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The Lord of the Rings (film series)

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The Lord of the Rings
Lotr logos.png
The Lord of the Rings trilogy original logos
Directed byPeter Jackson
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onThe Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Starring
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyAndrew Lesnie
Edited by
Production
companies
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • 19 December 2001 (2001-12-19)
  • 18 December 2002 (2002-12-18)
  • 17 December 2003 (2003-12-17)
Running time
Total (3 films):
  • 558 minutes (theatrical)
  • 686 minutes (extended)
Country
  • New Zealand
  • United States
LanguageEnglish
BudgetTotal (3 films):
$281 million
Box officeTotal (3 films):
$2.919 billion

The Lord of the Rings is a film series of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson, based on the eponymous novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). Produced and distributed by New Line Cinema with the co-production of WingNut Films. It is an international venture between New Zealand and the United States. The films feature an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis and Sean Bean.

Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the films follow the hobbit Frodo Baggins as he and the Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, to ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. The Fellowship eventually splits up and Frodo continues the quest with his loyal companion Sam and the treacherous Gollum. Meanwhile, Aragorn, heir in exile to the throne of Gondor, along with Legolas, Gimli, Merry, Pippin and the wizard Gandalf, unite to rally the Free Peoples of Middle-earth in the War of the Ring in order to aid Frodo by weakening Sauron's forces.

The three films were shot simultaneously and entirely in Jackson's native New Zealand from 11 October 1999 until 22 December 2000, with pickup shots done from 2001 to 2004. It was one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects ever undertaken, with a budget of $281 million. An extended edition of each film was released on home video a year after its theatrical release.

The Lord of the Rings is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential film trilogies ever made. It was a major financial success and is among the highest-grossing film series of all time with over $2.9 billion in worldwide receipts. Each film was critically acclaimed and heavily awarded, winning 17 out of their 30 Academy Award nominations.

Films[edit]

The Fellowship of the Ring[edit]

In the Second Age of Middle-earth, the lords of Elves, Dwarves, and Men are given Rings of Power. Unbeknownst to them, the Dark Lord Sauron forges the One Ring in Mount Doom, infusing into it a great part of his power to dominate, through it and at a distance, the other Rings, so he might conquer Middle-earth. A final alliance of men and elves battles Sauron's forces in Mordor, where Prince Isildur of Gondor severs Sauron's finger, and the Ring with it, thereby destroying his physical form. With Sauron's first defeat, the Third Age of Middle-earth begins. Unfortunately, the Ring's influence corrupts Isildur, and, rather than destroy the Ring, Isildur takes it for himself. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost for 2,500 years, until it is found by Gollum, who owns it for five centuries. The Ring is then found by a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who turns invisible when he puts it on, but is unaware of its history.

Sixty years later, Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday in the Shire, reuniting with his old friend, Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo reveals that he intends to leave the Shire for one last adventure, and he leaves his inheritance, including the Ring, to his nephew, Frodo. Although Bilbo has begun to become corrupted by the Ring and tries to keep it for himself, Gandalf intervenes. Gandalf, suspicious of the Ring, tells Frodo to keep it secret and to keep it safe. Gandalf then investigates the Ring, discovers its true nature, and returns to warn Frodo. Gandalf also learns that Gollum was tortured by Orcs, and that Gollum uttered two words during his torture: "Shire" and "Baggins." Gandalf instructs Frodo to leave the Shire, accompanied by his friend Samwise Gamgee. Gandalf rides to Isengard to meet with fellow wizard Saruman the White, but learns that he has joined forces with Sauron, who has dispatched his nine undead Nazgûl servants to find Frodo. After a brief battle, Saruman imprisons Gandalf. Frodo and Sam are joined by fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin, and they evade the Nazgûl, arriving in Bree, where they are meant to meet Gandalf. However, Gandalf never arrives, and they are instead aided by a ranger named Strider, a friend of Gandalf's, who promises to escort them to Rivendell. The hobbits are ambushed by the Nazgûl on Weathertop, and their leader, the Witch-King, stabs Frodo with a cursed Morgul blade. Arwen, an elf and Strider's betrothed, comes to Frodo's aid, rescuing him and incapacitating the Nazgûl. She takes him to Rivendell, where he is healed. Frodo meets Gandalf, who escaped Isengard with help from Gwaihir, a giant eagle. Arwen's father, Lord Elrond, holds a council that decides the Ring must be destroyed in Mount Doom. While the members argue, Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, accompanied by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, elf Legolas, dwarf Gimli, Boromir of Gondor, and Strider, who is revealed to be Aragorn, Isildur's heir and the rightful King of Gondor. Bilbo gives Frodo his sword, Sting. The Fellowship of the Ring sets off, but Saruman's magic forces them to travel through the Mines of Moria, much to Gandalf's displeasure.

The Fellowship discovers that the dwarves within Moria have been slain, and they are attacked by Orcs and a cave troll. They defeat them, but are confronted by Durin's Bane, a Balrog residing within the mines. Gandalf casts the Balrog into a vast chasm, but it drags Gandalf down into the darkness with it. The rest of the Fellowship, now led by Aragorn, reaches Lothlórien, home to elves Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel privately informs Frodo that only he can complete the quest, and that one of his friends will try to take the Ring. Meanwhile, Saruman creates an army of Uruk-hai to track down and kill the Fellowship.

The Fellowship leaves Lothlórien by river to Parth Galen. Frodo wanders off and is confronted by Boromir, who tries to take the Ring in desperation. Afraid of the Ring corrupting his friends, Frodo decides to travel to Mordor alone. The Fellowship is then ambushed by the Uruk-hai. Merry and Pippin are taken captive, and Boromir is mortally wounded by the Uruk chieftain, Lurtz. Aragorn arrives and slays Lurtz, and watches Boromir die peacefully. Sam follows Frodo, accompanying him to keep his promise to Gandalf to protect Frodo, while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli go to rescue Merry and Pippin.

The Two Towers[edit]

Awakening from a dream of Gandalf the Grey battling the Balrog, Frodo Baggins and his friend Samwise Gamgee find themselves lost in the Emyn Muil near Mordor and soon become aware that they are being stalked by Gollum, the former owner of the One Ring. After capturing him, a sympathetic Frodo decides to use Gollum as a guide to Mordor, despite Sam's objections.

Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pursue the Uruk-hai to save their companions Merry and Pippin. The Uruk-hai are ambushed by a group of Rohirrim, while the two Hobbits escape into Fangorn Forest and encounter Treebeard, an Ent. Aragorn's group later meets the Rohirrim and their leader Éomer, who reveals that they have been exiled by their king Théoden who is being manipulated by Saruman and his servant Gríma Wormtongue into turning a blind eye to Saruman's forces running rampant in Rohan. While searching for the Hobbits in Fangorn, Aragorn's group encounters Gandalf, who, after succumbing to his injuries while killing the Balrog in Moria, has been resurrected as Gandalf the White to help save Middle-earth.

Aragorn's group travels to Rohan's capital city Edoras, where Gandalf releases Théoden from Saruman's influence and Wormtongue is banished. After learning of Saruman's plans to wipe out Rohan with his Uruk-hai army, Théoden decides to evacuate his citizens to Helm's Deep, an ancient fortress that has provided refuge to Rohan's people in times past, while Gandalf departs to acquire the aid of the Éomer's army. Aragorn establishes a friendship with Théoden's niece, Éowyn, who quickly becomes infatuated with him. When the refugees comes under attack by Warg-riding Orcs, Aragorn falls off a cliff and is presumed dead. However, he is revived by his horse Brego and rides to Helm's Deep. The defenders are joined by a detachment of Elves from Lothlórien, the Uruk-hai army arrives at Helm's Deep that night and a night-long battle ensues. The Uruk-hai breach the outer wall using gunpowder-like explosives and force the remaining defenders to retreat into the inner castle.

Merry and Pippin, having convinced Treebeard that they were allies, are brought to an Ent Council in Fangorn where the Ents decide not to assist in the war. Pippin then tells Treebeard to take them in the direction of Isengard, where they witness the devastation caused to the forest by Saruman's war efforts. An enraged Treebeard summons the Ents and they storm Isengard, drowning the orcs by breaking their river dam and stranding Saruman in Orthanc.

At Helm's Deep, Aragorn convinces a despairing Theoden to ride out and meet the Uruks in one last charge. Gandalf and Éomer's horsemen arrive at sunrise, turning the tide of the battle. The Uruk-hai flee into Fangorn forest, which has moved closer to the battle at the urging of Treebeard, where they are destroyed. Gandalf warns that Sauron's retaliation will be terrible and swift.

Meanwhile, Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes to the Black Gate but convinces them to Mordor by an alternative route. Frodo and Sam are captured by the Rangers of Ithilien led by Faramir, brother of the late Boromir. Frodo helps Faramir catch Gollum to save him from being killed and Faramir learns of the One Ring and takes his captives with him to Gondor to win his father's respect. While passing through the besieged Gondorian city of Osgiliath, Sam reveals that Boromir was was driven mad by the Ring and tried to take it. An attacking Nazgûl nearly captures Frodo, who momentarily attacks Sam before coming to his senses, forcing Sam to remind him that they are fighting for the good still left in Middle-earth. Faramir is impressed by Frodo and releases them along with Gollum. While leading the hobbits once more, Gollum decides to take revenge on Frodo and reclaim the ring by leading the group to "Her" upon arriving at Cirith Ungol.

