Top 15 LOTR Best Characters of All Time

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These are the people you take along when you have to complete an epic quest.

Who are the top contenders when it comes to great characters from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

In a series with the large scale of the Lord of the Rings, it can be difficult to keep track of everyone. Alright, we haven’t reached Game of Thrones levels or anything, but Middle Earth has its fair share of inhabitants. Whether you need to jog your memory or just want to see some familiar faces, here are 15 of the best characters from the Lord of the Rings. 

15. Sauron

Sauron began as a lieutenant to Middle Earth’s first big bad, Morgoth. After Morgoth was defeated, Sauron rose to power by creating the Rings of Power and the One Ring to control them. He was thought defeated in the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age, but things are not always what they seem. As long as the One Ring exists, Sauron lives. 

  • A story is only as good as its villain. While it can be hard to appreciate in retrospect, Sauron could easily have fallen flat. These Dark Lord types, evil for the sake of evil characters, are often boring. Even Darth Vader has the last-minute redemption arc. Why? Because it’s hard to make an audience invest in a character that is just plain bad. Sauron, however, not only achieves the intimidating presence of a good villain, he maintains it throughout three rather lengthy films. 
  • What makes Sauron work? It can be easy to forget that Sauron is a character. His lack of physical presence in the films helps to expand Sauron from an evil character to a powerful force, constantly battering our heroes. In fact, when watching the films (and even reading the books) it can be hard to remember that Sauron is a physical person dwelling in Mordor and not just a fiery eye. Sauron is the ultimate big bad, and he makes the films that much better. 

14. Elrond

Elrond Half-Elven is, as his name suggests, a half-elf. He chose to be counted among the elven race sometime during the First Age, while his twin brother Elros chose the fate of men. Elrond is the Lord of Rivendell, and one of the few characters in the Lord of the Rings to have previously fought against Sauron in the War of the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age. 

  • Elrond has seen some stuff. While the youthful appearance of elves can be deceiving, at the time of the Lord of the Rings, Elrond is over 6000 years old. He was there when Isildur refused to destroy the ring after the first defeat of Sauron. He was even around when Sauron’s master, Morgoth, fell. This guy has watched men fail and evil rise, but he never abandons mankind. It is that unshakeable faith in goodness, despite his overwhelming experience, that makes Elrond a character to admire. 
  • For an elf, Elrond is secretly a sass master. Let’s face it, sometimes the serene and wise vibe the elves have going on can make them a little boring. However, Hugo Weaving’s portrayal of Elrond in both the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films gives us an elf with a sense of humor. Just watch the Council of Elrond again. Those eyebrows! Elrond is a character that assures us that elves do have personalities. 

13. Bilbo Baggins

In his younger days, Bilbo was a respectable hobbit, but all of that changed when he was hired as a burglar by a company of dwarves. Now Bilbo is considered a bit odd around the Shire. When he turns 111, he decides to set off into the world once again.

  • If you need any proof that Bilbo is awesome, the guy has an entire trilogy of movies about his backstory. He’s talked with a dragon, been close friends with a dwarf king, and lots of other adventurous stuff. 
  • Bilbo deserves a lot of respect for his one major action in the Lord of the Rings trilogy: giving up the ring. He was 51 during the events of The Hobbit, meaning he had the ring for 60 years. Yet he was still able to give the ring up willingly. It may be difficult for him, but Bilbo still does what no one else has ever been able to do. Isildur couldn’t give up the ring after having it for less than a day, and we all know about Gollum’s obsession and Frodo’s ultimate failure. Bilbo is made of some pretty stern stuff. 
  • Bilbo is also the guy who spared Gollum’s life. His refusal to kill Gollum demonstrates what else makes him so great: his gentleness. Bilbo’s adventure does not take away from his appreciation for life. May war and great conflicts never let us lose sight of the value of a single life. 

12. Boromir

Son of the Steward of Gondor, Boromir wants only to protect the people and nation he will one day rule. With Gondor facing the brunt of Sauron’s forces, Boromir is seeking a way to save his home when he arrives at Rivendell.

  • Boromir is a necessary character to make the Lord of the Rings what it is. In his death, we see that Boromir has a good heart. But this heart is corrupted by his desire for the Ring. Boromir highlights both the Ring’s corruptive power and how dire the plight of Gondor is.
  • Boromir’s personality also speaks volumes through its flaws. His desire to protect Gondor is noble, yet it leads him into temptation until he even tries to steal the ring from Frodo. Boromir is the ultimate warrior, and his failings show that warriors alone cannot fight off evil. 
  • Also, Boromir should be appreciated for the lesson he represents, especially in our current time. Boromir is the perfect example that good intentions do not automatically make a person right nor does being wrong automatically make a bad person. Boromir is an important reminder to be a little more careful in how we judge others. 

