Fantine, is a woman from Montreuil, and lives in Paris. She falls in love with Tholomyès, a wealthy student who seduces and impregnates her and then abandons her. Fantine returns to her home with her daughter, Cosette. On the way to Montreuil, Fantine recognizes that she will never be able to find work if the townspeople know that she has an illegitimate baby. She meets the Thénardiers, a family that runs an inn. The Thénardiers agree to care for Cosette as long as Fantine sends them a monthly allowance.
Fantine finds work in Madeleine’s factory. A coworker finds out about Cosette and has Fantine fired. The Thénardiers begin to require more money to support Cosette, and Fantine has resort to prostitution to make ends meet. One night, Javert, a police chief, arrests Fantine. She is to be sent to prison, but Madeleine intervenes for her. Fantine has fallen ill, and when she longs to see Cosette, Madeleine promises to send for her. He must first talk with Javert, who has discovered Madeleine’s criminal past. Javert tells Madeleine that a man has been held suspect of being Jean Valjean, and Madeleine confesses his true identity. Javert shows up to arrest Valjean while Valjean is at Fantine’s bedside, and Fantine dies from the shock.
After a few years, Valjean escapes from prison and goes back to Montreuil, where he buys Cosette from the Thénardiers. The Thénardiers turn out to be a family of scoundrels who abuse Cosette while spoiling their own two daughters, Eponine and Azelma. Valjean and Cosette go to a bad part of Paris. Javert discovers their hideout, however, and they are forced to run. They find refuge in a convent, where Cosette attends school and Valjean works as a gardener.
Marius Pontmercy is a young man who lives with his rich grandfather, M. Gillenormand. When Marius becomes angry with his grandfather, Marius moves out of Gillenormand’s house and lives as a poor young law student. While in law school, Marius becomes part of a group of radical students, the Friends of the ABC, who are led by the charismatic Enjolras. One day, Marius sees Cosette at a park, he falls in love at first sight but Valjean does his utmost to prevent Cosette and Marius from ever meeting. They meet once again, however, when Valjean makes a charitable visit to Marius’s poor neighbors, the Jondrettes. The Jondrettes are in fact the Thénardiers, who have lost their inn and moved to Paris under a different name. After Valjean leaves, Thénardier plans to rob Valjean when he returns. Alarmed, Marius alerts the local police, who turns out to be Javert. The plot was ruined and the Thénardiers are arrested, but Valjean escapes before Javert can identify him.
Thénardier’s daughter Eponine, who is in love with Marius, helps Marius find Cosette. Marius and Cosette finally meet and commit their love for each other. Valjean, however, soon destroys their happiness. Worried that he will lose his Cosette and scared by the political unrest in the city, Valjean announces that he and Cosette are moving to England. Marius runs to his