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The Lord of the Rings (film series)

The Lord of the Rings is a series of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson, based on the 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, the series 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, Boromir, Merry, Pippin and the wizard Gandalf, unite to save the Free Peoples of Middle-earth from the forces of Sauron and rally them in the War of the Ring to aid Frodo by distracting Sauron’s attention.

The three films were shot simultaneously and entirely in Jackson’s native New Zealand from 11 October 1999 until 22 December 2000, with pick-up shots done from 2001 to 2003. It was one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects ever undertaken, with a budget of $281 million.

The first film in the series premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on 10 December 2001; the second film premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on 5 December 2002; the third film premiered at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington on 1 December 2003. An extended edition of each film was released on home video a year after its release in cinemas.

The Lord of the Rings is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential film series ever made. It was a major financial success and is among the highest-grossing film series of all time with $2.991 billion in worldwide receipts.

All three films received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences, who lauded the acting, direction, writing, production values, score, ambition, emotional depth, groundbreaking special effects and faithfulness to the source material. The series received numerous accolades, winning 17 Academy Awards out of 30 total nominations, including Best Picture for The Return Of The King.

In 2021, The Fellowship of the Ring was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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The Lord of the Rings (films)

The Fellowship of the Ring

Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie

 

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, instilling into it a great part of his power, to dominate the other Rings so he might conquer Middle-earth. A final alliance of Men and Elves battles Sauron’s forces in Mordor.

Isildur of Gondor severs Sauron’s finger and the Ring with it, thereby vanquishing Sauron and returning him to spirit form. With Sauron’s first defeat, the Third Age of Middle-earth begins. The Ring’s influence corrupts Isildur, who takes it for himself and is later killed by Orcs. The Ring is lost in a river for 2,500 years until it is found by Gollum, who owns it for over four and a half centuries. The ring abandons Gollum and it is subsequently found by a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who is unaware of its history.

Sixty years later, Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday in the Shire, reuniting with his old friend, the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo departs the Shire for one last adventure, and he leaves his inheritance, including the Ring, to his nephew Frodo.

Gandalf investigates the Ring, discovers its true nature, and learns that Gollum was captured and tortured by Sauron’s Orcs, revealing two words during his interrogation: “Shire” and “Baggins.” Gandalf returns and warns Frodo to leave the Shire. As Frodo departs with his friend, gardener Samwise Gamgee, Gandalf rides to Isengard to meet with the wizard Saruman, but discovers his alliance with Sauron, who has dispatched his nine undead Nazgûl servants to find Frodo.

Frodo and Sam are joined by fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin, and they evade the Nazgûl before arriving in Bree, where they are meant to meet Gandalf. However, Gandalf never arrives, having been taken prisoner by Saruman. The hobbits are then aided by a Ranger named Strider, who promises to escort them to Rivendell; however, they are ambushed by the Nazgûl on Weathertop, and their leader, the Witch-King, stabs Frodo with a Morgul blade.

Arwen, an Elf and Strider’s beloved, locates Strider and rescues Frodo, summoning flood-waters that sweep the Nazgûl away. She takes him to Rivendell, where he is healed by the Elves. Frodo meets with Gandalf, who escaped Isengard on a Great Eagle. That night, Strider reunites with Arwen, and they affirm their love for each other.

Facing the threat of both Sauron and Saruman, Arwen’s father, Lord Elrond, decides against keeping the Ring in Rivendell. He holds a council of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, also attended by Frodo and Gandalf, that decides the Ring must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom.

Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, accompanied by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Elf Legolas, Dwarf Gimli, Boromir of Gondor, and Strider—who is actually Aragorn, Isildur’s heir and the rightful King of Gondor. Bilbo, now living in Rivendell, gives Frodo his sword Sting, and a chainmail shirt made of mithril.

The Fellowship of the Ring makes for the Gap of Rohan, but discover it is being watched by Saruman’s spies. They instead set off over the mountain pass of Caradhras, but Saruman summons a storm that forces them to travel through the Mines of Moria. After finding the Dwarves of Moria dead, the Fellowship is attacked by Orcs and a cave troll. They hold them off but are confronted by Durin’s Bane: a Balrog residing within the mines.

While the others escape, Gandalf fends off the Balrog and casts it into a vast chasm, but the Balrog drags Gandalf down into the darkness with him. The devastated Fellowship reaches Lothlórien, ruled by the Elf-queen Galadriel, who privately informs Frodo that only he can complete the quest and that one of his friends in the Fellowship will try to take the Ring. Meanwhile, Saruman creates an army of Uruk-hai in Isengard to find and kill the Fellowship.

