I’ve read the LotR books and have watched bits and pieces of the new Hobbit movies.

I’m trying to get my son to sit down and watch the currently released movies in succession for a weekend and want to know how to make the most sense of the Tolkien universe and have maximum watching experience.

What is the suggested watching order of all of the Peter Jackson movies, both the Hobbit trilogy and the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

  • 2
    ...start at the beginning? Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 6:41
  • 1
    How clever, unfortunately the beginning would imply that none of the movies are prequels and all of the movies were made in order which doesn't appear to be correct considering Bilbo reversed in age from LoTR into the Hobbit movies.
    – PW Kad
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 6:46
  • 4
    @PWKad - There are "call-backs" in the Hobbit movies that would only make sense if you'd watched the LotR movies first. They don't have any major plot significance but you can see why the OP might have concerns.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 12:20
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  • 6
    mumbles:> don't watch the Hobbit movies?
    – xdhmoore
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 8:00

7 Answers 7


Peter Jackson certainly thinks that you should. He (sarcastically) calls the completed series "24 hours of joy" and has stated on several occasions that the six films form a complete story arc.

“We phoned Harvey, who we had a first-look deal with, and said, ‘If you can get us the rights to these books we’d like to make The Hobbit as one film and, if it’s successful, we’d like to do The Lord of the Rings as two movies’. Now, 17 years later, it has become six movies and we did them the wrong way round: we did Lord of the Rings first and The Hobbit was supposed to be two films, so it’s all been very weird. It’s not anything I could control – it’s just circumstance and fate – but the one thing I think I’m very proud of is that when people do see the six films in the series in the right order, then they’ll sort of sense there was some vague design behind it all, as chaotic as it actually was in terms of the order being changed around.”

Though Jackson hasn’t yet had time to watch all six films back-to-back (“24 hours of joy,” he quips), co-writer and fellow producer Phillipa Boyens reckons they lucked out making The Lord of the Rings first. “If we’d started with The Hobbit it would probably have been more of a children’s film, which wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing,” she says, but what she loves about they way they’ve ended up doing the series is that the expanded scope of The Hobbit films has given them the opportunity to deepen the relationships between characters like Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchette). “I love the fact that there’s a scene [in Battle of the Five Armies] where she comes to save him,” she elaborates. “So now, when she’s told in The Lord of the Rings that he has died, that’s going to play in a completely different way for people who watch it in that order.”

“And we’re only three or four years away from having the first generation of audiences who will watch these films in this order,” says Jackson. “When we started on The Hobbit we were definitely thinking of the full arc of the story.”

  • 2
    exactly what I don't like. If they had started with the Hobbit, they wouldn't have felt the need to give LoTR characters a place they don't have in The Hobbit. And it wouldn't have been a trilogy, with all that dragon non-sense in the second movie.
    – Joel
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 12:28
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    @Joel - You can't blame a Director for making the universe his own. A totally faithful adaptation of Lord of the Rings would be 400 hours of unwatchable nonsense.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 13:07
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    I understand that. But if they had created the movies in the good order, they would as you say have made only one for The Hobbit, which would have cut a lot on the dragon part, and also, they wouldn't have felt the need to introduce characters before they were due. That said, I never begrudge Jackson for cutting or changing order of events, what I don't like is his tendency to invent things at the detriment of actual parts of the book, only for the "Hollywoodation". Like the dragon part... or Tauriel by example. Or Legolas proeminent part in the plot. Beorn could have been better developped.
    – Joel
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 13:23
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    @Joel - Precisely. It's clear that although the books were clearly a labour of love, Tolkien also wrote the books as a commercial enterprise. There's no reason why Jackson or Tolkien's estate should treat them differently than any other book-to-film adapatation.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 13:31
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    @Richard "400 hours of unwatchable nonsense" And I would have loved every hour of it :-D
    – TylerH
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 16:56

The above answers are all good, but I want to add one more factor for consideration:

Differing Quality

There are some who love the Hobbit movies and some who hate them, and there are even some old curmudgeons like the Tolkien estate who hate the LOTR movies, but I've never heard anyone who enjoyed the Hobbit movies more than the LOTR movies. In general, the consensus seems to be that the LOTR movie trilogy is a masterpiece, and the Hobbit movie trilogy is a matter of taste.

If, as the question states, the main objective is maximizing the enjoyment of a new viewer, you might start with LOTR first simply because it's generally considered to be the better film series.

It would be a real shame to show your son the Hobbit trilogy, and then have him shrug and say "meh, it was ok" and not really want to continue.

  • 1
    For the record, I found the hobbit movies to be a slog and a bore.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 0:38
  • While I enjoyed the first two immensely (although I agree about the third). Hence my answer: starting with LOTR might be the safer bet, especially for someone who isn't a pre-existing fan.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 0:43
  • The LOTR movies were much closer to the books also.
    – xdhmoore
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 8:15

Maybe this should be a comment, I'm not sure.

Nothing in the Hobbit movie trilogy requires knowledge of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It obviously helps if you already know a bit about Middle-Earth, but it's not necessary.

Having said this, there are characters in The Hobbit that come back in The Lord of the Rings, characters that you might think will die at certain points in the movies. This uncertainty is obviously completely irrelevant if you watch The Lord of the Rings first.

Another thing to keep in mind is that The Hobbit is a "fun" story. It's a jolly adventure, almost silly at times. The Lord of the Rings is a much more dramatic story, it's not funny. Starting with The Hobbit, it gets more and more sad, while starting with The Lord of the Rings leaves you with a happy felling at the end of it all.

So in conclusion, it's really up to preference. I would watch The Hobbit first, because it's an easier "getting into it" trilogy, while The Lord of the Rings is a lot heavier.

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    And if you watch both trilogies backwards, it's about a hobbit that fishes out a ring from a volcano and brings it back to his uncle, who then proceeds to give it to some hobo in the forest.
    – Chahk
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 19:39
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    @Chahk - The first hour of your "backwards film" is everyone saying hello to each other, over and over again.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 16:00
  • I'm totally doing this.
    – xdhmoore
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 8:16

Despite what Peter Jackson may say, watching the Hobbit movies first is likely to only end in confusion. The reason why is that there is much exposition and background in the Lord of the Rings movies that does not exist in the Hobbit movies.

To give one example:

  • Sauron has returned.
  • Returned from where?
  • Why did he go?
  • When did he go?
  • Who was involved?
  • And why is this so important?
  • And what's this thing with Bilbo looking at a broken sword and a painting in Rivendell anyway?

The last point here is interesting because there's absolutely nothing in the Hobbit movies that clarifies it or connects it to Sauron. In fact it's something that a casual viewer with no knowledge of the story would have no idea whatsoever about until they come to the opening scenes of the first Lord of the Rings movie.

But yet all of this is a major plot point of the Hobbit movies; perhaps as major as the Erebor storyline.

So watch the Lord of the Rings movies first to give you this backstory.

  • This is interesting, but I'm not sure it would be as confusing as you imply. Plenty of movies introduce characters, even major villains, before telling you their backstory. Oftentimes it's really awesome: remember when Darth Vader's backstory was revealed, two movies into the series, and it became the defining line of the franchise? I can't say for sure, but it might be cool to see the White Council face off against Sauron, see Bilbo look at Elrond's broken sword, idly wonder why Bilbo is being so weird about this ring, and then go "oh wait..." when you get to the beginning of Fellowship.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 0:18

Watch the animated Hobbit first. It is shorter and is more faithful to the original story. It is also more kid friendly than Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. The only real down side to this version is that Beorn is not mentioned in this film.

Then watch the LotR films. Or the best thing is to get an audio version of Tolkien reading the entire book.

  • +1 I like this answer the best. How can you guys not accept Gandalf's answer?!!
    – xdhmoore
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 8:18

For the books, read The Hobbit first (one book, more of an entertaining fairy-tale, introduces the characters, not a lot of backstory), then Lord of the Rings. For the films, watch Lord of the Rings first, then watching The Hobbit is optional because it's almost completely unlike the books or the prior three films in tone or content. It retains the lack of seriousness of the book, but does not really "appeal to children" any more or less than Rings, unlike the book (Hobbit) which is a short, fun read and a nice introduction for those less literate or less interested. The first film is the best one of both, although it's arguable that The Two Towers (film) is as good as the first one.

Bottom line is: if you read The Hobbit first you'll care a lot more about Gandalf, Bilbo, and Gollum than vice versa. If you watch The Hobbit first this isn't true because all the important introductions of these characters have been moved to Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (film) assumes you've watched these and doesn't really invest you in these pivotal characters. It provides callbacks to the "later" films, arguably spoiling them.

  • +1 for literary or BBC alternatives to the Hobbit movies
    – xdhmoore
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 8:19

Watching 6 long movies in a single weekend?! This is way too many for a kid.

In my opinion, this is the same thing as for the two Stars Wars trilogy: you should always watch them in the same order as the director made them; making sure to not forget to insert a big waiting time between each trilogy.

This way, you'll see three good films, then have some time for yourself to fully appreciate them and finally, when you have some time left and don't know what else to do, you'll see three lesser films; noticing along the way how the director screw them instead of leaving intact the original trilogy, for the sole purpose of making some more money.

  • 1
    This isn't an answer. OP asked about the best order to watch the Hobbit/LotR movies, not about how to watch franchises with lots of movies. And he most certainly did not ask for parental advice...
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 30, 2015 at 11:43
  • I think this is similar to Nerrolken's answer.
    – xdhmoore
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 8:20

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