The Lord of the Rings movies are my favorite trilogy of all time and since they were followed by another three-pack of films about Middle-earth, they make up a good number to rank all of them from best to worst. And because lists are basically sedatives for my chaotic mind, there’s a little musical snippet at the end as well!
NO 1: Return of the King
Everything about this movie is perfect. Some people argue it has too many endings but not me. I would be devasted if not every single storyline was resolved and brought to the finish line after investing all my heart and several years of actual life span into them. After on-the-edge-of-my-seat battles and grab-your-chest wrap-ups, you leave this experience satisfied. “Pippin’s song” and “Into the West” are familiar visitors in my musical indulgences and make the third and final installment even better.
NO 2: The Two Towers
This is more of a selfish ranking choice because it is the movie I have watched the most times by far and one of the biggest reasons is a fully developed obsession over Orlando Bloom when I was a teen. In the scene where they are attacked by wargs on their way to Helm’s Deep and Legolas goes to check out the situation, there’s a close up of his beautiful face, scouting the landscape. This moment was responsible for me violating the rewind button on my remote (see above: the money shot).
NO 3: An unexpected Journey
I will get a lot of crap for putting this (or any) Hobbit installment over a Lord of the Rings movie but you’ll have to deal with it. I have seen every single one of the movies on this list uncountable times and rewatchability is a factor that I find very important. Is The Fellowship as rewatchable as An unexpected Journey? I don’t think so. I can already hear the Tolkien folk telling me I’m blasphemous and too stupid to understand the value of the prologue and exposition and all the great lore we’re introduced to in the first one. And how could I possibly think the first (live-action), the revolutionary, completely redefining the fantasy genre, can be anything but the best. Well, hear me out: while I have a lot – and I mean A LOT – to criticize about the Hobbit movies, the sheer number of characters and places that are introduced in the first one tops Fellowship for me because it offers a lighter, more fun, more colorful side of Middle-earth. Ergo, I can watch it always and at any time, regardless my emotional state.
NO 4: Fellowship of the Ring
Brilliant, fantastical, incredible BUT boring, lulling you into a deep sleep. Once you’ve reached the 50 mark in terms of rewatches, this one just hasn’t been as attractive to me anymore. Being very familiar with the story and background details, the beginning especially drags on pretty painfully. There are, of course, iconic scenes and impactful sledgehammers of drama and action. But overall, it ranks in 4th place for me.
NO 5: The Battle of the Five Armies
Despite being disrupted by Tauriel and Kili, this movie is actually a stunning action flick. For Tolkien fans, that might be seen as an insult and Peter Jackson should really try and not be tempted by dollar bills so much. The only reason he did three movies was money in the first place. And what do you do when there’s no material left storywise? EXPLOSIONS. Well, okay that’s not fair to Peter. But someone else follows that logic religously – you know who you are. To be honest, if this wasn’t set in a Medieval-inspired fantasy environment – PJ would probably add a shit ton of explosions too. My point is, the only redeeming things about this movie are its epic action and the usual stellar performances from the cast (minus Evangeline Lilly).
NO 6: The Lord of the Rings (1987)
Aragorn’s legs are everything I need to say.
NO 7: The Desolation of Smaug
Despite being my least favorite of the bunch, this movie actually includes some of my favorite scenes from the entire Hobbit trilogy: Lee Pace as Thranduil talking to Thorin, visiting Beorn, Bilbo being shocked at his own ruthlessness when it comes to defending the ring (bravo Martin Freeman!), the first interaction between Bilbo and Smaug. However, the introduction of two characters is what catapults this one right to the bottom. Legolas and Tauriel. In theory, it makes sense to include the son of Mirkwood’s king but not the CGI-mess that is Orlando Bloom’s face. Something in my brain just outright rejects computer generated faces and although some of the best in the field were working on it, I can’t stand it. But do not despair, there’s an even bigger turd to share: Evangeline Lilly delivers the worst portrayal of an elve in all Middle-Earth movies. It’s a bummer, really, because I am a fan of hers but this character is so wrong in so many ways. (Watch out for my Hobbit rant, which is already in the making!)
And since this is so much fun, I’ll include a ranking of the obligatory end credit songs just for you:
- Into the West – Annie Lennox
- The Final Goodbye – Billy Boyd
- Gollum’s song – Emiliana Torrini
- Song of the Lonely Mountain – Neil Finn
- May it be – Enya
- I see fire – Ed Sheeran
Ranking your favorite movies of all time is always tough but we’d love to hear your choices! Vote in the poll and share your prefered order in the comments below!
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