For many, The Lord of the Rings trilogy represents the pinnacle of what fantasy can do. These films were hugely impactful for both audiences and the cultural landscape more generally, and have inspired imitators with a wide array of quality and budget. As flawless as we may want these films to be, no production is without its issues, and that’s also true of Lord of the Rings.
Indeed, for all of the technical mastery on display in each of these three films, there are still quite a few errors that managed to slip through the cracks. Especially on a production as enormous as these movies, which famously shot back to back over the course of a year, production mistakes can be difficult to avoid. There are so many characters, extras, and locations to film, and a fairly limited amount of time and budget to spend on each of these things.
Considering all of those factors, director Peter Jackson and company did a great job avoiding any major errors, but that doesn’t mean they avoided any errors at all. Some things still slipped through, which serves as proof that even great movies aren’t perfect.
Here are 15 Shocking Mistakes You Missed In Lord Of The Rings.
15 The Ring Changes Fingers
When Boromir attacks Frodo during The Fellowship of the Ring, he terrifies Frodo to such a strong degree that he forces Frodo to put on the ring and become invisible. Although Boromir almost immediately regrets his attack and apologizes to Frodo, he’s already lost track of the hobbit. When Frodo initially puts the ring on his finger off the chain around his neck, he slips it onto his middle finger in a panic.
When Frodo’s invisible, though, we see that the ring is on his index finger. This is likely a simple continuity error, because Frodo seems far too scared to switch fingers and become visible to Boromir for even a moment. Still, it’s a noticeable switch, one that serves as yet another reminder of how much time might have occurred between even these two shots within the same scene. On long shoots, continuity can be kind of a nightmare, and Lord of the Rings shows us why.
14 Legolas and Arwen in the Rohirrim
The battle for Helm’s Deep is likely the greatest action-oriented achievement in any of The Lord of the Rings films, and it hinges on a fairly pivotal moment. When it seems like all hope is lost for the warriors of Rohan, we see that Gandalf has arrived with the Rohirrim, and is ready to turn the tide of this battle. These horse-warriors ride into the orc army, and manage to pull out a win for our heroes just when it looked like all hope was lost.
This moment is one of the best in the trilogy, filled with visual splendor and pure thrills. Watching the wave of horses crash into the orc army is deeply impressive, and the battle that follows is equally so. Unfortunately, there are still some small errors, especially if you slow the footage down and examine it closely.
If you do this, you’ll notice that both Legolas and Arwen appear in shots on the side of the Rohirrim, even though both of them are elsewhere at the time. Perhaps they were originally supposed to be with the Rohirrim, but Jackson changed his mind.
13 Crew Members in the Orc Army
Coordinating the massive battles at the center of Return of the King likely required quite a bit of logistical work. These were battles with hundreds of extras, all dressed in heavy amounts of makeup and costumes, and each one of these extras has to be directed in order to know what to do. In order to get interesting shots, cameramen probably had to get down among the members of the orc army and shoot them from that angle.
That’s a perfectly legitimate technique, and one that resulted in some pretty compelling action sequences. It can also be hazardous, though, especially when there are several cameras filming a scene from multiple angles. That’s exactly what happened in Return of the King, when crew members are visible inside of the orc army.
You notice them because they seem to have a normal skin tone, and aren’t dressed in full battle regalia. That’s enough to stand out in an army of demonic creatures.
12 A Disappearing Ring
Ordinarily, it probably wouldn’t be a huge deal if there was one shot in Return of the King that was missing the ring the story was named after. It would be strange, given the centrality of the ring to the story, but it would likely be a forgivable error. Unfortunately, the one shot where the ring is missing from around Frodo’s neck comes during a confrontation between Frodo and Sam and Gollum, which makes the ring even more pivotal within the scene.
The ring only disappears for a moment, but it’s long enough to notice, and it would probably be long enough for Gollum to wonder whether it had fallen off. After all, it disappears while Gollum is strangling Frodo, so the ring should be in close proximity. Unfortunately, it’s not there at all, which serves as a strange continuity gap.
Gollum’s only real desire in the world is that ring, so its absence should probably have been a bigger deal than it was.
11 Frodo's Puppet Strings
Frodo’s encounter with Shelob, the giant spider who holds him captive and almost kills him, is one of the most terrifying sections of Return of the King. The spider’s mastery over its lair, and its ability to pop up around any corner makes it a totally captivating sequence. Once Frodo’s caught, it looks like this maybe the end for our hero, ensnared in a giant web that takes advantage of the prey’s panic at having been caught.
