When it comes to Middle-earth, it’s easy to get lost along the way. Remembering character names and places is a journey tougher than Frodo’s route from The Shire to Mount Doom (well, kinda).
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It’s been several years since the epic movie saga blessed our screens, so if you’re needing a reminder of who’s who or simply looking to get familiar with some of the iconic characters, this list of 30 Lord of the Rings characters, ranked from worst to best should fill that ‘void’.
The worst. The absolute worst character of them all.
As the Fellowship were fleeing goblins in the mine, they were unfortunate enough to meet this demonic beast that settled himself comfortably in the mines of Moria. Gandalf stepped up and attempted to banish the creature with one of his most famous lines, “You shall not pass!”, and just when we all felt a relief of victory, Balrog whipped and pulled Gandalf the Grey down with him. *Cries*.
We won’t ever forgive this awful monster for making us think Gandalf was dead. Our hearts have not quite recovered.
29. Denethor II
(Portrayed by: John Noble)
Denethor II first made his appearance in the extended edition of The Two Towers and became quite a memorable character in The Return of the King, thanks to the iconic scene of him chewing a tomato. *Shudders*
While he’s not evil, he is ignorant, and we often find ourselves frustrated at how overcome with insanity he is.
Denethor II pretty much favors his eldest, Boromir, and sends his other son, Faramir on a mission that almost costs him his life. Not to mention he then proceeds to almost burn his son alive, thinking he is dead…Yeah, Denethor II is a pretty bad character.
28. Witch-king of Angmar
(Portrayed by: Andy Serkis, Lawrence Makoare, Brent McIntyre, Shane Rangi, John Stephenson)
Lord of the Nazgûl, he was once a mortal man. Witch-king of Angmar is Sauron’s second-hand man and one of the main antagonists of the saga who leads the wraiths on a mission to find the ring.
Let’s not forget he stabs poor Frodo with his poisonous blade on Weathertop. The Black Rider is defeated in the final movie, but out of the entire Nazgûl, he deserves the lower spot. One does not simply stab Frodo…
Hiding in the mountains…there’s a big, scary spider.
If you haven’t read the books prior to the films, you might assume Frodo and Sam’s journey ends here (thanks, Gollum). It’s a thrilling, scary moment in The Return of the King, but there’s not a lot of significance for this character, other than her being an obstacle for Frodo and Sam to overcome.
There’s not much of an origin story for Shelob, but we sort of understand that she is meant to be evil and feasts on Orcs in the dark. Let’s just say we certainly wouldn’t want to stumble upon her on a night out.
(Portrayed by: Lawrence Makoare)
We don’t have many nice things to say about this orc, but he is a pretty gruesome antagonist in the movies.
Lieutenant to the Witch-king, he leads his army in the night to battle with Gondor’s men, causing them to lose a lot of their own, before Gandalf comes to the rescue (honestly, what would we do without him?).
Gothmog is not a main character on-screen, but he can be seen as another representation of the evil lurking in Middle-earth. You can also say he’s an important villain that led us to some of the greatest battle scenes.
(Portrayed by: Craig Parker)
When the Battle of Helm’s Deep begins, Haldir comes to aid with his army of elves and helps banish the evil. He does think himself quite the superior, but he redeems himself by fighting to the death…literally.
Haldir’s life is short-lived in the saga when he dies in Aragorn’s arms after being slain by Uruk-Hai. Prior to the battle, though, he did meet the Fellowship and guide them through the forest and encounter Galadriel.
(Portrayed by: Lawrence Makoare)
He’s big, strong and fierce and he won’t stop at nothing until he succeeds. Lurtz was one of the first Uruk-Hai to be bred by the wizard Saruman.
He makes his first appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring and kills Boromir brutally with arrows. The scene itself sends shivers down our spines – it’s dark and it gives viewers a real sense of the evil that is yet to come.
The dislikable Lurtz was made to hunt and kill and he does just that. Although he dies quite early on, his menacing role delivered enough evil to rank him here on our list.
23. Gríma Wormtongue
(Portrayed by: Brad Dourif)
Wormtongue is the kind of guy you block on Tinder. He’s downright creepy, and the way he watches Éowyn so closely is spine-tingling.
Sent as a spy from Saruman, his slimy presence is enough to poison the air. We don’t know much about him, and the movies don’t give us much of a story arc, but it is said he is a native of Rohan.
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While this man makes us uncomfortable, we have him to thank for the classic hand-clapping line from Gandalf (“Be silent! Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm!”).
Wormtongue is bad, but good entertainment. We definitely had great pleasure in watching him flee.
(Portrayed by: Harry Sinclair)
Isildur will always go down as the man who failed to destroy the ring when he had the chance. He made his choice, and unfortunately, his life ended by being hunted and killed by orcs.
If he had done right at first, our poor Frodo wouldn’t have shared the burden and gone on the longest journey known to man.
Isildur’s role shows us the corruption of man and how powerful the ring truly is, leaving the elves with zero faith in the human race when it comes to defeating Sauron. His arc is important to the origin of the ring, but we still can’t forgive him for not destroying it in the first place.
(Portrayed by: Hugo Weaving)
Elrond, Elf king and father to our dear Arwen, is the most noble of elves in Rivendell. Even though he comes across as a bit of a nag, he clearly wants nothing but the best for his daughter.
You’ve got to appreciate his wisdom, too, having lived to see the ring and the Dark Lord in the first battle of Middle-earth.
Elrond’s fear and lack of faith gets the better of him, including trying to come between Arwen and Aragorn’s love. When the love can’t be divided, he allows the broken sword (Narsil) to be reforged and lets Arwen make her choice.
(Portrayed by: David Wenham)
Farimir, son of Denethor II and brother to Boromir – we meet this character when he captures the hobbits and discovers Gollum is not far behind.
As we learn through flashbacks in The Two Towers – Extended Edition, Farimir’s father never held him at the same level as Boromir and ultimately just seems to be living in his brother’s shadow.
Nevertheless, Farimir is quite a commendable warrior, with kind and gentle qualities, so we totally respect him for that.
(Portrayed by: John Rhys-Davies)
The oldest Ent, also known as Treebeard, the shepherd of trees, becomes a loveable character in The Lord of the Rings. Despite being extremely tall and intimidating (not forgetting his absolutely terrifying deep voice) at first, Fangorn became very much likable in the end.
Although hesitant at first to help Merry and Pippin and totally distrusting them, it isn’t until Treebeard takes the hobbits to Isengard, that he witnesses for himself, the destruction Saruman has caused.
This moment is spectacular – the forest and his friends are completely destroyed, and so Treebeard calls his army of trees to flood Isengard. It’s a great victorious scene that we ultimately love this character for.
(Portrayed by: Andy Serkis, Lawrence Makoare, Brent McIntyre, Shane Rangi, John Stephenson)
Ringwraiths…Black Riders…their harrowing shrieks still send shivers down our spines.
Loyal servants to Sauron, the Nazgûl play a huge role as enemies for the War of the Ring. Once men, and corrupted by the rings given to them, they don’t stop at nothing to get the ring back to its master.
Forget horror films – that suspenseful, heart-racing scene of one approaching the hobbits hiding under a tree, is one of the most horrifying moments in the series. Though exceptionally terrifying and undeniably evil, the Nazgûl have become a highly commended enemy, and for that reason have been ranked at number 18.
17. King of the Dead
(Portrayed by: Paul Norell)
Met on the Paths of The Dead by Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, the King is reluctant to help them with the War of the Ring, at first. He once worshipped Sauron, until he and his army swore their allegiance to Gondor.
Isildur (King of Gondor at the time) later cursed the King of the Dead and his army when they abandoned their oath to help him in the War of the Last Alliance. Aragorn soon summons them to fulfil their oath, which they do in the War of the Ring.
It is a beautiful moment as the dead sweep the battlefield, finishing off the orcs and armies. A seemingly unreliable ally, who proves his worth in the end.
16. Sauron/Eye of Sauron
(Voiced by Alan Howard)
Sauron is the creator of the One Ring and in the movies is portrayed as the Great Eye. Even though he technically doesn’t have a human form, he is the main antagonist in the trilogy and contributes to the entire plot as the enemy to Middle-earth.
Some whisper that he is even the main character of Lord of the Rings as a whole. Regardless of his personal evil agenda, Sauron makes a great villain, with the need to control and end the world.
For that, we have to rank him *almost* at the halfway mark on this list.
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Beautiful Arwen, daughter of Elrond and the one true love of Aragorn. Choosing love over immortality, and refusing to live out her life forever and instead become mortal, this character is the true embodiment of love – something that’s very much needed in the bleak world of LotR.
With a love story that remains close to our hearts, Arwen is also rather badass, as she helps Frodo cross the river after rescuing him and outrunning the Nazgûl.
Even as Aragorn goes to war, Arwen waits for him, and gives us one of the most beautiful, romantic lines ever said on screen – “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the Ages of this world alone.” We literally swoon.
(Portrayed by: Cate Blanchett)
Galadriel, powerful Elf in Middle-earth and receiver of one of the Elven rings of power. Throughout the films, Galadriel shows us her telepathic powers by communicating with Frodo and is the one who warns him of Boromir’s attempt at taking the ring.
Although she has a weak moment and becomes a little tempted by the ring, Galadriel is, however, kind and understanding of Frodo’s burden.
Not a central role in the movies, but Galadriel does play a part in warning characters, has a great connection with Gandalf, and can be seen as a symbol of hope. She certainly deserves a top 20 spot in our ranking.
(Portrayed by: Bernard Hill)
We first encounter Théoden, King of Rohan, under the poisonous hold of Gríma. He was ill and somewhat on the edge of death, until Gandalf the White frees him from the power that controls him.
Théoden leads an army to help Gondor in the battlefield and proves himself to be a great king and leader (even though he didn’t believe Sauron could be defeated).
Unfortunately, Théoden is wounded in battle, but before he dies, he witnesses his niece kill the Witch-king. A fine man in battle who died with pride, Théoden is a memorable, worthy character who undoubtedly deserves this spot.
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(Portrayed by: Sean Bean)
Loyal to Gondor and part of the Fellowship for Master Frodo, Boromir’s life is short-lived in the LotR saga. Proving his vulnerability multiple times as he takes interest in the ring, this character ends up meeting his unfortunate death.
Although Boromir redeems himself as he fights off Uruk-Hai to save the little ones, we can’t help but wonder whether he would have eventually been corrupted by the power of the ring if he survived.
Unfortunately, Boromir’s early death makes his character’s presence fade out and we forget he was even part of the Fellowship in the first place (minus the reminders from his father later on). Despite this, we have to admit Boromir was a noble man with good intentions.
(Portrayed by: Sir Christopher Lee)
Saruman the White, head of The White Council, is at first seen to be that of an ally. As Gandalf travels to him in search of guidance, it is then when he reveals himself to be an alliance of Sauron.
This guy knows his stuff when it comes to dark magic. We see exactly how powerful he is as he builds and breeds armies and tries to bring down the Fellowship through magic and manipulating the weather.
Even so, there’s no denying that Saruman makes a great antagonist in the trilogy, placing him near the top 10 of our list.
(Portrayed by: Miranda Otto)
If there’s one character who puts her middle finger up to the patriarchy, it’s this icon.
Éowyn, niece of Théoden, proves that she is just as capable on the battlefield as any of the men beside her. Her character grows increasingly frustrated when she is shunned aside to care for the women and children and is denied joining the battle in Mordor.
Instead, Éowyn epically disguises herself as a man and rides a horse into battle. She more than showed her worth in the movies, by finishing off the Witch-king and revealing that she is no man. An admirable top 10 entry who deserves recognition as a remarkable woman in Middle-earth.
9. Merry & Pippin
(Portrayed by: Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd)
Merry and Pippin share a close relationship, similar to that of Sam and Frodo. Unlike their companions, though, they add comedic value to the franchise, but are at the same time, valued for their loyalty and kindness.
A little unsure of the journey and evil ahead at first, these iconic Middle-earth characters grow to be bravely devoted to Frodo and those around them. Though separated early on from the Fellowship, Merry and Pippin help with the War of the Ring and assist Treebeard in attacking Isengard.
This iconic duo may not conjure up magic or fight in the battlefield, but both remind us of what once was; they embody what The Shire is; and are ultimately, the true, fun and innocent representation of hobbits.
8. Gollum / Sméagol
(Portrayed by: Andy Serkis)
Gollum…or Sméagol…whatever side you prefer, is *probably* the most famous character in The Lord of the Rings. No ifs, buts or maybes.
We get an interesting backstory into who Sméagol was before and how he came to possess the One Ring, and we soon learn about his manipulative and sinister ways when he meets Frodo. Although often represented as an evil character, Gollum is in fact one to be pitied. He’s a complicated little guy (or thing) with good intentions, overpowered by greed.
Gollum follows the ring right to the end with Frodo and dies with the powerful artefact itself. It’s a sad ending, but it’s safe to say his iconic lines (“my precious”) and the brilliant performance put on by Andy Serkis will live on forever.
(Portrayed by: John Rhys-Davies)
Gimli may be stubborn and reluctant to get past his issues with the Elves at first, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the greatest members of the Fellowship.
Not only does he create comic relief, but he serves as a fine warrior with passion and an immense amount of bravery.
Over the duration of the movies, Gimli forms a bond with the rest of the characters, but more so with Legolas, who also uses comedy and competition during the battlefield. Gimli plays an important role in the defeat of evil and is right there to the end, fighting at the Black Gates. A faithful hero and a true friend.
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Legolas, son of Thranduil and prominent member of the Fellowship, is one of the most popular faces among the Lord of the Rings characters.
His excellent bowmanship, supreme vision and hearing help take him right to the end of battle and his compassion and devotion to Elvish culture make him one of the most beloved of the bunch.
Legolas remains loyal, building a strong and close friendship with Gimli, to which he is mostly remembered for. Although he doesn’t have many lines throughout the films, he still battles alongside his best friend to the end, with both managing to put aside their differences for the sake of Middle-earth’s fate and Frodo’s success.
5. Bilbo Baggins
(Portrayed by: Sir Ian Holm, Martin Freeman)
He may not be a main character, but this hobbit actually plays a crucial role in the LotR trilogy. The O.G. of hobbits, the first to become famous, Bilbo Baggins, was the first bearer of the ring, before Frodo.
Choosing bravery in the face of adversity, Bilbo takes on the ring’s burden and is the first to give it up voluntarily (okay, with a bit of convincing from Gandalf).
We may see little of him in LotR, but Bilbo still proves himself an example of courage, and has nothing but love for Frodo and the beautiful, magical world he has had pleasure in experiencing.
4. Sam Wise
(Portrayed by: Sean Astin)
Sam is Frodo’s best friend and the most loyal to him throughout. No matter what, he stays with his buddy until the end, even during Frodo’s darkest moments when the ring begins to take its toll. Admit it, Frodo wouldn’t have gotten that far without the support from his bestie, right?
Sam, like the other hobbits on this journey, might not be tough on the battlefield, but his strong will and lack of interest and reluctance in the ring is what make him a hero. With that, he’s able to push Frodo and lead him in the right direction.
There’s no surprise as to why Sam is often labelled as the true hero of the saga. Even though he’s humble and never claims the title itself, we sincerely have to agree. Thank you, Sam, for being you, you absolute hero.
(Portrayed by: Elijah Wood)
Frodo, the main protagonist of Lord of the Rings, is a typical hobbit of The Shire who’s always in good spirits and enjoys life with his buddies. I mean, what isn’t there to like about him?
As he becomes the final bearer of the ring, tasked with the duty to take it to Mount Doom, Frodo honorably and bravely carries the burden right to the end, even whilst being corrupted by the ring’s evil.
He’s a true ring-bearer. Frodo’s an innocent and naïve guy and doesn’t really see the world and all of its evil. So that, in turn, kind of makes him the perfect hobbit for the task.
There’s no denying Frodo’s ranking as the third best character in LotR, especially after sacrificing himself and his happy life in The Shire for the fate of man. I mean, if it weren’t for this little guy, Middle-earth would’ve been doomed.
(Portrayed by: Sir Ian McKellen)
Needless to say, the ‘Dumbledore’ and ‘Merlin’ of Lord of the Rings, Gandalf, himself, is runner-up as the best character from the saga.
Probably the best fictional wizard ever, all hope is restored when this character is on screen, as he does his thing with the Fellowship in efforts to destroy the ring.
Gandalf isn’t able to help Frodo with his quest, but he does everything he can to help him succeed from afar and protect those in grave danger. Not only does he free the King of Rohan, but he also leads an army into battle and fights to the end.
Known at first as The Grey, but after defeating Balrog, earns the title ‘Gandalf the White’, Gandalf returns in a much stronger, powerful and wiser form. He is one of the most loved characters in the franchise, is the ultimate hero and ‘father figure’, and even occasionally provides some humor. You, sir, are a legend.
(Portrayed by: Viggo Mortensen)
Known as Ranger, Isildur’s heir, and the love of Arwen, Aragorn is one of the best rangers and warriors of his time.
He leads battle scenes, fights like a pro, and no matter how hard he is hit, he comes back continuously with hope and faith, leading his men into battle with that same courage.
Aragorn’s strength and resistance to the ring shows how powerful of a man he is, while his humbleness and fierce loyalty prove him a great and well-rounded character, overall.
At the end, we see him marrying his one true love, Arwen and become King, a worthy one at that. Aragorn is the hero Middle-earth needed and one that fantasy movie fans will forever cherish.
So, there you have it. That’s our take of the 30 best Lord of the Rings characters ranked from least to most favorite!
Even though the movies were a while back, Tolkien’s work and Peter Jackson’s vision still live on and capture the hearts of many fantasy lovers out there, while its characters continue to resonate with people all over. The journey might be over for Frodo, but for new fans and old, the adventure never stops.
We hope you have enjoyed our list! Feel free to comment on some of your favorite folk of Middle-earth in the section below!
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