The Return of the King[edit]

Two Hobbits, Sméagol and Déagol, are fishing when Déagol discovers the One Ring in the river. Sméagol is ensnared by the Ring, and kills his friend for it. He retreats into the Misty Mountains as the Ring twists his body and mind, until he becomes the creature Gollum.

Centuries later, during the War of the Ring, Gandalf leads Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and King Théoden to Isengard, where they reunite with Merry and Pippin. Gandalf retrieves the defeated Saruman's palantír. Pippin later looks into the seeing-stone, and is telepathically attacked by Sauron. Gandalf deduces that Sauron will attack Gondor's capital Minas Tirith. He rides there to warn Gondor's steward Denethor, taking Pippin with him.

Gollum leads Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee to Minas Morgul, where they watch the Witch-king, leader of the nine Nazgûl, lead an army of Orcs towards Gondor. The hobbits begin climbing a stair carved in the cliff face that will take them into Mordor via a 'secret way' - unaware that Gollum plans to kill them and take the Ring. The Witch-king and his forces strike and overwhelm Osgiliath, forcing Faramir and his garrison to retreat to Minas Tirith.

Gollum disposes of the Hobbits' food, blaming Sam. Frodo tells Sam to go home, before Frodo and Gollum continue to the tunnel leading to Mordor, where Gollum tricks him into venturing into the lair of the giant spider Shelob. Frodo narrowly escapes and confronts Gollum, telling him that he must destroy the Ring for both their sakes. Gollum attacks Frodo, but falls down a chasm. Frodo continues on, but Shelob discovers, paralyses, and binds him. However, Sam arrives and injures Shelob, driving her away. Sam hides as Orcs appear and take Frodo with them. The Orcs start a fight over ownership of Frodo's mithril vest, allowing Sam to escape with Frodo and continue their journey.

Aragorn learns from Elrond that Arwen is dying, having refused to leave Middle Earth after seeing a vision of her son with Aragorn. Elrond gives Aragorn Andúril, forged from the shards of Isildur's sword Narsil, so he can reclaim his birthright while gaining reinforcements from the Dead Men of Dunharrow. Joined by Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn travels to the Paths of the Dead, recruiting the Army of the Dead by pledging to release them from the curse Isildur put on them. Faramir is gravely wounded after a futile effort to retake Osgiliath; believing his son to be dead, Denethor falls into madness. Gandalf is left to defend the city against the Orc army, led by Gothmog. As Gothmog's army forces its way into the city, Denethor attempts to kill himself and Faramir on a pyre. Pippin alerts Gandalf and they save Faramir, but a burning Denethor leaps to his death from the top of Minas Tirith just before Théoden and his nephew, Éomer, arrive with the Rohirrim. During the ensuing battle, they are overwhelmed by the Oliphaunt-riding Haradrim, while the Witch-King mortally wounds Théoden. Though Théoden's niece Éowyn destroys the Witch-king with Merry's help, Théoden succumbs to his wounds. Aragorn arrives with the Army of the Dead, who overcome the Orcs and win the battle; Aragorn then frees them from the curse. Aragorn decides to lead his army upon the Black Gate as a distraction, so Frodo and Sam can get to Mount Doom.

Aragorn's army draw out Sauron's forces and empties Mordor, allowing Frodo and Sam to reach the volcano, but Gollum attacks them just as they reach Mount Doom. Frodo succumbs to the Ring and claims it as his own. Gollum attacks Frodo and bites his finger off to reclaim the Ring. Frodo fights back and knocks Gollum, who is holding the Ring, into the volcano, destroying the Ring and killing Gollum. As Frodo and Sam escape, Sauron is destroyed along with his forces and the Nine as Mordor crumbles. Gandalf flies in with eagles to rescue the Hobbits, who awaken later in Minas Tirith and are reunited with the surviving Fellowship members. Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor and takes Arwen as his queen. The Hobbits return home to the Shire, where Sam marries Rosie Cotton. A few years later, Frodo departs Middle-earth for the Undying Lands with his uncle Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Elves. He leaves Sam the Red Book of Westmarch, which details their adventures. Sam then returns to the Shire, where he embraces Rosie and their children.

