There are many contrary opinions about the order in which the viewer should watch the films about Middle Earth (The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings).
The stories can be a little difficult to follow and there are some who suggest that you watch them out of order in order to understand Middle Earth better.
Middle earth is a complex setting for both sets of movies and understanding the setting is very important.
Initially, I thought that it might be better to watch the first movie from Lord of the Rings first and then watch all three Hobbit movies as a kind of flashback, and then return to the second movie in Lord of the Rings, ending with the third movie from the trilogy.
However, on thinking some more about this, I think it is better to simply follow the timeline as planned by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Correct Lord Of The Rings Movies Order you should follow:
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Table of Contents
Correct Lord Of The Rings Order You Should Watch
Both the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies are set in a fictitious location called Middle Earth.
The Middle Earth was a central continent in a mythological Earth that supposedly existed before our recorded history. Since then the continents have changed and moved, but nevertheless, it is supposed to be Earth.
Middle Earth was populated by several races of creatures living together.
These creatures were
- Orcs and Trolls
- Various spirits, the Valar and Maiar
Each of these species had differing physical and spiritual characteristics which are key to understanding the complete stories.
Tolkien took great care in creating the world in which his stories took place and many names are derivations of Norse or Old Saxon names.
Quite possibly Beowulf played a great part in inspiring Tolkien as Tolkien was possibly the greatest living authority on Beowulf, having translated it.
Tolkien stated that Middle Earth was meant to have certain similarities with the real Earth.
It is believed that The Shire might represent England, Gondor may be Italy and Greece. Mordor would be in Sicily.
Different places in real Earth inspired the places he wrote about in Middle Earth.
Once Tolkien suggested that Middle Earth may have existed around 6,000 years ago.
Technically you should watch the movies with all the Hobbit first and then the Lord of the Rings, but in order to understand the Tolkien Universe, the movie The Fellowship of the Ring is a good primer and sets the scene for all the other stories.
Some people suggest that you start with the Fellowship of the Ring.
However, for the sake of simplicity, we suggest that you watch the movies in the chronological order of when they are set.
1. The Unexpected Journey
Series: Hobbit Trilogy – Movie 1
Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit, is pressured to accompany a wizard (Gandalf) and a group of Dwarves on an expedition to recover the City of Erebor, together with a large treasure, that is currently occupied by a dragon called Smaug.
2. The Desolation of Smaug
Series: Hobbit Trilogy – Movie 2
Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his companions have begun their adventure trying to recover the City of Erebor.
They face many dangers and eventually reach Laketown, from where they cross to the Lonely Mountain where Bilbo comes head-on with the powerful dragon Smaug.;
3. The Battle of the Five Armies
Series: Hobbit Trilogy – Movie 3
Bilbo now faces the challenge of facing multiple enemies to protect his dwarf companions and to defend the lonely mountain after they have liberated it from Smaug the dragon.
The movie ends with the return of Bilbo to his home at Bag End and then years later when Gandalf appears again with a map in hand.
4. The Fellowship of the Ring Movie
Series: Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Movie 1
This is the story of a young Hobbit (Frodo).
Frodo is the second cousin of Bilbo who was featured in the Hobbit stories.
He is in possession of a mysterious ring, which he inherited from Bilbo.
It turns out that this ring is the infamous One Ring that was lost by Evil Lord Sauron.
Together with eight other adventurers, he heads off on an adventure to take the ring to Mount Doom, the only place where it can be destroyed.
5. The Two Towers
Series: Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Movie 2
Frodo and Sam arrive in Mordor, the land ruled by evil Sauron.
They are heading for Mount Doom where they can destroy the One Ring.
However things have developed and they are called to help defend Isengard with the help of several allies, just as Evil Lord Saruman launches his attack.
6. The Return of the King
Series: Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Movie 3
The former Fellowship of the Ring team prepares for the final battle. Frodo and Sam near the destination at Mount Doom, where they can destroy the One Ring.
At the end of the Jackson movies, the Hobbits return to the Shire.
Sam marries Rosie, and Frodo cannot settle down, eventually leaving with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Elves for the Undying lands.
The evil Lord Sauron is defeated.
The ring has been destroyed, and the separate human kingdoms united under the rule of Aragorn.
The Production of Lord of the Rings Movies
The Lord of the Rings film series was filmed simultaneously, although they were released a year apart.
The Trilogy was jointly created by an American and New Zealand partnership.
They were filmed in New Zealand.
Development of the movies commenced in 1997 and production began in 1999 and continued until 2000.
Additional footage was filmed between 2001 and 2004.
Fellowship of the Ring – 19th December 2001
Two Towers – 18th December 2002
Return of the King – 17th December 2003
The Production of the Hobbit Movies
This is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings that was partly filmed in the UK and partly in New Zealand.
Principal filming commenced on 21st March 2011 in Wellington New Zealand and at undisclosed locations in New Zealand.
