Peter Jackson brought J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings series to the big screen in 2001, and the fantasy genre has been grateful ever since. Between the scale and attention to detail alone, Jackson’s original trilogy proved that he not only respected the source material, but had the technical and creative precision to make a story about Hobbits, Orcs, and wizards appeal to the masses. As Boromir himself said at The Council of Elrond, “It is a gift.”
However, even amid its massive successes, the Lord of the Rings franchises isn’t necessarily without flaws. Between The Fellowship of the Ring to The Battle of the Five Armies (that’s just under 20 hours when including the extended editions), there were bound to be a few foibles in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth. Unfortunately, those foibles aren’t easy to ignore.
Whether the issues are objectively painful to look at or just too distracting to ignore, Peter Jackson proved that unlimited creative liberties don’t always add up to success. Sometimes, a little restraint can go a long way.
Keep reading to check out 17 Jarring Scenes That Take You Out Of Lord Of The Ring Movies.
17. Legolas Shield-Surfing
In The Two Towers, the Battle of Hornburg (better known as the Battle of Helm’s Deep) is a crowning achievement in cinematic battles. Between the tone, the excruciatingly tense buildup, and the actual battle itself, few sequences can rival it. Even the Battle of Pelennor Fields in Return of the King is laid out as more of a patchwork of scenes spliced into other plot points, as opposed to Hornburg’s undeviating flow.
Unfortunately, the battle isn’t without a notable blemish.
You can argue that Legolas is almost perfect to a fault when it comes to his fighting technique, but never has the case been stronger (or more distracting) than during his epic shield-surfing moment. Instead of running down a set a set of stairs mid-battle, Legolas balances himself atop a shield and rides it down the staircase, while taking out enemies with his bow.
16. The Barrel Scene
When Peter Jackson announced that he’d be splitting the already-split Hobbit movies into three separate films, audiences were under the impression that this was to allow Jackson to fit in as much plot as possible; to tell the best story he possibly could.
Unfortunately, it turned out that Jackson just wanted to squeeze in computer-generated filler serving no other purpose than to preface a few Wizarding World-esque Middle-earth theme park ride ideas.
In The Desolation of Smaug, Bilbo helps the dwarves escape Thranduil’s prison by riding down a river in empty barrels. Yes, this is a fantasy story, but these films have done fairly well in establishing a sense of grounded fantasy. It’s not without limits, which makes it all the more easy to swallow.
15. Gimli’s Nether Hit
If a cartoon wants to showcase a character getting hit in the nether regions, grabbing said regions in pain, and then falling over after a delayed pause, then so be it. This is an accepted sort of physical comedy in animation (especially in animation aimed at children).
However, when a character in a live-action franchise does this, it’s not entirely easy to just accept it as normal and move along with the rest of the scene. That seems to be exactly what Peter Jackson was hoping audiences would do in Two Towers.
While slicing and dicing his way through Orcs and Uruk-hai, Gimli plants his ax directly into his enemy’s most delicate parts. As a tactical choice, this flies; but considering the fact that the Uruk-hai goes so far as to grab his nether regions, emit a pathetic whimper, and then fall to what is presumably his death offers little more than secondhand embarrassment.
14. Pippin’s Song to Denethor
While Pippin is resigned to servitude under Denethor II (aka the Steward of Gondor) in Return of the King, he experiences his fair share of emotional abuse. However, seeing as Middle-earth doesn’t have access to GlassDoor, Pippin just endures (though he did bring this upon himself, so… lesson learned, you fool of a Took).
When the action amps up outside the Minas Tirith fortress, Pippin has few options to keep himself entertained. And considering how most (if not all) of his friends may well be dead, he can’t help but worry.
When Denethor demands he sing him a song, Pippin does just that.
Part of the song is taken directly from Tolkien’s novel, from the poem, “A Walking Song”, and while it’s moving, it can’t help but feel wedged in between the action, disrupting the flow, and messing with the pace.
13. Legolas loves Tauriel, Tauriel Loves Kili
When Evangeline Lilly was cast in the Hobbit movies, she made the filmmakers swear that her character would not be involved in any love triangles. According to an interview with Yahoo, those were essentially her exact words. Initially, they accepted her demands, and when filming began and concluded, all was well.
