The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

  • Review Date: September 22, 2008
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Touching Disney tale cheers on the outcasts.
  • Review Date: September 22, 2008
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 91 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Quasimodo and Esmeralda are both outcasts who overcome odds.

Violence & scariness

Prolonged battle scene features broken teeth and swordplay. Frollo's cruelty is very threatening.

Sexy stuff

Esmeralda is dressed in a revealing manner, and she's punished by a man who desires her.


Frollo uses threats.


Disney spin-off items for sale in stores.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some swilling of grog during Festival of Fools scene.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Frollo is a threatening bad guy who fights with swords and ogles over the suggestively dressed gypsy Esmeralda; he sings a song of desire about her and asks for her destruction -- or possession. Naturally deformities are addressed because the main character has a hunchback. Also, since this story does take place in Notre Dame Cathedral, religious symbols, icons, and religious themes abound.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

When Judge Frollo (Tony Jay) discovers a group of gypsy castaways, he attempts to imprison them, and is left holding a baby in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral. Noticing that the child is deformed, he starts to throw him down a well, but is stopped by a priest and told to care for the child instead. So the child Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) is brought into a place of sanctuary and confinement, becoming the bell ringer of the great cathedral. As he grows, he longs to be in the world for one day and gets his wish suddenly only to learn how cruel the world can be. Lucky for Quasimodo that he meets the gypsy Esmeralda (Demi Moore), who befriends him and saves him from utter shame. Their paths become entwined and their stories of surviving as outcasts serve as a touching theme.

Is it any good?


Disney's recreation of Victor Hugo's novel is rich in visual and musical sensation. But deeper beneath the rich production lies questions about normalcy, how sanctuary confines us as well as protects us, and what punishment is.

Some younger children might be frightened by Frollo's intensity. With his crusade against the gypsies and simultaneous lecherous pursuit of Esmeralda, he is a formidable and contemptible villain. But Tom Hulce's performance is so lovely that it makes the darker aspects of this tale incredibly human. Along for comic relief, Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame leads a trio of gargoyles, whose quick banter is fun, but can be a little grotesque.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what it means to be different from the norm. Who were the gypsies?

  • Why were they considered outcasts?

  • What would it feel like to be Quasimodo?

  • What does sanctuary mean? Why do people seek sanctuary?

  • What other versions of this story do you know? Which one do you like best?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 21, 1996
DVD release date:March 19, 2002
Cast:Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Tom Hulce
Directors:Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Music and sing-along
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 5 year old Written byfierce_mink_2000 August 10, 2009

Not good for anyone.

Since sexuality seems to be a major theme on this website, I'm surprised that this movie isn't totally being panned. The basic plot revolves around lust. It's even stated pretty explicitly in the review above, but in spite of this comment: "he sings a song of desire about her and asks for her destruction" it's ok for 6 year olds?? Really? To me, this just was never meant to be a story for children. I cannot understand the thought process at Disney that lead many someones to saying "Yes, let's make a movie for small children about lust!!" And I don't understand how this got anything besides a big, fat OFF here at Common Sense Media. Blech.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 16 years old Written byhamstergurl09 March 24, 2011

Easily My Favorite Disney Movie

I absolutely LOVE this movie. The visuals are phenomenal. The overall message, which is about accepting people, is very good. The outcasts win in this movie. This film is widely regarded as Disney's darkest movie, though. The antagonist, Frollo, is probably the most evil Disney villain out there. Frollo might be scary to little kids, seeing as he kills several innocent people, burns down houses, etc. Frollo has one of the best songs ever put in a Disney movie, called "Hellfire" in which he confesses his lust for Esmeralda and that if he can't have her, the fires of Hell will. Frollo's lust for Esmeralda goes right over little kids' heads. Quasimodo, the protagonist, is a very likeable character, and proves that looks aren't everything. Esmeralda, the female protagonist, is a strong character with a great personality. I like the narrator Clopin also. My favorite line in the movie is during the opening song:"Who is the monster and who is the man?" Overall, excellent movie that might be a little scary for kids.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Parent of a 4 year old Written byMuffinsMummy March 29, 2011

Watch This Alone Before Showing Your Kids!!

Firstly, I do understand the message being portrayed here. Yes, Quasimodo & Esmerelda are both outcasts and heroes in this film, and that is indeed a good thing. I also liked the fact that (spoilers!) Esmerelda does not fall in love with Quasimodo at the end, because that would have been just a little too unrealistic for me. I liked the ending. I also didn't have any particular problem with Esmerelda's dress or behaviour, as this could easily be explained to a child as a type of cultural dress (although some parents should be aware that they may find Esmerelda's dress and dancing very provocative). BUT, I will not be showing this film to my daughter until she is a teenager, and frankly probably not at all (she probably won't be interested by then anyway). The reason for this is largely because of the villian of the piece, Frollo, and his violent obsession with Esmerelda. As adults, we can watch and more or less understand (though hopefully not identify with!) a character whose obsessive desire leads them to viciously hate the object of their lust rather than to love her. But I do not feel that this is something a child can deal with or understand, nor do I feel they should be expected to. I have seen that some reviewers have spoken of this element of the film "going over kids' heads", but I suspect a lot less goes over our kids' heads than we would like to think. I think the Hellfire song would be very confusing and disturbing to most small children, and even some older ones. I can't imagine why they put it in, to be honest - it just isn't appropriate for a children's movie in my opinion, and it wasn't necessary to the plot at all. If you do let your kids watch this movie, be well prepared for questions on this issue. The film is also quite violent for a kids' movie - in one scene, an innocent family (with children) is locked into their home, which is then burned down (much screaming etc) - although they are rescued from the house, they still lose their home, which I think would scare my daughter a lot. The scariness/violence level may be okay for some kids, I don't know - my daughter is still little, and even for her age is quite sensitive to scary things. But seriously, this movie should NOT be G-rated. You should vet this first, and make your own judgement for your own kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Great messages


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