The Fellowship travels by river to Parth Galen. Frodo wanders off and is confronted by Boromir, who tries to take the Ring as Lady Galadriel had predicted. Uruk-hai scouts then ambush the Fellowship; their leader, Lurtz, mortally wounds Boromir as he fails to stop them from taking Merry and Pippin as prisoners.

Aragorn arrives and kills Lurtz before comforting Boromir as he dies, promising to help the people of Gondor in the coming conflict. Fearing the Ring will corrupt his friends, Frodo decides to travel to Mordor alone, but allows Sam to come along, recalling his promise to Gandalf to look after him. As Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli set out to rescue Merry and Pippin, Frodo and Sam make their way down the mountain pass of Emyn Muil, journeying on to Mordor.

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The Two Towers

Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie

 

Awakening from a dream of Gandalf fighting the Balrog in Moria, Frodo Baggins finds himself, along with Samwise Gamgee, lost in the Emyn Muil near Mordor. They discover that they are being tracked by Gollum, a former bearer of the One Ring. Capturing Gollum, Frodo takes pity and allows him to guide them, reminding Sam that they will need Gollum’s help to infiltrate Mordor.

Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli pursue a band of Uruk-hai to save their companions Merry and Pippin, entering the kingdom of Rohan. The Uruk-hai are ambushed by a group of Rohirrim, allowing the Hobbits to escape into Fangorn Forest. Meeting Aragorn’s group, the Rohirrim’s leader Éomer explains that he and his men have been exiled by Rohan’s king, Théoden, who is under the control of Saruman and his servant Gríma Wormtongue.

Éomer believes Merry and Pippin were killed during the raid but leaves the group two horses. Searching for the Hobbits in Fangorn, Aragorn’s group encounters Gandalf, who after his fight against the Balrog was resurrected as Gandalf the White to help save Middle-earth.

Gandalf leads the trio to Rohan’s capital, Edoras, where Gandalf frees Théoden from Saruman’s control. Aragorn stops Théoden from executing Wormtongue, who flees. Learning of Saruman’s plans to destroy Rohan with his Uruk-hai army, Théoden evacuates his citizens to the fortress of The Hornburg at Helm’s Deep. Gandalf departs to find Éomer and his followers, hoping they will fight for their restored king.

Aragorn befriends Théoden’s niece, Éowyn, who becomes infatuated with him. When the refugees travelling to Helm’s Deep are attacked by Saruman’s Warg-riding Orcs, Aragorn falls from a cliff and is presumed dead. He is found by his horse Brego and rides to Helm’s Deep, witnessing Saruman’s army marching to the fortress.

In Rivendell, Arwen is told by her father Elrond that Aragorn will not return. He reminds her that if she remains in Middle-earth, she will outlive Aragorn by thousands of years, and she reluctantly departs for Valinor. Elrond is contacted by Galadriel of Lothlórien, who convinces him that the Elves should honour their alliance to men, and they dispatch an army of Elves to Helm’s Deep.

In Fangorn, Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, an Ent. Convincing Treebeard that they are allies, they are brought to an Ent Council, where the Ents decide not to take part in the coming war. Pippin asks Treebeard to take them in the direction of Isengard, where they witness the deforestation caused by Saruman’s war effort. Enraged, Treebeard and the Ents storm Isengard, trapping Saruman in his tower.

Aragorn arrives at Helm’s Deep, bringing word that Saruman’s army is close and Théoden must prepare for battle despite being vastly outnumbered. The army of Elves from Lothlórien arrives, as does Saruman’s army, and a battle ensues. The Uruk-hai breach the outer wall with explosives and during the ensuing charge kill the Elves’ commander, Haldir.

The defenders retreat into the keep, where Aragorn convinces Théoden to meet the Uruk-hai in one last charge. At dawn, as the defenders are overwhelmed, Gandalf and Éomer arrive with the Rohirrim, turning the tide of the battle. The surviving Uruk-hai flee into Fangorn Forest and are killed by the Ents. Gandalf warns that Sauron will retaliate.

Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes to the Black Gate, but recommends they enter Mordor by another route. Frodo and Sam are captured by Rangers of Ithilien led by Faramir, younger brother of the late Boromir. Frodo helps Faramir catch Gollum to save him from being killed by the Rangers. Learning of the One Ring, Faramir takes his captives to Gondor to bring the ring to his father Denethor.

