Peter Jackson is one of the most renowned directors working in Hollywood today. He might be most famous for bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth to life on the big screen (in true George Lucas fashion, he did it perfectly with one trilogy and then divided fans with a prequel trilogy), but he’s directed a bunch of movies besides that.
He actually got his start in the “splatter” subgenre of horror as a young filmmaker in New Zealand. Some of his movies have fared well with critics; others haven’t done so well. So, here are Peter Jackson’s Movies, Ranked By Rotten Tomatoes.
14 The Lovely Bones (32%)
Peter Jackson has only ever made one major misstep in his career, and The Lovely Bones is it. It’s about a teenage girl who is lured into a weird shrine by a pedophile (who couldn’t look more like a pedophile with the thick-rimmed glasses, greasy hair, and creepy smile) and then murdered.
She then wanders the Earth as a lost soul, watching her family as they reel from her death. It could’ve been a powerful work of teary-eyed young-adult coming-of-age drama in the right hands, but Jackson just didn’t strike the right tone and the movie failed as a result.
13 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (59%)
It spelled trouble the second Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema decided to adapt The Hobbit as an eight-hour Lord of the Rings-style trilogy, because the book isn’t suited to that. It’s basically a fairy tale.
The Lord of the Rings encompasses three giant volumes, but The Hobbit can be read in an afternoon – where did the producers get the idea to adapt both of those to the same length? (Well, of course we know where: the promise of billions of dollars.) The third Hobbit movie focuses on “the Battle of the Five Armies,” an event that has absolutely nothing to do with any of the main characters, leaving them to be sidelined.
12 The Frighteners (63%)
In this horror comedy, Michael J. Fox plays an architect who finds himself able to communicate with ghosts and spirits following his wife’s death. This leads to a run-in with the specter of a mass murderer and the Grim Reaper himself.
One critic has described The Frighteners as a cross between Ghostbusters and Twin Peaks, but it doesn’t have the heft of either of those projects. Tonally, that description is right on the money, but whereas those two can be watched over and over again and never become tiresome, this one runs out of steam before the end of the first viewing.
11 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (64%)
It wasn’t too long after The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hit theaters that fans started calling it The Phantom Menace of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth saga. As the first installment of a prequel trilogy to a beloved and almost perfect cinematic saga that overuses CGI effects, has too many cheesy comedic characters, and ultimately fails to live up to the original, it’s fair to say that that’s an accurate description.
Sitcom star Martin Freeman has too much of a cynical, wink-to-the-audience quality to carry the weight of one of these trilogies on his shoulders. The Fellowship of the Ring, this ain’t.
10 Bad Taste (68%)
Peter Jackson’s directorial debut certainly lives up to its title. It combines horror, science fiction, action, horror, and a healthy dose of its titular tastelessness for a delightful, if gut-wrenching romp.
Like most first-time directors tackling an indie feature, Jackson leaned into his low budget and made a big-budget movie on a low budget for a rough, messy, but endlessly fun moviegoing experience. The plot sees an alien fast food chain coming to Earth to grind up human beings into meat for their burgers, and it only gets more absurd from there. Surprisingly, Bad Taste put Jackson on the film industry’s radar.
9 Meet the Feebles (71%)
Moviegoers enjoyed the novelty of Jim Henson-style puppets appearing in an R-rated movie with tons of swearing, sex, and graphic violence a couple of years ago in The Happytime Murders. However, Peter Jackson had reveled in this gimmick – and with much more effective results – years earlier with his film Meet the Feebles.
The black-comic tone of the film might not be to every viewer’s tastes, but with catchy musical numbers and a perverse puppeteering style, Meet the Feebles expertly uses juxtaposition to its favor. It’s an adult-oriented delight for people who grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.
8 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (74%)
If The Hobbit had been adapted as a two-part film as Guillermo del Toro intended and not stretched out to a trilogy, it would’ve been another story.
