For close to 20 years, the Lord of the Rings film series has been an important part of many a fantasy film enthusiast’s life, the recent release of the appropriately titled J. R. R. Tolkien biopic Tolkien and the in-development mega-bucks series at Amazon owing to our ongoing thirst for all things Middle Earth. But which film is the best of the now 6-movie-long series and which is the worst? In this edition of Ranked, we’ll be mixing subjective opinion with the facts and figures of this close to $6billion franchise to judge each entry from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy side by side, ranking each of them from worst to best.
Have an opinion? Make sure to leave a comment!
6. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Gross USA: $255,119,788
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $956,019,788
1 Academy Award Nomination
1 BAFTA Award Nomination
The best part of this film was the battle with Smaug.
The previous film had concluded on quite the dramatic moment with the dragon about to wreak destruction on the defenceless Lake-town, and The Battle of the Five Armies brilliantly jumps straight back into the action. There’s fire, there’s destruction, people are dying and the audience is gripped with anxiety for Bard and his sickeningly sweet children.
Bard defeats Smaug, his children survive, and the rest of the villagers who avoided peril all go and meet on the nearby shore. It’s all down hill from there…
We are given a few dramatic moments that we are supposed to care about, but there aren’t strong enough foundations built for us to be particularly moved. Tauriel barely knew Kili, how can she claim to have loved him? Why did the Elves suddenly decide to help the Dwarves for no apparent reason? It is generally a film with poor storytelling and a dependence on expensive CGI to make up for it.
Other than the opening battle, the most popular moments were those that referenced the predeceasing trilogy, such as Galadriel’s encounter with Sauron and Thranduil telling Legolas to seek out Aragorn.
Legolas running up falling boulders was pretty sick too!
5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Gross USA: $258,366,855
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $960,366,855
3 Academy Award Nominations
2 BAFTA Award Nominations
For anyone who had read the book at a younger age, it was so exciting to see so many scenes taken directly from the book in this film – the Spiders were just as scary as when we’d read about them years ago and Beorn was just as mysterious and intimidating. This made the film so much more enjoyable for nostalgic reasons, especially comparing it to The Battle of the Five Armies which contains a lot of made up moments that didn’t take place in the book.
The accomplishment in animating Smaug blew away many who’d approached the CG-heavy prequels with a critical eye. Special effects progress so fast that it’s easy to forget how making Smaug talk was a major feat, especially since the dragon was what people were anticipating most about this film. In this respect, The Desolation of Smaug absolutely delivered! The mouth movements of the dragon matched up with what he was saying so perfectly without looking silly, which we all know is far more impressive than a CGI tiger.
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Gross USA: $303,003,568
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $1,021,103,568
3 Academy Award Nominations
3 BAFTA Award Nominations
There were a lot of immediate reactions to this film which criticised it for being a little messy and full of unrelated content. Although many criticised The Battle of the Five Armies for similar reasons, An Unexpected Journey had a different purpose to the last film in the trilogy. After an almost ten year gap since The Lord Of The Rings ended, An Unexpected Journey is our first dip back into Middle Earth; it has to set the scene and starts the story.
The Hobbit Trilogy may have been about one film too long, but this is an opinion only forged in retrospect. In this first instalment, it was exciting to see things like the rock giants fighting in the mountains and Radagast with his woodland pals being intimidated by the Spiders. It felt like a promise for all the goodness that was yet to come, it’s just a shame that the promise was not fulfilled.