The Complete List of Film Changes for The Lord of the Rings

The Complete List of Film Changes

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 “Sure, it’s not really THE LORD OF THE RINGS … but it could still be a pretty damn cool movie. ” — Peter Jackson


The Changes

The Complete List of Film Changes is actually comprised of several lists, which you may get to by clicking on the links in the sidebar.


What is a “Change”?

The Complete List of Film Changes is my ongoing project to list all the reported differences between Peter Jackson’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films and the J.R.R. Tolkien books upon which they are based. I am attempting to document each difference, regardless of whether I personally consider them to be good or bad, major or trivial.

In compiling The List, I decided to apply a very broad definition to the word “change,” for one of my goals is to pass along to other Tolkien fans what I have learned about the upcoming films. I include not only alterations to the books’ plot, but also book scenes that are not included in the films as well as new scenes written by the film-makers — especially if those additions or deletions are controversial to Tolkien fans. I also consider plot elements that are shown in a different manner or sequence than they are in the books.

However, I have decided not to list Peter Jackson’s interpretation on issues that Tolkien is unclear about: whether Balrogs have wings, the color of Legolas’ hair, whether Elves have pointed ears, and other issues that fans argue about ad infinitum.


Explanation of Terms

Each change is described as follows:

Films: The change that is reportedly depicted in the films.
Books: How the books differ from what is depicted in the films.
Pro: The rationale behind the change, based upon explanations given by cast or crew members, or theories suggested by myself and other fans.
Con: Arguments against the change, made by myself or other fans who have found problems associated with the change.


How This List Came to be Written

As an avid J.R.R. Tolkien fan since I was twelve years old, I became very excited when I first learned that Peter Jackson was filming a live-action adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. I read every news item about this project I could find on the Internet and maintained a set of links to especially informative news articles and Tolkien web sites having information about the films.

As I participated in message board discussions about Jackson’s adaptation, I would occasionally come across fans debating some rumored change that I had yet to read about. When I followed up on the rumor by checking my news sources, I sometimes discovered that the rumor had no basis in fact. It occurred to me that with so much about this adaptation to debate, fans should confine their discussions to changes that had actually been reported. So, under the screen name AncalagonTheBlack, I began compiling a list of all the reported differences between the films and the books to provide fellow Tolkien fans a more accurate set of boundaries for debating Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s works.


Words from The Wise

Lord of the Rings is perhaps the most faithful screenplay ever adapted from a long novel. This is not just because our writing quartet is devoted to the original and would share other fans’ resentment if it were”mistreated”. Tolkien has an advantage over Dickens, Tolstoy and other epic writers. His story lines have a clear sweep and are less concerned with the byways and subplots which characterise 19th century novels. Consequently the major milestones of the Fellowship’s journey are intact. Inevitably, even in a three-film version, there will be some omissions of characters and elisions of events but as the story unfolds onscreen and as the landscapes are seen for the first time, little will be missed.

“The enthusiasts who have read the novels over and over may notice every change but in doing so they will miss the point. Peter Jackson’s movie does not challenge the novel’s supremacy any more than the distinguished book illustrations by Howe, Lee et al were meant to replace Tolkien’s descriptive words. Paintings, drawings, animations and at last the feature films all augment our appreciation of Lord of the Rings. And just watch the book sales rise as New Line’s publicity for the film gears up.

“Another point on this, the question that dominates my email: the adaptation of masterpieces from one medium to another is as old as literature. Most of Shakespeare’s plays are reworkings of stories, poems or written history. When I moved Richard III from stage to screen, I was determined to make a good film in honour of a great play. Had I left every scene and line of the text intact in the movie, it would not have been a good one. Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, my favourite version of the Macbeth saga, distorts Shakespeare to spectacular effect. The play which inspired it remains intact.”

— Ian McKellen, October 3, 2000


“Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing…. They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25. And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

— Christopher Tolkien, July 5, 2012


My thanks go to the many passionate Tolkien fans who have discussed these changes on this and other websites. Through their messageboard debates, I have learned much about literature, cinema, and the intricacies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

I am especially grateful to Jonathan Watson and Ted Tschopp of TORC for agreeing to host my project on their fantastic website.

— David Mullich (aka AncalagonTheBlack)

Ancalagon The Black - David Mullich