20 Biggest Mistakes in Peter Jackson’s LotR Movies

It’s hard to believe it’s already been 21 years since Peter Jackson’s epic film trilogy finally brought The Lord of the Rings novel series to the big screen. Beautifully written, and often hailed for its epic scale and complex underpinnings that saw the legendary writer devise entire languages for them, the franchise stands as a testament to Tolkien’s literary genius and why he remains revered to this day.

The success of the then relatively unknown Peter Jackson and his films made for a fitting tribute to the legacy of the books. They were so acclaimed that the third film, The Return of the King, earned the current Oscar record for the largest clean sweep as it won 11 Academy Awards from 11 nominations, also equaling the record for the most Oscar wins by any film — tying in that regard with Ben-Hur and Titanic.

Despite all their success, the films have also become famous for their many mistakes. Being part of such a beloved franchise, over the years, fanatics have forensically picked through the films and found many a plot hole and filming error to complain about. The films remain iconic and brilliant, but it’s still funny to look back at just how many mistakes there actually were. Here are 20 of the most glaring ones to laugh about as we await the upcoming offerings from the franchise.

20 Éomer’s Sword Falls Out – The Two Towers (2002)

One of the most lauded elements of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was the effort put into making sure the weapons used were as authentic as possible. To achieve this, while prop swords were used for intense battle scenes to ensure safety, for other scenes, actual swords were forged by real life master armorers. Dubbed the ‘Hero Swords’, these weapons’ realistic designs made them difficult for the actors to handle like true warriors, as Karl Urban’s Éomer found out.

A Rookie Mistake

In a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, when key characters, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli meet Éomer while traveling along the plains of Rohan, as Éomer mounts his horse, the camera pans upward. However, as this happens, it’s clearly visible that his sword slides from its sheath. While it makes for a rookie mistake for a warrior of his caliber, it’s also a funny moment for viewers who managed to catch it. Stream The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on Max.

Related: Lord of the Rings: 8 Key Book Characters Who Were Cut from the Movies

19 Pippin’s Hands Were Already Free – The Two Towers (2002)

Later on in that same film, we find our heroes constantly in a bid to survive long enough to reach their objectives, while they’re mercilessly hunted. Meanwhile, for a time, they come across the gruesome aftermath of what seemed to have been a deadly battle. The evidence makes them believe our hobbit heroes to be dead. That is, until Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn uses his famous Dúnedain ranging skills to decipher the truth.

Either He Was Wrong or the Filmmakers Were

Aragorn manages to deduce that Pippin was there and narrowly missed being stamped on by a war horse. He worked out that he was bound but managed to untie himself. While Aragorn speaks, we’re treated to visuals of what went down. Most of it is accurate, until Pippin is shown to have cut his bindings and appears with his hands already free, before later being shown to be bound again.

That means either Aragorn was wrong about the chronology of events, or the filmmakers forgot to keep Pippin’s hands bound for the first scene.

18 The Nazgûl are Inept at Finding the Ring – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Nazgûl, also known as the Ringwraiths, are Sauron’s Nine Riders (who succumbed to his power). Their entire existence thereafter is predicated on their ability to track down and find the Ring. However, the Ring has been lost for over 2500 years, meaning they weren’t very good at their jobs.

It Defies Logic

Given their power, one-track mindsets, and powers that include being able to sense the Ring and be drawn to it, it defies logic that the Nazgûl were never able to find it after millennia of searching. Even with those advantages, and even when the Ring is literally a few feet away from them in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, they still aren’t able to find it. Stream The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on Max.

Related: How To Watch The Lord Of The Rings & Hobbit Movies In Order

17 Gandalf Escaped the Tower of Orthanc too Easily – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

In The Fellowship, Saruman the White lures Gandalf to Isengard and then imprisons him in the Tower of Orthanc as he tries to extract information from him. The tower is an impregnable fortress of Isengard, and is meant to be inaccessible to outsiders. Gandalf is supposed to be held there indefinitely, since no one can enter or leave the tower without the Keys of Orthanc.

Saruman Displayed Inexplicably Weak Judgment

Having both served on the White Council, Saruman is well aware that Gandalf is a formidable opponent and capable of magic too. This fact means he should also be aware of Gandalf’s connection to the Eagles. Yet, Saruman simply leaves Gandalf in the tower with no other reasonable security measures, allowing Gwaihir, the Lord of Eagles, to swoop in and rescue him.

16 One of Legolas’ Arrows Changes Color – The Two Towers (2002)

Easily one of the most likable characters from the films, Orlando Bloom became iconic for his role as Legolas, the master archer. Often present in some of the most breathtaking scenes in the trilogy, Legolas could be devastatingly accurate with his bow as he takes down foes and beasts from seemingly unwinnable positions during battle scenes. However, as amazing as he and his arrows were, the character wasn’t immune from some of the movies’ most glaring gaffs.

Too Much Inconsistency

During a scene from The Two Towers, Legolas has to stop an Uruk-hai warrior who uses a flaming torch to try and blast a hole in the heroes’ defenses beneath the Deeping Wall. Legolas begins letting arrows fly and manages to repel the threat. It was a pretty cool scene, except for the fact that the feathering colors and their shape constantly change between the camera angles of him shooting them, and the scenes as they hit their target.

15 Gandalf Doesn’t Use Enough Magic – The Return of the King (2003)

Throughout the films, we know that Gandalf is revered and known as a powerful wizard, capable of some amazing feats of magic. While we do get to see some of it during some crucial scenes, overall, this aspect of the famous character was pretty underused. In fact, even in moments when he is sorely needed, he often only uses basic spells, or otherwise proves to be quite unhelpful.

Even as Gandalf the White, He Underwhelmed

Even when Gandalf makes his famous transition into Gandalf the White, we see a lot more of him sword fighting than actually ever using his prominent magical gifts. As a wizard, and a famously powerful one at that, it made no sense how little he used magic and how infrequently he showed his abilities.

Perhaps he works like a mobile phone that needs to be charged after expending a lot of energy. Either way, he underwhelms in relation to what he’s actually capable of, like when he was easily toppled over by the Witch King in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Stream The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on Max.

14 The City of Minas Tirith Defies Logic – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The City of Minas Tirith had a design that made no sense, since inhabitants of it were known to gorge on banquets, but never run out of food when the city was under siege. There’s simply no explanation for how they’re able to get food and supplies inside the city, given its design and the fact that its citizens were fighting a war and under siege for long periods of time.

The Design Wasn’t Practical

The city was designed to be an impenetrable fortress. In that sense, it’s supposedly built on a hill with seven concentric tiers. While it works well to give its inhabitants a 360 degree bird’s eye view of approaching threats, while that helps keep them safe, it also means that during a siege, it would be virtually impossible for anyone to get out to replenish food and supplies without being detected.

13 Aragorn Has Two Swords – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

In The Fellowship, during the skirmish at Amon Hen, Aragorn seems to be involved in a scene with a pretty glaring consistency error. While Peter Jackson’s LotR films were often lauded for their amazing battle scenes, which saw them winning Academy Awards for things like cinematography and special effects, many fans bemoaned just how many of these kinds of filming gaffs there were during fight scenes.

An Obvious Error

In this one, Aragorn is first slammed against a tree by Lurtz and loses his sword in the process. We later see Lurtz launching his shield at Aragorn. However, as it pins him against the tree, when the shield impacts him, he seems to lose a second identical sword. At no time do we ever see or hear anything about Aragorn carrying two identical swords, so this moment was a very obvious filming error that spliced two shots into one scene without properly ensuring appropriate consistency between them.

Related: 15 Movies Like Lord of the Rings to Watch Next

12 Gandalf’s Staff and the Power Cord – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Gandalf’s famous wizard staff was often used to devastating effect during battle scenes. Like wands were integral to the Harry Potter franchise, Gandalf’s staff became a symbol of magical power and what he could unleash through it. Not only could he wield it as a physical weapon that he used like a skilled martial artist, it would often light up or emit blasts of light as he used it against enemies.

The Cord Was Clearly Visible

The problem was that during filming for The Fellowship, back then, a power cable was still necessary to produce the cool onscreen effects of the staff glowing and lighting up. Powered by a cord that took the form of a black cable, that cable was sometimes visible under his robes or trailing behind it if you looked hard enough during certain scenes. Again, in light of all the films achieved for their technical brilliance, it’s unforgivable that such rudimentary shortcomings were left in.

