The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a 2001 epic fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson, based on the first volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The film is the first instalment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and was produced by Barrie M. Osborne, Jackson, Fran Walsh and Tim Sanders, and written by Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson. The film features an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, and Andy Serkis. It was followed by The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).

The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Jackson
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onThe Fellowship of the Ring
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyAndrew Lesnie
Edited byJohn Gilbert
Distributed byNew Line Cinema[1]
Release date
  • 10 December 2001 (2001-12-10) (Odeon Leicester Square)
  • 19 December 2001 (2001-12-19) (United States)
  • 20 December 2001 (2001-12-20) (New Zealand)
Running time
178 minutes[2]
208 minutes (extended)[3]
  • New Zealand[4]
  • United States[4]
Budget$93 million[5]
Box office$871.5 million[5]

Set in Middle-earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring. The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins. The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions who form the Fellowship of the Ring begin their journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

The Fellowship of the Ring was financed and distributed by American studio New Line Cinema, but filmed and edited entirely in Jackson's native New Zealand, concurrently with the other two parts of the trilogy. Released on 19 December 2001, the film was highly acclaimed by critics and fans alike, who considered it to be a landmark in filmmaking and an achievement in the fantasy film genre. It has grossed $871.5 million worldwide, making it the 2nd highest-grossing film of 2001.

The Fellowship of the Ring is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential fantasy films ever made. The film won many awards, including being nominated for 13 Oscars at the 74th Academy Awards ceremony, of which it won four, for Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects.


In the Second Age of Middle-earth, the lords of Elves, Dwarves, and Men are given Rings of Power. Unbeknownst to them, the Dark Lord Sauron forges the One Ring in Mount Doom, infusing into it a great part of his power to dominate, through it and at a distance, the other Rings, so he might conquer Middle-earth. A final alliance of men and elves battles Sauron's forces in Mordor, where Prince Isildur of Gondor severs Sauron's finger, and the Ring with it, thereby destroying his physical form. With Sauron's first defeat, the Third Age of Middle-earth begins. Unfortunately, the Ring's influence corrupts Isildur, and, rather than destroy the Ring, Isildur takes it for himself. Isildur is later killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost for 2,500 years, until it is found by Gollum, who owns it for five centuries. The Ring is then found by a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who turns invisible when he puts it on, but is unaware of its history.

Sixty years later, Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday in the Shire, reuniting with his old friend, Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo reveals that he intends to leave the Shire for one last adventure, and he leaves his inheritance, including the Ring, to his nephew, Frodo. Although Bilbo has begun to become corrupted by the Ring and tries to keep it for himself, Gandalf intervenes. Gandalf, suspicious of the Ring, tells Frodo to keep it secret and to keep it safe. Gandalf then investigates the Ring, discovers its true nature, and returns to warn Frodo. Gandalf also learns that Gollum was tortured by Orcs, and that Gollum uttered two words during his torture: "Shire" and "Baggins." Gandalf instructs Frodo to leave the Shire, accompanied by his friend Samwise Gamgee. Gandalf rides to Isengard to meet with fellow wizard Saruman the White, but learns that he has joined forces with Sauron, who has dispatched his nine undead Nazgûl servants to find Frodo. After a brief battle, Saruman imprisons Gandalf.

Frodo and Sam are joined by fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin, and they evade the Nazgûl, arriving in Bree, where they are meant to meet Gandalf. However, Gandalf never arrives, and they are instead aided by a ranger named Strider, a friend of Gandalf's, who promises to escort them to Rivendell. The hobbits are ambushed by the Nazgûl on Weathertop, and their leader, the Witch-King, stabs Frodo with a cursed Morgul blade. Arwen, an elf and Strider's betrothed, comes to Frodo's aid, rescuing him and incapacitating the Nazgûl. She takes him to Rivendell, where he is healed. Frodo meets Gandalf, who escaped Isengard with help from Gwaihir, a giant eagle. Arwen's father, Lord Elrond, holds a council that decides the Ring must be destroyed in Mount Doom. While the members argue, Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, accompanied by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, elf Legolas, dwarf Gimli, Boromir of Gondor, and Strider, who is revealed to be Aragorn, Isildur's heir and the rightful King of Gondor. Bilbo gives Frodo his sword, Sting. The Fellowship of the Ring sets off, but Saruman's magic forces them to travel through the Mines of Moria, much to Gandalf's displeasure.

