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Looking for the Best Watch Order for a Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Marathon? This is it

True and tested from years of marathons.

Elijah Wood and Sir Ian McKellen, as Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, ride through Hobbiton in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

With Amazon Prime’s new The Rings of Power show coming out in September to bring us all back in Middle-earth and through the pages of Tolkien’s mythology compendium The Silmarillion, you might be planning a grand old marathon of Peter Jackson’s two trilogies to get you into the right spirit. It’s completely understandable too—is there really anything better than the comfort of “Concerning Hobbits,” the swelling emotion of the Rohirrim charge at the gates of Minas Tirith, Martin Freeman’s spot-on interpretation of Bilbo Baggins, all of the iconic and meme-ified lines? Don’t think so. 

*Cue music*

Besides, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies might make for the textbook cinematic marathon of all times. The runtime for LOTR’s three extended editions (and who’s doing a marathon without picking those, right?) hits a whopping 11 hours and 36 minutes, while The Hobbit’s only a breezy 9 hours. You can fit all six movies all in a single day with three and a half hours to spare for snacks and bathroom breaks for the ultimate Tolkien experience that will undoubtedly leave you dazed but also very content.

Of course, as it happens for every fandom experience, everyone has their own opinions on which order you should follow during your marathon—and if you have a true and tested way definitely go for it. However, if you’re looking for a suggestion on how to organize your watch party then you can take my opinion as an expert LOTR marathoner and adopt what I believe is the correct way to watch all six movies.

So hear me out—you start with The Hobbit. We all know that despite their spectacular casting they are the worse of the six, and there’s no dancing around it. They’re the proof that a bigger budget and bigger CGI and bigger sets are not necessarily a recipe for better movies—the pacing is all over the place (do you ever think about the duology directed by Guillermo del Toro we could have had and cry? Because I do. Often), and the extra storylines are ridiculous. There are some genuinely brilliant moments buried under this desperate need to be a prequel to LOTR in both themes (which you technically could do, having the hook of Bilbo’s discovery of the One Ring) and genre (which you most definitely can’t do, considering each work’s respective target audience) but sadly they’re not enough to save the trilogy as a whole. 

Bilbo sweetie I’m so sorry you deserved much better movies than the ones you got.

But if you start your marathon with The Hobbit then you, to put it simply, get it over with fast. You begin with An Unexpected Journey, arguably the best of the three of them, so it’s not that harsh of an opening. You hope Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is enough to carry you through The Desolation of Smaug. And by the time you finish The Battle of the Five Armies you know you have the familiarity of the LOTR saga coming to save you from the misery of that ending. And you also know that now you’re free to enjoy all the awesomeness and glory of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King without the thought of having to forget what quality looks like by putting on The Hobbit after saying farewell to Frodo at the Grey Havens.

Nothing compares to the feeling of Sam’s “It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo” speech. NOTHING.

Plus, by going with The Hobbit first and then The Lord of the Rings, you do follow the story in chronological order, which might make it easier if you have someone unfamiliar with Tolkien’s works doing the marathon with you.

You also get to ride the high of THIS childhood-defining moment for like, a week or so.

Where will The Rings of Power fit into this order? Logically, it should be even before The Hobbit—since the material on which the show is based happens a long time before Bilbo’s adventures to the Lonely Mountain. We will see once the first episodes drop, but for now, one thing is pretty certain: even if the show ends up having only one season, one single day won’t be enough for the new and improved Middle-earth marathon.

(images: New Line Cinema)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.