11 Isildur’s Trendy Shoes – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The prologue scene in The Fellowship provides historical context for how the ancient wars and skirmishes over the Ring led to it being lost over time. In the scene, we see that Isidur once defeated Sauron and claimed the Ring as his own. He’s later tracked down by Orcs who fill his back with arrows and condemn him to a watery death as we get a shot of his body floating down a river.

He Wore Hiking Boots

The macabre scene made for an impactful opening that foreshadowed just how ruthless Sauron’s minions could be. Despite the dark nature of the scene, it was also punctuated by a hilarious filming mistake, since as his body floats down river, we get a glimpse of the fact that Isildur is wearing some pretty trendy and modern hiking boots.

10 Arwen’s Ears Seem to Disappear – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Liv Tyler’s portrayal of the half-Elven, Arwen, garnered her many fans among lovers of the books who felt she nailed the role. She’s often been praised for the qualities she brought to the role, like beauty, grace, and an Elven sense of otherworldly dignity. In a physical sense, her most distinctive feature was, of course, her ears, which are elongated and pointed, and distinguished her from humans.

You Could Hardly Miss them

Arwen’s ears were so distinctive that you could hardly fail to notice if they didn’t appear. In a scene when she kneels beside Frodo after he’s stabbed by the Witch King, Arwen’s ears are as prominent as ever. However, as the camera moves away and then back to her, for a moment, it almost seems like her ears are missing altogether.

Related: The Lord of the Rings: How Different Are the Extended Editions?

9 The Witch King was Defeated too Easily – The Return of the King (2003)

While it made for a great scene, in the famous moment from Return of the King, Éowyn listens to the Witch King proclaiming how no man can kill him, before sticking her blade in his face and revealing herself to be a woman. As far as Hollywood moments go, this one was certainly up there among the most iconic scenes around. However, important context from the books were never provided to explain just how she managed it.

The Book Version Was More Believable

Since the films were already too long, liberties were taken by Peter Jackson to shorten certain plot lines for the sake of brevity. As a result, a key fact from the books was left out when it came to killing the Witch King. As ScreenRant Explains:

“Although altered in the movies, Merry’s sword in the books is far from ordinary. The hobbit carries an ancient Barrow-blade that was crafted by men when Middle-earth was locked in war against Sauron’s forces at Angbad. The weapon is quite literally designed to be used against dark magic… When Merry cuts the Witch-king, his blow is ”
breaking the spell that knit [the Witch-king’s] unseen sinews to his will
,” which could be interpreted as opening the villain up to Éowyn’s finishing strike straight through the hood.”

8 The Hobbits’ Appetites Make No Sense – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

As high fantasy, the LotR film trilogy is packed with moments that defy the natural world as we know it. For instance, Legolas’ acrobatics often defy the laws of physics, and, of course, there are all the magical beasts and monstrous beings. Besides the other fantastical creatures, the Hobbits are among the most lovable for their grit and determination versus their diminutive size.

How Can They Eat So Much?

However, for their size, it makes no sense that Hobbits eat second breakfasts. Even the kind of food they eat doesn’t align with their physical stature. In that regard, the number of meals and the size of those meals are completely at odds with their size and throw up too many questions, like where does it all go, and how come they aren’t bigger if they can eat so much?

7 Tire Tracks Visible at The Shire – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

In The Fellowship, Gandalf’s arrival at the Shire makes for a memorable scene. He’s greeted enthusiastically by adorable Hobbit children and delights them with a fireworks display. Despite all the fun and cute aspects of the scene, there was unfortunately one very nonsensical moment from those scenes too.

Definitely Not Cart Tracks

While Gandalf arrives by cart, his vehicle fits in perfectly with the old-fashioned and technologically backward nature of the LotR world. However, in one scene, we see tracks in the mud that shouldn’t be there. The reason is that those tracks clearly belong to vehicles that use modern vehicle tires. Most likely made by crew vehicles, they should never have been visible in a world meant to have no modern automobiles.

6 Only Frodo Has Visions of Sauron – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

As one of the lead characters, and possibly the most important one since he carries the Ring with him for most of the films, Frodo is an icon of the franchise. He often shows inner strength far beyond his tiny size, and also seems to have a remarkable connection with the Ring. While that connection makes for cool visions, it also made zero sense.