As Frodo is trapped, waiting for a giant spider to arrive and devour him, there are several shots where we get a pretty clear look at the harness that Elijah Wood is strapped into. The production designers probably couldn’t create a web strong enough to hold Wood, so they cleverly hid straps that would allow him to hold himself up vertically, apparently attached to nothing.
Of course, if you look too closely, you’ll notice those harnesses, and ruin a bit of pure movie magic in the process.
10 The Hobbit's Cold Feet
When Frodo falls down the snowy hill in The Fellowship of the Ring and loses the ring momentarily, we get a revealing detail about how the characters portraying hobbits managed without any shoes. The image of Frodo at the bottom of the hill, which comes right before Boromir picks the ring up, gives us a brief look at the stockings Elijah Wood and the other hobbits wore to protect their bare feet.
Hobbits don’t wear shoes, of course, but Peter Jackson didn’t ask his actors to commit to that level. Instead, the practical effects department on the films created some truly impressive fake feet for the actors to wear, and had them wear stockings as well, which were especially useful in colder climates.
When you think about it, it’s honestly fairly remarkable we didn’t notice these fake feet more often. The effects team was so good that they became a seamless part of the hobbits' costume.
9 Pippin's Unbound Hands
The Fellowship of the Ring ends with Merry and Pippin captured by the Orcs, a ploy they devised to allow Frodo and Sam to escape to safety. This decision is incredibly brave, but it’s one that leaves the pair captured at the start of The Two Towers. After they're captured, they are being taken to Fangorn Forest with Argorn, Legolas, and Gimli chasing after them.
As Merry and Pippin are carried by the orcs, their hands are bound. After all, they are prisoners. When the orcs erupt into fighting with the Rohirrim, it seems for a moment as if both Merry and Pippin may have been lost in the fighting. As they make their way toward the forest, we see a horse about to trample on Pippin.
In this shot, Pippin’s hands are no longer tied, but we have yet to see he and Merry cut themselves free. Pippin got to freak out about the horse without restraint, but it didn’t exactly make sense when he did.
8 A Car in the Shire?
Frodo and Sam’s decision to leave the Shire is a monumental one for both of them. Hobbits aren’t exactly the traveling kind, and for Sam, this was by far the furthest he had ever traveled.
In one overhead shot of the field that Frodo and Sam are walking through, you can see a car driving past if you look in the top right corner of the screen. It’s only there for a second, and it’s not exactly in the forefront of the image, but if you notice it, it can kind of ruin the illusion that you’re watching a fictional, medieval society.
Cars always seem to pop up in these kinds of fantasy films at the worst times. There’s the infamous shot during the climactic battle in Braveheart where a white van is visible, and this white car, which sort of undercuts the emotion at the heart of the scene it interrupts. It can be hard to wipe modernity out of movies, especially today, when there are roads almost everywhere. Those roads exist for a reason, but they can still ruin a shot.
7 Sam's Ace Bandage
During the fight with the cave troll in The Fellowship of the Ring, the fellowship is forced to scatter in order to survive the beast’s massive force. The hobbits are especially unprepared for this kind of danger, which is still a relatively new thing in their lives. After Sam dives between the troll’s legs and Aragorn and Boromir pull its chains to divert its attention, you can see that Sam has a bandage around his wrist on his left hand.
There’s no clear explanation inside of the film for why Sam would have this bandage, and he doesn’t have it in earlier or later shots in the film. It’s likely that Sean Astin hurt himself on set, and wore a bandage for part of filmin. Perhaps Peter Jackson assumed no one would notice in the heat of the battle. Unfortunately, Jackson may have underestimated the legions of Lord of the Rings fans who would analyze every single frame of all three movies.
6 Merry and Pippin's Display
Our introduction to Merry and Pippin is appropriately whimsical. We first meet the hobbits as they attempt to set off some of the fireworks that Gandalf has brought a bit ahead of schedule. To achieve this goal, they sneak into the tent containing the fireworks at Bilbo’s birthday party, and decide to light off some fireworks. Unfortunately, they forget that they’re still in the tent, and so the firework goes off and carries the tent away with it.
