AFI Top 100: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

In 2007, the American Film Institute revised their previous 1998 list of the 100 best American films of all time. This weekly column will explore my thoughts on select films from this list, mostly following along with the Unspooled Podcast, which inspired my journey to complete the AFI Top 100. You can also follow my progress with my ranking and watchlist. This week’s film is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), #50 on the list.  

Forgive me, but I really do not care for fantasy films. The more medieval, the more allergic I am. Heartfelt pleas to form alliances, strategizing to fight waves of orcs, a plethora of made up races, lands, creatures, magic powers, etc. are all met with extensive eye-rolls and vacant stares from me. The lengthy, dense, and impenetrably esoteric exposition dumps may as well be in a foreign language for how little I’m able to retain. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize and appreciate the astonishing craft on display. Peter Jackson (possibly initiating the trend of lower-budget filmmakers being trusted with massive franchises) brings the beloved book series to life with breathtaking visuals that surprisingly hold up, intense action sequences with a keen sense of spatial geography, and a perfect cast to round out the titular Fellowship. Though it was a smashing success both at the box office and critically, the universal love from the ardent fan base is possibly its most impressive feat. Personally, I think Aragorn’s entrance is when the film livens up (the first hour is too hokey for my taste), but even considering my distaste for epic fantasy adventures, I can’t deny Fellowship is entertaining and technically remarkable.

Does it belong on the list?

Even apart from my own personal list, which would certainly include very little from the fantasy genre, I would put Return of the King above Fellowship of the Ring any day, so if there needs to be one film representing Middle Earth on the list (and I wouldn’t necessarily argue against that idea), I don’t think it should be Fellowship.

AFI Top 100

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