Lord of the Rings is beloved by fans all over the world. With new Tolkien books still being released, and an entire new television series coming from Amazon Studios, that love isn’t going away anytime soon.
I first met the characters of Middle-earth through the old cartoons. My dad was a fan, and we watched them frequently as he trained me to inherit the role of family nerd.
By the time the movies came out, I was excited to see these characters brought to vivid life. And they did not disappoint. Now, with several re-reads and re-watches under my belt, I feel fully qualified to share some opinions and rank my favorite 25 Lord of the Rings characters. Take a look and see if I'm right (or wrong)!
He’s an elf and a warrior with questionable opinions. Haldir exudes elvish arrogance, but he also shows up when it matters and fights with aplomb.
24. Théoden: The King of Rohan
I have some sympathy for Théoden. It’s not easy being poisoned and manipulated by a person you trust. But for someone who felt powerless in the hands of another, it’s rather irksome that he makes his own niece feel that way several times.
He changes his mind when she avenges him, but still. Théoden could have just been a little more open-minded in the first place.
23. Denethor II
There’s a lot to be said for someone so bitter over life, that in his final act, he throws the tantrum of all tantrums and plunges himself into a burning pyre.
Though Denethor never was corrupted by Sauron, he was defeated by him slowly. Every attempt to fight had consequences Denethor wasn’t prepared to pay, which resulted in more bad decisions and escalated reactions. It’s difficult to like him, but man, he was compelling.
22. Grima the Wormtongue
Not only is Gríma a spy, he’s also a creep. He betrayed his king, letting Saruman possess the man while slowly poisoning his body. And all to try and worm his way closer to Éowyn. Gross.
He does eventually kill Saruman, but too little, too late in my opinion.
I’m convinced all spiders are actually demons, and Shelob takes the ancient evil cake. Even Sauron leaves her alone, and that should seriously tell you something.
She plays a small but terrifying role in the trilogy, and is one of the few villains whose fate is unknown. I’m convinced she’s still alive, because nothing that evil dies easily.
20. Saruman (no longer) the White
The only thing Saruman wants is power. Sure, he serves the will of Sauron, but really, he covets the power of the One Ring. Honestly, I have doubts he would have just handed the Ring over if he ever actually obtained it.
He also is super committed to his nefarious persona, preferring imprisonment over atonement. Ultimately, this leads to his death.
Is it fair I placed him so far down the list? I mean, I think it is.
Sure, he was part of the Fellowship, and he did save Merry and Pippin. But he also tried to steal the One Ring and betray his companions. Not a great look. He’s not the worst guy in Middle-earth, but he’s far from the best.
18. Sauron the Deceiver
For a character largely only portrayed as a disembodied voice and an eye in the sky, Sauron manages to be an intimidating villain. Maybe it’s more the legions of his minions that makes him so terrifying, but his know all, see all thing makes him super creepy.
I’m uncomfortable with the fact that my toaster can potentially spy on me, so, the Eye of Sauron is horrifying.
17. Elrond Half-elven
Oh boy, is this elf complicated. On the one hand, he tries to manipulate his daughter into leaving Middle-earth and the man she loves. On the other, he does help the Fellowship a lot. Like a lot a lot.
It’s hard to say if the Fellowship could have won without Elrond's help at incredibly well-timed moments, but it would have been a lot harder. And he eventually accepts Arwen’s life choices, so, not all bad after all.
Even if we weren’t told that Bilbo wasn’t an ordinary hobbit, his penchant for adventure as well as his curiosity for elves and faraway lands makes that pretty clear. He’s a hobbit who does what he wants and takes what he wants.
Bilbo is the only person to willingly give away the One Ring, and one of the few hobbits to leave the Shire, deciding to live the rest of his days in the Undying Lands.
The oldest of the Ents, Treebeard has seen some things in his days. So much that he is content to stay out of the matters of anyone who isn’t an Ent.
But quiet does not equal passive, and when Treebeard sees what Saruman has done to his forest, he exacts his revenge. This proves, once and for all, how far introverts will go to be left alone.
Look up the word honor in the dictionary, and Éomer’s picture will be the first thing you see. He’s never tempted by Gríma or Saruman, following his own beliefs rather than obeying his possessed uncle.
When he becomes king, he commits his armies to help Aragorn, simply because Aragorn had been there for him and that was enough. Plus, I like a guy who instigates a drinking contest between Gimli and Legolas. That’s priorities right there.
Lady Galadriel calls it like she sees it, and considering she has a mirror that can see the future, well, she’s rarely wrong. She’s incredibly powerful and her ability to speak to others telepathically and across distance comes in handy at pivotal moments throughout the trilogy.
Plus, she has a super creepy glow aesthetic that I am here for.
It couldn’t have been easy for Faramir to grow up in his brother Boromir’s shadow. Yet somehow, he manages to do the right thing when his brother couldn’t.
