This building serves as a home to the protagonist, Quasimodo. On the steps of Notre Dame, Judge Claude Frollo murdered Quasimodo's mother by making her fall down the steps. Enraged at this defilement, as it was holy ground and murder is not permitted, the cathedral intimidated Frollo into caring for the child lest he suffer eternal damnation and later helped to destroy him by animating one of its gargoyles into terrifying him enough to fall to his death into the lake of molten copper created earlier by Quasimodo and his gargoyle friends who were able to prevent Frollo's soldiers from breaking in. Its beloved bell, La Fidèle, is later stolen by a gang of thieves, but was later returned to its rightful place, much to the delight of Paris and the cathedral itself.
By law, Notre Dame serves as a refuge for those who are persecuted; people pursued by the law may claim sanctuary within its walls. Examples of this include when Esmeralda was in trouble with the law and had to stay in the cathedral, she sings "God Help the Outcasts". Her song also lured Quasimodo down from the tower, but before he could talk to her just after finishing singing the song, a parishioner who mistook him causing trouble shouts at him, causing him to knock down a candle staff and flees back to the belltower. Esmeralda was alerted by the Parishioner's shouts and follows Quasimodo; the parishioner also attempts to stop her and Djali from following him and is promptly scolded by the Archdeacon and when Quasimodo saved Esmeralda and called for sanctuary. Frollo and his soldiers attempted to break down the doors and lead the enraged citizens of Paris and French army to attack, leading Frollo's soldiers to their defeat at the hands of those within. In the films, Quasimodo seems to have a certain attachment to Notre Dame, despite his newly-found allowance of being able to interact with Parisian society. Quasimodo likely still views the cathedral as a home as he still rings and cares for its bells, each of which he has bestowed a name. In return, the cathedral shelters and protects him; when Frollo attempts to do the unthinkable and commit murder within the cathedral itself, Notre Dame animates the gargoyle he is clinging to into roaring at him before breaking off and plunging into the fiery pit below.
In Ratatouille, Notre Dame de Paris appears on two occasions. In its first appearance, Linguini passes by on his bike while on his way to kill Remy as per Skinner's instructions. In its second appearance, Linguini and Colette pass by the cathedral while rollerskating.
In Cars 2, a street musician performs music in front of the cathedral after Mater, Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell's arrival in Paris. In the film, the cathedral is enlarged by 150%, has twenty-four "car-goyle" statues, a spire modelled after a spark plug and flying buttresses shaped like exhaust pipes.
The Notre Dame Cathedral briefly appeared in the 2017 live-action remake of the 1991 animated version. It overlooks the windmills in the upper ground within the outskirts of Paris, where one of windmills which used to be occupied by Maurice, his wife and Belle, which was visited by herself and the Beast through a magical book given by the Enchantress.
Notre Dame cameo in Donald in Mathmagic Land, adorned with golden rectangles
Throughout the first film, it is highly implied that Notre Dame has some form of sentience, likely to highlight how special it is to Paris. An example can be seen at the very beginning of the movie, when the statues glare at Frollo after he kills Quasimodo's mother. In many parts of the movie, the glass window in the front seems to have spontaneous bursts of shine regardless of the sunlight, an example right at the end of Quasimodo's first song. Also, the entire cathedral groans when Quasimodo tears down two columns to free himself and when Frollo delivers his last blasphemy whilst trying to murder Esmeralda ("And He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!") the gargoyle he is standing on immediately breaks off and plummets into the flames below after roaring at him: this highly implies that Notre Dame heard Frollo and obliged. This reflects the source material in that Victor Hugo treated Notre Dame as the true "main character" of his book.
The movie shows that Quasimodo named the bells one by one and implies he also forges them.
On April 15, 2019, while undergoing restoration work, Notre Dame suffered a devastating fire that destroyed its iconic spire and roof. Thanks to efforts by the Paris Fire Brigade in responding quickly and having been trained for facing a fire at Notre Dame, the cathedral survived mostly intact thanks to its design, along with many of its irreplaceable artifacts and statues. Within 24 hours of the blaze, donations poured in to help in the rebuilding and restoration of the beloved church. Disney publicly donated $5 million to help in Notre Dame's rebuilding and restoration. The precise cause of the fire has yet to be disclosed.
Through The Hunchback of Notre Dame, there are several errors, regarding Notre Dame's appearance:
The statues that decorate the cathedral's exterior are shown as plain stone. During the time the film was set, many of these statues were painted in colours.
During "Out There", when Quasimodo swings around the spire (the cathedral's second spire and also the one destroyed in the 2019 fire), we see it is surrounded by copper statues. These statues, which represent the Twelve Apostles, were not added to Notre Dame until a 19th century restoration. The statues had been removed for separate restoration several days before the fire, allowing them to survive fully intact.
When Frollo chases Quasimodo & Esmeralda, the gargoyles that are used as waterspouts are solid; they are missing the troughs in their backs through which water runs.