It is hard to face the flaws in a movie you love. You don’t want to admit the amount of plot holes exceed the two-digit mark or that your favorite character really isn’t that helpful. Such is the case with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings. Sure, the landscapes were stunning and Aragorn was dreamy. However, it has been more than ten years and fans still argue over the Eagles and whether or not they could have just taken the Ring to Mordor in one trip.
There are many things to love about this Academy Award winning trilogy, but as fans we can’t keep ignoring the errors in Lord of the Rings. Why is water the Nazgûl’s biggest enemy? Why did Théoden let Gríma Wormtongue go? Is the top of a tower the best place to keep your prisoner, a wizard who can call on many magical creatures?
It isn’t easy facing these momentary lapses of reason from such great movies. And, who knows? Maybe there are perfect explanations for them but nonetheless, they can’t be ignored forever.
Here are some of the top mistakes and plot holes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy that fans choose to ignore.
15. Frodo’s sword doesn’t always glow when there are orcs
Frodo’s sword, Sting, is a magical Elvish dagger with supernatural strength. Although it is merely a dagger by the standards of Elves and Men, it is the perfect sized weapon for a Hobbit. The first time we see Sting is when Bilbo gifts it to Frodo before he embarks on his adventure to destroy the Ring. One of its traits, Bilbo emphasizes, is that it glows blue whenever Orcs or goblins are nearby.
Peter Jackson stayed true to this trait in the beginning, but seemed to give up during the second half of the movie.
When the Fellowship tries to take a shortcut through Moira, they are surprised by Orcs and there was zero glowing warning from Sting. Even as they are running and Frodo has the dagger out, ready to fight, it is still not glowing. We can’t blame Sting for this, only Peter Jackson.
14. The Rings only turn the race of Men into Nazgûl
The basis of Lord of the Rings has been told many times. In the Second Age of Middle Earth, someone gave the lords of Elves, Dwarves and Men rings of power. Without suspicion, they were like ‘gee, thanks! Sauron is a jerk… blah blah blah… the One Ring to rule them all.’ The movie also explains the Nazgul, also known as the Nine Riders and about a hundred other names. The Nazgûl are the Men who succumbed to Sauron’s power and served him. Now, if the different races received rings of power, why are the Nazgûl only Men? How come the Elves or Dwarves didn’t succumb as well? Are Men the most susceptible race? Maybe JRR Tolkien explains it better in the books, but the movie fans will just have to accept it.
13. Gandalf doesn’t use as much magic as he should
Look, we all love Gandalf. We all love Sir Ian Mckellen. That doesn’t change the fact that Gandalf was flat out useless in many crucial moments. First of all, he only uses a handful of spells.
We are supposed to believe he is this powerful wizard, even more powerful when he becomes Gandalf the White, but the audience never gets a full sense of his powers.
Maybe he is forbidden to use his powers unless Middle Earth is in danger! Surely he has some amazing spells in his back pocket, but we don’t really know. Whenever Gandalf is in battle, he has a sword and a horse. Very rarely does Gandalf use a deus ex machina spell to end the battle. Maybe his job is to guide those who wish to end evil, but we can’t keep ignoring that Gandalf the Wizard needs to up his wizardry.
12. The Nazgûl are Terrible at finding the Ring
In the final coalition between Sauron’s forces and the Men-Elf army, Prince Isildur is seduced by the Ring and decides against destroying it. Later on, the Orcs kill Isildur and the Ring is lost for over 2,500 years. The Nazgûl or the Ringwraiths, or their other one hundred names, never found the Ring.
Let’s look at this from an administrative perspective. Sauron has his Nine Riders, the ones who succumbed to his power, as his Ring searchers. They are supposed to be the most powerful and capable for this mission. They feel the Ring’s presence and are drawn to it. Shouldn’t have Sauron found new Riders after 200 years of no results?
Even in Fellowship of the Ring, when it’s a few feet away from them in the hands of Hobbits, they still can’t find it! It is time to face that the Nazgûl are terrible at their one job.