The Fellowship discovers that the dwarves within Moria have been slain, and they are attacked by Orcs and a cave troll. They defeat them, but are confronted by Durin's Bane, a Balrog residing within the mines. Gandalf casts the Balrog into a vast chasm, but it drags Gandalf down into the darkness with it. The rest of the Fellowship, now led by Aragorn, reaches Lothlórien, home to elves Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel privately informs Frodo that only he can complete the quest, and that one of his friends will try to take the Ring. Meanwhile, Saruman creates an army of Uruk-hai to track down and kill the Fellowship.

The Fellowship leaves Lothlórien by river to Parth Galen. Frodo wanders off and is confronted by Boromir, who tries to take the Ring in desperation. Afraid of the Ring corrupting his friends, Frodo decides to travel to Mordor alone. The Fellowship is then ambushed by the Uruk-hai. Merry and Pippin are taken captive, and Boromir is mortally wounded by the Uruk chieftain, Lurtz. Aragorn arrives and slays Lurtz, and watches Boromir die peacefully. Sam follows Frodo, accompanying him to keep his promise to Gandalf to protect Frodo, while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli go to rescue Merry and Pippin.


Before filming began on 11 October 1999, the principal actors trained for six weeks in sword fighting (with Bob Anderson), riding and boating. Jackson hoped such activities would allow the cast to bond so chemistry would be evident on screen as well as getting them used to life in Wellington.[6] They were also trained to pronounce Tolkien's verses properly.[7] After the shoot, the nine cast members playing the Fellowship got a tattoo of the English word "nine" written in Tengwar, with the exception of John Rhys-Davies, whose stunt double got the tattoo instead.[8] The film is noted for having an ensemble cast,[9] and some of the cast and their respective characters include:

Comparison with the source material

Jackson, Walsh and Boyens made numerous changes to the story, for purposes of pacing and character development. Jackson said his main desire was to make a film focused primarily on Frodo and the Ring, the "backbone" of the story.[22] The prologue condenses Tolkien's backstory, in which The Last Alliance's seven-year siege of the Barad-dûr is a single battle, where Sauron is shown to explode, though Tolkien only said his spirit flees.[23]

Events from the book are condensed or omitted altogether at the beginning of the film. The time between Gandalf leaving the Ring to Frodo and returning to reveal its inscription, which is 17 years in the book, is compressed for timing reasons.[24] In the book, Frodo spends a few months preparing to move to Buckland, on the eastern border of the Shire. This move is omitted, and associated events, including the involvement of Merry and Pippin, are changed and combined with him setting out for Bree. Characters such as Tom Bombadil and the incidents in the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs are left out to simplify the plot and increase the threat of the Ringwraiths. Such sequences are left out to make time to introduce Saruman, who doesn't appear in the book until Gandalf's account at the Council of Elrond. While some characters are left out, some are referenced such as the trolls Tom, Bert, and William to show how The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series intertwine. Saruman's role is enhanced: he is to blame for the blizzard on Caradhras, a role taken by Caradhras itself in the book. Gandalf's capture by Saruman is also expanded with a fight sequence.

The role of Barliman Butterbur at the Prancing Pony is largely removed for time and dramatic flow. In the film Pippin is seen to identify Frodo explicitly with the phrase "why there's Baggins over there" whereas in the book Pippin is only telling the tale of Bilbo's disappearance when Strider tells Frodo to create a distraction, which he does by singing a song.

The events at Weathertop were also altered. The location of the fight against the Ringwraiths was changed to the ruins on top of the hill rather than a campsite at its base. When Frodo was stabbed in the book, the party spent two weeks travelling to Rivendell, but in the film this is shortened to less than a week, with Frodo's condition worsening at a commensurately greater rate. Arwen was given a greater role in the film, accompanying Frodo all the way to Rivendell, while in the book Frodo faced the Ringwraiths alone at the Ford of Bruinen. The character of Glorfindel was omitted entirely and his scenes were given to Arwen. She was tacitly credited with the river rising against the Ringwraiths, which was the work of her father Elrond with aid from Gandalf in the book.

