LOTR Revisited: 10 Most Memorable Characters

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the best we have ever seen. Not only are these films financially successful and beloved by fans, but this series, and more specifically The Return of the King, are critically acclaimed as well. Although the action sequences are spectacular and the story is a fantastic tale of one character’s quest to destroy evil, one of the most important aspects of these films that gets overlooked sometimes is characters and their development throughout the story. Peter Jackson did a fantastic job taking this plethora of characters from a very successful novel and bringing them to life in a way where they were all relevant, a task that some directors still strive to do. In honor of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in theaters Friday, let’s count down the characters that have stuck in my mind, and possibly yours, after watching this masterful trilogy:

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10) Bilbo Baggins – The man (or Hobbit) that started it all, Bilbo Baggins is easily one of the most important characters because without his adventure in The Hobbit and acquisition of the Ring, Frodo’s quest could not have even begun. On top of this, Ian Holm does a fantastic job portraying a character that is very likable but also hostile when distanced from the Ring. Although not in this trilogy much, Bilbo shows the audience what the Ring can do to someone, which offers possible foreshadowing into Frodo’s future and potential mental demise. By having us take a glimpse at Bilbo’s psychotic madness, Jackson was able to raise the stakes for Frodo’s journey almost immediately; it’s a rather brilliant move to include Bilbo in the original trilogy.

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9) Saruman – Second in command of all that is evil, Saruman is the essential example of someone who let’s his lust for power overwhelm his judgment. Saruman plays such an important role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, not just as Sauron’s right hand man, but also as a representation of Gandalf’s darker half, making him the perfect foil character for our beloved wizard. With the love/hate relationship between the two established early on, whenever they talk amongst one another it creates so much tension for the spectators because the two represent the ‘angel and devil’ on the shoulders of the audience.

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8) Théoden – King of Rohan and secretly under the control of Saruman, Théoden was the character that I hated the most when he was first introduced in The Two Towers, and it wasn’t until Gandalf broke Saruman’s hold on him that I was able to see the true nature of Théoden. What makes him a fantastic character is that although he couldn’t control what he was doing under Saruman, he still feels a sense of responsibility for his actions, which to me shows true character and leadership. It also helps that he is a complete badass with a sword and delivered one of the greatest speeches at Minas Tirith in The Return of the King.

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7) Frodo Baggins – Arguably one of the most important characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo Baggins is Bilbo’s nephew who has secured the Ring and is sent on a quest by Gandalf to destroy it. When it comes to Frodo, besides walking to Mordor to finish his task, there wasn’t much development in his character, and by the third film Frodo almost becomes an unlikable character. However, we recognize that his actions are a direct result of this evil Ring, and ultimately, Frodo is the character we are rooting for and the one we emphasize with for carrying this burden, all of which are helped by Elijah Wood’s vulnerably powerful performance as the hobbit with a loss of innocence.

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6) Gollum – Originally a Stoor Hobbit known as Sméagol, Gollum is the first character introduced that shows the audience what the Ring can really do to an individual – turn him into madness both emotionally and physically. Portrayed fantastically by Andy Serkis in a groundbreaking motion capture performance, Gollum’s constant internal conflict between his real self and the self that wants his “Precious” was just as struggling and frustrating for the audience because we knew he had good in him and through that we almost justified his horrible acts. Gollum was the character where the Academy needed to start looking at an individual doing motion capture for a character as contenders for an Academy Award.

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5) Gimli – The dwarf warrior who is chosen to be part of the Fellowship, Gimli is one of the most likable characters in this series. Although not developed much or really necessary to the story as a whole, Gimli is just one of those characters in a movie (or in this case, a series) that everybody just adores. Whether it’s his lighthearted banter with others in the Fellowship or the way he counts how many Orcs he has killed (his killing count with Legolas during The Battle of Helm’s Deep adds a comical charm to a rather dark and brooding battle), this dwarf definitely provided the entertainment and laughs every time he was on the screen.

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4) Boromir – Son of the last ruling Steward of Gondor, Boromir is one of the most noble and passionate members of the Fellowship, with physical strength and fighting skills almost unmatched. What makes his character so great is that although he is as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to a swordsman, when in contact with the Ring he loses his composure and almost kills Frodo for it. This gives the audience a visual representation of how powerful the Ring actually is, which makes Frodo’s task much more severe and important. Also, he goes out in The Fellowship of the Ring like a complete badass, killing Orcs with arrows in his chest, and that’s always impressive.

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3) Gandalf the Grey/White – A member and later the head of the wizard order known as the Istari, Gandalf is the all-knowing and wisest character in these films, making him a father figure to both the characters in the film and the audience members as well. Gandalf is easily one of the most composed characters in this entire saga: he’s very serene and negotiable when he needs to be, but has no problem pulling out the sword and laying down the law. Gandalf is the voice of reason, at points the god-like figure (his resurrection after the fight with the Balrog, grey to pure white, etc.), and one of the most powerful characters portrayed on the screen in a while.

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2) Aragorn – Originally thought to be a ranger when in reality he was the rightful claimant to the thrones of both Arnor and Gondor, Aragorn is easily the biggest badass in this trilogy. Between his supreme fighting skills, his willingness to help Frodo finish his mission no matter the cost, and just his dialogue throughout, Aragorn is the symbol for someone who deserves to be king. When he looked at the line of Orcs in The Return of the King and turned to his men and said “For Frodo,” not only did he get me pumped up to no end, but he also showed he has the potential to be a fantastic leader, simultaneously giving climactic arcs to both his journey as well as Frodo’s on Mount Doom.

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1) Samwise Gamgee – One of the most underrated characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Samwise Gamgee is not only Frodo’s partner in his quest to destroy the Ring, but he is also the voice of reason to counteract Gollum’s treacherous manipulation throughout the journey. Although very important in all three films, Sam really shines in The Return of the King, where his loyalty to his friend gives him the strength to kill a giant spider and rescue him from a tower, just killing Orcs in the process. When he told Frodo “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you” and carries him up Mount Doom, Sam solidified himself as my not only my favorite character in this series, but one of my favorite characters ever. It helps too that he’s brought to life by the emotional Sean Astin, who gives Samwise a humbleness and earnestness that is truly inviting. Though Frodo’s mental switches between good and evil could throw our commitment to his journey, Sam’s continual positivity keeps us emotional engaged in the trek to Mount Doom.

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So those are my picks for the best Lord of the Rings characters in the trilogy! Do you agree? Disagree? Why? And do you think any characters from The Hobbit will dethrone any of these 10? Sound off in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Article by Nick Franco

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