(Photo by New Line/Everett Collection)
JRR Tolkien, the father of modern fantasy, was reluctant to see his beloved Middle-earth adapted for the films, although the filmmakers themselves were skeptical about whether Lord of the Rings could ever be faithfully recreated on screen. That certainly didn’t stop people from trying during Tolkien’s lifetime, with Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick, George Harrison, and John Boorman among the artists in the adaptation orbit.
After Tolkien’s death in 1971, when his personal protection and safeguards were removed, we began to see film and television work burgeon. The first was the 1977 TV special by Rankin and Bass, followed a year later by Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings Animated film that illustrated The Fellowship of the Ring and The two Towers. In 1980, Rankin and Bass completed this ad hoc series with a return of the king Special.
The Peter Jackson trilogy, which began in 2001, set the standard by which all other Tolkien adaptations will be judged for generations to come. Of epic proportions and unlike any film project undertaken up to that point, Lord of the Rings Movies featured groundbreaking CGI while standing at the end of the practical effects era of filmmaking. With a perfect cast spanning the unknown and legends, Howard Shore’s stirring and moving score, and exemplary production design, the fusion of Jackson’s craft and Tolkien’s imagination should be the perfect escape from the chaotic, frightening immediate aftermath of 9/11 community debuted in December 2001. Along with the Harry Potter franchise (Philosopher’s Stone premiered just a month earlier in November), the films were instrumental in the rise of the imagination in pop culture and the mainstream. The three films would win 17 Academy Awards, with over 30 nominations the return of the King Taking the best picture in 2003.
After Guillermo del Toro left The Hobbit Project in 2008, Jackson returned to the franchise, expanding the planned two films to three. The films didn’t quite reach the same level of box office or critical acclaim, but garnered an additional six Academy Award nominations for the franchise.
Lord of the Rings returned to television in 2022 with The Rings of Power, millennia ahead of the rest of the franchise. Amazon has committed to five seasons, so keep an eye out for years of updates coming to our guide Lord of the Rings and hobbit Movies and shows ranked with “Certified Fresh” first.
Adjusted score: 104117%
Critics consensus: The two Towers balances spectacular action with emotional storytelling, leaving the audience both satisfied and excited for the final chapter.
Adjusted score: 103506%
Critics consensus: Visually stunning and emotionally powerful, The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King is a moving and satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy.
Adjusted score: 100747%
Critics consensus: Packed with eye-catching special effects and an absolutely perfect cast. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings JRR Tolkien’s classics to life.
Adjusted score: 83685%
Critics consensus: While still mildly paralyzed by the “middle chapter”‘s narrative issues and its impressive length, Desolation of Smaug presents a more confident, exciting second chapter for the hobbit Series.
Adjusted score: -1%
Adjusted score: 52053%
Critics consensus: No consensus yet.
Adjusted score: 66447%
Critics consensus: No consensus yet.
Adjusted score: 77959%
Critics consensus: Peter Jackson’s Return to Middle-earth is a serious, visually rich journey, but the film’s deliberate pacing robs the material of some of its majesty.
Adjusted score: 70820%
Critics consensus: Though somewhat overwhelmed by his own spectacle, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ends Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth trilogy on a semi-satisfying note.
Adjusted score: 51975%
Critics consensus: Ralph Bakshi’s valiant attempt to render Tolkein’s magnum opus in rotoscope never lives up to the size of its source material, with a compressed running time that flattens the gripping story and experimental animations that are more bizarre than magical.