The Best Fantasy Film Of All Time Is Taking Off On Streaming

It changed everything.

By Michileen Martin | Published

Lord of the Rings Amazon

In less than a month, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power debuts on Amazon Prime Video, and the streamer is doing its best to get subscribers primed for its premiere. All of Peter Jackson‘s films adapting the work of J.R.R. Tolkien are currently streaming — without extra charge to Prime subscribers — including the Hobbit trilogy and the Extended Editions of all three Lord of the Rings films. Subscribers’ favorite has quickly raced to the top and now 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the second-most streamed film on the platform, with only the new Prime original Thirteen Lives — ironically led by Viggo Mortensen, known for playing Aragorn in Jackson’s first Tolkien trilogy — stopping it from taking the #1 spot.

The first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy starts off with a lot of background its viewers need to catch up on. In the vast mythology J.R.R. Tolkien crafted, the story of his famous trilogy was just one piece. The foundation for it is built by a history of Elves, Dwarves, Wizards, and other fantastic races. At the heart of it is the powerful villain Sauron, whose One Ring must either be destroyed or find its way back to its master, who will finally make all of Middle-Earth kneel before him.

The lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring
Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood, Sean Bean, and Billy Boyd in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released at a time when technology was starting to catch up with imaginations, allowing for previously unfilmable stories to be within reach. Just as CGI and related technologies would help bring more superheroes to the big screen like in 2000’s X-Men and 2002’s Spider-Man, it made Middle-Earth finally ready to explore in live-action. While Fellowship isn’t as CGI-heavy as the other films in the trilogy, characters like the cave troll, the Balrog, and Gollum would’ve been either impossible or just a lot less impressive without new digital methods; not to mention the sequence in the prologue which shows the battle at Mount Doom. Even forgetting the various monsters, just making the characters look like they were all the right heights would’ve been much more difficult without the new tech. Sure, in the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition, the filmmakers go into detail about how CGI was just one of a whole host of methods they used to shrink some actors and enlarge others, but without it they would’ve been short one crucial tool.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was more than just a movie — it changed our culture. For better or worse names like Frodo, Sam, and Gandalf became universal shorthand. When Robert Downey, Jr. says, “Clench up, Legolas,” to Jeremy Renner in 2012’s Avengers, no one needs the joke explained. Imagine trying a similar line in a 1995 movie. At the same time, it helped move genres like fantasy escape the realm of subculture and find homes in the mainstream.

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

There is one company that, we guarantee, knows it owes endless gouts of thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, and The Lord of the Rings. That company is Hasbro — the owners of Dungeons & Dragons. The tabletop RPG has experienced a resurgence in recent years; yes, you can lay much of that at the doorsteps of both Netflix’s Stranger Things and the Covid-19 Pandemic, but before either of them you absolutely must acknowledge The Fellowship of the Ring. The game no doubt has more inspirations than we know of, but at its core is not only Fellowship, but one very specific part of the story.

The very bones of Dungeons & Dragons can be seen in The Lord of the Rings‘ first entry as the heroes delve into the Mines of Moria. Everything in D&D starts there. A small group of heroes of different wildly different races, different sizes, different skills. A seemingly abandoned undergound world with treasures, crypts, and secret histories waiting to be explored; and waiting amidst it all are hungry monsters. And of course it all takes place in what Ian McKellen’s Gandalf calls the “deep places,” and if your dungeon master doesn’t include some “deep places” in his campaign you need to make a complaint.

Along with Fellowship, 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is also on Amazon Prime’s top 10, currently at #9 in front of No Time to Die. We wouldn’t be surprised if pretty soon the whole list is nothing but Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations. Check out The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring now, and get ready for The Rings of Power.