11. Elrond is the real reason the ring still exists
Remember when Isildur was at Mordor and all he had to do was let go of the Ring so it could be destroyed in lava? Well, he didn’t but it isn’t entirely his fault. The evil influence of the Ring affected his judgement.
You know who could’ve helped in this situation? The Elf who was not in any way affected by the Ring’s power and could have just taken it from Emo Isildur.
Elrond urges Isildur to throw the Ring but when Isildur refuses, Elrond just stands there disappointed. The future of Middle Earth depends on this! Yank it out of his hand! Hell, throw him into the lava with Ring in hand. Do something! Isildur and Elrond were the first version of Sam and Frodo and Elrond failed as a Sam. The whole ordeal, thousands of years later, could’ve easily been avoided.
10. Saruman just lets Gandalf go
In the Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf answers Saruman’s request to see him in Isengard, Saruman the White imprisons Gandalf until he gives information of the Ring’s location. Gandalf is to spend weeks at the top of the tower of Orthanc until he gives in. Orthanc is the black impenetrable tower of Isengard. The only way in and out is with the Keys of Orthanc.
Maybe for anyone else, the top of the tower would have been the perfect cell, but this is Gandalf.
He is a wizard. Saruman knows this. They were both in the White Council. Saruman must know his spells and his connection with the Eagles. In the end, Saruman left him at the top of the tower where Gwaihir, the Lord of Eagles, rescues Gandalf. Maybe during his downfall, literally, Saruman remembered that as the moment when he messed up.
9. Aragorn is good but not that good of a Ranger
Aragorn is first introduced as Strider to the Hobbits. Strider is also known as the Ranger of the North and in the War of the Ring, he leads the Rangers. He is badass, skilled and overall awesome. However, he is still just a man.
Aragorn shows over and over again how much of a skilled ranger he is but in Two Towers, he takes the cake. When Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are searching for the hobbits Merry and Pippin, they believe the Hobbits have died at the hands of the Uruk-hai. Aragorn then finds the tracks that show the very specific way the Hobbits escaped. This would all be good and well if the area hadn’t been trampled by Eomer’s army in their fight with the Uruk-hai. Yet somehow, Aragorn was still able to track them and see they were able to flee into the forest.
8. No one takes Gandalf’s ‘Walking Stick’
One of the subplots in Two Towers is Théoden’s possession by Saruman with the help of Gríma Wormtongue. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli along with Gandalf the White, head on to Rohan to exorcise Théoden. Before they are allowed to go in, the men demand they remove all their weapons, including Gandalf’s staff. Somehow Gandalf convinces them he is a helpless old man with a walking stick and they believe him.
We later found out Gríma specifically told them to take his staff. Are they fools? Can Gandalf Jedi mind trick people as well?
The worst part isn’t that Gandalf tricks these men to think his staff is just a walking stick. The worst part is when he walks in with his staff exposed, but it is a surprise to everyone when he reveals it to Gríma. It is a blinding white staff. How did no one see it?
7. Legolas defies the laws of physics too much
Legolas has been accused of many things in the movie trilogy. He states super obvious facts. He is boring when he isn’t in battle. He is impulsive. While all of those things are true, the biggest issue with Legolas is how he defies gravity, physics and Newton’s Laws of Motion. Remember in Two Towers when Aragorn and the gang are headed to Helm’s Deep and they are ambushed by Saruman’s Warg riders? Legolas does what he does best, kill Orcs with his bow and arrows. But then, when he is about to get on the horse riding in his direction, he pulls off an impossible move to mount the horse.
People may argue Legolas is an Elf and maybe the same rules don’t apply to him or that Peter Jackson once again did something that makes no sense. Its saving grace is that it’s an isolated incident… until the Hobbit Trilogy (but that’s an argument for another time).
6. The Witch-King is easily defeated
In Return of the King, Gandalf explains how Sauron is preparing for battle. He speaks of Sauron’s most dangerous weapon yet, the Witch-King of Angmar, who was also the Nazgûl who stabbed Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring. According to the prophecy of Glorfindel, no hand of man can kill the Witch-King. Later on, Éowyn, with the help of Merry, slays the Witch-King after proclaiming ‘I am no man!’