In The Desolation of Smaug, scenes that last a paragraph in the book and never should’ve been included in a film adaptation in the first place, due to their lack of consequences and relevance to the plot, are dragged out into half-hour set pieces. In Peter Jackson’s quest to make The Hobbit films as grand and epic as The Lord of the Rings films, what we got are movies that don’t feel grand or epic, but are really lo-o-o-ong.
7 King Kong (84%)
Since the original King Kong is one of cinema’s most revered classics, Peter Jackson took on a practically Herculean responsibility when he signed on to remake it. Jackson has said that he was struck by how much the original made him care about the titular ape, so that’s what he strived to do with this remake.
And it’s fair to say, since he used the motion-capture technology he pioneered with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and cast his Gollum, Andy Serkis, to play Kong, he managed it. We’re never on Carl Denham’s side – we see that the ape is just a fool in love.
6 Braindead (86%)
In his early days as the “splatter” king of New Zealand, Peter Jackson made this hilariously gory horror comedy about a man living with his mother who gets into trouble when he beds the wrong girl and a rabid rat-monkey turns the town into a horde of the undead.
Although it wasn’t a big box office success on its release, Braindead quickly became a cult classic, and in Time Out’s survey of the horror genre’s foremost actors, directors, and writers, Braindead was determined to be the 91st greatest horror film of all time. Simon Pegg also noted it as a huge influence on Shaun of the Dead.
5 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (91%)
Peter Jackson was shooting all three Lord of the Rings movies back-to-back, so if the first one didn’t hit, he would’ve been in a lot of trouble. The first chapter had to make such a strong impression on audiences that they’d be willing to commit to two more movies over the next couple of years.
Thankfully, The Fellowship of the Ring made that impression. It introduced audiences to characters they could root for – Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, the whole gang – and successfully sold the weight of what was at stake with a stunning prologue and an ensuing narrative to back it up.
4 Heavenly Creatures (92%)
Heavenly Creatures was Peter Jackson’s cinematic dramatization of the Parker-Hulme murder case, which rocked Christchurch in 1954 and has continued to echo throughout the New Zealand consciousness – in books, plays, novels, and of course, movies – ever since. The shocking case saw a 16-year-old girl and her 15-year-old friend murder the 16-year-old’s mother.
Until then, Jackson was known as the “splatter” guy – this movie proved he was a real filmmaker. This was the movie that gave Kate Winslet and, to a lesser extent, Melanie Lynskey (best known as Charlie’s stalker Rose from Two and a Half Men) their big breaks, and earned Jackson and his co-writer Fran Walsh an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay.
3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (93%)
The closing chapter of Peter Jackson’s big-screen adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy ended things in such a satisfying way that the Academy gave it a record number of nominations, and then when it won every single award it was up for, it also set the record for most wins.
And bear in mind that it’s unheard of for the Academy to even consider awarding a fantasy movie. Shooting the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy back-to-back was a monumental and ambitious undertaking, but it’s clear from The Return of the King that Jackson was up to the task and then some.
2 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (95%)
The second part of a trilogy tends to be the best – The Dark Knight, The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, The Road Warrior, the list goes on – because it doesn’t have to set anything up and wind anything down. It’s a stepping stone; it’s all action.
However, most Lord of the Rings fans would consider The Return of the King to be slightly better than The Two Towers, because it’s the epic finale and, against all odds, it’s actually a satisfactory conclusion to the story. But then again, The Two Towers has the breathtakingly cinematic Battle of Helm’s Deep sequence that the MCU attempts to top three times a year.
1 They Shall Not Grow Old (100%)
The most impressive achievement of this World War I documentary is the colorized imagery. Peter Jackson took grainy, black-and-white photographs from 1914-1918 and gave them a splash of color and a touch-up to make them look like they were taken today by an HD digital camera.
As a tribute to all the young men who fought in the First World War, many of whom gave their lives, They Shall Not Grow Old is a powerful and poignant study that more than earns its rare 100% rating. The fact that the doc was released in 2018, exactly 100 years after the conflict ended, is the icing on the cake.