Cast and crew[edit]

Cast[edit]

The following is a list of cast members who voiced or portrayed characters appearing in the extended version of the films.[1][2][3]

Character
The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King
The Company
Frodo Baggins Elijah Wood
Aragorn Viggo Mortensen
Boromir Sean Bean
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck Dominic Monaghan
Samwise Gamgee Sean Astin
Gandalf Ian McKellen
Gimli John Rhys-Davies
Legolas Orlando Bloom
Peregrin "Pippin" Took Billy Boyd
The Shire and Bree
Bilbo Baggins Ian Holm Ian Holm
Mrs. Bracegirdle Lori Dungey
Barliman Butterbur David Weatherley
Rosie Cotton Sarah McLeod Sarah McLeod
Gaffer Gamgee Norman Forsey Norman Forsey
Elanor Gamgee Alexandra Astin
Bree Gate-Keeper Martyn Sanderson
Farmer Maggot Cameron Rhodes
Old Noakes Bill Johnson
Everard Proudfoot Noel Appleby Noel Appleby
Mrs. Proudfoot Megan Edwards
Otho Sackville Peter Corrigan
Lobelia Sackville-Baggins Elizabeth Moody
Ted Sandyman Brian Sergent
Rivendell and Lothlórien
Arwen Liv Tyler
Celeborn Marton Csokas Marton Csokas
Elrond Hugo Weaving
Figwit Bret McKenzie Bret McKenzie
Galadriel Cate Blanchett
Haldir Craig Parker
Rúmil Jørn Benzon
Isengard and Mordor
Gollum/Sméagol Andy Serkis
Gorbag Stephen Ure
Gothmog Lawrence Makoare
Craig Parker (voice)
Gríma Wormtongue Brad Dourif
Grishnákh Stephen Ure
Lurtz Lawrence Makoare
Mauhúr Robbie Magasiva
Andy Serkis (voice)
Mouth of Sauron Bruce Spence
The One Ring Alan Howard (voice) Alan Howard (voice)
Saruman Christopher Lee
Sauron Sala Baker
Alan Howard (voice)
Sala Baker
Alan Howard (voice)
Shagrat Peter Tait
Sharku Jed Brophy
Snaga Jed Brophy
Andy Serkis (voice)
Uglúk Nathaniel Lees
Witch-king of Angmar Brent McIntyre
Andy Serkis (voice)
Lawrence Makoare
Rohan and Gondor
Damrod Alistair Browning
Denethor John Noble
Éomer Karl Urban
Éothain Sam Comery
Éowyn Miranda Otto
Faramir David Wenham
Freda Olivia Tennet
Gamling Bruce Hopkins
Grimbold Bruce Phillips
Háma John Leigh
Haleth Calum Gittins
Irolas Ian Hughes
King of the Dead Paul Norell
Madril John Bach
Morwen Robyn Malcolm
Théoden Bernard Hill
Théodred Paris Howe Strewe
Treebeard John Rhys-Davies (voice)
Historical figures
Déagol Thomas Robins (hand only) Thomas Robins
Elendil Peter McKenzie
Gil-galad Mark Ferguson
Isildur Harry Sinclair Harry Sinclair

Crew[edit]

Crew
The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King
Director Peter Jackson
ProducersN Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Tim SandersFOTR
Screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Stephen SinclairTT
Composer Howard Shore
Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie
Editors John GilbertFOTR Michael HortonTT Jamie SelkirkROTK
Production designers Dan Hennah and Grant Major
Conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe
Costume designers Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor
Visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel
Production companies New Line Cinema and WingNut Films
Distributing company New Line Cinema

Production[edit]

Jackson began storyboarding and screenwriting the series with Christian Rivers, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens in 1997 and assigned his crew to begin designing Middle-earth at the same time.[4] He then hired long-time collaborators Jim Rygiel and Richard Taylor to lead Weta Workshop on five major design elements: armour, weapons, prosthetic makeup, creatures, and miniatures. They were also visual effects supervisors. In November 1997, famed Tolkien illustrators Alan Lee and John Howe joined the project;[5] most of the imagery in the films is based on their various illustrations.[6] Production designer Grant Major was charged with the task of converting Lee and Howe's designs into architecture, creating models of the sets, while Dan Hennah worked as art director, scouting locations and organising the building of sets.

