Who are the best Lord of the Rings characters? JRR Tolkien’s epic saga helped shape the modern fantasy genre, giving us Orc-filled thrills and a striking roster of characters. From Hobbits to Wizards and even immortal Elves, there are plenty of figures we meet during Frodo’s quest, and many of them are unforgettable.
When looking at the massive world in Lord of the Rings, picking just ten characters is an incredibly tricky task. Every Tolkien fan has their favorites and will fight for their top heroes until the bitter end. But hey, if Frodo could travel to Mount Doom, then The Digital Fix can at least crack a list rounding up the most distinctive figures in all the Lord of the Rings movies. Yep, you read that right, movies. Sorry to all my fellow book fans, but this list is purely looking at Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Tolkien’s masterpiece.
That means no Tom Bombadil or Faramir (whose cinematic version just didn’t make the cut). All the Lord of the Rings characters listed below have appeared in at least one of the three films: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, or The Return of the King. Now, get ready to see which characters from Middle-earth truly “rule them all.” Warning: spoilers for the best fantasy movies of all time ahead.
The 10 best Lord of the Rings characters ranked:
- Frodo Baggins
- Samwise Gamgee
One does not simply make a ‘best Lord of the Rings character’ list without mentioning Boromir, the eldest son of Denethor II. Although he only appears in the first movie, Boromir shows how powerful the ring’s influence truly is and, subsequently, how strong Frodo’s constitution is as its bearer. Played brilliantly by Sean Bean, the valiant Gondor warrior is the epitome of human nature – showing the good, the bad, and everything in between.
Desperate to save his home, Boromir suggests using the one ring against Sauron instead of destroying it. However, he soon finds himself swayed by the ring’s power and threatens Frodo for its possession. The character goes on to redeem himself, sacrificing his life for his Hobbit companions in the face of the Uruk-hai.
Seeing the brave man die like that is hard, seeing his body being sent off to sea even harder, and realizing the ring’s effects on mere mortals makes Boromir stand out as a memorable fixture in the franchise.
There are only three main female characters in Lord of the Rings, but Arwen manages to set herself out from the rest of the pack. Kind-hearted and self-sacrificing, Arwen’s love for Aragorn adds an intense emotional layer to the entire series that makes you clench your seat as you internally scream every time the two are in danger or seem like they won’t be together in the end.
Sacrificing her immortality, Arwen chooses to stay in Middle-Earth as her family head to the Blessed realm, essentially forsaking safety and potentially facing Sauron’s wrath by following her heart. In The Fellowship of the Ring, we also see the character save Frodo’s Life, allowing the Hobbit to venture to Mordor to save the day.
Adding sentimental and storytelling value to Lord of the Rings while also showing a softer form of strength to Éowyn’s fighter spirit, Arwen is an underrated character who deserves more respect.
Legolas is hands down one of the most fun characters to watch during all the movies in the franchise. In every fight sequence he appears in, he steals the spotlight, every piece of dialogue he says just feels effortlessly cool, and I mean, come on, who else in the Lord of the Rings has a cute bromance with a Dwarf?
Speaking of Gimli, while it is hard to separate Legolas and the Dwarf – as the duo is very much a classic comedic pair – the elf beats his friend for a spot in this list thanks to his style.
Throughout the films, we see the elf walk on snow like it’s nothing, elegantly jump off walls and hurl himself at enemies, and even take down a massive Mûmakil using only his bow and arrow without breaking a sweat. If his combative prowess wasn’t enough, Legolas also proves himself to be a dependable friend who is constantly there for all the other characters in his party.
Nothing beats a good movie villain, and few are as sinister as Saruman the White. Saruman is a walking testament to evil’s corruptive nature and how dark desires can overwhelm a person to the point of no return. Seeing someone match and even beat Gandalf in a fight is already scary enough; however, then we witness the character usher in the Uruk-hai – the burly sun-proof Isengard Orcs – changing the combative game in the series.
From murder, imprisonment, and brainwashing to deforestation, Saruman is a villain who overachieves and exceeds expectations throughout the adventure movies. Thanks to Christopher Lee’s performance – one of the standouts among the Lord of the Rings cast – the character also carries an air of elegance and pure intimidation that makes you shudder every time he is on screen.
Seeing the moment when his power wanes and that untouchable aura cracks is super satisfying, making Saruman one of the best characters to fear, hate, and smile at during their downfall.
Shieldmaiden of Rohan and Witch-King killer, Éowyn, is one of the strongest and most family-oriented characters in the entire franchise. Niece of King Théoden and sister of Éomer, when her Uncle was under Saruman’s influence, and even when Aragorn rejected her awkward love confession, Éowyn never faltered.
