Total Recall

All Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

We rank all of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies director's J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations by Tomatometer.

by | December 17, 2014 | Comments

After billions in sales, hours of adventures, and more than a decade of work, Peter Jackson’s double-trilogy adaptation of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings and Hobbit books is finally concluded, and now that critics have weighed in on all six films, it’s time to look back and see how The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies stacks up against its predecessors. With that in mind, we present an updated list of Jackson’s Middle-earth saga that includes his most recent epic, fresh off of a $90 million debut in the US. What did you think of The Battle of the Five Armies, and how do you feel about its place on the list?


6. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)   59%

When the Lord of the Rings trilogy reached its conclusion with The Return of the King in 2003, it strode into theaters like a conqueror, the culmination of a critically beloved and commercially spectacular franchise whose satisfying denouement seemed like a foregone conclusion. Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies were never quite so fortunate; while they were reviewed well enough and certainly made a fair bit of money at the box office, this prequel trilogy never built up as much steam as its predecessor — so it’s perhaps fitting that the final installment, 2014’s The Battle of the Five Armies, ended its journey in Fresh territory by a fairly slim margin. While most critics enjoyed Armies, they also felt that it — like the trilogy as a whole — suffered from overextension, the result of stretching a relatively brief book out to three epic films. (Armies, at nearly two and a half hours, is the shortest of a very hefty bunch.) Still, no matter how long it takes to arrive, a satisfying ending is a satisfying ending; as Claudia Puig wrote for USA Today, “The final installment of the Hobbit trilogy is the best, featuring more spectacular action scenes as well as the series’ most emotionally resonant moments.”


5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)   64%

Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Jackson wasn’t supposed to direct The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — originally, he only signed on to produce a two-part series of Hobbit movies, with Guillermo del Toro attached to direct. But after two years of slogging away on a first installment that seemed like it might never get off the ground thanks to money woes at MGM, del Toro departed, leaving Jackson to take the reins. And while Unexpected Journey failed to live up to its own hype in some ways — critics seemed a lot more sensitive to this chapter’s inflated running time, and some scribes were displeased with Jackson’s decision to film at 48 frames per second — that didn’t stop it from grossing over a billion dollars worldwide, or from reaping positive reviews from the likes of the Newark Star-Ledger’s Stephen Whitty, who wrote approvingly, “The Hobbit becomes what it was originally meant to be — not a cut-from-the-same-cloth prequel, but its own, individual thing.”


4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)   74%

With 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jackson found himself in a situation few filmmakers ever experience — namely, following up a movie that made more than a billion dollars worldwide but was still regarded as something of a disappointment. It couldn’t have come as a surprise to Jackson, given the marginally more contemplative pace of his first Lord of the Rings prequel, as well as the crushing weight of expectations generated by the epic blockbusting sweep of Jackson’s LotR trilogy. His Hobbit franchise rebounded with its second installment, 2013’s The Desolation of Smaug, which fell a hair short of its predecessor’s impressive box office take, yet enjoyed a far warmer critical reception — due in no small part to the introduction of Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice and mo-cap spirit of the titular dragon, adding action and evil charisma to a series that needed both. As Betsy Sharkey put it in her review for the Los Angeles Times, “Peter Jackson’s newest installment of the Tolkien trilogy is set afire by the scorching roar of a dragon.”


3. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)   91%

It took a few decades to get there, but once J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books finally, officially made their way to theaters, they did it in a big way — and they did it the right way, courtesy of Peter Jackson’s sure-handed direction (and a $93 million budget), not to mention a pitch-perfect cast that included Elijah Wood (as the pure-hearted hobbit Frodo), Sean Astin (as his stalwart friend Samwise), and Ian McKellen (as the mighty wizard Gandalf), united in their quest to save Middle-earth from the malignant advances of the dark lord Sauron. Full of eye-popping special effects (including those used to bring to life the warped Gollum, played by Andy Serkis) and bolstered by a screenplay that did justice to its hefty source material, it was an unqualified smash — both with audiences and with critics like the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, who observed, “Watching it, one can’t help but get the impression that everyone involved was steeped in Tolkien’s work, loved the book, treasured it and took care not to break a cherished thing in it.”


2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)   93%

After all that buildup, the final installment of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy had a lot of epic expectations to live up to — and by most accounts, 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King met or exceeded them, delivering the franchise’s passionate fanbase a suitably sweeping conclusion to the saga that many of them had loved since long before Jackson ever stepped behind a camera. Clearly, given all the anticipation that later greeted The Hobbit, Jackson was the right person to adapt the beloved books that served as his movies’ source material; as Bill Muller put it for the Arizona Republic, “Not only has Jackson boldly and faithfully brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s world to life, he’s created the most epic and sweeping fantasy adventure of all time.”


1. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)   95%

He set a high bar for himself with the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring — and then Jackson surpassed it with the second installment, 2002’s The Two Towers, which took a plotline that largely amounted to a lot of walking and turned it into a legitimate three-hour epic, complete with elves, dwarves, hobbits, amazing large-scale battles, and sentient, ambulatory trees. A two-time Academy Award winner (and Best Picture nominee), The Two Towers racked up nearly a billion dollars worldwide during its theatrical run, and prompted suitably hefty praise from critics like Salon’s Charles Taylor, who opined, “Yes, there are some ‘middle-chapter’ problems, but Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptation hasn’t lost its devastating humanity, its heart-stopping cinematography or its epic sweep.”


Finally, here’s Orlando Bloom having a bit of fun on set and singing an internet-famous ditty:


Tag Cloud

cars Red Carpet Trailer DC Universe Mudbound Rom-Com Mary poppins docuseries christmas movies Captain marvel Instagram Live golden globes Hollywood Foreign Press Association halloween Best and Worst Extras sitcom boxing children's TV Crackle dc hidden camera X-Men Arrowverse TBS USA Network directors Best Director movie BBC America dramedy Mary Poppins Returns monster movies 99% 2018 cops Opinion DC Comics crime drama Sony Pictures IMDb TV TCA Hallmark Neflix BBC One CW Seed MGM YouTube Red First Reviews Pop TV 2016 Best Picture blockbusters scene in color versus Focus Features twilight joker Dark Horse Comics USA 72 Emmy Awards Rock TNT international black comedy archives Mary Tyler Moore WGN Adult Swim theme song movies Set visit based on movie lord of the rings binge Amazon Prime LGBT 2019 Sundance Comedy Indigenous spy thriller action-comedy Spectrum Originals Food Network australia Certified Fresh Tarantino 2015 PaleyFest trailers king kong Sci-Fi legend SXSW cancelled TV series emmy awards nature Disney streaming service diversity New York Comic Con Comic-Con@Home 2021 Infographic Rocky slasher art house sports A&E video on demand stop motion 4/20 cancelled documentaries superhero crime thriller indie Election Walt Disney Pictures The Purge Marvel Studios festival godzilla Fargo toy story Super Bowl know your critic best YouTube American Society of Cinematographers Winners Awards Comics on TV HBO Ellie Kemper RT History psychological thriller Women's History Month Discovery Channel live action Emmys romance obi wan Lucasfilm heist movie fast and furious documentary Paramount Network Paramount Universal Pictures casting deadpool hispanic heritage month cooking Shondaland Comic Book Disney TIFF live event Paramount Pictures Star Wars Grammys Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt book zombie OWN social media Interview FXX politics FX on Hulu Avengers adventure Heroines suspense young adult basketball women ratings cartoon Vudu HFPA kong spanish language CBS All Access rom-coms Columbia Pictures hist asian-american broadcast child's play SDCC GLAAD MSNBC streaming movies Geeked Week NYCC Endgame aliens Superheroe Freeform Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Rocketman Best Actress Spring TV 24 frames spider-verse Lifetime Sneak Peek nfl police drama A24 Shudder laika VH1 mob aapi Amazon Studios new zealand 21st Century Fox doctor who quibi superman DirecTV cults ABC Signature cancelled TV shows rt archives criterion Teen game of thrones latino Oscar History Elton John rotten finale rt labs Bravo richard e. Grant Tubi scary rt labs critics edition PBS crossover strong female leads game show dark posters Musical romantic comedy RT21 GoT nbcuniversal Podcast Mystery spain comiccon Pixar Marvel target indiana jones breaking bad comic festivals TLC space anime slashers independent Best Actor Creative Arts Emmys Quiz adenture reviews historical drama marvel cinematic universe Disney+ Disney Plus Toys Image Comics Pride Month video Biopics First Look technology Netflix Christmas movies worst AMC Plus free movies what to watch TCA Winter 2020 chucky CNN Pet Sematary IFC Films Universal Apple TV Plus Holiday ABC Family Binge Guide 71st Emmy Awards black Song of Ice and Fire all-time Tumblr toronto halloween tv Classic Film Reality Competition mockumentary revenge Exclusive Video blockbuster NBC comic book movies Turner Classic Movies WarnerMedia animated El Rey comics blaxploitation 2020 2017 streamig fresh robots CBS Peacock dceu football TV Land SundanceTV zero dark thirty jurassic park Schedule Amazon Prime Video royal family LGBTQ Television Critics Association target scene in color critics 90s Tokyo Olympics Countdown FX Funimation harry potter dogs foreign TCA Awards Apple TV+ Broadway Cannes wonder woman science fiction ESPN stoner E3 book adaptation batman TV renewals sag awards true crime Paramount Plus natural history composers teaser Travel Channel Lifetime Christmas movies Tags: Comedy TV One kids anthology Ovation DC streaming service classics trophy 73rd Emmy Awards saw boxoffice Fox Searchlight Film Festival medical drama comic book movie Lionsgate Holidays NBA Netflix debate canceled TV shows Ghostbusters Stephen King PlayStation Starz Pop streaming sequel ViacomCBS Marvel Television Acorn TV biopic japan Pacific Islander Family 2021 singing competition italian Year in Review AMC Polls and Games 93rd Oscars spider-man Tomatazos APB CMT 1990s Turner Sony period drama Masterpiece screen actors guild series Sundance Now The Witch hispanic The Walt Disney Company scene in color series sopranos french crime unscripted Trophy Talk 007 summer TV National Geographic Nat Geo thriller political drama reboot pirates of the caribbean Cartoon Network a nightmare on elm street golden globe awards Summer Watching Series spinoff DGA adaptation scene in color film series Prime Video news universal monsters witnail dreamworks franchise Comedy Central Logo VICE Star Wars Celebration marvel comics facebook spanish Video Games talk show cinemax renewed TV shows TCA 2017 Nominations Calendar zombies SXSW 2022 Black Mirror gangster olympics psycho razzies Alien Native Hulu BET Awards popular elevated horror screenings Film new star wars movies The CW king arthur Fox News japanese Warner Bros. Music Crunchyroll Marathons remakes Horror tv talk ID Star Trek vs. feel good 94th Oscars Animation IFC cancelled television Christmas dexter disaster Oscars telelvision Epix OneApp james bond mutant Photos high school die hard 20th Century Fox concert YouTube Premium name the review 79th Golden Globes Awards interviews Syfy Valentine's Day Western sequels mission: impossible The Walking Dead dragons Chernobyl BBC See It Skip It cats films 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Thanksgiving E! Premiere Dates TruTV green book South by Southwest Film Festival 45 prank hollywood Anna Paquin San Diego Comic-Con Martial Arts satire Wes Anderson Emmy Nominations Musicals Drama Action scary movies vampires scorecard Country Academy Awards canceled Britbox Reality summer preview Baby Yoda Fantasy television obituary Amazon docudrama Esquire kaiju Winter TV TV Box Office supernatural Spike Mindy Kaling The Academy HBO Go Disney Plus biography leaderboard Showtime venice Awards Tour Superheroes YA Trivia MCU Sundance TV ABC Black History Month Fall TV ghosts worst movies award winner BAFTA Hear Us Out travel Television Academy Legendary comedies Cosplay stand-up comedy Pirates Character Guide comic books discovery rotten movies we love new york VOD mcc parents war ITV justice league President Brie Larson FOX Writers Guild of America transformers Apple TV movies south america MTV summer TV preview The Arrangement TCM Nickelodeon GIFs critic resources HBO Max BET jamie lee curtis genre werewolf Disney Channel serial killer miniseries Kids & Family Hallmark Christmas movies