It’s a holiday weekend in both the United States (Memorial Day) and United Kingdom (Spring Bank Holiday) and there’s rain in the forecast for much of the continental US as well as the UK (when isn’t that the case, though?).
You know what that means: time to spend an entire day on the couch watching the greatest film trilogy ever made.
Binge-watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy over the course of a rainy weekend is a rite of passage. You cannot consider yourself a true cinephile until you’ve slain that beast. Seeing the films in theaters is one (wondrous) thing, but to watch them all in a row, as one epic story, in the comfort of your own home, with some pizza or beer at your disposal—that is a rare gift.
Based on the novels by J.R.R Tolkien, directed by Peter Jackson, and filmed simultaneously in New Zealand over the course of three years, the fantasy trilogy became a global phenomenon that gleaned dozens of Oscars and billions of dollars at the box office. All three films are highly regarded by Tolkien nerds and novices alike, and together the films are considered among the most ambitious movie-making feats in history. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not.
The Lord of the Rings by the numbers
- The Fellowship of the Ring: $872 million
- The Two Towers: $926 million
- The Return of the King: $1.1 billion
- Total: $2.9 billion
Academy Award nominations and wins:
- The Fellowship of the Ring: 13 nominations (four wins)
- The Two Towers: six nominations (two wins)
- The Return of the King: 11 nominations (11 wins)
- Total: 30 nominations (19 wins)
- The Fellowship of the Ring: 91%
- The Two Towers: 95%
- The Return of the King: 93%
- Average: 93%
Runtime (extended editions):
- The Fellowship of the Ring: 3.4 hours
- The Two Towers: 3.7 hours
- The Return of the King: 4.1 hours
- Total: 11.2 hours
- The Fellowship of the Ring: fool
- The Two Towers: fool
- The Return of the King: heroic, but still a fool
- Conclusion: fool
- Buy the extended editions (or figure out if they’re available to stream in your country). Together, they’ll add two hours to your binging day, but it’s worth it. The extended editions add a number of important scenes that weren’t in the theatrical cuts, especially The Return of the King (The Mouth of Sauron, The Houses of Healing, etc.). You’re already committing a day to the trilogy, so you might as well do it right.
- Watch on the biggest screen you have access to. Not everyone has an enormous TV, but you should try to watch on the best screen available. Definitely don’t watch on a phone or tablet. Not only will you miss out on the visual grandeur of Jackson’s trilogy, but you might also go insane.
- Plan out your schedule and meals. The last thing you want is to get hungry in the middle of the movie and have to pause it to figure out what you want to order on Seamless. I’d recommend eating breakfast or a light snack before you start, then preparing or ordering some food between the first and second, or second and third, movies.
- Give yourself a 15-minute break in between films. Walk around the house, do some light stretches or jumping jacks. Get the blood pumping. You don’t want to dive immediately into the next film after finishing one, without taking a breath. That said, you also don’t want to take too long of a break and lose all momentum. Between 10 and 20 minutes is ideal.
- Pay attention to the music. Howard Shore’s original score for the trilogy is sublime.
- Read some context. If something is mentioned in the films that you want to know more about, there’s always Google! Alternatively, you can try the LOTR Wiki or Tolkien Gateway. Both are great resources for explaining some of the more arcane parts of Tolkien’s universe that the films don’t go deep into.
- Don’t skip the prologue in Fellowship. Cate Blanchett’s voiceover showing the forging of the One Ring and Sauron’s demise is one of the coolest parts of the trilogy.
- Try not to go on Instagram or Twitter. Some parts of the trilogy are a tad slow. Resist the urge to multitask. It’ll take you out of the moment for when the thrilling bits do happen. Immerse yourself in Middle-earth.
- Watch The Return of the King credits. After 11 hours of LOTR, the credits are cathartic. And wonderful.
- Skip The Hobbit trilogy. Hard pass.