Giselle, a lovely peasant girl with a weak heart and a passion for dancing, is in love with a young man known to her as Loys. He is, in fact, Duke Albrecht disguised as a peasant. Hilarion, the gamekeeper, has also been in love with Giselle, but she rejected him. Hilarion gets suspicious of Loys and he decides to uncover Loys' true identity and separate the two lovers.
A hunting party arrives, led by the Duke of Courtland and his daughter, Bathilde. When Giselle sees Bathilde, they engage in conversation. The noblewoman is charmed by Giselle. The Duke and Bathilde go to Giselle's Cottage for a rest.
The celebration of the harvest is held and everyone dances, including Giselle and Loys. Giselle's mother admonished Giselle for dancing so much, but Giselle and Loys join in a dance. Hilarion presents Albrecht's sword and denounces Loys as a deceiver. Albrecht is not only a nobleman, but he is also engaged to Bathilde. Giselle loses her sanity and dies.
Hilarion comes to grieve at her gave and he senses the presence of Wilis. The Wilis, ghosts of young girls who have been dumped and have died before their wedding day, relentlessly avenge men by dancing to death during the hours of darkness.
Giselle is initiated into the Wili's sisterhood by Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. Albrecht comes to mourn at Giselle's grave and seek her forgiveness. She suddenly appears before him, and he chases in pursuit of her.
Meanwhile, Hilarion has been found in the forest by the wilis. On Myrtha's orders, they make him dance until he is exhausted and cast him into the lake, where he dies. Myrtha commands that Albrecht must die too. Giselle intervenes and protects him. Giselle pleads for his life but Albrecht continues to dance, until he collapses from exhaustion.
The darkness of the forest is over by the first light of dawn. Giselle and Wilis are banished. Giselle saves Albrecht life by the strength of her love and he is left to weep at her grave.