3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King
Gross USA: $377,845,905
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $1,119,929,521
11 Academy Awards
4 BAFTA Awards
If you look at the facts, this is the most successful film out of the six. It made the most money and won the most Oscars. There’s no doubting that Return of the King is a brilliant film.
Featuring some of the very best battle scenes ever, closure for all our favourite characters and a bittersweet ending that sees Frodo sailing away to the undying lands without his friends to live out the rest of his life in peace, The Return of the King was one of the very best trilogy conclusions in history.
This entry to Peter Jackson’s original trilogy sits at number three despite all of this because of how The Lord of the Rings is more memorable and iconic for the moments and the journeys that are created and moulded within the first two movies, each of which are sitting pretty in our top two spots.
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Gross USA: $342,551,365
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $926,047,111
2 Academy Awards
2 BAFTA Awards
Three words. Helm’s Deep Battle.
Peter Jackson really smashed it when he put this battle together.
The shot of Gandalf and the Rohirrim charging down the slope, backlit by the blinding rising sun, is one of the most exciting and rewarding in film history and one of The Lord of the Rings’ very best.
But that isn’t the entire film. In fact, The Two Towers is jammed packed with exciting twists and turns within the narrative, as well as intriguing developments in characterisation for some of the franchise’s best and most beloved.
At the end of the previous film, the Fellowship was broken up which would ordinarily indicate that the coming second entry in a trilogy would merely act as a bridge between the destructive acts of the first film and the reconstructive acts of the third (getting the characters from the intriguing start to the exciting end), but The Two Towers is so much more than that. Instead, there are multiple important arcs that take place…
Gandalf returns as Gandalf the White, meanwhile Frodo and Sam not only are joined by Golem (who goes through a whole redemption arc only to return to evil) but they also become entangled in the growth and evolution of Faramir’s character. It’s no lie that the Ents were a little more subdued compared to the other events taking place, but even they have a juncture of glory.
If The Return of the King is one of the best conclusions to a trilogy ever, then The Two Towers is certainly one of the better franchise middle entries.
1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $871,530,324
4 Academy Awards
3 BAFTA Awards
Arguably the greatest fantasy film of all time, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring opened up a whole new, exciting world for fantasy enthusiasts and casual filmgoers alike in a way mirrored by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey but never surpassed.
This film whisked away audiences for almost three hours. That may seem like too long for some film goers, but in The Fellowship, everything put to screen feels important to the story and no second passes without almost total immersion.
Following a mystical prelude to update those unfamiliar with the books, The Fellowship of the Ring eliminated crude exposition (which would have ruined the dialogue) and got straight into its fabled, heart-wrenching story, following the popular misfit-family formula to offer hope in the form of an endearing group of nobodies banded together for the greater good.
Although The Two Towers and The Return Of The King have arguably more action and excitement in a traditionally cinematic way, it’s the fellowship’s journey and their developing relationships that act as the heart of the series, and it’s that which makes The Fellowship of the Ring immovable from the position of Best Lord of the Rings Film Ever.
Peter Jackson was deservedly rewarded for not compromising the quality of the original story he was adapting as well as taking the time and effort to create something that could capture the complex fantasy world Tolkien had created. He carefully mixed CG and practical effects in his original trilogy to offer something that also looked authentic, an element of the filmmaking lost to sterilised artificiality in the prequels. To any fan of Tolkien’s work or the universe of The Lord of the Rings as a product of cinema, The Hobbit Trilogy ultimately did not live up to the high bar set by Jackson in his earlier work, much of which was the fault of circumstances regarding his incredibly late call to arms following the departure of The Hobbit’s original director Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) and studio pressure to stretch a two-film project into another trilogy. Though The Hobbit 1, 2 & 3 may not have been at the level of The Lord of the Rings, it’s hard to see such a high bar ever being reached within the genre again, so while The Lord of the Rings is an impenetrable series so far as this edition of Ranked goes, the series as a whole must be commended for its overall quality across some 13 years of cinema; 13 years that have come to redefine a genre and set new limits for how to tell such stories.