The Lord of the Rings (1978)

the lord of the rings poster 1978 animated movie ralph bakshi
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting visuals with the rotoscoping

Bad voice acting, animation could turn off some

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Lord of the Rings

Studio: Fantasy Films

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Animation

Release Date(s): November 15, 1978

MPAA Rating: PG

the lord of the rings 1978 animated ringwraith frodo sam merry pippen ralph bakshi

Animated or live action…this was always terrifying

The One Ring has surfaced in the Shire, and it is up to Frodo Baggins to take the ring to Mount Doom to be destroyed. With the help of Merry, Pippin, and Sam, Frodo leaves the Shire at Gandalf’s orders and heads to meet with the elves. With Sauron’s forces moving in, the mission is getting more and more dangerous. A fellowship is forced but can even a fellowship be strong enough to stop Sauron’s forces.

Directed by Ralph Bakshi, The Lord of the Rings is a partial animated adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1954 novel. The film was released to strong box office returns but mixed reviews from critics.

Growing up, I loved the Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit from 1977.  The movie (and the book) were very kid friendly…when I saw the Bakshi version of The Hobbit’s sequel, I remember being rather frightened by the odd film.

the lord of the rings 1978 animated balrog

Wow…bet this would be cool if it weren’t so dark…

What stands out about the film is the bizarre Bakshi Rotoscope style. Sometimes the animation appears traditional (especially among the main characters), but then it will enter this very film like Rotoscope animation (with the orcs especially). This gives the movie definite stylized look that is something you will either like or hate. The problem with the traditional animation, is that it isn’t very good. The problem with the Rotoscope animation is that it is too abstract with no happy medium and much of the movie in general is too dark.

With such a stylized production, it feels like some of the voice acting was rushed and not developed enough. The acting of the characters is all over the place. While many characters who are supposed to be humorous characters are played seriously, characters that are humorous are way overdone. The two best examples of this are Sam and Gimli who never can decide if they are serious or not. Other characters like Merry and Pippin really get sidelined in this film with most of the attention paid to Frodo’s party and Aragorn’s party.

the lord of the rings 1978 animated gandalf the white ralph bakshi

Ta-da!!! Tide with Bleach keeps your whites whiter!!!

What is the biggest shame of the movie is that the sequel was never completed. There were plans to adapt The Return of the King, but it never happened. The Lord of the Rings just collects The Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers (partially)…this leaves so many plotlines up in the air. Rankin/Bass’ The Return of the King kind of covers the last part of the movie, but it isn’t the same since it is in the style of their version of The Hobbit.

The Lord of the Rings almost feels like an art film especially since it isn’t very friendly for those who don’t know the story. People who are fans of the Peter Jackson films might like to see this to see how different sequences are handled (especially since they already know the story and know how it ends). Fans of animation should check it out to see its unique style, and of course if you are a Ralph Bakshi fan, it is a must.

Related Links:

The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers (2002)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King (2003)

The Hobbit (1977)

The Return of the King (1978)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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