After his father told him he wished he was the one who died, Faramir still tries to please him, and almost loses his life twice for the effort. Thankfully, he finds love with Éomyr, and is one of the few characters to get a happily ever after.
Gollum is such a complex guy. He’s a victim of the One Ring and its poisonous influence, but he’s also left his hobbit-nature long behind. Which makes him sympathetic while remaining firmly in the villain column.
Gollum leans into his terrible, and often violent, ideas with glee; making him manipulative, devious, and cavalier about murder. Still, it’s a bit sad when he both gets what he wants and what he deserves at the very end.
10. Peregrin “Pippin” Took
Clever and curious, Pippin is driven by the urge to constantly see what happens. This generally causes a lot of trouble, but the best part of Pippin is his bravery.
He uses his cleverness to get out of sticky situations, and ends up being the only hobbit to fight in the Army of the West as they attacked the Black Gate of Mordor.
9. Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck
Wherever Pippin goes, Merry follows. Mostly. He’s the quieter of the two, but just as clever and observant.
Merry is the hobbit with the plan. He's always well prepared, or as prepared as he can be, and he isn’t afraid to speak up or follow his heart. Wanting to make a difference, Merry ends up saving Éowyn’s life after sneaking into the battle and allowing her to kill the Witch-King.
8. Arwen Undómiel
Arwen is a woman who knows what she wants. Steadfast and loyal, she’s confident in both knowing the right thing to do and then doing it.
She can wield a sword, revives Aragorn through a dream, and inspires the man to reclaim his throne and merge two kingdoms.
And man, she isn’t afraid to force her father to do the right thing either, convincing him to reforge Narsil, the sword that controls the Army of the Dead. Aragorn may fight the battles, but he gets there thanks to Arwen.
7. Gandalf the Grey/White
Wizards always place in the top ten. And Gandalf is no exception.
He not only wields magic like a boss, but has no problem physically grappling with the enemy when the situation calls for it. He’s got a hint of mischief, which is probably why he always recruits hobbits for his missions.
Gandalf is always focused on the task at hand, even if it doesn’t always seem like it. He may disappear to investigate a clue with zero notice, but he has a knack for showing up at just the right moment, usually with panache, like flying in on giant eagles.
Gimli is a fierce warrior who isn’t afraid of anyone or anything. He has a fiery and vivacious personality that brings warmth, optimism, and heart to the Fellowship.
I love that he joined the Fellowship because he distrusted Legolas, and then ended up becoming besties with him. Their friendship is seriously goals, and I will never tire of their orc-killing competitions in battle.
5. Frodo Baggins
Frodo shows some serious grit volunteering to be the Ring-bearer and even trying to go it alone when he realizes the One Ring corrupts nearly everyone who gets near it.
He bears the brunt of the One Ring, and never heals from many of the wounds he receives on the quest. But his success is largely a team success, as he never would have made it to Mount Doom if not for his friends.
4. Aragorn “Strider” Elessar II
Okay, so he’s a king. And I’ll admit he makes grunge warrior look really good. And fine, he’s a really good guy on top of everything else, practically providing the blueprint for the dark, brooding hero.
Aragorn is a solid guy. He’s a strong leader, going where he’s needed and making decisions on the fly. He stays true to his heart, never wavering in his loyalty. He’s great. But he’s still ranked where he’s ranked.
Éowyn had me at, “I am no man”. She does a lot more than that, but her fierce dedication to girl power plants her firmly in my heart.
I also love how, because she knows what it feels like to be left behind, she refuses to make anyone feel that way. Her willingness to take Merry with her, not only sets him up to save her life, but allows the two of them to kill the Witch-King and shatter a (glass-ceiling) prophecy.
2. Legolas Greenleaf
The restraint I’ve exerted not placing Legolas first should prove my dedication to providing an unbiased list.
Legolas is a quiet character, yet his kindness, confidence, and willingness to grow always manage to keep him center stage. He’s practically a superhero with his bow, and isn’t too shabby with daggers or swords. But really, his power resides in his ability to stay open and adjust his opinions based on experience not hearsay.
This is how he overcomes his initial distrust of dwarves, turning his rivalry with Gimli into one of the best friendships ever.
1. Samwise Gamgee
If anyone had the right to be cranky throughout the entire trilogy, it was Samwise Gamgee. He was Frodo’s gardener. Caught overhearing the wrong thing at the wrong time, he’s forced to join Frodo on his quest.
But instead of arguing, or doing a terrible job, or even leaving when he had the chance, Samwise throws his whole being into protecting Frodo and making sure the cursed piece of jewelry gets destroyed.
Frodo may have been chosen to carry the One Ring, but there is zero chance he would have been successful without Samwise.
Samwise's overwhelming goodness, defiant loyalty, and the way he constantly reminds Frodo to have hope makes him the purest character in the entire series. And the best.