Much like Frodo and the rest of the hobbits, Éowyn is constantly underestimated and proves all her detractors wrong. In The Two Towers, she helps Aragorn organize the people of Rohan. In the final film, The Return of the King, we see her protecting her Uncle and killing the Witch-King of Angmar with Merry Brandybuck when no other person could – proving her worth to her Uncle in the fight for the age of men. So yeah, a kick-ass character all around.
5. Frodo Baggins
A small hobbit bearing the fate of the world around his neck, Frodo Baggins is the likable and innocent main protagonist in the Lord of the Rings. Despite his soft-spokenness and gentle demeanor, here is a character full of bravery and compassion that you just can’t help but root for. But Frodo isn’t just your standard good guy. As the films progress, we see him become increasingly complex and affected by the forces of evil.
Throughout all three movies in Peter Jackson’s series, we see Frodo being tortured by Sauron’s influence and witness the power of The One Ring around his neck slowly change his personality and try to corrupt him during his quest to Mordor.
However, against all odds, including his lacking combat abilities, or that pesky stab wound from the Witch-King that he picked up in the first movie, Frodo pushes through it all – making him the ultimate underdog who we love to see succeed.
Gollum is the most quoted character in Lord of the Rings and is one of those charming villains who walk the line between sinister and hilarious. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t done a Gollum voice or said “My Precious” at least once in their life?
We’re sure no one can forget the time when the creature dramatically complains about chips and bickers with Sam. On top of all these distinctive moments, Gollum himself is a complicated character whom you oddly sympathize with while hating.
Seeing the shadow of his former self, Smeagol, come to the surface, and as his relationship with Frodo pulls on your heartstrings, you feel pity for the poor creature. Similarly, seeing his sneakiness and brutal betrayal after such moments increases your loathing for the character tenfold.
We also have to acknowledge the stellar performance capture work of Andy Serkis for Gollum – which, on the basis of ingenuity, cements the character’s place on this list.
You shall not pass… this entry until you acknowledge one of the best fictional wizards of all time – Gandalf. Out of all the characters in the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf embodies everything that we love about fantasy. From a mysterious backstory to a blinding rebirth as Gandalf the White in The Two Towers, it is easy to understand why this wizard has gone down as the most recognizable in cinematic history (sorry Dumbledore).
Gandalf also serves as something of a father figure to every member of the original Fellowship, thanks to Ian McKellen’s comforting yet stern attitude and humor paired with tough love for all the hobbits and their companions.
Widely respected and always appearing when everyone needs him the most, it is easy to fall in love with Gandalf and understand why every other character in the Lord of the Rings sees him as a force to be reckoned with.
2. Samwise Gamgee
There are no if, buts, or maybes about it; without Samwise Gamgee, Frodo wouldn’t have completed his quest to destroy The One Ring. The anchor of the entire story, Sam, is the most steadfast character in Lord of the Rings, who perfectly captures the themes of hope and the simple desire to do good.
Even after being chased by Nazgûl, or when Frodo chooses Gollum over him during an argument, or even after almost getting eaten by the giant spider Shelob, Sam refuses to leave Frodo’s side.
It’s hard not to choke up seeing Sam continuously push through hardships for his friends or do everything he can to help master Frodo in the face of evil. What makes Sam’s hero journey arc even more striking is the amazing performance by the Lord of the Rings cast alumni Sean Astin, who manages to portray the humble hobbit’s likeability and unbreakable determination.
The dependable heir to Gondor, also known as Strider, Aragorn is a man you want on your team, period. A powerful fighter, leader, and stellar tracker, he ticks all the boxes for an A-tier fantasy movie character and stands as one of the best in the entire cinematic genre. Fans of the Lord of the Rings movies and books can all agree that Aragorn is cool personified and one of the central pillars holding the whole story together.
While Frodo is technically the hero in Lord of the Rings, Aragorn leads most of the heavy combat scenes in the fantasy series. Think of The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers or the epic showdown in The Return of the King – much of the excitement and heart-racing action centers around Aragorn.
With the character leading the charge and guiding his comrades to victory, Aragorn is a true leader and a charismatic force that just can’t be beaten. His presence is a big factor in making The Lord of the Rings some of the best movies of all time.
And there you have it, the ten best Lord of the Rings characters. A few honorable mentions go to Elrond, Galadriel, and Treebeard (shout out to all the Ents)– who, after many internal arguments and debates, just missed the cut.
If you’re after more magic, here are our guides to the best Rings of Power characters of all time and the Rings of Power cast. Or if you want to know more about Middle-earth’s Second Age, check out our guide to the Rings of Power season 2 release date, and our article on how to watch all the Lord of the Rings movies in order.