Best of the Decade #11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)


If you told me as I left the theater from the first entry in The Lord of the Rings trilogy that I’d eventually be writing up an explanation of it as one of the best films of the decade, I’d have said you were crazy. Yes, I initially was not on board with the first of this now beloved set of films. Several revisits of the extended edition have turned me into a believer, even as I continue to make lame jokes about Sam and Frodo’s relationship, walking, and why they should have taken the stupid eagles to Mordor instead. Although it is still the second and third films that I personally prefer, it is The Fellowship of the Ring that sets the table, and thus represents the trilogy on our top 20 list.

Without the passion and dedication of Peter Jackson, I don’t see how this “impossible to film” project could have pulled through. Thanks to the ridiculously detailed extended edition DVDs, we see his fingers helping shape everything from the casting, location scouting and effects, to the restructuring of the book for film. Jackson works as if his entire life depended on it (it probably did), but also with the humor and giddiness of the ultimate fanboy.

The casting spurred the careers of several on board, particularly Viggo Mortensen, while perhaps stunting the careers of several others the way only a Star Wars-level iconic franchise can do. What is more impressive as the series begins is how some of the most important characters are not human at all – and I don’t mean the CGI creations. The One Ring itself takes hold with a diabolical strength beyond any of the orcs hunting the fellowship down, and the sweeping scenery of New Zealand brings Middle Earth to life.

Approaching ten years later, The Lord of the Rings’ achievements seem taken for granted, as if pulling off an adaptation of this magnitude was easy, inevitable and thus owed to us. As we near that anniversary it seems we’ve almost come full circle, as we now sit, wait and worry about what big bad Hollywood will do to The Hobbit.

Check out previous entries from our Top 20 Films of the ’00s.

  • Henrik


  • SirPrize

    Nearly ten years already… Unbelievable! Feels like I watched it yesterday which underlines the impact it had and definitely a good choice to put it in the best of the decade list!

  • Geeze, could have at least got someone that actually liked the film (books) to write this. I don’t think this film (or series) needs to apologize for being on any “best of decade” list.

    It will stand as the best adapted piece of literature to the screen EVER!!

  • Tommy

    A choice I agree with 100%.

  • Goon

    “could have at least got someone that actually liked the film (books) to write this.”

    Did you bother to read the article past the first 2 sentences? I love the movie now, but it took the extended edition and rewatches to get it there… by the time Two Towers came out I was completely on board with the series, and not long after that I had read all the books, including the Hobbit.

  • Napalm

    i don’t see the big deal about LotR. yeah it’s visually very epic and all, but the movies are long as hell, with one big battle after another! very hard to get through.

  • IN MY OPINION Goon! Your writing about a great film(s) has a negative tone that wasn’t necessary for an entry explaining WHY it made a Best of Decade list.

  • You’re a better man than I, Goon. I struggled through the first half-hour or so, trying to stay awake while Dracula and midget Jack the Ripper had the world’s most boring conversation, and finally succumbing to sleep when I saw my first elf on horseback. Shitty films based on shitty books.

  • Big Hungry

    Hell yes – this movie rocked and the others Rocked! easily in my top 10 of all time. Not just the decade.

    I wish the movie were even longer than the extended ones of this.

  • Falsk

    FUCK YEAH you went with “Fellowship”. Way to show some balls.

    Of course I’m assuming you aren’t going to throw “Return of the King” on later. (You better not.)

  • Mason

    I’m not surprised LoTR is on the list, I’m just surprised it’s not higher. I bet one of you has it in your top 3. I’m getting really curious at what the consensus number 1 will be.

  • Goon

    I dont know rus, I’d say its mostly positive and if I had any overall point in the writeup it was that the series seems to have already been taken for granted. :/

  • Sly

    All 3 LoTRs should count as ONE. It’s ONE big story.

  • Kasper

    #8 For once Wintle, I actually agree with you.

  • Goon chose to do the write-up specifically because he wasn’t a fan initially but over time Peter Jackson won him over. I think his write-up reflects that.

    As far as why we chose Fellowship, I think three of us had Fellowship on our lists and two of us had ROTK.

  • Tommy

    All 3 LoTRs should count as ONE. It’s ONE big story.
    Posted by Sly on December 15th, 2009

    That’s how I would lump it together, but Fellowship is what started it and that is the most important. Fuck it up from the beginning and it won’t go well for the rest.

  • Goon and Sean, Its number one on my list so you can expect I will defend it to any end. It captured the books, transported me back to my childhood, created an entire cinematic world like no other film.

    I have no idea were “already been taken for granted” comes from, must be a Canadian thing.

    Of all the films you guys list I’d venture to say LOTR will be the ONLY one watched, seen on TV on a regular bases, written about, of any of the films 50 years from now. It will be up there with the classics.