11. Legolas

Legolas Greenleaf is the son of Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm. After journeying to Rivendell to deliver a message about the escape of Gollum, he ends up joining the Fellowship as the representative of the elves. 

  • As the elf with the largest amount of screen time, it cannot be denied that Legolas gets some of the best action sequences in the film. From shield surfing to climbing trolls and elephants on the battlefield, you have to admire his agility. As a fighter, Legolas certainly contributes greatly to the Fellowship. 
  • Legolas also provides one of the best but little-noticed transformations in the Fellowship. Elves generally keep to themselves, especially the ones from Mirkwood. At the beginning of their journey, Legolas is rather aloof. As the journey progresses, he develops a fast friendship with Gimli, and we see more and more of Legolas’s personality emerge. The Fellowship represents the union of many races, and Legolas’s character change captures that wonderfully. He goes from being the token elf to a cherished member of the group.

10. Theoden

King of Rohan, Theoden has recently lost his only son, Theodred. His grief allows the servant of Saruman, Grima Wormtongue, to influence the King. Gandalf the White is able to free him from Saruman’s influence, and Theoden awakes to find his home in a fight for survival.

  • This is the only King whom we get to see lead his people during the time of the story. His leadership in such a fraught time is telling. Theoden shows reluctance to enter such a massive conflict, which while some may view it as cowardice, I say speaks well of him. A King that immediately pulls his country into violence does not truly care for his people.
  • Once Theoden has committed to the fight against Sauron, he is truly an inspiring figure. Do not tell me his speech to the Riders of Rohan before the charge at Minas Tirith does not give you chills. This is a King who knows that leading can be a burden, but he shoulders it well to lead his men into battle. 

9. Merry (Meriadoc Brandybuck)

Meriadoc  Brandybuck, better known as Merry, is Frodo’s cousin and close friend, who joins the Fellowship. Eventually separated from Sam and Frodo, he nevertheless remains a central figure in the fight against Sauron. 

  • Merry is probably the least remembered of the four hobbits in the Fellowship, but he frankly deserves a lot more love than he gets. Merry helps kill the Witch King of Angmar at Minas Tirith, becomes Squire to King Theoden, and fights in three of the major battles (Isengard, Minas Tirith, and the Black Gate).
  • Somewhat overshadowed by his more troublesome friend, Pippin, Merry shines the brightest when separated from Pippin. Although he joined the Fellowship to help his friends, Merry maintains his devotion to the fight against Sauron when he finds himself alone in Rohan. It is here that we see Merry’s courage the best as he swears fealty to King Theoden and then sneaks off to battle with Eowyn.

8. Gimli

Gimli, son of Gloin, is the dwarf representative of the Fellowship. He is always ready in a fight with both his ax and a humorous comment. He may not like elves, but he is ready to fight beside one to save Middle Earth.

  • Gimli may be the most charming member of the Fellowship. I do not dare call him comic relief. But amid gritty battle scenes, Gimli is often the one making us smile with his unwavering confidence. 
  • What’s more, I think Gimli is intentional about his humor. Think of when he tells Eowyn about dwarf women as they flee Edoras. He knows how important it is to keep people’s spirits up. Frankly, a lot of the other characters forget that at times. These movies would lose a lot of their charm without our favorite dwarf. 
  • Gimli’s growing friendship with Legolas is truly beautiful. Gimli starts out hating elves, yet he grows to be best friends with one. He overcomes inherent prejudice and generations of hate, which makes him an awesome character. We can all learn a thing or two from Gimli. 

7. Eowyn

Eowyn, the Shieldmaiden of Rohan, is the sister of Eomer and niece to King Theoden. This is one woman who is not content to be left behind in battle.

