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How to watch Lord of the Rings movies in order

One viewing order to rule them all?

lord of the rings

It is a good time to rewatch, or even watch for the first time, the movies set in Middle Earth. Both trilogies, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, have been remastered in 4K making them look better than ever with the epic saga really benefitting from the long-awaited visual and audio upgrade.


But the debate rages on as to the best order to watch the movies with some choosing to go for The Hobbit first, while others choosing to go with the original trilogy first.

If you are unsure which way to watch them, here are both orders you can do it to help you make up your mind – along with our pick for what we think is the best way to do it.

Lord of the Rings in order of release


This is the way we got them originally and while we do lean towards watching them in chronological order, this remains an enjoyable way to watch them all and you will be going into it with the three best movies in the franchise first – the slower and slightly more muddled Hobbit trilogy can be more enjoyable with the knowledge of what is to come in Middle Earth.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Where it all began cinematically, The Fellowship of the Ring remains a delightful movie and is the perfect introduction to all things Middle Earth. While the pace is slow, there is an innocence to this one as we follow the Fellowship in its early stages and watch as the journey of Frodo and co begins and they begin to realise how dangerous a situation they have found themselves in.

Read our full review

The Two Towers

The Two Towers had a lot of hype to live up to after the success of Fellowship and it did not disappoint. The action in the first movie was solid, but here it is taken to another level with the battle of Helm’s Deep remaining an epic thrill ride even years later. A contender for best movie of the six? Almost certainly.

Read our full review

The Return of the King

It’s hard not to talk about The Return of the King without mentioning its multiple endings and by the time the credits roll, it does feel like a relief to have made it through it. But not knowing when to bow out aside, this is the perfect end to an epic trilogy of movies with some of the most impressive action that the films had seen.

Read our full review

You can buy the Lord of the Rings extended trilogy in 4K at Amazon, or you can pick up the standard Blu-Ray set.

An Unexpected Journey

An Unexpected Journey takes a leaf out of the Fellowship playbook and takes things slowly – perhaps too slowly. There is a great bunch of characters in the mix and the movie doesn’t lose its sense of fun, but it was clear to everyone after watching it that director Peter Jackson may have made an error in choosing to adapt these into three movies instead of two.

Read our full review

The Desolation of Smaug

The second movie in the Hobbit trilogy is easily the best of the bunch and arguably one of the most fun movies in the whole franchise. The pace is picked up considerably from An Unexpected Journey and while it doesn’t come close to topping any of the films in the Lord of the Rings series, it remains a great watch with the titular Smaug beautifully realised.

Read our full review

The Battle of the Five Armies

While a solid conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy, it does feel as though the series fizzles out somewhat as opposed to going out with a bang. The battle that the movie revolves around is anticlimactic at times and never reaches the epic scale that we expected it to hit, but as a finale to the two movies that proceed it, it does the job well enough and features several incredible sequences.

Read our full review

You can buy The Hobbit extended trilogy in 4K at Amazon, or you can pick up the standard Blu-Ray set.

Lord of the Rings in chronological order

hobbit movies

If you want to watch the movies in story order, this is the way you will want to go. There are some advantages to doing it this way, such as Bilbo’s role in Fellowship feeling a lot more poignant after seeing his adventures earlier on, and you get a lot more insight into the busy lore and mythology of Middle Earth which helps to make it a little easier to keep track of it all when Frodo’s journey kicks off.

Not only that, but The Hobbit movies are generally thought to be not as good as the Rings trilogy and while we like them, they do feel a lot slower at times and watching it this way means you get them out of the way first. If you have all the movies to watch, this would be the way we would lean towards watching them as all you really lose is some fun easter eggs to the future films that don’t really have an impact on the overall enjoyment – particularly if you have seen them all anyway.

  • An Unexpected Journey
  • The Desolation of Smaug
  • The Battle of the Five Armies
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Two Towers
  • The Return of the King

If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, check out our TV Guide.