The Witch-King is killed by a woman and a hobbit. Understood. But did the prophecy mean a male or the Race of Men?
And if it’s the latter, doesn’t Éowyn belong to the race of Men? And even if it meant a female could slay him, should it have been that easy to slay the leader of the Ringwraiths? It seems the Witch-King is another villain that lost the battle by talking too much in a crucial moment.
5. Mordor has a super easy entrance
As Boromir once said, one does not simply walk into Mordor.
If this is true, why does the volcano have such a clear entrance? It might as well have an arrow shaped neon sign that reads ‘This way to destroy the Ring’.’ Sure, geographically speaking, Mordor is one of the most challenging regions in Middle Earth for anyone to traverse. Protected from three sides by large mountain ranges and an army of Orcs waiting for anyone who steps through the Black Gate, Mordor was no walk in the park for Frodo, Sam and Gollum. Even if Sauron felt confident with all of his strategies, if your enemy was strong enough to go through all these deadly traps, maybe a wide entrance makes it way too easy for him to destroy the Ring that holds control of your entire evil kingdom.
4. Frodo is the worst damsel in distress ever
Frodo is the hero of our trilogy, the one who volunteers to destroy the Ring. Frodo has a unique inner strength that no one else in the Fellowship has, which makes him the right choice for the Ring-bearer. If that were the case, why is Frodo useless in almost every single scene? If it weren’t for Sam, Frodo’s journey would’ve ended far sooner.
Sam literally carries Frodo so he can throw the Ring to Mordor… and then he doesn’t! The Ring is really destroyed by accident.
We get it. The power and seduction of the Ring is too much for any man to bear. Frodo’s struggle shows just how difficult it could be, even for someone with such will power. But could he not have had more redeeming moments, moments that didn’t involve Sam giving a speech and then saving Frodo’s ass?
3. Legolas fails at the one thing he knows how to do
Gandalf called Legolas a dangerous warrior. With his unrivalled archery skills and his superior eyesight and hearing, Legolas is of immense help to the Fellowship. Until the battle of Helm’s Deep. While Legolas and Gimli were having fun counting how many Orcs each had killed, Legolas completely forgot about the one thing he needed to look out for.
When an Orc ran to light the bomb that would explode Helm’s Deep’s impenetrable wall, Legolas did not make the shot.
It would be understandable if it was difficult to spot the one Orc who would do the deed, but the Orcs separated and left a clear way for the one Orc with the sparkly torch as if the Olympics were taking place. Legolas, with his super sight, could have seen, aimed and shot him perfectly. But he missed… many times.
2. Frodo and Sam hide in plain sight with a cloak
In Two Towers, Frodo, Sam and Gollum make it to the Black Gate only to find it guarded by Orcs. Sam falls and slides down a gravel slope. Two soldiers take notice and approach to investigate. Frodo goes after Sam to help him but he is half buried in the rocks. In a desperate attempt, Frodo covers both of them with his Elven cloak and the soldiers never notice them.
While the Elven cloaks are meant for camouflage, nowhere does it say they take the form of a rock, as it is shown when Frodo and Sam emerge. Also, the soldiers are literally inches away and can’t seem to discern cloth from rock. It is not Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Even if they couldn’t see them, they must have seen some movement when Frodo was making his way to Sam. But no, the soldiers leave, satisfied that they didn’t find anything.
1. Helm’s Deep has the same flaw as the Death Star
Gríma informs Saruman in The Two Towers that Helm’s Deep has but one weakness. This impenetrable fortress, where Theoden will fight off Sauron’s army, has a small culvert in space no bigger than a drain. Another undefeatable location except for that teeny tiny flaw that nobody ever bothered to consider.
Maybe no one knew Saruman would have explosives. It’s possible that no one was expecting this tactic.
The error is not necessarily the small weakness, but the fact that Théoden decided to dismiss it. Many blame Peter Jackson for this decision since Théoden does guard it in the book.
But Jackson decided to create additional tension with Legolas missing his shot and the wall finally crumbling, leaving Helm’s Deep exposed. He also decided to give us a second fake out of Aragorn dying. Two in a series is too much. Two in one movie is just insulting.