Then came the reshoots. The filmmakers ultimately decided that a love triangle was absolutely necessary (arguably to no one’s belief but their own), and the rest is history. To add insult to insult, Lilly was forced to read lines like, “If this is love, I do not want it” and “Why does it hurt so much?”
Any Screenwriting 101 professor will tell you that this is garbage dialogue.
It doesn’t get much worse than this.
Until Thranduil enters and adds: “Because it was real.”
12. Alfrid’s “Comic Relief”
Most, if not all, of the most jarring scenes in Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy have to do with elements that were only included to stretch out the running time. Various locations and characters simply didn’t need to show up for as long as they did, if at all— which brings us to Alfrid Lickspittle.
Created specifically for the film adaptations (your guess as to why is as good as any), Alfrid is meant to offer comic relief in the otherwise bloated goings-on of the trilogy. Whether he’s involved in Lake-town politics or trying desperately to avoid harm’s way, Alfrid is meant to convey a sense of hateable levity.
11. Frodo and Gandalf’s weird laughter
When Gandalf first arrives at the Shire in Fellowship, he’s the pastoral spark that inevitably leads to adventure. Though his introduction is as classic as they come (revealing his bearded self beneath the brim of his grey wizard hat), one of the moments that follows completely derails the spectacular buildup that’s led viewers this far along.
Frodo approaches Gandalf, insists that he’s late, and the wizard explains to the Hobbit that wizards are never late, nor early, etc. etc. What follows is one of the most awkward bits of repressed laughter on this side of the Brandywine River. They both poorly attempt to hold back their laughter in an attempt to— what— prove their seriousness? Why? They’re a Hobbit and a wizard mere seconds away from hugging and shooting off fireworks. No need to arbitrarily fake the tone.
10. Ent Water (Extended Edition)
No matter how beloved the original Lord of the Rings trilogy is, there’s no denying that the runtime can be exhausting. When the Extended Editions were released, supplied with more scenes and a longer runtime, even the most devoted fans had to prepare themselves for the journey of watching them back-to-back.
On one hand, the additional scenes give loyalists even more to savor, but on the other hand, Jackson’s original cuts felt so complete and perfect that adding even more kind of felt like they were taking something away. Especially with the scene involving Merry and Pippin downing Ent water – which is apparently meant to be played for laughs – the movie (in this case, The Two Towers) feels jerky and interrupted.
9. The Eagles
The moment you see the eagles show up in Return of the King, you can’t help but wonder why they never showed up to help out earlier on in the journey.
Considering all the near-death situations our heroes face, it’s difficult not to assume these eagles were purposefully holding out. They’re resilient, fast, and able to soar above all the danger happening down below on the ground. Sure, they’re perfectly welcome at the end of Return of the King once the One Ring is destroyed, but that doesn’t change the fact that they could have and should have lent a wing earlier on.
Rewatching the movies, there are countless moments where you might think, “Well, this could be a perfect opportunity for an eagle to swoop in,” and the viewing experience is all the more frustrating knowing that it’ll never happen.
8. Evil Bilbo
Poor Bilbo Baggins fell into an unhealthy, addictive relationship with the One Ring. No different than a recovering addict dealing with withdrawal, he does his best to fix himself – though not without the occasional setbacks.
When Frodo pays him a visit at Rivendell, Bilbo catches a quick glimpse of the Ring. Naturally, despite trying his best to fight the urges, he feels drawn to its power, wanting nothing more than to take the Ring for himself.
When Frodo proceeds to hide the Ring from him, Bilbo lashes out with a kind of demonic growl.
His face is given a brief CGI makeover that functions as a jump-scare, and whether or not you personally felt the scene was effective, there’s no denying how powerfully it’s able to remove an entire audience from the scene.
7. “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard”
When Two Towers was released, Legolas’ comments on the goings-on of events that other characters couldn’t see for themselves were perfectly acceptable – thanks to his elf-eyes. However, once the internet had its way with the series (as it does with every other series), it became more and more difficult to take some of his lines seriously— specifically his line about “taking the Hobbits to Isengard.”
By no fault of the script— nor Tolkien himself— this line was parodied in the music video aptly titled, “They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard”. Once you hear it, there’s really no going back.
Legolas speaks the line, you hear the song, and the irreparable damage is done. Thanks, internet.
Now, this shouldn’t diminish your enjoyment of the line (on the contrary, the song immortalized it in a way weird way), but staying focused on the scene at hand once the line drops would be an achievement like no other.
6. Desolation of Smaug’s Abrupt Ending
Had Peter Jackson left The Hobbit as a single-film adaptation, it would have been just fine. The same argument could be made for a two-part adaptation. Some of the material would inevitably be stretched, but it’d have likely been more accessible in these forms than as the trilogy it ultimately became. With three parts, the pace felt stretched and waning. Any sense of escalation dwindled because the story was so busy wandering off with moments and characters of very little importance.
When it came to the battle with Bilbo and the dwarves versus Smaug, any sense of satisfaction was stopped dead in its tracks. The Desolation of Smaug ends the moment Smaug flies out of the Lonely Mountain, with Bilbo looking out at the beast, uttering the line: “What have we done?”
It’s obviously meant to help build suspense until the final chapter, but considering that A) audiences already feel cheated and B) the line is so abrupt before the screen fades to black, the cliffhanger lands with a thud.
5. “Down, Down to Goblin Town” (Extended Edition)
While The Lord of the Rings did its best to pull casual, adult moviegoers into the fantasy genre, The Hobbit seemed slightly more interested in pandering to a younger audience. Between all the casual silliness and the overall lighter tone, Jackson was definitely aiming at a vastly different direction for this particular trilogy.
However, it’s not until you take note of scenes he ultimately removed from the theatrical cut that you’ll see how much restraint Jackson actually exercised.
During the “Goblin Town” sequence, the Great Goblin was originally introduced by way of a song – as if the scene itself wasn’t cartoonish or silly enough. Still, you can watch it in the Extended Editions, if you feel like getting jarred out of an even longer movie.
4. Dain Ironfoot Head-Butting
When a character is introduced later on in a series, filmmakers are usually forced to reveal his or her most prominent features as economically as possible. This was exactly the case with Dain Ironfoot in Battle of the Five Armies.
While head-butting is a standout act of retaliation, considering it’s not usually a go-to battle move in most movies, Dain’s technique in taking out a horde of Orcs with nothing more than his forehead (and rear of head) is excessive, to say the least. And corny. And poorly, poorly executed.
During his fight scene, he’s casually swinging his head back and forth, presumably knocking enemies unconscious. As treasured a filmmaker as Peter Jackson has become following his success on the Rings trilogy, this fight choreography looks less like it came from an Oscar-winning director and more like it came from some six-year-old choreographing a fight between his toys.
3. The Return of the King’s 7,000 Endings
While Return of the King is no doubt a crowning achievement in fantasy adaptations, it’s by no means exempt from criticism—especially considering it doesn’t seem to know how to actually… end.
Now, any Lord of the Rings enthusiast will probably criticize this criticism itself, but as far as editing goes, it’s tough to deny the fact that Jackson clearly wasn’t sure how he wanted to wrap things up. As a result, he didn’t just adapt the final chapter in the Lord of the Rings series, but The NeverEnding Story as well. Even if you personally never batted an eye at the ending(s), a betting man might assume you know at least one person who has.
2. The Rivendell Reunion with Frodo
Now, to branch off of King’s many endings, one of them has earned a laughable reputation over the years (but really, ever since it debuted back in 2003). When Frodo finally wakes up in Rivendell after destroying the Ring and saving the day, Jackson proves that he is no fan of subtlety.
Instead of giving the audience an opportunity to digest the lengths to which Frodo has gone up until this point, he offers them a washed-out, dream-like reunion with the surviving fellowship.
Characters enter his room one after the other in the most uncomfortable use of slow motion since Brendan Fraser fought the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns.
1. High Frame Rate Technology in The Hobbit
While The Hobbit was being promoted, the big hook was its supposedly groundbreaking High Frame Rate 3D technology. According to the official Hobbit website, this new technology was meant to represent a “ technological advancement in the motion picture experience” that “is closer to what the human eye actually sees.”
In theory, the whole concept seemed truly innovative; a must-try moviegoing experience.
Sadly, though, all that the HFR tech managed to accomplish was making the three Hobbit movies nearly unwatchable. Gone is the cinematic, visually-pleasing motion-blur of 24fps, and here to replace it is the jittery, distracting 48fps treatment that nobody but Peter Jackson asked for. He definitely deserves kudos for trying something new, but given how distracting the HFR looks, it was a failed attempt at best.
Which scene in The Lord of the Rings series do you consider to be the most jarring? Let us know in the comments!
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