This is a wonderful introduction to these characters, but it has a small continuity problem. Inside the tent, there’s tons of other fireworks and equipment besides the firework that Merry and Pippin light. After the tent has been carried away by the firework, though, all of the gear that used to surround Merry and Pippin has vanished quite suddenly. It’s as if the firework carried the tent’s contents with it when it flew into the air.
5 Eomer's Loose Sword
Eomer is supposed to be a pretty gifted warrior. After all, he’s the leader of the Rohirrim, one of the greatest cavalry forces in all of Middle Earth. Unfortunately, Karl Urban, the actor portraying Eomer, wasn’t quite as gifted with a sword. In one scene after the Rohirrim have met Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, and gifted them some horses, you can see Eomer’s mistake.
As he’s mounting his horse, his sword falls out of its sheath almost completely. You can see this in a shot of Aragorn, and consider how impressive it is that Viggo Mortensen either didn’t notice, or was so deeply in character that he didn’t care. The crew may have been aware of this error, but decided to keep it in the film anyway because it was the best take.
Sometimes, small mistakes can be ignored when you’re looking at the grandeur of these films as a whole.
4 Frodo's Wandering Eyes
After Frodo is taken by Shelob, it seems for a minute as though all hope is lost. Our hero, the character who agreed at the very beginning of this journey to take the ring to Mordor, seems to be dead. While that isn’t actually the case, it’s easy to see why Sam gets confused. Frodo has been petrified by Shelob, and is incapable of moving. He looks dead.
The only problem with this scene is that, while Frodo’s unmoving face and gaunt skin suggest that he’s a corpse, his eyes go from opened to closed and back again in quick succession. Had Sam seen that Frodo closed his eyes, he probably would have guessed that his beloved friend wasn’t actually dead.
Of course, it must have been hard for Wood to hold his eyes open in such a petrified way through multiple takes, even as he tried to keep the rest of his body still. We should probably cut him some slack on that one.
3 Frodo's Scar Moves
The ending of Return of the King is perhaps the greatest story decision that Tolkien made. It’s a move that reminds audiences that what Frodo has been through will change him forever. He’s no longer the happy, naive hobbit who doesn’t understand the way the world works. His journey has changed him. That change is reflected physically in the scars that now cover much of Frodo’s body, but one scar in particular seems to have trouble finding a permanent location.
In Return of the King, Frodo gets a wound on his face that looks fairly severe. The size of it suggests how painful it must be. Unfortunately, it moves all over Frodo’s face. Because the films were all shot simultaneously, there may have been days, weeks, or even months between scenes in which Frodo was supposed to have the scar.
During that time, the makeup artist obviously lost track of where it was supposed to be, which is totally understandable.
2 Lembas Bread Crumbs Magically Appear
About halfway through Return of the King, there’s a pretty memorable scene when Gollum finally turns Frodo against Sam. All of that hinges on some breadcrumbs that Gollum places on Sam in his sleep. Gollum suggests that these crumbs are evidence that Sam ate all of their remaining food while Gollum and Frodo were sleeping, and convinces Frodo, who’s already under the influence of the ring, to cast Sam away.
Fortunately for Frodo, Sam decides not to turn around and head back to the Shire. Still, the scene where Sam is sent away is heartbreaking, so much so that it’s easy to overlook the mistake it contains. The crumbs on Sam’s cloak seem to constantly disappear and reappear, and considering the fact that that’s the evidence that ultimately leads to Sam’s departure, you would think Frodo would need it to be there consistently.
It’s a simple gap in continuity, but one that factors fairly prominently into the plot.
1 Boromir's Shifty Hand
Boromir’s death scene is tragic, in part because we understand that he’s decided to do the right thing. He’s fighting off the Urukai, knowing that he won’t survive the fight. When he finally does fall, he has a quiet scene with Aragorn in which he proves that he was ultimately worthy of the Fellowship. The scene is incredibly moving, but it also has a minor technical flaw that becomes hard to ignore once you notice it.
In shots from behind Aragorn’s back, we see that Sean Bean has made the choice to put his hand on Aragorn’s shoulder. After all, these were the only two men in the fellowship, and they knew each other well. Unfortunately, in the shots where we see Aragorn’s face in close up, Bean’s hand is no longer there.
As they cut back and forth between the two shots, it becomes clear that they forgot about this bit of continuity. This is the kind of slip in the editing that doesn’t undercut the emotion of the scene, but is annoying once you’ve noticed it.
Did you catch any of these mistakes in Lord of the Rings? Let us know in the comments!