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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  29 December 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 7,544 users  
Reviews: 76 user | 44 critic

In 15th century France, a gypsy girl is framed for murder by the infatuated Chief Justice, and only the deformed bellringer of Notre Dame Cathedral can save her.



(screen play), (adaptation), 1 more credit »
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Title: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frollo (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Alan Marshal ...
Walter Hampden ...
Katharine Alexander ...
Madame de Lys
George Zucco ...
Fritz Leiber ...
Old Nobleman
Etienne Girardot ...
Helene Reynolds ...
Fleur de Lys (as Helene Whitney)
Minna Gombell ...
Queen of Beggars (as Mina Gombell)
Arthur Hohl ...


King Louis XI is a wise and old king and Frollo is the Chief Justice. Frollo gazes on the gypsy girl, Esmeralda, in the church during Fool's Day and sends Quasimoto to catch her. Quasimoto, with the girl, is captured by Phoebus, Captain of the Guards, who frees the girl. The courts sentence Quasimoto to be flogged, and the only one who will give him water while he is tied in the square is Esmeralda. Later, at a party of nobles, Esmeralda again meets both Frollo, who is bewitched by her, and Phoebus. When Phoebus is stabbed to death, Esmeralda is accused of the murder, convicted by the court and sentenced to hang. Clopin, King of the Beggars, Gringoire the Husband of Esmeralda, and Quasimoto, the bellringer, all try different ways to save her from the gallows. Written by Tony Fontana <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


IMPACT! POWER! FIRE! PATHOS! DRAMA! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

29 December 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Victor Hugo's Immortal Classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,800,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print) (copyright length)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This was noted Shakespearean actor-manager Walter Hampden's first sound film. See more »


In this story set in 15th century France, a character wears glasses kept in place with strings that loop around the ears. That type of eyeglasses was invented in Spain during the reign of Philip II in the 16th century. See more »


Frollo: The press should be destroyed and the printer hanged for blasphemy.
See more »


Referenced in Charade (1963) See more »


Ave Maria
(1572) (uncredited)
Music by Tomás Luis de Victoria
Sung by mixed chorus during opening credits
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The peak of art in Hollywood cinema
12 December 2002 | by (Sydney) – See all my reviews

A sweeping claim? Perhaps. But despite the presence in Hollywood over sixty subsequent years of Ford, Wyler, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese et al, The Hunchback of Notre Dame remains as fresh, as emotionally resonant and yes as powerfully artistic as the day it was made. What constitutes 'art' is of course a personal matter, just as the Breughel-like compositions of Hunchback might be as mystifying to someone whose favourite film is A Clockwork Orange (Lichtenstein?). But what makes Hunchback so satisfying as art is precisely that its makers didn't set out with art in mind. Dieterle and his co-creators embarked on the project with the aim of telling a great yarn, making it look authentic, and above all ENTERTAINING the audience. It is to this end that the Grand Guignol excesses of the novel were trimmed or altered, and the Hollywood bittersweet ending imposed. Audiences filed out with their Kleenex in hand having witnessed a three-ring circus of a movie, then went home to read the war-soaked newspapers.

Virtually every frame of this movie could be taken in isolation, made into a poster and hung on a wall. Examples include Gringoire cradling the dying Clopin as a rivulet of lead trickles past in the background, the voyeuristic eye of Quasimodo peering through fence palings at the dancing Esmeralda - I could go on and on. And pervading it all is the magnificent score of Alfred Newman, surely his finest ever.

Rather than sing its obvious praises, the film can simply speak for itself. As narrative, as character, as cinema craft, it is totally successful throughout. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is my favourite film of all time, bar none. Ten out of ten

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