Why Not Bilbo?

As a Hobbit, despite being one of the ultimate heroes of the story, Frodo seems unremarkable in every other way and seems to just be an average Hobbit. Yet, his time with the Ring is constantly permeated with visions of Sauron and other unique moments that only he seems capable of conjuring by possessing the Ring. We know that before him, Bilbo, also a Hobbit, had the Ring for a long time. So, it’s curious why he never had any similar visions or experiences with the Ring that Frodo did.

5 One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

As the HQ of evil and the place where the iconic villain, Sauron, pretty much runs his base of operations, Mordor is meant to be an almost unreachable place. Just getting there requires a Sisyphean effort, punctuated by immense obstacles that must be contended with. All that, without even mentioning all the near misses and deadly battles and ambushes the characters deal with.

Boromir Was Wrong

Despite all that and how well protected Mordor is, if you actually make it to the large mountainous structure and hone in on Mount Doom, the volcano capable of destroying the Ring, you’re pretty much invited in from there. That’s because, after all the obstacles and treacherous paths that must be traversed, at Mordor, you’ll find a giant open entrance that you can simply walk through — Boromir’s famous meme-worthy quote wrong.

Related: Only One Lord of the Rings Actor Received an Oscar Nomination for the Films, Here’s Why

4 Frodo Always Needing Help – The Entire Trilogy

Frodo’s journey to destroy the Ring is probably best described as one of the greatest underdog tales ever told. That’s because, despite him being one of the chief protagonists and main heroes of the franchise, he often finds himself in decidedly non-heroic scenes.

A Fainter Not a Fighter

Without the likes of Sam and all of Frodo’s other helpers, unlike an archetypal hero, Frodo is pretty much helpless at defending himself and incapable of beating bad guys on his own. In fact, without all the help, he would probably have only lasted minutes. Despite being an underdog hero, his constant need for help and propensity for fainting rather than fighting made him more like a damsel-type figure than a heroic one.

3 Frodo’s Sword Forgets to Glow – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Speaking of Frodo, despite his shortcomings, he wasn’t altogether defenseless, since he did carry around Sting, a magical Elvish dagger with super strength. While a dagger to human-sized folk, Frodo’s size meant he could wield it like a sword. Aside from its other qualities, it also acted as an alarm system, since it could glow blue whenever Orcs or Goblins were near.

Either a Malfunction or a Filming Mistake

Despite the early warning properties of Sting, during the second half of The Fellowship, Sting either malfunctioned or the filmmakers were inconsistent. This is evident from the scene where Frodo is ambushed by Orcs while passing through Moira. Even when he takes out Sting to fight and the Orcs are right there, the sword never glows. Since it was a magical weapon, it’s safe to say we can put this one down to a filming mistake.

2 That Awkward Moment in the Opening Prologue – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The opening prologue scene from The Fellowship featured another glaring mistake, besides Isildur’s hiking boots. In the scene that depicts the nine people from the world of men, most of them appear to have gotten the memo about what they were expected to do. However, one of the nine didn’t seem so sure.

The Odd One Out

The scene shows the nine Rings of Power given to men. They each hold them up to the camera and then lower their hands as the narrator croons on. All except the one man on the far right of the screen, who pretty much remains static, looking kind of sheepish and uncertain of what he was supposed to do as the camera pans over them.

Related: Why The Rings of Power Isn’t Connected to Peter Jackson’s LOTR Films

1 The Infamous Car in the Background – The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Now one of the most infamous gaffs from the Peter Jackson LotR film trilogy, amid sweeping shots of the Shire in the scene when Frodo is leaving it, there was once a very anachronistic feature visible in the scene. We say “once” because it was such a shocking filming oversight that the filmmakers had it removed in later releases of the films for Bu-Ray and extended versions.

Breaking the Illusion

It’s now well-known that the Shire from the films was actually made from beautiful parts of New Zealand. Given the fact that these scenes took place in a real and inhabited part of the world, it shouldn’t have been unsurprising that a car was visible far in the background of one of the Shire scenes. What was surprising was that Peter Jackson and his crew missed it when the film was first released.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *