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The Lord of the Rings

PG 1978 2h 11m Fantasy Adventure Animation List
49% Tomatometer 45 Reviews 64% Audience Score 250,000+ Ratings
This animated film by Ralph Bakshi presents the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien's renowned fantasy tale. The wise old wizard, Gandalf (William Squire), entrusts the young hobbit, Frodo (Christopher Guard), with a magical ring. Soon dark forces are after Frodo, so he must leave his peaceful home and travel to the ominous Mount Doom, where the ring must be destroyed. Accompanied by a trio of hobbit friends, Frodo is also aided by the mysterious Aragorn (John Hurt) and other heroic allies. Read More Read Less
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The Lord of the Rings

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Critics Consensus

Ralph Bakshi's valiant attempt at rendering Tolkein's magnum opus in rotoscope never lives up to the grandeur of its source material, with a compressed running time that flattens the sweeping story and experimental animation that is more bizarre than magical.

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Critics Reviews

View All (45) Critics Reviews
Paul Gray TIME Magazine Lacking a firm center in Frodo's story, the film plays itself out as a bewildering parade of elves, dwarves, ores, trolls and talking trees. Mar 26, 2019 Full Review William Thomas Empire Magazine What most people remember is the mix of the live-action tracing within the traditional animation and just how effectively creepy it managed to be, but for the time this did a pretty good job of adapting the dense novels. Rated: 4/5 Dec 3, 2012 Full Review Dave Kehr Chicago Reader It looked terrible then and it still does: cartoon characters move differently from live actors, and the attempt to duplicate natural movement ends in stylistic incoherence. Dec 3, 2012 Full Review John Lapsley The Sun-Herald (Australia) Bakshi's 2.5 hour animation epic has been drowned by its inability to breathe any real identity into the Hobbits, Orcs, Wizards, and Elves, that Tolkien created. The result is an ordeal for the backside. Rated: 2/5 Nov 16, 2023 Full Review Rob Gonsalves Rob's Movie Vault Sheer tedium from start to finish. Rated: D Dec 1, 2022 Full Review Alan Murdoch Starburst If it achieves nother more than causing those unfamiliar with the worlds of Tolkien to actually read the original books then it has not been a pointless exercise. Jul 22, 2022 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Liam W This is a childhood favourite of mine, I think in the timeframe, it does a decent job of keeping true to the first part of the classic epic. The animation is great, quite unique, even to this day, and the transitions between styles works a treat. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 06/03/24 Full Review Wendell R Though it succeeds in accurately summarizing the first two books without losing Tolkien's story, the movie never really satisfies. From animation to voice acting, the movie is too uneven. At times the animation intrigues. Sometimes it is even brilliant. Too often it is nothing but lazy rotoscoping. A lot of the rotoscoping looks like Turner put his color crayons to some long-forgotten sword and sandal B movie. Mixing this with traditional animation creates a jarring mishmash of images. As for the voice acting, it ranges from high school drama class to top-notch actors' studio. Only the soundtrack maintains a high standard throughout. For fans of Tolkien or animation. Everyone else will need a thermos of coffee to keep from dozing off. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 04/24/24 Full Review jack b I created an account specifically to review this movie because I find it nothing short of fascinating. Like most others, I was raised on the objectively superior Peter Jackson movies, with their cast, soundtrack, special effects and cinematography that have since become immortalised for their success. Until quite recently, I'm ashamed to say that the existence of this much earlier attempt at televising Tolkien's works had completely eluded me. When I did discover it, it was via the YouTube videos that mocked its dated animation - the ‘Unscary Balrog', in particular. I dismissed it at the time and thought to myself, ‘well, there's a reason I haven't heard of this until now'. And yet, it stuck in my mind. Something about this movie, its experimental techniques and its polarising reception, compelled me, much in the way I'd be compelled by a true story with a tragic ending. I knew the outcome wouldn't be pleasant, but I was determined to experience the journey regardless. Thank goodness, then, that I decided to watch this movie, because I was utterly stunned to find that my post-viewing opinion was the opposite to that of so many others'. I should be clear, first of all, that the five stars I'm giving this movie are for EFFORT as opposed to execution. Like I mentioned at the start of this review, this is by no means a rival to Peter Jackson's magnum opus. What was intended by Tolkein as an epic and far-reaching story, worthy of the superior trilogy's almost ten-hour runtime, has instead been condensed into a relatively short two-hour adventure, and not only that, but the adventure lacks a definitive, satisfactory ending (more on that later). The rotoscoping, while admirable in its application, is wildly inconsistent, with results ranging between impressive and downright hideous. The characters suffer similarly - I found myself