The Lord Of The Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Warner Bros has lay upon us one of the finest motion picture trilogies of all time as Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy is bestowed upon us. There have been strategies as to how this movies have been rolled out on both DVD and Blu-ray. 4K looks no different. Typically, the theatrical edits of the films have broken the seal with the extended coming later down the line. For 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray, we are getting both theatrical and extended right out the gate, but with the bonus features promised to coming sometime next year in 2021. It isn’t complete void of them (See the “Extras” section about that), but physically speaking you are getting straight up 4K discs of the movies here in some standard packaging and that’s it.  Hardcore fandom may want to wait, but for someone like me who enjoys them but who’s just cool with owning the movies, this may be the way to go. The Lord of the Rings, along with The Hobbit films are available now (released December 1st).

The Fellowship Of The Ring

The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces are unrelenting in their search for it. But fate has placed it in the hands of a young Hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), who inherits the Ring and steps into legend. A daunting task lies ahead for Frodo when he becomes the Ringbearer – to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom where it was forged.

There’s a great fondness that comes along with Fellowship of the Ring. What happens her is one of the greatest starts to a fantasy adventure ever. Every person who’s read books or played Dungeons and Dragons can’t help but adore and love the start of the journey. Leaving home on adventure, slowly collecting a group. Discovery, searching, battling monsters while wandering across the terrain, caverns, castles and more. Its a classic formula and Peter Jackson has absolutely nailed it. For myself, when I first saw the film and the Hobbits enter the tavern/inn and Strider is sitting in the shadowy corner smoking a pipe, I just was amused and couldn’t believe I was seeing something that had always been up to imagination playing out perfectly on screen.

For many, it could be a slow burn, but I like the slow development. Especially in the Extended Edition, it really lays out the stakes and characters so much clearer. The films keep getting bigger and bigger. But, this one starts with danger, with hope, with new alliances forged. Everything isn’t just big battles either. There is plenty of exploration here and it really keeps to a smaller group and one location rather than turning to an ensemble bouncing from different places. There are a lot of similarities between the two sequels, but Fellowship remains its own beast.

The Two Towers

The second film follows the continuing quest of Frodo (Elijah Wood) and the Fellowship to destroy the One Ring. Frodo and Sam (Sean Astin) discover they are being followed by the mysterious Gollum. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the Elf archer Legolas and Gimli the Dwarf encounter the besieged Rohan kingdom, whose once great King Theoden has fallen under Saruman’s deadly spell.

The Two Towers is a real sweet spot in this cinematic trilogy. Its not some “dark second chapter” that goes a complete downer route or anything. There just is an expansion of the scale of what these films can be present here. Gone is the build and slow walk into the adventure, we’re thrust into the middle of it. The film just sets off and moves. Best of all, it sort of tells its own self contained story here without feeling like some sort of bridge piece to a longer thing, with no substance of its own. It’d be nice if many film series and TV shows would take note of that.

At the heart of The Two Towers is the gigantic Battle of Helm’s Deep which is a humongous effort. Its a battle with a lot of orcs and knights. The land mass is huge, the choreography is stellar and the stakes feel gigantic. Jackson paints an incredible structure to it that features its highs, lows and tells its own complete story. On the other end, we are introduced proper to Gollum and the impressive performance and technology on display from Andy Serkis. Oh, and there is a giant spider too. The Two Towers really picks up and improves where the last film left off.

The Return Of The King

The conclusion of Peter Jackson’s adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings literary legends presents the final confrontation between the forces of good and evil fighting for control of the future of Middle-earth. Hobbits Frodo and Sam reach Mordor in their quest to destroy the `one ring’, while Aragorn leads the forces of good against Sauron’s evil army at the stone city of Minas Tirith.

What a conclusion(s) this one is. The Return of the King is such an exciting and satisfactory finale to this journey. I know the joke is about the amount of endings the film has. But, don’t you think these damn films have earned them? And are they bad, were you wanting to get out of Middle Earth that badly? Sure, I can see many logical conclusion points where it could stop, but in turn there are logical extensions and seeing through of where we leave the characters.