Passing through the besieged city of Osgiliath, Frodo tries to explain to Faramir the true nature of the ring, and Sam explains that Boromir was driven mad by its power. A Nazgûl nearly captures Frodo, who falls under the ring’s power, but Sam saves him and reminds him that they are fighting for the good still left in Middle-earth. Impressed by Frodo’s resolve, Faramir releases them. Gollum decides he will betray Frodo and reclaim the Ring by leading the group to “Her” upon arriving at Cirith Ungol.

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The Return of the King

Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie

 

The hobbit Sméagol is fishing with his cousin Déagol, who discovers the One Ring in the river. Sméagol’s mind is ensnared by the Ring, and he kills his cousin for it. Increasingly corrupted physically and mentally, he retreats into the Misty Mountains and becomes known as Gollum.

Centuries later, during the War of the Ring, Gandalf leads Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and King Théoden of Rohan to Isengard, where they reunite with Merry and Pippin. Gandalf retrieves Saruman’s palantír, and the group returns to Edoras to celebrate their victory at Helm’s Deep.[a] Pippin looks into the palantír, seeing Sauron and a burning tree.

Gandalf deduces that the enemy plans to attack Gondor’s capital Minas Tirith; he rides there to warn Gondor’s steward Denethor. Pippin, who accompanies him, swears fealty to Denethor, whose now-dead heir Boromir had saved his life;[b] on Gandalf’s instruction, he triggers the lighting of the beacons, which call for help from Rohan.

Frodo, who carries the Ring, and Sam continue their journey towards Mordor, unaware that Gollum, now their guide, plans to betray them and take the Ring for himself. The trio witness the Witch-king of Angmar, lord of the nine Nazgûl, setting off towards Gondor with his army of Orcs. Gollum conspires to frame Sam for eating food supplies and desiring the Ring; influenced by the growing power of the Ring, Frodo is taken in by the deception, and orders Sam to go home.

Gollum then tricks Frodo into venturing into the lair of the giant spider Shelob. Frodo narrowly escapes and confronts Gollum, who falls down a chasm after a scuffle. Shelob discovers, paralyzes, and binds Frodo, but is wounded and driven away by a returning Sam, who, mourning Frodo’s apparent death, takes the Ring. Sam realizes his mistake when a group of Orcs takes Frodo captive, but manages to rescue Frodo as the Orcs fight among themselves. Now inside Mordor, the hobbits continue towards Mount Doom, their destination.

As King Théoden gathers his army, Elrond tells Aragorn that Arwen is dying, having refused to leave Middle-earth. Elrond gives Aragorn Andúril, reforged from the shards of King Elendil’s sword Narsil, and urges him to commit to claiming Gondor’s throne, to which he is heir. Joined by Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn travels the Paths of the Dead, and pledges to release the ghosts there from their curse should they come to Gondor’s aid.

Meanwhile, Faramir, who was earlier overwhelmed and driven back to Minas Tirith by the Witch-king, is gravely wounded in a suicide charge; believing his son to be dead, Denethor falls into madness. Gandalf marshals the defenders, but the huge Orc army breaks into the city. Denethor attempts to burn himself and Faramir on a pyre, but Pippin alerts Gandalf and they rescue Faramir. Denethor, set ablaze and in agony, jumps to his death.

Théoden arrives and leads his army against the Orcs. Despite initial success against Orcs in the ensuing battle, they are decimated by the Oliphaunt-riding Haradrim and the Witch-king mortally wounds Théoden; however, his niece Éowyn slays the Witch-king with Merry’s help. Théoden dies in his niece’s arms. Aragorn then arrives with his Army of the Dead, who overcome Sauron’s forces and win the battle. Their oath fulfilled, the Dead are released from their curse.

Aragorn decides to march on Mordor to distract Sauron from Frodo, now extremely weak, and Sam; all of Sauron’s remaining forces march to meet Aragorn’s diversion, allowing the hobbits to reach Mount Doom. Gollum, who survived his earlier fall, attacks them, but Frodo still manages to enter the mountain. There, he succumbs to the Ring’s power, putting it on his finger, but Gollum manages to bite off his finger and reclaim it. They struggle together and both fall off the ledge.

Frodo manages to cling on, and is pulled up by Sam, but Gollum falls and dies; the Ring, which fell with him, disintegrates in the lava. Mount Doom erupts as Sauron meets his demise, while Aragorn’s army emerges victorious as its enemies flee.