  • In a film trilogy that is almost exclusively male, Eowyn is a much-needed figure. One can hardly be content thinking that women sat idly by while Sauron threatened to destroy their world. Eowyn displays the plight of women in war. They are asked to sit and wait while not only their men’s but their own lives also are determined by battles raging beyond their reach. It is a cruel part of war that is often overlooked, but Eowyn’s restlessness draws our attention to it.
  • Also, Eowyn kills the Witch-King of Angmar. Not even Gandalf could defeat that guy, so that act alone definitely makes her a badass.
  • Eowyn is a rather restless character, always longing after things she can’t have, like going to war and Aragorn. She wants to do something grand, and haven’t we all felt that way? When we read these stories of grand adventure, don’t we often wish we could do something worth writing stories about? Eowyn, in her desire to fight, mirrors part of our own experience, making her an interesting and sympathetic character as well as a badass. 

6. Pippin (Peregrin Took)

Peregrin Took, Pippin, is the youngest of the four hobbits in the Fellowship. Known as a bit of a troublemaker, he eagerly sets out on the journey to destroy the ring with little idea of how much it will change him.

  • Pippin is the troublemaker of the group. From alerting the Orcs to the Fellowship’s presence in Moria to looking into the Palantir, Pippin has a knack for getting into scrapes. But this does seem to add to his charm. What can I say? We all love a little mischief.
  • To be fair, Pippin does make up for the trouble he causes by being both clever and brave. He is instrumental in convincing the Ents to take down Isengard and also plays a key role in saving the sick Faramir from his father’s madness. 
  • Pippin begins as the most carefree and perhaps naïve of the Fellowship. Despite this, he still makes it to the end to charge the Black Gate alongside his friends. Pippin’s character is somewhat bittersweet though. He does rise to the occasion,  but he also demonstrates that hard times force us to mature quickly. Pippin is an example of how war can make great men, but he also leaves us wondering if it is truly worth it.

5. Gandalf

Beginning as Gandalf the Grey and later becoming Gandalf the White, this wizard is one of the most well-known beings from Middle Earth. With both magic and his famed sword, Glamdring, this wizard may be old but he is quite capable of taking down evil.

  • If coming back from the dead to continue the fight against evil, does not earn you some serious credit I don’t know what does. Gandalf fell to his doom whilst fighting the Balrog but returns to aid in the fight against Sauron. You just can’t keep a good wizard down. Gandalf is proof that as persistent as evil is, good is even more so.
  • Gandalf saves the day so many times. From breaking the siege at Helm’s Deep to saving the men of Gondor during the retreat from Osgiliath to saving the Fellowship from the Balrog, Gandalf is the stuff of legends. Still, the only time we see him use great power is to protect others, and honestly, that makes him even better. 
  • However, the best thing about Gandalf is not his ability to kick butt. It’s the fact that despite his great power he never lets himself get above those around him. Gandalf truly cares for Frodo and the others. They are his friends and not just his minions in this great battle. Power can be corrupting (looking at you Saruman), and I love that besides being a wonderful wizard Gandalf remains a fast friend and companion as well. He is someone you would want to fight beside and share a pipe with afterward, though he will show you up when it comes to blowing smoke rings. 

4. Gollum/Smeagol

Once a hobbit himself, Gollum discovered the ring while fishing over 500 years ago. Its possession has given him an unusually long life, and his long residence underground changed many of his other features. After Bilbo took the ring from him, Gollum has had only a single goal: to get back his precious. 

  • Gollum isn’t exactly a great character in terms of likability (I mean no one wants Gollum to succeed and steal back the ring). But he is a unique and complex character that has become iconic for the franchise.
  • The dual personality of Gollum and Smeagol illustrates the effect of the ring. Gollum is a monster who would happily kill Frodo, but Smeagol seems to adore Frodo in his own way. Gollum is all of the malice that the Ring possesses, which is bad enough, but Smeagol better displays how horrible the Ring is. Smeagol represents all that is left of the person before the ring, and that person is desperately lonely. The Ring has driven Smeagol away from all society, yet it does not fill that need for love and companionship. It is an addiction that does nothing but take.
  • Gollum is hard to pin down. Is he truly evil? While watching the story unfold, we often wonder if Gollum could possibly be redeemed. At times he seems so close, yet the desire for the Ring always manages to pull him back under. It is this ambiguity that makes Gollum such a fascinating character. 
  • So why can’t Gollum be redeemed? Surely this would make him a better, more likable, character? Maybe, except it would destroy what makes Gollum’s character so unique. Gollum is not an antihero; he is a lost cause. It is strange to see a film series devote so much time to that. Gollum’s presence is a constant tragedy, reminding us that not everyone can be saved. War will have victims. Not every hurt will heal. 
  • And yet our sympathy for Gollum, and Frodo’s, shows that part of the fight against evil is trying to save those lost causes anyway. As long as we want to help the Gollums, evil hasn’t won.

