Ranking the Peter Jackson Films

Still Need to Watch: Heavenly Creatures, Braindead, Meet the Feebles, Bad Taste

Still Need to Rewatch: The Lovely Bones, The Frighteners

 

Peter Jackson is a real interesting case. He’s clearly brilliant on some level, but he also has missed big several times. He will always have a special place in my heart because of The Lord of the Rings films though if nothing else.

 

While you are here, check out our semi-extensive Lord of the Rings coverage:
Top 10 Performances in the Lord of the Rings Films
4 Takeaways from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
4 Best Things in The Hobbit Misguided Trilogy
7 Worst Things in The Hobbit Misguided Trilogy
Pantheon Plus: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Pantheon Plus: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Pantheon Plus: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Jerome’s 100 Favorite Movies Ever: The Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King
Jerome’s 100 Favorite Movies: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Jerome’s 100 Favorite Movies Ever: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Hobbit (1966) Review

 

7. The Desolation of Smaug [2013]

The whole experience of all Hobbit films is so miserable that it becomes hard to actually rank them and decide which one is the worst. All three “films” have their low points that deserve consideration. The undoubtedly worst part of this film is the infamous barrel river escape sequence. Peter Jackson reflected on the horrid dinosaur chase sequence in King Kong and thought, “How can we make it even worse?”

 

6. The Battle of the Five Armies [2014]

I must confess that I am not 100% confident in my decision to say this film is less bad than Desolation of Smaug. I mean, just look at that clip above. Look at it. It is as humiliating as anything any film has ever done. But consider this. The Battle of the Five Armies is twenty minutes shorter than the first two Hobbit films. That is simply invaluable when it comes to separating these wretched adaptations.

 

5. An Unexpected Journey [2012]

The first Hobbit movie is almost quaint for being more profoundly mediocre than truly wretched like what was to come. It is possible it is just as bad or worse (though I suspect not) compared to the next two films. But when I think back to this film I recall the feeling of “underwhelming” more than the outright embarrassing. I don’t know. There’s a lot of Gandalf the Grey. There’s a Smeagol scene. Radagast was pretty great. Of the three, this is almost undoubtedly the least shameful.

 

4. King Kong [2005]

It is such a genuine testament to just how bad The Hobbit movies are that King Kong is ranked better than them on this list. I remember being underwhelmed by this film back in theaters and not having my opinion change much over the years. But a part of me expected that in the decade plus that I had last seen it that I would find more to appreciate given my fondness for Peter Jackson. But honestly, this movie is just not all that good.

There are two big factors that led me to just kind of give up on the idea of finding something positive to say about this movie (not that there aren’t positives). One, a movie like King Kong is meant to fill audiences with wonder, and the icky race stuff in a VARIETY of ways just feels way too gross. It is the same issue I have with James Cameron’s Avatar. We are just past the point where the “natives” in this movie need to happen like that. Evan Parke’s incredibly condescending characterization and relationship with Jamie Bell. I don’t know. We all have lines, and those crossed mine.

Secondly, the movie just is not all that exciting or fun to watch. That feeling is best captured by the semi-infamous dinosaur chase sequence. With the wrecthed Hobbit movies now in the rearview window, the dinosaur sequence feels like a harbinger of the terrors Jackson would unleash on the senses in the years to come. It is just miserable.

The biggest positive of King Kong is that it reminds me to be grateful that Jackson made the LOTR films when he did otherwise they too may have descended into whatever madness took hold of him in the ensuing years.

 

3. The Return of the King [2003]

As I get older, I become very certain in my belief that Return of the King is distinctly the weakest LOTR film. As the films got bigger they got less and less intimate. The spectacle of the battle scenes were less impressive than the spectacle aspect of Two Towers and missing the human factor that makes Fellowship so beautiful. ROTK does a lot of things so well, and it was a worthy conclusion to one of the most significant series of films ever. It just was not as good as what came before it.

 

2. The Two Towers [2002]

Two Towers bridges the gap between Fellowship and Return in more than just the story. It’s the transition film from a more intimate human story to that of a bigger and broader spectacle story. Appropriately, I have Two Towers ranked between those two simply because Peter Jackson is BETTER at the human stuff than the epic spectacle stuff. In fact, the infamous and excellent Helms Deep war sequence in this film is so successful because of the human factor. While the battle sequence is undoubtedly structured better than what was to come, all of that would be meaningless if the character work was not so spot on during the sequence and during the build-up.

 

1. The Fellowship of the Ring [2001]

Fellowship is one of my favorite films ever and something I sincerely consider to be one of the best ever made. It is a magical experience and one of my defining examples of why art makes life worth living. I am just going to let Viggo take over for this one.

 

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