In July 2011 some scenes were filmed at Pinewood Studios in the UK.
The second set of New Zealand filming began in August and was completed by December 2011.
Principal filming was finished by July 2012, but additional filming for films 2 and 3 began May 2013 in New Zealand for ten weeks.
An Unexpected Journey – 28th November 2012
The Desolation of Smaug – 2nd December 2013
Battle of the Five Armies – 11th December 2014
The Viewing Order of All Six Movies
Of course, we can sit here and theorize about which order the movies can be viewed when nearly six years have passed since the final tranche of the Hobbit trilogy.
The reality, however, is that most of the use was confined by the release dates of the two trilogies.
Industry experts had been taken by surprise that the Lord of the Rings was chosen as the first trilogy to be produced.
It had been widely thought that the Hobbit would be the first and there had been a battle to acquire the film rights in advance.
So, in reality, the general public had little choice but to watch the Lord of the Rings before the Hobbit, even though the Hobbit was chronologically the earlier set of stories.
The Hobbit stories ended up being released some 11 years later.
How Popular was Each Movie?
Let’s see how popular each of the movies was – how much each of the movies made.
|The Fellowship of the Ring||$887.9 Million|
|The Two Towers||$951.2 Million|
|The Return of the King||$1.142 Billion|
|The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey||$1.021 Billion|
|The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug||$960.23 Million|
|The Battle of the Five Armies||$956 Million|
We can see from these figures that there was a fairly consistent level of success in all six movies.
Interest did not seem to wane after the initial movies.
Does Christopher Tolkien Hate The Movies?
Many sources online suggest that Christopher Tolkien who edited and compiled unpublished stories from his father’s work was disappointed in the Peter Jackson movies.
People go as far as saying that he hates them.
This is not in fact what he said.
He simply reflected that the movies deviated from the books in such a way that they became adventure thrillers aimed at young people, and this was far from what J.R.R.Tolkien had intended.
His views were reflective and were more disillusioned with Hollywood because it was unable to produce meaningful movies.
Spirits and Demons
There is a great deal of talk about Spirits and deities in the stories of Middle Earth.
The supreme deity is called Eru Ilúvatar.
He created spirits called the Ainur who were commanded to make songs that were responsible for creation.
One such Ainur (fallen Angel) called Melkor (later Morgoth) was the Tolkien version of Satan.
While shaping the universe, the Ainur created Arda, a place for men, and Elves to live.
The most powerful Ainur are the Valar and Melkor was the most powerful.
Manwe was the leader of the Valar and the Valar settled in Arda to prepare for the coming of Men and Elves.
It was all detailed and written down, even parts that never directly appeared in the books.
There was also a detailed genealogy that listed how the different creatures related to each other.
For example, the Hobbits were an offshoot of man.
Tolkien first imagined wizards as Angelic creatures, nothing like human alchemists who studied nature and their surroundings, and certainly nothing like the wizards in Harry Potter.
The Ainur divided into Valar (The top spirits) and the Maiar (the rest of them).
The Wizards are a further offshoot of the Maiar who was sent on a mission.
There was one-third collection of stories from J.R.R.Tolkien that we do not hear about.
This collection called the Silmarillion was published after Tolkien died by his son Christopher Tolkien.
These stories also take place in the world of Middle Earth. The stories are grouped into five main parts.
The director of the Hobbit movies and the Lord of the Rings stories have said that as far as he is concerned there will be no more Tolkien movies, despite the Silmarillion being such a potential blockbuster.
The rights to the Silmarillion are owned by Peter Tolkien and he is no big fan of Peter Jackson’s movies and gaining the rights to make the movie might be difficult.
The other reason is simple economics.
The movie industry has changed and the production of big blockbusters is not so profitable as it once was.
Lord Of The Rings Fan-Made Films
There are still many stories to be told and even if the Big Movie conglomerates are not going to make more Tolkien movies the fans certainly will.
There are a large number of short movies you have never heard of and probably never will, that have been made by fans of the Jackson films.
Here are some of the movies that are published on YouTube.
Some of them are remarkably good.
- Horn of Gondor 2020
- The Hunt for Gollum
- Dagor Dagorath
- The Simarillion
- The Rise of Nazgul
- Born of Hope
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
- Silmarillion Concept Film
It seems that Amazon has got hold of rights to produce a new Trilogy in the Lord of the Rings Universe, and a spin-off series.
Rumors are flying around, but what seems certain is it is not a remake of Lord of the Rings, and more probably a prequel that took place long before The Hobbit.
Fresh news about this trilogy appeared in September 2020 after first being rumored in 2019 in an Amazon Tweet.
So quite possibly we have not heard the last of J.R.R.Tolkien yet.
This Trilogy, if the rumors are correct, would be placed in our order of viewing BEFORE The Hobbit.