While The Two Towers previously opens up with gigantic scale battling, The Return of the King gives a bit of an encore run with them while having a some of the more personal character moments to sweep things up in. Viggo Mortensen is incredibly impressive here in this third entry as he takes the honor and burden of king. There’s an emotional transformation he quite sells as he takes on the weight of Middle Earth and its both physical and verbal. That’s one thing that’s always really stuck out in this film for me. A lot has been written, a lot has been said over the years about this Best Picture winner and all of it well deserved.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the previous standard Blu-ray discs, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray discs in this release.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail:  The lovely thing about being a physical media reviewer and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy is that he shot these all back to back in one production. So, they pretty much carry a standard look over the course of three films, with a consistent production crew and consistent lighting/locations/year/etc. In the history of home video, they’ve also been given regular top notch treatment on DVD and Blu-ray. Coming to 4K Ultra-HD is a natural progression and features a noticeable update in clarity, detail and texture. The coloring also gets a little colder, slightly washed look to it. Black levels, depth and dimension also improve. Its impressive and top notch, but its not going to melt your face at the vision of things that always look great continue to look great. Its weird spot its found itself in, but, fans should ease that all three of these movies look terrific in their debut on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray.

Depth:  These really open up gorgeously. Camera and character movements are now more fluid and confident. The scale feels even large with even more breathtaking scenery and gloriously deep castle/cavern interiors. Absolutely no issues regarding rapid motions causing a jitter or blur.

Black Levels:  Natural blacks are quite lovely and deep while still holding all of the information intact. The only areas where it isn’t as impressive comes with some of the black/darkened/shadowed digital effects which the transfer cannot be slighted for. Its just the dating on them and it now shows more apparent. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors have a bit of a naturalist, rainy/cloudy day look to them. The greens aren’t emerald like, they are much more washed. Costumes have a strong look to them, and much of Modor’s molten aesthetic really lifts off. HDR comes in beuatifully with magical glows, fire and the like.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones come like the rest of the image with a little bit of washout and they are consistent from start to finish. Every little bit of scarring, dried dirt/blood, freckle, stubble, wrinkle and tear stain is quite visible no matter the given distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD core), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DTS-hD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital (Theatrical Only)


  • The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended) – English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai
  • The Fellowship of the Ring (Theatrical) – English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai
  • The Two Towers (Extended) – English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai
  • The Two Towers (Theatrical) – English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch
  • The Return of the King (Extended) – English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai
  • The Return of the King (Theatrical) – English SDH, French, Spanish, Dutch

Dynamics: Now hear is where these discs absolutely dominate. The Atmos track on The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy is absolutely thrill ride and experience. This mix is full and bursting. It gives the films a sense of power as well as utilizing the entire room with great precision. This layered experience really puts you at the heart of a battle or the calmness of quite cavern feeling a drip from behind or an eagle or arrow zip by overhead.

Height: These film feature and take advantage of plenty of opportunities to wow you from above. They really craft an excellent sense of sound travel as arrows, catapults, drips, debris, fire, deep water and so much more filter in your ceiling channels.

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer really pounds and Mordor is your foundation for it. Drums in the score, explosions, crashing, impaling, sword clanking, heavy doors opening and slamming and so more more drive a sheer force into your viewing space.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There is so much going on in these mixes. From ambiance, to crafting a 360 degree feel in battle, the rear and side channels are in constant flux. The rolling sound is so forceful and this mix really does its best to land you among the characters in the middle of the adventure.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, always present and audible no matter how loud or quiet as scene. They feel a part of every environment as well. Actor diction is well capture and displayed here as well, with mouth sounds, breaths and more feeling entirely natural and present.


The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy is a 9-disc set and comes with a redeemable digital code for each film and each version of the films. All 9 discs are 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray discs and contain no bonus features. If you redeem your code via iTunes, you will have access to all of the “iTunes Extras” for the Extended Editions of the films. Using other services like Movies Anywhere or VUDU will only offer 3 featurettes for each Extended Edition.


Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy remains a cinematic triumph that had been unmatched since George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. Presentation-wise, they make a very noble debut on the 4K Ultra-HD format. Hardcore collectors may be underwhelmed with the lack of extras (None at all) and basic packaging, but their wishes should be fulfilled sometime next year. Its nice that they’ve released them in December in some form, as I’ve personally always associated these movies with the month and Holiday season as they were THE event and tradition to take up during that time of year. These aren’t the definitive release on the format, but they would make a nice holdover or gift for now.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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