Principal photography for all three films was conducted concurrently in many locations within New Zealand's conservation areas and national parks. Filming took place between 11 October 1999 and 22 December 2000 with Andrew Lesnie serving as director of photography. Pick-up shoots were conducted annually from 2001 to 2004.[7] The series was shot at over 150 different locations, with seven different units shooting, as well as soundstages around Wellington and Queenstown.[8] Along with Jackson directing the whole production, other unit directors included John Mahaffie, Geoff Murphy, Fran Walsh, Barrie M. Osborne, Rick Porras, and any other assistant director, producer, or writer available. Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens did not write each film to correspond exactly to its respective book, opting instead to write a three-part adaptation with some sequences missing, some sequences created from scratch, and some sequences moved from one area to another regardless of its placement in the books. To allow the story to be clearer for viewers, Jackson takes a more chronological approach to the story than did Tolkien. During shooting, the screenplays continued to evolve, in part due to contributions from cast members looking to further explore their characters.[5]

Each film had the benefit of a full year of post-production time before its respective December release, often finishing in October–November, with the crew immediately going to work on the next film. To avoid pressure, Jackson hired a different editor for each film. John Gilbert worked on the first film, Michael J. Horton on the second and Jamie Selkirk on the third. Daily rushes would often last up to four hours, with scenes being done throughout 1999–2002 for the rough (4½ hours) assemblies of the films.[5] In total, 1828 km (six million feet) of film was edited down to the 11 hours and 26 minutes (686 minutes) of extended running time.[8]

Music[edit]

Howard Shore (pictured in 2013), composer of the music of the films.

Howard Shore composed, orchestrated, conducted, and produced the trilogy's music. He was hired in August 2000 and visited the set, and watched the assembly cuts of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King.[9] In the music, Shore included many (85 to 110) leitmotifs to represent various characters, cultures, and places – the largest catalogue of leitmotifs in the history of cinema, surpassing – for comparison – that of the entire Star Wars film series. For example, there are multiple leitmotifs just for the hobbits and the Shire. Although the first film had some of its score recorded in Wellington, virtually all of the trilogy's score was recorded in Watford Town Hall and mixed at Abbey Road Studios.[5] Jackson planned to advise the score for six weeks each year in London, though for The Two Towers he stayed for twelve.[10]

The score is primarily played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (ranging from 93 to 120 players throughout the recording), London Voices, London Oratory School Schola boy choir, and many artists such as Ben Del Maestro, Enya, Renée Fleming, James Galway, Annie Lennox and Emilíana Torrini contributed. Even actors Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto (extended cuts only for the latter two), and Peter Jackson (for a single gong sound in the second film) contributed to the score. Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens served as librettists, writing lyrics to various music and songs, which David Salo translated into Tolkien's languages. The third film's end song, "Into the West", was a tribute to a young filmmaker Jackson and Walsh befriended named Cameron Duncan, who died of cancer in 2003.[11]

Shore composed a main theme for The Fellowship rather than many different character themes, and its strength and weaknesses in volume are depicted at different points in the series. On top of that, individual themes were composed to represent different cultures. Infamously, the amount of music Shore had to write every day for the third film increased dramatically to around seven minutes.[11] The music for the series turned out to be a success and has been voted best movie soundtrack of all time for the six years running, passing Schindler's List (1993), Gladiator (2000), Star Wars (1977), and Out of Africa (1985) respectively.[12]

Soundtracks[edit]

Title U.S. release date Length Composer Label
The Fellowship of the Ring: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 20 November 2001 (2001-11-20) 71:29 Howard Shore Reprise Records
The Two Towers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 10 December 2002 (2002-12-10) 72:46
The Return of the King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 25 November 2003 (2003-11-25) 72:05

Reception[edit]

The trilogy's online promotional trailer was first released on 27 April 2000, and set a new record for download hits, registering 1.7 million hits in the first 24 hours of its release.[13] The trailer used a selection from the soundtrack for Braveheart and The Shawshank Redemption among other cuts. In 2001, 24 minutes of footage from the series, primarily the Moria sequence, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and was very well received.[14] The showing also included an area designed to look like Middle-earth.[8]

The Fellowship of the Ring was released 19 December 2001. It grossed $47 million in its U.S. opening weekend and made around $871 million worldwide. A preview of The Two Towers was inserted just before the end credits near the end of the film's theatrical run.[15] A promotional trailer was later released, containing music re-scored from the film Requiem for a Dream.[16] The Two Towers was released 18 December 2002. It grossed $62 million in its first U.S. weekend and out-grossed its predecessor with $926 million worldwide. The promotional trailer for The Return of the King was debuted exclusively before the New Line Cinema film Secondhand Lions on 23 September 2003.[17] Released 17 December 2003, its first U.S. weekend gross was $72 million, and became the second film, after Titanic (1997), to gross over $1 billion worldwide.