pleasantly surprised by the likes of Gandalf, Aragorn (voiced by the late and great Sir John Hurt), and Frodo (whose bravery and courage in this version, I dare say outshines the comparatively whimpering portrayal by Elijah Wood), but Sam… poor, poor Sam. This 1978 version of our beloved Samwise might have been more aptly named Sam-dumb, because his consumption of pipeweed prior to the events of the movie seems to have drastically reduced his number of brain cells to rival even that of Gollum's. I'll never forget the scene in which Frodo confesses to Sam the weight and burden of the One Ring, only for Sam to twiddle his thumbs and lumber awkwardly away, apparently too shy and incompetent to comfort his friend in this hour of great need. And yet, there are elements of true greatness here, and to ignore these and bow to majority would - I feel - be a disservice to Tolkien's legacy, as it's very easy to see where the Jackson movies found inspiration beyond his books. I am fairly confident that without this movie, we would have received a much different - if any - Peter Jackson trilogy, and this is evidenced most clearly in the 78 movie's first half. Certain scenes, like the hobbits' encounter with the Ringwraith (a translation of the first book's "Shortcut to Mushrooms" chapter), were replicated almost shot-by-shot, and the Shire itself is depicted just as beautifully in this version - albeit much more briefly - as it is in the later trilogy. Furthermore, I even find myself holding certain scenes from this version in higher regard that their Jackson counterparts. Chief among them, Frodo's interaction with Galadriel in Lothlorien, when he offers her the One Ring in earnest and triggers her "you would have a Queen" monologue. I always found Jackson's version to be somewhat derogatory to her character, over-exaggerating the influence of the Ring on a being so wise and fair (not to mention immortal) as she. It feels excessive, over-dramatic. I was utterly stunned by this alternate portrayal, which I found much more true to character and in keeping with Tolkien's vision. No disrespect to the amazing Cate Blanchett, of course, but the stellar acting by Anette Crosbie manages a subtlety that due to the direction, the former could not. Cate's interpretation has a warmer presence, a heart-melting laugh as she says to Frodo "and I came to test your heart", and a more restrained, version of the aforementioned monologue. Ultimately, I think this version of Tolkien's tale has been eclipsed by the trilogy that would follow two decades later, and I consider this a great shame. Even more shameful are the reviews that lambaste this movie's animation as "lazy". As inconsistent as the results may be, I can assure you, there was nothing "lazy" about Bashki's effort here. Just a few minutes of research into the matter will prove that. The man's effort to this movie was valiant and truly commendable, and his passion is evident throughout. In my opinion, the results were spoiled only by those senior to him, who closed many avenues that may have led to greater success - perhaps chief among them, a conclusion to the story. As others have pointed out, this movie walked so that Jackson's trilogy could run, and I implore any appreciative fan of Lord of the Rings to discover this for themselves. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 04/08/24 Full Review Teddy B This film only feels more disjointed and bizarre as time passes. Ralph Bakshi, no matter how revolutionary he may be, does not know how to properly plot a film out in a way that doesn't feel like a group of strung together vignettes. The 1970s just feels like the worst time to make a film adaptation of such an ambitious trilogy of novels and animation would be the worst form for this story to take at the time. Yes, in all fairness, this is very faithful to the first two books, but how they go about executing the ideas and dialogue from those books feels TOO experimental for its own good. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/04/24 Full Review Michael B Despite the story being compacted down and so much left out, I have always loved this movie. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/05/24 Full Review Peter P Created the look, feel and setting associated with the Jackson trilogy, as well as the pacing and deviations from the source material. Backshi's visionary style, the suspenseful score and warm characters light up the screen.... with an intuitive and novel direction style that conveys a love for the source material, as well as an understanding of how it needed to be updated for film. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 11/30/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Lord of the Rings

My Rating


Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis This animated film by Ralph Bakshi presents the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien's renowned fantasy tale. The wise old wizard, Gandalf (William Squire), entrusts the young hobbit, Frodo (Christopher Guard), with a magical ring. Soon dark forces are after Frodo, so he must leave his peaceful home and travel to the ominous Mount Doom, where the ring must be destroyed. Accompanied by a trio of hobbit friends, Frodo is also aided by the mysterious Aragorn (John Hurt) and other heroic allies.
Ralph Bakshi
Chris Conkling, Peter S. Beagle
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
Original Language
Release Date (Streaming)
Sep 1, 2014
2h 11m
Sound Mix
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