A significant new addition is Aragorn's self-doubt, which causes him to hesitate to claim the kingship of Gondor. This element is not present in the book, where Aragorn intends to claim the throne at an appropriate time. In the book Narsil is reforged immediately when he joins the Fellowship, but this event is held over until Return of the King in film to symbolically coincide with his acceptance of his title. These elements were added because Peter Jackson believed that each character should be forced to grow or change over the course of the story.

Elrond's character gained an adversarial edge; he expresses doubts in the strength of Men to resist Sauron's evil after Isildur's failure to destroy the ring as depicted in the prologue. Jackson also shortens the Council of Elrond by spreading its exposition into earlier parts of the film. Elrond's counsellor, Erestor—who suggested the Ring be given to Tom Bombadil—was completely absent from this scene. Gimli's father, Glóin, was also deemed unnecessary. In addition, the movie makes it seem by chance that the Fellowship is made of nine companions, whereas in the book Elrond suggests there be nine in the fellowship in response to the nine Nazgûl.

The tone of the Moria sequence was altered. In the book, following the defeat on the Caradhras road, Gandalf advocates the Moria road against the resistance of the rest of the Fellowship (save Gimli), suggesting "there is a hope that Moria is still free...there is even a chance that Dwarves are there," though no one seems to think this likely. Frodo proposes they take a company vote, but the discovery of Wargs on their trail forces them to accept Gandalf's proposal. They only realize the Dwarves are all dead once they reach Balin's tomb. The filmmakers chose instead for Gandalf to resist the Moria plan as a foreshadowing device. Gandalf says to Gimli he would prefer not to enter Moria, and Saruman is shown to be aware of Gandalf's hesitance, revealing an illustration of the Balrog in one of his books. The corpses of the dwarves are instantly shown as the Fellowship enter Moria.[25] One detail that many critics commented upon is the fact that, in the novel, Pippin tosses a mere pebble into the well in Moria ("They then hear what sounds like a hammer tapping in the distance"), whereas in the film, he knocks an entire skeleton in ("Next, the skeleton ... falls down the well, also dragging down a chain and bucket. The noise is incredible."[26])[27][28][29][30]

In terms of dramatic structure, the book simply ends; there is no climax, because Tolkien wrote the novel as a single story and it was the publisher's decision to split it into three volumes. Jackson's version incorporates the first chapter of '"The Two Towers" and shows its events in real time rather than flashback. It also makes them simultaneous with the Breaking of the Fellowship. This finale is played as a climactic battle. In the book Aragorn (and consequently the reader) misses the entire battle and is only told about it later by Legolas and Gimli. In the film he engages in a vicious combat with the Uruk-hai, including their leader, referred to as Lurtz in the script. In the book, Boromir is unable to tell Aragorn which hobbits were kidnapped by the orcs before he dies, and Aragorn deduces Frodo's intentions when he notices that a boat is missing and Sam's pack is gone. In the film, Aragorn and Frodo have a scene together in which Frodo's intentions are explicitly stated.



Peter Jackson began working with Christian Rivers to storyboard the series in August 1997, as well as getting Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop to begin creating his interpretation of Middle-earth.[31] Jackson told them to make Middle-earth as plausible and believable as possible, to think of Middle-earth in a historical manner.[32]

In November,[32] Alan Lee and John Howe became the film trilogy's primary conceptual designers, having had previous experience as illustrators for the book and various other tie-ins. Lee worked for the Art Department creating places such as Rivendell, Isengard, Moria and Lothlórien, giving Art Nouveau and geometry influences to the Elves and Dwarves respectively.[32][33] Though Howe contributed with Bag End and the Argonath,[32][33] he focused working on armour having studied it all his life.[34] Weta and the Art Department continued to design, with Grant Major turning the Art Department's designs into architecture, and Dan Hennah scouting locations.[32] On 1 April 1999, Ngila Dickson joined the crew as costume designer. She and 40 seamstresses would create 19,000 costumes, 40 per version for the actor and their doubles, aging and wearing them out for impression of age.[18]

Filming locations

Filming took place in various locations across New Zealand. A list of filming locations, sorted by appearance order in the film:[35][36]