Gandalf rescues the hobbits with the help of eagles, and the surviving Fellowship is happily reunited in Minas Tirith. Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor and marries Arwen. The Hobbits return home to the Shire, where Sam marries Rosie Cotton. A few years later, Frodo who is still traumatised, 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 returns to the Shire, where he embraces Rosie and their children.

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The Lord of the Rings (film series) Casting

Jackson began abstract discussions on casting during the development of the scripts with Miramax.Jackson, Walsh and Boyens compiled a casting wishlist, which included Cate Blanchett for Galadriel and Ian Holm for Bilbo.Wondering whether Patrick Stewart would be right for the part of Gandalf, Philippa Boyens drew a tape of him performing opposite Ian McKellen, only to suggest the latter to Jackson.

McKellen became Jackson’s first choice for Gandalf. Christopher Lee sent Jackson a photograph of him in a wizard’s costume, wanting to play Gandalf, but Jackson decided Lee would instead be better as Saruman.

Miramax wanted a recognisable name for Gandalf, and suggested Max von Sydow or Paul Scofield and, wanting an American star, even mentioned Morgan Freeman. When New Line took over, they suggested Christopher Plummer or Sean Connery for the part (both declined), and put a veto against Richard Harris when his name came up. When von Sydow inquired for the part later, his agent told him they were looking for an English actor.

While casting, Jackson looked for backup options for the various parts, including Lucy Lawless and Nicole Kidman for Galadriel; Anthony Hopkins or Sylvester McCoy (eventually cast as Radagast in The Hobbit trilogy) for Bilbo; Paul Scofield, Jeremy Irons, Malcolm McDowell or Tim Curry for Saruman. For Gandalf, they looked into Tom Baker, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Neill, Bernard Hill (who was instead cast as Théoden) and Peter O’Toole, and into several older actors who auditioned for other parts, such as Patrick McGoohan and Anthony Hopkins.

Miramax and Jackson discussed Sir Daniel Day-Lewis for Aragorn, starting “fanciful internet speculation” that Day-Lewis was approached for the part numerous times, although Jackson eventually inquired about him. Jackson cast Stuart Townsend, whom the studio deemed too young. After shooting began, Jackson agreed and decided to recast the role. They approached Viggo Mortensen, but also spoke to Russell Crowe (who auditioned for Boromir previously), as a backup choice. 

Patrick McGoohan, their first choice for Denethor, proved “quite grumpy” when they met, and they instead looked into Donald Sutherland and John Rhys-Davies, and ultimately cast John Noble. Davies was recast as Gimli, instead of Billy Connolly (later cast as Dáin in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), Robert Trebor and Timothy Spall. In conversations with Miramax, Liam Neeson’s name came up for Boromir, but he declined. New Line suggested Nicolas Cage, but the filmmakers declined and cast Sean Bean.

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The Lord of the Rings (film series) Box office

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. 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 54th Cannes Film Festival, and was very well received. The showing also included an area designed to look like Middle-earth.

The Fellowship of the Ring was released on 19 December 2001. It grossed $47.2 million in its U.S. opening weekend and made over $897 million worldwide. A preview of The Two Towers was inserted just before the end credits near the end of the film’s theatrical run. A promotional trailer was later released, containing music re-scored from the film Requiem for a Dream.

The Two Towers was released 18 December 2002. It grossed $62 million in its first U.S. weekend and out-grossed its predecessor with over $947 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. Released 17 December 2003, its first U.S. weekend gross was $72.6 million, and became the second film, after Titanic (1997), to gross over $1 billion worldwide.

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The Lord of the Rings (film series) Critical and public response

The Lord of the Rings trilogy received widespread acclaim and is ranked among the greatest film trilogies ever made. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that “the trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal”, while Todd McCarthy of Variety described the films as “one of the most ambitious and phenomenally successful dream projects of all time”.

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. The Independent ranked the Lord of the Rings trilogy at No. 2 on its list of “10 greatest movie trilogies of all time”. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is ranked at No. 2 in /Film’s list of “The 15 Greatest Trilogies Of All Time”, while Empire ranked it at No. 1 in its list of “The 33 Greatest Movie Trilogies”. 

The series appears in the Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association: Top 10 Films, Times All-Time 100 Movies, and James Berardinelli’s Top 100. In 2007, USA Today named the series as the most important films of the past 25 years. 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.”

Paste named it one of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000–2009), ranking it at No. 4. In another Time magazine list, the series ranks second in “Best Movies of the Decade”.

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.

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