. Now the bellringer sees his master's real face. Again he tries to escape with Esmeralda, but Frollo hunts them. When he raises his sword to kill them he falls down the cathedral. The battle is over at the next morning and with the first beam of sunlight Esmeralda and Phoebus take Quasimodo out of Notre Dame. All citizens celebrate Quasimodo as their hero.