  • Justice

    Taking the eagles to Mordor…brilliant. Why the hell didn’t I ever think of that? lol

  • “Taking the eagles to Mordor…brilliant. Why the hell didn’t I ever think of that?”

    that’s old news, been a criticism of the books for like 50 years, it has been addressed by Tolkien “scholars” that they believe the eagles work on their own agenda choosing when and how to interact with others. Its not valid criticism of the films.

  • did a quick search, the film(s)are on like 80% of Top 10 and Top 20 lists for the decade…hardly “taken for granted”

  • xego

    Read the books …took the kids to all the films…bought the DvD’s …but have never seen the expanded editions. Can anyone sort of detail what it is I am missing out on?

  • Goon

    rus… its more apparent in the books than the films that the eagles have their own agenda, and clearer that the mission requires stealth, etc

    xego – I’d say that the Fellowship expanded edition is far superior because of the way the characters are established leading into the next two..

    I’d say the Two Towers is marginally better expanded…. as for RotK – so/so – some of the expanded stuff works way better (Sarumon’s death), but other stuff isn’t so effective (army of the dead)

  • Henrik

    I wish Wintle had a say in this list. He could drop down more simple truth like this: “Shitty films based on shitty books.”

  • Big Hungry


    All I can say is go buy or steal or borrow the extended editions you will not forgive our self if you never see them. Maybe it is just me but there are too many things that they cut out of the theatrical cuts after seeing the extended cuts. I will say this, helms deep to me feels like I understand the strategy of the battle more and every movies has more to it. These extras scenes are just not fillers but essentials. I will also say the extended dvds with the all the extras are bar none the best sets ever. 4 commentaries for each film on 2 discs and 2 other discs with extras which are must sees. If I had to choose to keep just one set of dvds these would be it.

  • Henrik

    In Helms Deep it all comes down to hoping that Orlando Bloom will forget to headshot the important orc with the bomb. Luckily he did.

  • Big Hungry

    I just jizzed thinking bout this epic trilogy all over again.
    I think it will be a another couple decades until we get another event trilogy like this again. Some will get it others will not but one thing remains…. It did deliver to a majority of the public and critics. This was true art and will remain a staple of cinema. Obviously for me, this trilogy is my number one, but I respect those who do not get it.

  • Wintle is a coward

  • littlesheba

    rus in chicago:

    I too am a serious fan of the books and movies, and I’m with you. It’s a no brainer that all of these films should be on the top ten list of the oughts. In my opinion, those who rag on LOTR lack the gift of imagination.
    And – 9 times out of 10, they’ve never read the books, so they REALLY have no authority on the subject (and authority is not given to them to deny The Return of the King. Steward!)

  • Liney

    I’ve always felt that this is the best of the LOTRs films. The scene in the mines, plus Sean Bean’s death scene, are two of the most memorable scenes in the whole trilogy, not to mention the moment when Bilbo tries to seize the ring from Frodo’s neck. Maybe the fact that there is more variety in the this film compared to the other two also makes it better.

  • Big Hungry

    Also keep in mind how many trilogies deliver the same quality from movie to movie. I am sure part of this reason is that they were filmed together and are very much one story.

    Let me name a few trilogies/sequels that do not deliver the goods and could of.

    Matrix – The third one failed big time for me.

    Pirates of the Caribbean – I still have no idea what was going on in the last film. (I wish I would of showed up late and just watched the last battle in the film.)

    Spiderman – 3rd one had a tone switch of bad comedy and it could not recover for me.

    Blade – 3rd one – only reason to watch is JB! but the story was bad. The second on was good

    I can go on and on.

    The only other Trilogy I can think of that delivered this decade for me is “born identity series” and I do expect this on the film junk list!

  • xego

    “Shitty films based on shitty books”

    No I don’t think you can go that far. I read the trilogy when I was a young teen probably if nothing else helped develop my reading skills. I can understand if Fantasy books aren’t Whintle’s cup of tea. I tried re-reading LOTR when those crappy paperbacks were all in the grocery stores but couldn’t get back into it. Aside from Carlos Casteneda I haven’t really got into Fantasy books. Why I wonder haven’t they filmed a Don Juan movie? Could it be the Shrooms…hehe

  • Greg

    I’d have to agree with Liney about Sean Bean’s death scene. Boromir’s (is that right?) heroic death runs me through the emotional gauntlet. I think it’s filmed perfectly. I’ve watched that scene over 100 times as it contstantly played on the big screen at Music World when I worked there when it was released on DVD.

  • Jeff

    I enjoyed watching these the first time, and looked forward to each installment at the time, but they don’t stand up to subsequent viewings.

    I was really tired of Frodo’s whining by the end of the series.

    Samwise and Frodo should have hooked up at the end given how much Samwise was in love w/ Frodo. At least a make-out scene or something. Three movies of Samwise pining for Frodo and no payoff? Lame.