Jean Valjean is released from prison after 19 years hard labor a desperate man. But an encounter with the kind Bishop of Digne makes him rethink his life and start afresh under another name. As M. Madeleine, he becomes a businessman and the major of a small town within 5 years. But the arrival of his former prison warden Javert as head of police, combined with the plight of unlucky factory worker Fantine put a damper on his good fortune.
After revealing his true identity to save an innocent man, Jean Valjean is on the run from Javert and the law. Along the way he rescues Fantine's daughter Cosette from a live of misery with the family that was supposed to look after her, the Thénardiers. They find sanctuary at a Paris convent, where Cossette studies to become a nun and Valjean works in the garden. However, after ten years Cosette desires to venture out beyond the walls of the convent.
In Paris, Thénardier has recognized Valjean and lures him into a trap to take his revenge. But Thénardier's neighbor, a young law student called Marius Pontmercy has fallen in love with Cosette and warns the police. Marius' friends want to start a new revolution and Javert has been put on their trail. This brings him dangerously close to Valjean once more, who decides to leave for England with Cosette.
The students face heavy casualties at their barricade. Valjean manages to carry away an unconscious Marius through the sewers. At the end of them, he finds Javert waiting for him. Unexpectedly, the police officer grants the former convict one last request before he takes him in. They return Marius to his grandfather, Baron Gillenormand. When the young man recovers, he is allowed to marry Cosette. But Jean Valjean is ashamed to reveal her family history, as well as his own.