Specific location
in New Zealand
General area
in New Zealand.
Mordor (Prologue)Whakapapa skifieldTongariro National Park
Gardens of IsengardHarcourt ParkUpper Hutt
The Shire woodsOtaki Gorge RoadKapiti Coast District
Bucklebury FerryKeeling Farm, ManakauHorowhenua
Forest near BreeTakaka HillNelson
TrollshawsWaitarere ForestHorowhenua
Flight to the FordTarrasCentral Otago
Ford of BruinenArrow River, Skippers CanyonQueenstown and Arrowtown
RivendellKaitoke Regional ParkUpper Hutt
EregionMount OlympusNelson
Dead MarshesKepler MireSouthland
Dimrill DaleLake AltaThe Remarkables
Dimrill DaleMount OwenNelson
River AnduinUpper Waiau RiverFiordland National Park
River AnduinRangitikei RiverRangitikei District
River AnduinPoets' CornerUpper Hutt
Parth GalenParadiseGlenorchy
Amon HenMavora Lakes, Paradise and CloseburnSouthern Lakes

Special effects

The Fellowship of the Ring makes extensive use of digital, practical and make-up special effects throughout. One notable illusion used in almost every scene involved setting a proper scale so that the characters all appear to be the correct height. For example, Elijah Wood is 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 m) tall in real life, but his character Frodo Baggins is barely four feet in height. A variety of techniques were used to depict the hobbits and Gimli the Dwarf as being of diminutive stature. Fortunately, John-Rhys Davies – who played Gimli – happens to be the correct height in proportion to the hobbit actors, so did not need to be filmed separately as a third height variation. Large- and small-scale doubles were used in certain scenes, while entire duplicates of certain sets (including Bag End in Hobbiton) were built at two different scales, so that the characters would appear to be the appropriate size. At one point in the film, Frodo runs along a corridor in Bag End, followed by Gandalf. Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen were filmed in separate versions of the same corridor, built at two different scales, and a fast camera pan conceals the edit between the two. Forced perspective was also employed, so that it would look as though the short hobbits were interacting with taller Men and Elves. Even the simple use of kneeling down, to the filmmakers' surprise, turned out to be an effective method in creating the illusion.

For the battle between the Last Alliance and Sauron's forces that begins the film, an elaborate CGI animation system, called MASSIVE, was developed by Stephen Regelous; it allowed thousands of individual animated characters, or "agents" in the program to act independently. This helped give the illusion of realism to the battle sequences. The "Making of" Lord of the Rings DVD reports some interesting initial problems: in the first execution of a battle between groups of characters, the wrong groups attacked each other. In another early demo, some of the warriors at the edge of the field could be seen running away. They were initially moving in the wrong direction, and had been programmed to keep running until they encountered an enemy.

The digital creatures were important due to Jackson's requirement of biological plausibility. Their surface texture was scanned from large maquettes before numerous digital details of their skeletons and muscles were added. In the case of the Balrog, Gray Horsfield created a system that copied recorded imagery of fire.


The musical score for The Lord of the Rings films was composed by Howard Shore. It was performed by the 100-strong New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Voices, The London Oratory School Schola, and the Maori Samoan Choir, and featured several vocal soloists. Shore wrote almost four hours of finalized music for the film (of which just over three hours are used as underscore), featuring a number of non-orchestral instruments, and a large number (49-62) of leitmotives.

Two original songs, "Aníron" and the end title theme "May It Be", were composed and sung by Enya, who allowed her label, Reprise Records, to release the soundtrack to this and its two sequels. In addition to these songs, Shore composed "In Dreams", which was sung by Edward Ross of the London Oratory School Schola.


A special behind-the-scenes trailer was released in 2000. The trilogy teaser was shown before Thirteen Days and the teaser trailer before Pearl Harbor. The final trailer was with the television premiere of Angel and before Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Both trailers appeared as Easter eggs on the Rush Hour 2 and Little Nicky DVD and on the VHS.

Home media

The Fellowship of the Ring was released on VHS and DVD on August 6, 2002.[37]

Theatrical and extended release

In November 2002, an extended edition was released on VHS and DVD, with 30 minutes of new material, added special effects and music, plus 20 minutes of fan-club credits, totalling to 228 minutes.[38][39][40] The DVD set included four commentaries and over three hours of supplementary material.

