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Lord of the Rings: How to watch the whole LOTR saga in chronological or release order

Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit trilogy, and RIngs of Power - how to watch them all!

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring still
Image credit: Warner Bros./New Line Cinema

Want to know how to watch The Lord of the Rings in release and chronological order? What started as a fantasy novel in the '30s has become a worldwide phenomenon, and much of that is thanks to increasingly popular screen adaptations. From early animated projects, to two movie trilogies and an Amazon Prime original series, Tolkien’s world has now become one of the biggest franchises ever. With that popularity explosion comes heaps of content, though, and that can get confusing for newcomers wanting to get into the Rings of Power before its second season. Fortunately, that’s where we come in.

Below, we’ll explain how to watch The Lord of the Rings franchise in release and chronological order, including all of the Middle Earth stories that have made their way onto the screen.

How to watch The Lord of the Rings in chronological order

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power still
Image credit: Amazon Prime Video

Watching The Lord of the Rings in chronological order is perhaps the best way to follow the events of Middle Earth as it happened in-universe. With a mix of goodies, baddies, and yes, rings, popping up multiple times over the course of the franchise, watching The Lords of the Rings in chronological order will help you keep track of it all.

Below, we’ll list how to watch The Lord of the Rings in chronological order, including all of the movies and series that take place in the main canon:

It all starts with The Rings of Power, Amazon’s smash-hit series that takes place during the Second Age of Middle Earth. It’s a period that hadn’t yet been explored on the screen, but it’s an incredibly important time for the denizens of Tolkien’s world. It covers the forging of the rings and Sauron’s subsequent rise, with many popular characters from the movies appearing as part of the ensemble cast. The series is still ongoing, but unlikely to cross over with the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which take place thousands of years later.

The Hobbit picks up the torch in the Third Age of Middle Earth, which is by far the most well-known period in Tolkien’s lore. The Hobbit trilogy covers the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and crew as they meet Gollum, find the One Ring, and battle the dragon Smaug. This was released after The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but is set roughly 60 years prior. The Lord of the Rings trilogy picks up on Bilbo’s 111th birthday, but he isn’t the main character here. Instead, it’s his cousin, Frodo Baggins, who goes on a journey to deliver the One Ring to Mount Doom in Mordor.

The origins of The Lord of the Rings on the screen stretch back much further, though. A series of animated projects came in the late 1970s and, though they weren’t part of the canon later established in the movie trilogy, they offer an alternative way to experience Frodo’s adventure with the Fellowship that you can learn more about below.

How to watch The Lord of the Rings in release order

Lord of the Rings
Image credit: New Line Cinema

Watching The Lord of the Rings in release order allows you to follow the Middle Earth saga in the order that it hit the screen. This might make it harder to follow the exact sequence of events, but it helps you avoid any spoiler-filled foreshadowing that may pop up in the later projects.

Before we get into the main canon represented on-screen, which contains the two movie trilogies and The Rings of Power, we’ve also listed a few animated projects that were released much earlier. The Hobbit and The Return of the King musical specials were animated by Topcraft, many workers of which later went on to form Studio Ghibli. The Lord of the Rings was an animated movie disconnected from these two musicals, and served as inspiration for Peter Jackson while he developed The Fellowship of the Ring. None of these animated projects tie into the movies, but they offer a fun bit of LOTR lore for the most dedicated of fans.

Below, we’ll list how to watch The Lord of the Rings in release order, including all of the movies and series released so far:

That wraps up how to watch The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Rings of Power, and any other Middle Earth content in both release and chronological order.


Whether you're Shirefolk, Elven, Dwarven, or something else, there's a good reason to love Lord of the Rings. We do! With that in mind, we have a dragon's horde of goodies for you from a Lord of the Rings reading guide, a Lord of the Rings watch guide, details on the upcoming animated film Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim, a full the Lord of the Rings reunion panel you can watch, how the OG Hobbit actors stay in touch every day on a groupchat, and the true message of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, according to Gimli himself - John Rhys-Davies.

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