Light the beacons, and summon the Oathbreakers: new Lord of the Rings movies are coming. After The Hobbit trilogy failed to live up to expectations, Warner Bros. has decided that now is finally the right time to bring Middle-earth back to the big screen.
These new Lord of the Rings movies won’t be reboots or remakes: Warner Bros. knows better than to try and improve on Peter Jackson’s first of fantasy movie trilogy. Instead, in addition to the anime movie War of the Rohirrim, the new Lord of the Rings movies will attempt to expand Middle-earth beyond the story of the One Ring, bringing more elements of Tolkien’s world to the fore.
Needless to say, it’s a daunting task. Audiences across the world know and love Middle-earth exactly the way it is. No one is crying out for an Elrond prequel movie. But, the new movies are going to happen regardless.
Thankfully, Tolkien’s writing is so immeasurably comprehensive that there are endless possibilities for new adventures in Middle-earth that don’t step on the toes of what we’ve already seen. So in anticipation (and frankly, curiosity) we’ve turned to the archives of Minas Tirith to find the three best potential stories for new Lord of the Rings movies.
In doing so, it quickly became clear that a new Lord of the Rings movie needs several things: an insatiable sense of adventure, journeys across Middle-earth’s majestic landscapes, and yes, the occasional battle. Given the extent of Tolkien’s writing, there is also no excuse to create a ‘new story’. An adaptation of something already written will do just fine.
What follows are the three best options then, for new Lord of the Rings movies. Each would be set in a different era of Tolkien’s Middle-earth timeline: pre-Lord of the Rings, during Lord of the Rings, and post-Lord of the Rings; and each is brimming with potential.
New Lord of the Rings movie ideas:
- Beren and Lúthien
- The Hunt for Gollum
- The New Shadow
Beren and Lúthien
If Warners Bros. wants its new Lord of the Rings movies to ruin Amazon’s Rings of Power party, it may be tempted by the prospect of a distant prequel to the Lord of the Rings. With romance, epic action, and grand villains, what better place to start than with the story of Beren and Lúthien?
Tolkien wrote numerous versions of the story, but at its heart Beren and Lúthien is a tale of love and adventure, spanning the breadth and width of Middle-earth. Using his own dedication to his wife Edith as inspiration, Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien explores the relationship between a mortal man and immortal Elf in the face of the ultimate evil: Morgoth.
In order to convince Lúthien’s Elf lord father that he’s worthy to marry Lúthien, Beren must take a precious Silmaril from Morgoth’s possession. It becomes one of the great legends of Middle-earth, and is mentioned in the Council of Elrond.
Being set in the early periods of Middle-earth, an adaptation of Beren and Lúthien would be able to define itself as something new, and worthy. Fresh characters and places would be central to the story, and audiences would also have more context to the rise and fall of Sauron’s own former master Morgoth. For its romance, drama, and heroic scale, the tale of Beren and Lúthien would find itself right at home on the big screen.
The Hunt for Gollum
It would be no big surprise if the new Lord of the Rings movies attempted to cash in on name recognition and flesh out the story of the Lord of the Rings characters who we already know. While Rings of Power is set thousands of years before the War of the Ring, it is still anchored by established names like Galadriel and Elrond, after all.
So what are the biggest names that Warner Bros. would like to bring back in new Lord of the Rings movies? Aragorn, Gandalf, and Gollum immediately come to mind. Each has their own rich backstory, and are characters who audiences across the world love. So here’s the good news: a new Lord of the Rings movie could bring each of them back and stick to Tolkien’s lore.
In between leaving the One Ring with Frodo in the Shire and returning, 20 years later, to tell him to leave, Gandalf uses his time to research the One Ring. In doing so, he seeks out Gollum, and recruits Aragorn to help him.
After Gollum escapes from captivity in Mirkwood, he begins a search for Bilbo Baggins. A younger, keener Aragorn is enlisted by Gandalf to track Gollum down, and the hunt begins.
This takes Gandalf and Aragorn through the many regions of Middle-earth, and while Tolkien’s writing on it is brief, it’s clear that Aragorn’s hunt was fraught with danger. With the presence of Orcs and other evil things increasing, Aragorn’s journey to track Gollum could both tell its own tale of adventure, and link into the broader story of Lord of the Rings.
This would be a high-risk strategy, however, and the single biggest pitfall is that the movie would have to recast Aragorn. Any actor willing to step into Viggo Mortensen’s shoes would be brave indeed.
The New Shadow
The Lord of the Rings is the final chronological story in Tolkien’s timeline of Middle-earth and its history. When Frodo, Bilbo, and Gandalf leave for The Grey Havens, and when Aragorn becomes the king of Gondor, the story of Middle-earth comes to an end. But that wasn’t always the case.
After writing the Lord of the Rings novels, Tolkien began work on a sequel to the trilogy named The New Shadow. Set around a hundred years after the destruction of Sauron, The New Shadow was due to follow the aftermath of the War of the Ring as a new threat begins to rise again.
The sequel was set to bring in new characters, named Saelon and Borlas, during the reign of Aragorn and Arwen’s son Eldarion. In one of his letters to a reader, Tolkien explained that the plot would have had “thriller” elements to it, as it followed the discovery – and subsequent uprooting – of “revolutionary plots,” and “secret Satanistic religion,” which grow during the time of peace, in the absence of the evil threat posed by the likes of Sauron and his Orcs.
The story would have touched on the cyclical nature of war and peace, with Tolkien suggesting that the people of Gondor would inevitably become, “discontented and restless,” and that Aragorn’s descendants could end up “like Denethor or worse.” In the end, Tolkien scrapped the sequel after getting approximately 13 pages, because it was too “sinister and depressing.”
So the perfect hook for a modern franchise movie, then. Whether it’s with superhero movies or science fiction movies, contemporary cinema loves a gritty adaptation. It’s spectacularly easy to imagine a quasi-detective style Lord of the Rings movie where an array of characters uncover and track down devoted cultists of Sauron, or remaining scattered bands of Orcs.
Old enemies, peril, and the allure of evil are all present here, and Tolkien himself laid the groundwork for it. Essentially, picture Fincher’s Se7en, but in Middle-earth. You’re welcome.
Movies are always going to have a desire to return to Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth. It’s simply too exciting and enticing to ignore. Fortunately, the author left a legacy of endless possibilities in the setting, ripe for cinematic exploration.
For more on Lord of the Rings, check out our guide to Rings of Power season 2. Or, learn more about characters like Eowyn, Celebrimbor, Helm Hammerhand, Durin, and Halbrand.