He is a soldier who hired Judge Claude Frollo to look after Quasimodo. returning to Paris to be Captain of the Guardbecause his predecessor was a "bit of a disappointment" to Frollo. His feelings for Esmeralda are genuine. He first meets Esmeralda when he sees her dancing in the streets for money. He also watches her dance at the Festival of Fools. Both times, he shows a marked interest in her with an approving grin. But both events entail for Phoebus a greater vested interest in Esmeralda's well-being, and not only in her dancing and her beauty, in that he assists her escape from city authorities both times, unbidden by her. Specifically, after witnessing two soldiers harassing Esmeralda over her (honestly acquired) earnings when he first arrives in the city, Phoebus blocks their way with his horse, Achilles, when they pursue her, and stall them long enough for her to get away. The second time, he follows her to the cathedral after Frollo issues an order to arrest her for her defiant acts against him at the Feast of Fools and, when Frollo and a handful of soldiers arrive to arrest Esmeralda, Phoebus takes the initiative and claims sanctuary for her. Notably, his first real encounter with Esmeralda in the cathedral involved an impromptu sword vs. candle-holder fight when she believes he intends to arrest her—he flirts the entire time, if awkwardly, and they eventually reach a place of discourse before being interrupted by Frollo.
Additionally, Phoebus in the film is shown to be a man of principle and integrity, as well as a man with a sense of humor. Throughout the movie, Phoebus expresses disdain and disapproval for Frollo's increasingly unjust acts against the gypsies of Paris. In fact, when first faced with Frollo's intentions for summoning him to Paris, Phoebus openly displays skepticism over being called on "to capture fortune tellers and palm readers." At the beginning of the film, he is disgusted with the treatment of Quasimodo at the Festival of Fools and asks permission to stop it, but Frollo orders him to wait a while because "a lesson needs to be learned here" for Quasimodo's disobedience. It is Frollo's order to burn the home of an innocent miller and his family suspected of harboring gypsies, with the family still inside, which finally prompts Phoebus to rebel against Frollo, cementing Phoebus's "hero" role in opposition of the film's villain. After he is wounded by Frollo's thugs for saving the miller's family and defying Frollo, Esmeralda (who had been watching the events the entire time in hiding) saves Phoebus from drowning when, as a result of his wounds, he falls from his escape horse into the Seine river. She seeks Quasimodo for help and hides him in Notre Dame. He is later arrested by Frollo after he found the Court of Miracles, but manages to escape and rallies the citizens of Paris against Frollo's tyranny. After they defeat Frollo and his thugs (when Quasimodo poured molten lead into the city to protect the church), Quasimodo gives the two his blessing as a couple.
Phoebus returns as a secondary character, and he is captain of the guard again. He and Esmeralda are married and have a son named Zephyr, who looks just like Phoebus but with green eyes like Esmeralda.
Some fans think Phoebus is the main antagonist of the film, with Judge Claude Frollo as the secondary antagonist.
Phoebus' character is almost the exact opposite of his counterpart in Victor Hugo's novel. In the story, Pheobus is a vain and untrustworthy womanizer, who falls in love with Esmeralda solely for her beauty (much in the same way that Frollo does). While trying to seduce Esmeralda, he is stabbed in the back by Frollo. Phoebus is presumed dead and Frollo frames Esmeralda for the crime, but Phoebus actually survives and could have easily proved her innocence, but did not come forward, realizing that his politically convenient marriage to his cousin would be much more beneficial (to him) than one to a mere street dancer. In the end of the book he is married to Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier and Victor Hugo indicates that their marriage isn't a happy one.
Despite being Captain of the Guard, Phoebus has his orders assigned from Judge Claude Frollo. By the sequel however, he appears to have almost the same authority as Frollo had. For example, he has the authority to order a person's arrest.