How to Watch the Lord of the Rings Movies in Order

Take your own unexpected journey into Middle Earth.

If you want to enter a magical world of dwarves, elves and orcs, you can do no better than slipping into the world of the Lord of the Rings. This film series is made up of two trilogies, both of which form the complete Middle Earth work of English author J.R.R. Tolkien.

You can experience the entire journey from The Shire all the way to Mount Doom on many streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, and iTunes.

This article only covers Lord of the Rings movies released theatrically under the work of director Peter Jackson, starting in 2001. It doesn't include any earlier films like The Lord of the Rings titles released in 1980, 1978, or 1944. It also doesn't include the animated version of The Hobbit (1977).

Coverart from the Lord of the Rings movies.
New Line Cinemas 

How to Watch The Lord of the Rings in Chronological Order

One way to watch The Lord of the Rings is to watch them in the chronological order Tolkien told the tale. As Bilbo Baggins wrote, "Down from the door where it began. Now, far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow if I can."

This tale is best enjoyed starting at the door of Bilbo Baggin's home in the Shire, and ending at the climax inside of Mount Doom itself. To enjoy this epic tale in the order J.R.R. Tolkien told it, the following is the order you should follow.

Movie Timing Where to Watch
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey The Wizard, Gandolf, convinces Bilbo Baggins to join a quest with a group of dwarves. Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
iTunes
Redbox
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Bilbo and the dwarves arrive at the Lonely Mountain and face the deadly dragon Smaug. Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies The last part of The Hobbit trilogy involves the search for the Arkenstone, and a battle between Men, Elves, and Dwarves against an Orc army. Bilbo returns home to Bag End still carrying The One Ring. Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Young Frodo Baggins inherits The One Ring from Bilbo, and embarks on his own journey outside The Shire with his best friends Samwise, Merry, and Pippen.  Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers The Fellowship of the Ring gets split into two parties, with Frodo and Samwise followed by the creature, Gollum. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry, and Pippen each follow paths of their own. Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King The conclusion of Tolkien's epic work involves Sam and Frodo reaching Mount Doom, and the rest of The Fellowship preparing for the greatest war of Middle Earth since The War of the Elves and Sauron. Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes

If you think you're going to make it through this epic adventure in one sitting, you might be in for a surprise. The Hobbit trilogy totals almost 8 hours. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a whopping 9.5 hours. To watch all six, you'd have to sit for almost 17.5 hours straight. But don't worry, as Samwise Gamgee said, "It's the job that never started as takes longest to finish." So get started!

How to Watch The Lord of the Rings in Order of Release

Do you want to watch The Lord of the Rings, including The Hobbit, in the order they were released? Many people do this to experience how it felt to experience the Tolkien story in the way Director Peter Jackson told it on the screen. This is because there is information and elements of the story which make more sense to moviegoers who've already seen the LOTR trilogy.

To do this, the following is the order you should watch The Lord of the Rings.

Movie Release Date Where to Watch
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring December 19, 2001
Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers December 18, 2002 Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King December 17, 2003 Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey December 6, 2012 Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
iTunes
Redbox
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug December 13, 2013 Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies December 4, 2014 Amazon Prime
Vudu
Google Play
YouTube
iTunes

Which Is the Right Order?

There is no correct order to watch The Lord of the Rings. While you could boil 'em, mash 'em and stick 'em in a stew, some of the stories told in the LOTR set up the viewer for actually seeing those tales unfold in The Hobbit trilogy. On the other hand, the actual storyline in The Hobbit itself serves as a backdrop to events which take place in LOTR.

The bottom line is when it comes to The Lord of the Rings, the end of each story tends to mold into the beginning of another. Or as Gandalf said, "For even the very wise cannot see all ends." The movies are so addictive you'll see them all from wherever you start. And back again.