In August 2006, a limited edition of The Fellowship of the Ring was released on DVD. The set included both the film's theatrical and extended editions on a double-sided disc along with all-new bonus material.

Blu-ray edition

The theatrical Blu-ray version of The Lord of the Rings was released in the United States in April 2010. There were two separate sets: one with digital copies and one without.[41] The individual Blu-ray disc of The Fellowship of the Ring was released in September 2010 with the same special features as the complete trilogy release, except there was no digital copy.[42]

The extended Blu-ray editions were released in the US in June 2011.[43] This version has a runtime of 238 minutes[39][44] (the extended editions include the names of all fan club members at the time of their release; the additional 9 minutes in the Blu-ray version are because of expanded member rolls, not any additional story material).


Box office

The Fellowship of the Ring was released on 19 December 2001 in 3,359 cinemas where it grossed $47.2 million on its opening weekend. The world premiere was held at the Odeon Leicester Square in London. It went on to make $315.5 million in North America and $556 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $871.5 million.[5] Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 54 million tickets in the US in its initial theatrical run.[45]

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 91% approval rating based on 228 reviews, with an average rating of 8.18/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Full of eye-popping special effects, and featuring a pitch-perfect cast, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to vivid life."[46] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 92 out of 100 based on 34 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[47] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[48]

Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and stating that while it is not "a true visualization of Tolkien's Middle-earth", it is "a work for, and of, our times. It will be embraced, I suspect, by many Tolkien fans and take on aspects of a cult. It is a candidate for many Oscars. It is an awesome production in its daring and breadth, and there are small touches that are just right".[49] USA Today also gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "this movie version of a beloved book should please devotees as well as the uninitiated".[50] In his review for The New York Times, Elvis Mitchell wrote, "The playful spookiness of Mr. Jackson's direction provides a lively, light touch, a gesture that doesn't normally come to mind when Tolkien's name is mentioned".[51] Entertainment Weekly magazine gave the film an "A" rating and Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote, "The cast take to their roles with becoming modesty, certainly, but Jackson also makes it easy for them: His Fellowship flows, never lingering for the sake of admiring its own beauty ... Every detail of which engrossed me. I may have never turned a page of Tolkien, but I know enchantment when I see it".[52]

In her review for The Washington Post, Rita Kempley praised the cast, in particular, "Mortensen, as Strider, is a revelation, not to mention downright gorgeous. And McKellen, carrying the burden of thousands of years' worth of the fight against evil, is positively Merlinesque".[53] Time magazine's Richard Corliss praised Jackson's work: "His movie achieves what the best fairy tales do: the creation of an alternate world, plausible and persuasive, where the young — and not only the young — can lose themselves. And perhaps, in identifying with the little Hobbit that could, find their better selves".[54] In his review for The Village Voice, J. Hoberman wrote, "Peter Jackson's adaptation is certainly successful on its own terms".[55] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "It's emotion that makes Fellowship stick hard in the memory... Jackson deserves to revel in his success. He's made a three-hour film that leaves you wanting more".[56] However, in his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrote, "there is a strange paucity of plot complication, an absence of anything unfolding, all the more disconcerting because of the clotted and indigestible mythic back story that we have to wade through before anything happens at all".[57]


In 2002, the film won four Academy Awards from thirteen nominations.[58] The winning categories were for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup, and Best Original Score. It was also nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ian McKellen), Best Art Direction, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song (Enya, Nicky Ryan and Roma Ryan for "May It Be"), Best Picture, Best Sound (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Gethin Creagh and Hammond Peek), Best Costume Design and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The film won the 2002 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It also won Empire readers' Best Film award, as well as five BAFTAs, including Best Film, the David Lean Award for Best Direction, the Audience Award (voted for by the public), Best Special Effects, and Best Make-up. The film was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Fight between Gandalf and Saruman.

In June 2008, AFI revealed its "10 Top 10"—the ten best films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. The Fellowship of the Ring was acknowledged as the second best film in the fantasy genre.[59][60] The film was also listed as the 50th best film in the 2007 list AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).


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