Box office[edit]

Film U.S. release date Box office gross All-time ranking Budget Ref(s)
U.S. and Canada Other territories Worldwide U.S. and Canada Worldwide
Rank Peak Rank Peak
The Fellowship of the Ring 19 December 2001 (2001-12-19) $315,544,750 $556,394,996 $871,939,746 74 9 68 5 $93 million [18][19]
The Two Towers 18 December 2002 (2002-12-18) $342,551,365 $583,798,343 $926,349,708 55 7 56 4 $94 million [20][21]
The Return of the King 17 December 2003 (2003-12-17) $377,845,905 $742,391,097 $1,120,237,002 42 6 25 2 $94 million [22][23]
Total $1,035,942,020 $1,882,584,436 $2,918,526,456 $281 million [note 1]

Critical and public response[edit]

The Lord of the Rings trilogy received universal acclaim and is constantly ranked among the greatest film trilogies ever made.[32] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "the trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal".[33] Todd McCarthy of Variety described the films as "one of the most ambitious and phenomenally successful dream projects of all time".[34] The Fellowship of the Ring was voted the greatest fantasy movie of all time in a reader's poll conducted by American magazine Wired in 2012, while The Two Towers and The Return of the King placed fourth and third respectively.[35]

The series appears in the Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association: Top 10 Films, Time's All-Time 100 Movies, and James Berardinelli's Top 100.[36] In 2007, USA Today named the series as the most important films of the past 25 years.[37] Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Bringing a cherished book to the big screen? No sweat. Peter Jackson's trilogy — or, as we like to call it, our preciousssss — exerted its irresistible pull, on advanced Elvish speakers and neophytes alike."[38] Paste named it one of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000–2009), ranking it at No. 4.[39] In another Time magazine list, the series ranks second in "Best Movies of the Decade".[40] In addition, six characters and their respective actors made the list of 'The 100 Greatest Movie Characters', also compiled by Empire, with Viggo Mortensen's portrayal of Aragorn ranking No. 15, Ian McKellen's portrayal of Gandalf ranking No. 30, Ian Holm's portrayal of Bilbo Baggins (shared with Martin Freeman for his portrayal of the same character in The Hobbit films) ranking No. 61, Andy Serkis' portrayal of Gollum ranking No. 66, Sean Astin's portrayal of Samwise Gamgee ranking No. 77, and Orlando Bloom's portrayal of Legolas ranking No. 94.[41]

Film Rotten Tomatoes[42][43][44] Metacritic[45][46][47] CinemaScore[48]
The Fellowship of the Ring 91% (8.18/10 average rating) (229 reviews) 92/100 (34 reviews) A−
The Two Towers 95% (8.49/10 average rating) (252 reviews) 87/100 (39 reviews) A
The Return of the King 93% (8.69/10 average rating) (273 reviews) 94/100 (41 reviews) A+

Accolades[edit]

For his performance in The Fellowship of the Ring, Ian McKellen (pictured in 2013) was nominated for multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

The three films together were nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, of which they won 17, both records for any movie trilogy.[49] The Fellowship of the Ring earned 13 nominations, the most of any film at the 74th Academy Awards, winning four; The Two Towers won two awards from six nominations at the 75th Academy Awards; The Return of the King won in every category in which it was nominated at the 76th Academy Awards, setting the current Oscar record for the highest clean sweep, and its 11 Academy Awards wins ties the record held by Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997).[50] The Return of the King also became only the second sequel to win the Oscar for Best Picture (after The Godfather Part II).

The Lord of the Rings film series at the Academy Awards[51][52][53]
Category
74th Academy Awards
The Fellowship of the Ring
75th Academy Awards
The Two Towers
76th Academy Awards
The Return of the King
Picture Nominated Nominated Won
Director Nominated Won
Supporting Actor Nominated
Adapted Screenplay Nominated Won
Art Direction Nominated Nominated Won
Cinematography Won
Costume Design Nominated Won
Film Editing Nominated Nominated Won
Makeup Won Won
Original Score Won Won
Original Song Nominated Won
Sound Editing Won
Sound Mixing Nominated Nominated Won
Visual Effects Won Won Won

As well as Academy Awards, each film in the series won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the MTV Movie Award for Movie of the Year, and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film. The first and third films also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film. The New York Film Critics Circle awarded The Return of the King its Best Picture Award at the 2003 Awards Ceremony, hosted by Andrew Johnston, chair of the organization at that time, who called it "a masterful piece of filmmaking."[54]

Reactions to changes in the films from the books[edit]

They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25, and it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film. [...] Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has gone too far for me. Such commercialisation has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of this creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: turning my head away.

Christopher Tolkien, Le Monde[55]

The film series provoked both positive and negative reaction from fans and scholars of the novels, and was sometimes seen as changing parts Tolkien felt thematically necessary in terms of characters, themes, events and subtlety. Some fans of the book who disagreed with such changes have released fan edits of the films such as The Lord of the Rings: The Purist Edition,[56][57] which removed many of the changes to bring them closer to the original.

