Heading back to Middle-earth! Author J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy series The Lord of the Rings made its big screen debut in 2001 with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring — and the rest is history.
Like Tolkien’s books, the early aughts film followed a hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) as he embarks upon a journey with others to destroy the One Ring. By doing so, he will help to save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.
Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) and Andy Serkis (Gollum) were among the film’s star-studded cast.
After the Peter Jackson-directed film went on to earn more than $888 million worldwide, two final installments followed: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
“I think what sticks in my mind is largely what’s loomed in my mind since we finished, which is just the experience of having made it. Being in New Zealand,” Wood told Cinema Blend in 2016 of his experience working on the film series. “The two months of prep before we started shooting when we got to know each other, and had this buzz of excitement about the adventure we were going on. We knew it would be special, but we didn’t know what was right around the next bend.”
The franchise won 17 of the 30 Academy Award nominations it nabbed. The Return of the King won all 11 nods it received, including Best Picture — a major achievement that allowed it to become the first fantasy film to succeed in that category.
Jackson went on to direct a prequel trilogy series between 2012 and 2014 based on The Hobbit, Tolkien’s children’s book that was the predecessor to Lord of the Rings. Many of the franchise’s original stars returned to reprise their roles.
“If there was a world where that made sense and was organic to what they’re doing, then yes,” he said at the time. “Look, any excuse to get to go to New Zealand to work on something, I am absolutely there.”
Scroll down to see where the Lord of the Rings cast is today: