Ralph Bakshi made a respectable attempt at creating a quasi-animated adaptation of the story, though he was unable to finish the epic and was forced to end the story at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Peter Jackson would go on to prove that The Lord of the Rings could be made into an excellent series of films.
It isn’t just the movie industry that tried to adapt The Lord of the Rings, however. The success of Dungeons & Dragons prompted a tabletop adaptation of Middle-earth. The video game industry has also made a lot of attempts to bring Tolkien’s saga to the small screen.
With The Lord of the Rings having so many adaptations, it’s only natural that there be a few laughably bad moments in an attempt to bring Tolkien’s world to life.
We are here today to look at the worst moments in the many different adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit— from the song that is as insidious as the One Ring itself, to the bizarre names of the Nazgul.
Here are the 15 WORST Things From Every Movie And Game.
15. Frodo Of The Nine Fingers
In 1977, a production company called Rankin/Bass made an animated television special based on The Hobbit. This version of The Hobbit was well received at the time, which prompted talk of an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
Ralph Bakshi released his version of The Lord of the Rings in 1978, though that film ended with the Battle of Helm’s Deep. When it became apparent that Bakshi wouldn’t be able to make a sequel to finish off the story, Rankin/Bass stepped in and created their own version of Return of the King.
The Rankin/Bass version of Return of the King is generally disliked by the fans. There are many reasons for this, but the most prominent is the abundance of terrible music that is spread throughout the film.
These terrible songs include such classics as “Where there’s a whip, there’s a way” and “It’s so easy not to try“. The king of the bad songs is “Frodo of the nine fingers“, which is as terrible and insidious as the One Ring itself.
14. Battle Bombadil
One aspect of Fellowship of the Ring that always seems to get skipped over in the adaptations is the journey to Tom Bombadil’s house. When Frodo and his companions are traveling to Bree, they encounter an ancient and benevolent being called Tom Bombadil.
Tom takes them into his home and offers them his protection for two days. It is revealed that the One Ring holds no power over Tom. He later comes to the aid of the Hobbits when they are captured by a powerful undead being known as a Barrow-Wight.
The Tom Bombadil sequence would be hard to fit into an adaptation, due to how bizarre it is. Tom was included in The Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth 2 .
The creators of the game felt that a peaceful nature spirit who likes to sing would be an excellent summon unit in the game. This warlike version of Tom Bombadil can crush his enemies to death with a word and can sing and dance through an army, leaving only corpses in his wake.
13. The Bad Balrog
The fight scene between Gandalf and the Balrog is one of the most iconic moments from Fellowship of the Ring. It involves Gandalf being a butt-kicker and taking on a giant fire demon in one-on-one combat. The version of this fight from the Peter Jackson movie involves some of the best CGI work in the series, which still holds up to this day.
Not all Balrogs are beautiful, however, as the Bakshi movie proved.
The version of Durin’s Bane that appears in Ralph Bakshi’s movie leaves something to be desired. It looks like a Halloween costume worn by a kid who has Satanic parents. The Bakshi Balrog has feet that resemble big fluffy slippers and a set of wings that look like they belong to a butterfly.
This version of the Balrog also flies, which raises the age old question of “why didn’t the Balrog just fly when Gandalf dropped the bridge?” The Bakshi movie managed to create some terrifying creatures (like the Nazgul), yet it dropped the ball on one of the most iconic monsters of the series.
12. The Convenient Earthquake
There is a specific moment when The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy officially begins to unravel. It happens when Aragorn leads his army towards the Black Gate, while Frodo & Sam are walking across Mordor, with Sauron searching for them like a giant searchlight.
When the One Ring finally falls into Mount Doom, it causes the tower of Barad-dûr to explode. This sets off an incredibly convenient chain of natural disasters, which culminates in an earthquake that kills all of Sauron’s forces, while Aragorn’s army remains unaffected because the ground tears itself up around them.
This is another example of the creators going too far with a visual concept. Why not just have Sauron’s forces flee because their God just blew up? Was the convenient earthquake that bends around good people really necessary?
11. Frodo & The Army Of Darkness
The Tolkien estate has always been very protective over The Lord of the Rings‘ license. This hasn’t stopped them from leeching off the success of others, though, as was the case with the video games they approved during the time when the Peter Jackson movies were still in the cinemas.
New Line Cinema had the rights to make video games based on The Lord of the Rings movies, while the Tolkien estate retained the right to approve games based on the books. This led to the creation of several subpar video games that were released around the same time as the Peter Jackson movies, yet weren’t officially connected to them.
One of the worst examples of these games was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. This game had a lot of issues, but the biggest may be the sequence involving the Barrow-Wights. Frodo has a level in the game where he has to fight off an army of undead monsters with a walking stick.
10. Legolas’ Horse Vault Into The Uncanny Valley
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers may be the best film in the trilogy. It had more incredible action set pieces than Fellowship of the Ring and didn’t wear out its welcome with endless endings like Return of the King. The Two Towers also had the Battle of Helm’s Deep, which has the best build up and payoff of any action scene in the trilogy.
It’s to The Two Towers‘ credit that the worst part of the movie is only a few seconds long, but it’s so distracting that it has lingered in the minds of fans for almost fifteen years now. The scene we’re talking about is Legolas climbing onto the horse.
There was a concerted effort to turn Legolas into an action hero in The Lord of the Rings films. However, was it really necessary to turn Legolas into a CGI character who can perform insane and impossible acrobatic flips for the sole purpose of climbing onto a horse?
Saruman never gets his due in the adaptations. We never get any closure to his story in the Rankin/Bass movie. The Peter Jackson version of Return of the King did explain his fate, but they put it in the special editions rather than in the actual movie. None of the films have ever attempted to adapt the scouring of the Shire, which is where his story truly ends in the books.
The most bizarre choice that the Rankin/Bass version made with Saruman was changing his name to Aruman. This was most likely a decision made to distinguish his name from Sauron.
The problem is that it never stuck. Characters switch between calling him Saruman and Aruman throughout the film. It is possible that the Aruman change was made part way through the production of the film, but they didn’t have the time or resources to bring the voice actors back to totally make the switch between one name or the other.
8. Radagast’s Sham Poo
At the start of The Hobbit, there are five Istari (better known as wizards) in Middle-earth. We see three of them throughout the series; Gandalf, Saruman, and Radagast.
Gandalf and Saruman are both important characters in the saga of Middle-earth, while Radagast just sort of hangs out. Radagast the Brown is known for his relationship with beasts and nature.
He abstained from the conflicts of men and hid away during the War of the Ring. Radagast’s only participation in The Lord of the Rings was acting as a messenger for Saruman and sending Gwaihir the Eagle to Gandalf’s aid.
Radagast appeared in The Hobbit trilogy, where he was played by Sylvester McCoy. The performance of Radagast was fine. The problem lay with his costume design. Radagast goes through the entire trilogy with bird feces spread all down his face.
7. Fighting The Eye Of Sauron
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age was a bizarre video game. It literally stole Final Fantasy X‘s combat system, while having a story that sounds like fan fiction. The Third Age follows a second Fellowship that was formed by Gandalf, whose journey intertwined with that of the main Fellowship. These coincidences quickly got out of hand, as they include the second Fellowship helping Gandalf fight the Balrog
The Third Age included a few superbosses– which were kind of like the Weapon monsters from Final Fantasy VII. One of these was the actual Eye of Sauron. That’s right, your party of adventurers could climb the tower of Barad-dûr and stab Sauron right in the eye.
The whole dropping the One Ring into Mount Doom thing was a terrible idea. The Fellowship should have just saved their Megalixirs and Limit Breaks and just went to town on that huge eye floating in the skies of Mordor.
6. Sauron The Slow Viking
One of the most significant aspects of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings is that he never physically appeared in the story. The closest we get to seeing Sauron in the books is when Pippin catches a glimpse of him within the Palantir.
Sauron’s absence from the story is what makes him work so well, as the sense of fear and dread he inspires within the characters allows the reader to come up with their own interpretation of what he looks like.
The Peter Jackson films really dropped the ball with this. We see Sauron within the first few minutes of the movie and he starts murdering people with a giant mace. The Bakshi version of The Lord of the Rings tried a different approach. We see Sauron as a shadow as he forges the ring and has his fingers cut off by Isildur.
The problem with Bakshi’s interpretation is that Sauron has a silly looking Viking helmet on. The battle where he loses his fingers is also clumsily shot, to the point where it looks like it was filmed by children.
5. World Of Ringcraft
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring game mentioned above was savaged by critics upon release, and planned sequel called The Treason of Isengard was canceled. This didn’t stop the Tolkien estate from giving out their license to other companies for more lackluster games, however.
The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring was a strategy game that was released in 2003, and was basically a huge ripoff of Warcraft III. Sauron’s units needed to spread corruption throughout the map in order to create buildings, which is the exact same mechanic that is used by the undead in Warcraft III.
The colorful units and squat design of the buildings are also taken straight from Warcraft III. War of the Ring also had terrible voice acting, which made the game look even worse compared to the ones based on the Peter Jackson movies, as those could at least get the original actors.
4. Galadriel’s Freak Out
The Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies weren’t exactly known for their subtlety. This might have been due to concerns about making the film too cerebral, which may have turned off the general audience that the movie would need to cater to in order to make its money back. There are many examples of this, including turning Sauron into a giant armored monster/huge burning eyeball in the sky.
One of the biggest examples of taking a scene out of context involves Frodo offering the ring to Galadriel. In the books, he sees her for a moment as a terrible being who had been warped by power, before she returns to normal.
The movie version decided to turn her into a shrieking banshee that screams her lines and has her arms trapped at the “quarter past ten” position. This scene was taking the book a bit too literally and didn’t give the audience enough credit.
3. Alfrid’s Dress
The Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies always felt the need to shove in a comic relief character, regardless of how seriously they were treated previously. The first of these was Merry and Pippin, which actually made sense, as they had little to do in The Fellowship of the Ring.
When Merry and Pippin’s story became serious in The Two Towers, the comic relief role fell to Gimli, who spends the next two movies clowning around and spouting off one-liners.
The second and third Hobbit movies added a new character to act as the Jar Jar Binks of the trilogy. Alfrid Lickspittle is the deputy to the Master of Lake-town. He is quickly turned into the sniveling villain version of comic relief, as he tries to get one over on Bard and Bilbo.
2. The Wimpy Witch King
The fight between Eowyn and the Witch-king of Angmar is one of the most kick-butt moments in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. We finally get to see one of the Ringwraiths taken down in a fight, even if it was through wordplay nonsense that was ripped off from Macbeth.
The Rankin/Bass version of Return of the King decided to adapt this sequence. Their version of the Witch-king of Angmar was decidedly less awesome than the Peter Jackson one.
The biggest problem was with his voice: he sounds like Marvin the Martian if he was performing Shakespeare. They kept Merry stabbing him in the back like a coward, but Eowyn kills him with an anime speed line.
This causes the Witch-king to literally deflate like a balloon, which includes the same noise that happens when you let the air out. Sauron seriously needs to hire some more versatile commanders for his army.
1. The Bizarre Real Names Of The Ringwraiths
The Ringwraiths aren’t given much of a backstory in the text of The Lord of the Rings. We only know the true name of one of them, which is Khamûl. He assumes command when the Witch-king is slain.
The success of Dungeons & Dragons meant that a Lord of the Rings tabletop game was inevitable. Middle-earth Role Playing was the name given to the official Lord of the Rings tabletop RPG, which was created by Iron Crown Enterprises. The writers at Iron Crown were given a lot of leeway when it came to coming up with their own backstories for characters who may not have had any in The Lord of the Rings.
The Ringwraiths were the biggest victims of Iron Crown Enterprises’ tampering. They turned one of the Ringwraiths into a woman, named Adûnaphel (despite the fact that they are referred to as Kings and men on numerous occasions). There were also Ringwraiths who were given incredibly stupid true names, like Dwar of Waw and Ren the Unclean.
You’re probably going to have a bad time if you meet a Ringwraith in Middle-earth Role Playing. The only victory you will have is by making fun of their stupid names while they stab you with Morgul-blades.
Can you think of any other Lord of the Rings adaptations that have incredibly horrible moments? Let us know in the comments!
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