It was rumored that the Tolkien family became split on the series, with Christopher Tolkien and his son Simon Tolkien feuding over whether or not it was a good idea to adapt.[58] Christopher has since denied these claims, saying, "My own position is that The Lord of the Rings is peculiarly unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form. The suggestions that have been made that I 'disapprove' of the films, even to the extent of thinking ill of those with whom I may differ, are wholly without foundation." He added that he had never "expressed any such feeling".[59] In 2012, however, he described the films as having "eviscerated" the book, and criticized the resulting "commercialisation" of his father's work.[55][60]

Various changes to characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Arwen, Denethor, Faramir, Gimli, and Frodo, when considered together, were seen by some to alter the tone and themes found in the books. Several critics contend that the portrayal of women, especially Arwen, in the films is thematically faithful to (or compatible with) Tolkien's writings despite some differences.[61][62][63][64] Wayne G. Hammond, a Tolkien scholar,[65][66] said of the first two films that he found them to be "travesties as adaptations... faithful only on a basic level of plot" and that many characters had not been depicted faithfully to their appearance in the novel.[67][68] Janet Brennan Croft criticized the films using Tolkien's own terms "anticipation" and "flattening", which she used in critiquing a proposed film script. She contrasts Tolkien's subtlety with Jackson's tendency to show "too much too soon".[69] Other critics have argued that Tolkien's characters were weakened and misinterpreted by their portrayal in the films.[70][71][72]

Changes to events, such as the Elves participating at the Battle of Helm's Deep,[73] Faramir taking the hobbits to Osgiliath,[74] and the deletion of the chapter "The Scouring of the Shire", are also seen as changing Tolkien's themes.[74]

Supporters of the series assert that it is a worthy interpretation of the book and that most of the changes were necessary.[6] Many who worked on the series are fans of the book, including Christopher Lee, who (alone among the cast) had actually met Tolkien in person,[75] and Boyens once noted that no matter what, it is simply their interpretation of the book. Jackson once said that to simply summarize the story on screen would be a mess, and in his own words, "Sure, it's not really The Lord of the Rings... but it could still be a pretty damn cool movie."[76][77] Other fans also claim that, despite any changes, the films serve as a tribute to the book, appealing to those who have not yet read it, and even leading some to do so. The Movie Guide for The Encyclopedia of Arda (an online Tolkien encyclopedia) states that Jackson's films were exceptional since filming the whole story of The Lord of the Rings was probably impossible.[78] This notion is partially supported by a review published in 2005 that otherwise criticized a lack of "faithfulness to Tolkien's spirit and tone."[79] Douglas Kellner argues that the conservative community spirit of Tolkien's Shire is reflected in Jackson's films as well as the division of the Fellowship into "squabbling races".[80] In a 2006 review, film theorist Kristin Thompson was critical about the fact that film studies were undertaken by literary researchers and about the frequent denigration of Jackson's work in the collected essays.[81]

Home media[edit]

The first two films were released on standard two-disc edition DVDs containing previews of the next film. The success of the theatrical cuts brought about four-disc extended editions, with new editing, added special effects and music.[82] The extended cuts of the films and the included special features were spread over two discs, and a limited collector's edition was also released. The Fellowship of the Ring was released on 12 November 2002, containing 30 minutes more footage, an Alan Lee painting of the Fellowship entering Moria, and the Moria Gate on the back of the sleeve; an Argonath-styled bookend was included with the Collector's Edition. The Two Towers, released on 18 November 2003, contained 46 minutes extra footage and a Lee painting of Gandalf the White's entrance; the Collector's Edition contained a Sméagol statue, with a crueller-looking statue of his Gollum persona available by order for a limited time.

The Return of the King was released on 14 December 2004, having 52 minutes more footage, a Lee painting of the Grey Havens and a model of Minas Tirith for the Collector's Edition, with Minas Morgul available by order for a limited time. The Special Extended DVD Editions also had in-sleeve maps of the Fellowship's travels. They have also played at cinemas, most notably for a 16 December 2003 marathon screening (dubbed "Trilogy Tuesday") culminating in a late afternoon screening of the third film. Attendees of "Trilogy Tuesday" were given a limited edition keepsake from Sideshow Collectibles containing one random frame of film from each of the three movies. Both versions were put together in a Limited Edition "branching" version, plus a new feature-length documentary by Costa Botes. The complete series was released in a six-disc set on 14 November 2006.

Warner Bros. released the trilogy's theatrical versions on Blu-ray in a boxed set on 6 April 2010.[83] An extended edition Blu-ray box set was made available for pre-order from Amazon.com in March 2011 and was released on 28 June 2011.[84] Each film's extended Blu-ray version is identical to the extended DVD version; the total running time is longer due to added credit sequence listing the names of "The Lord of the Rings fan-club members" who contributed to the project.[85][86]

In 2014, brand new Blu-ray steelbook editions of the five-disc Extended Editions were released. The first, The Fellowship of the Ring, was released on 24 March 2014.[87] The discs are identical to those found in the previous five-disc Blu-ray set.[88]

Film Theatrical edition length Extended edition length
The Fellowship of the Ring 178 minutes[89] 208 minutes[90]
The Two Towers 179 minutes[91] 225 minutes[92]
The Return of the King 200 minutes[93] 252 minutes[94]
Total runtime 558 minutes 686 minutes

Legacy[edit]

The release of the films saw a surge of interest in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other works, vastly increasing his impact on popular culture.[95] The success of the films spawned numerous video games and many other kinds of merchandise.

Effects on the film industry and tourism[edit]

Air New Zealand painted this Airbus A320 in The Lord of the Rings livery to promote The Return of the King in 2004.

As a result of the series' success, Peter Jackson has become a major figure in the film business in the mold of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, in the process befriending some industry heavyweights like Bryan Singer and Frank Darabont. Jackson has since founded his own film production company, Wingnut Films, as well as Wingnut Interactive, a video game company. He was also finally given a chance to remake King Kong in 2005. The film was a critical and box office success, although not as successful as The Lord of the Rings series. Jackson has been called a "favourite son" of New Zealand.[96] In 2004, Howard Shore toured with The Lord of the Rings Symphony, playing two hours of the score. Along with the Harry Potter films, the series has renewed interest in the fantasy film genre. Tourism in New Zealand is up, possibly due to its exposure in the series,[97] with the country's tourism industry waking up to an audience's familiarity.[98]

In December 2002, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: The Exhibition opened at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. As of 2007, the exhibition has traveled to seven other cities around the world. A musical adaptation of the book was launched in Toronto, Canada, in 2006, but it closed after mostly poor reviews. A shortened version opened in London, United Kingdom, in the summer of 2007.

Legal disputes[edit]

The legacy of The Lord of the Rings is also that of court cases over profits from the trilogy. Sixteen cast members (Noel Appleby [de], Jed Brophy, Mark Ferguson, Ray Henwood, Bruce Hopkins, William Johnson, Nathaniel Lees, Sarah McLeod, Ian Mune, Paul Norell, Craig Parker, Robert Pollock, Martyn Sanderson, Peter Tait and Stephen Ure [de]) sued over the lack of revenue from merchandise bearing their appearance. The case was resolved out of court in 2008. The settlement came too late for Appleby, who died of cancer in 2007.[99] Saul Zaentz also filed a lawsuit in 2004 claiming he had not been paid all of his royalties.

The next year, Jackson himself sued the studio over profits from the first film, slowing development of the Hobbit prequels until late 2007.[100] The Tolkien Trust filed a lawsuit in February 2008, for violating Tolkien's original deal over the rights that they would earn 7.5% of the gross from any films based on his works.[101] The Trust sought compensation of $150 million.[102] A judge denied them this option, but allowed them to win compensation from the act of the studio ignoring the contract itself.[103] On 8 September 2009, the dispute was settled.[104]

The Hobbit prequel trilogy[edit]

The success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy led to Jackson directing a trilogy of prequels based on Tolkien's children's book The Hobbit. The films, which were released between 2012 and 2014, used much of the cast and crew of The Lord of the Rings, including Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom who reprised their roles. Although the Hobbit films were even more commercially successful than The Lord of the Rings, they received mixed reviews from critics.

Video games[edit]

Numerous video games were released to supplement the film series. They include: The Two Towers, Pinball, The Return of the King, The Third Age, The Third Age (GBA), Tactics, The Battle for Middle-earth, The Battle for Middle-earth II, The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king, The Lord of the Rings Online, Conquest, Aragorn's Quest, War in the North, Lego The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of Middle-earth, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

N.^ Not including executive producers.
FOTR.^ He only worked on The Fellowship of the Ring.
TT.^ He only worked on The Two Towers.
ROTK.^ He only worked on The Return of the King.
  1. ^ Sources other than Box Office Mojo that refer to the trilogy's budget being $281 million include: The New York Times,[24] The Independent,[25][26] The Telegraph,[27] Business Insider,[28] Collider,[29] and IndieWire.[30][31]

References[edit]

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  104. ^ Alex Dobuzinskis (8 September 2009). "Legal settlement clears way for "Hobbit" movie". Reuters. Archived from the original on 11 September 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2009. The Hollywood studio behind a film based on 'The Hobbit' and trustees for author J.R.R. Tolkien's estate said on Tuesday they had settled a lawsuit that clears the way for what is expected to be a blockbuster movie based on the book.

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