3. Frodo

Frodo Baggins is the cousin of Bilbo Baggins and was adopted by Bilbo after his parents died. When Bilbo turns 111, he leaves Frodo his magic ring and Bag End. However, Bilbo’s ring soon sweeps Frodo into a massive quest. He must venture into Mordor, and destroy the One Ring to stop the Dark Lord Sauron from conquering Middle Earth.

  • Frodo is, of course, the hero of the story, and yet he does not come across as necessarily heroic. He’s not much good in a fight, and he is not exactly brimming with confidence. However, his lack of heroic qualities makes him a better hero for this story. In this story of epic battles and kingdoms, the hero tells us that it does not take a legendary figure to defeat evil, only someone with enough courage to say “I will go”. 
  • Frodo goes through quite a lot throughout his adventure. He gets stabbed a couple of times, has to wear a ring that speaks to him, tries to get him killed, and literally gets heavier, is forced to rely on a guide that also wants to kill him, almost gets eaten by a spider, has to watch his friends suffer for his sake, and gets his finger bit off. There is only so much a normal person can endure, and I think Frodo far surpasses that limit. Frodo may be bad with a sword, but one cannot deny he is tough.
  • Frodo volunteered. It’s easy to forget this little fact, but Frodo willingly signs up for this harrowing task. He volunteers to walk into Mordor with the one thing that the evil guy who runs the place wants most. It’s crazy, and Frodo volunteers! Frodo does have the one thing that truly makes a hero: the courage to do what’s right, even when it’s probably suicidal. 

2. Aragorn

Aragorn, son of Arathorn, a descendant of Isildur and heir to the Throne of Gondor, first appears on the scene as the somewhat sketchy man called Strider. Although he initially has no intention of claiming his throne, his pledge to help Frodo will eventually lead him to Gondor and the burden of responsibility.

  • Aragorn is everything we want from a hero: loyal, brave, a skilled warrior, and a good leader. He is King material, and his initial reluctance to be King of Gondor only makes us like him more. No one likes a power-hungry ruler.
  • Aragorn transforms throughout the trilogy from a scraggly ranger to a King. With the death of Gandalf and then Boromir, he finds more and more responsibility thrust upon him. He accepts each new burden as it comes, and with each one, his capability only grows to match the occasion. Every time you think you have seen all that this guy can do, he just gets better. 
  • Aragorn is a symbol. The return of the King of Gondor marks the rise of the age of man. Aragorn’s ascension as King offers an alternative to Sauron’s rule. While Aragorn may not want to be King, he recognizes the need men have for a uniting symbol against the might of Sauron. 

1. Sam (Samwise Gamgee)

Beginning as the gardener of Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee proves himself the most loyal and dependable of companions. The only member of the Fellowship to travel with Frodo all the way to Mount Doom, Sam sees the quest to completion. 

  • Samwise Gamgee is the true hero of the Lord of the Rings. When Frodo says “Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without Sam”, truer words have never been spoken. This hobbit fights off a massive spider, sees through Gollum’s trickery, refuses to abandon Frodo even when he kind of deserves it, saves Frodo from orcs, carries the Ring, and willingly gives it back to Frodo, and carries Frodo up Mount Doom. Sam is loyal, brave, and at the same time just an ordinary hobbit. He is everything that makes the Lord of the Rings special.
  • Sam is also the best friend ever. When the quest is over, Sam does not reveal a very crucial detail. Frodo failed. He could not throw away the Ring. Sam lets Frodo get the praise, lets him be the hero, all while knowing that Frodo could not do it. In that, he demonstrates not only loyalty to his friend but also forgiveness. Not a lot of people could have put up with Frodo towards the end of the journey, but Sam refuses to give up on his friend and then forgives that friend for his mistakes. Be honest, we could all use a Sam in our lives. 
  • It’s easy to start picking on Sam for being so loyal to Frodo. Service above self is not an ideal that our current society values very strongly. But to lower Sam for his love of Frodo is unfair. Refusing to give up on a friend going through something incredibly painful and difficult does not make Sam an overly loving puppy. It makes him patient and understanding. Furthermore, giving up on Frodo would have also meant giving up on the quest, which was just a bit important. 
  • Sam is the best character in the Lord of the Rings because he best represents the central theme. Evil is kept at bay not by great heroes, but by ordinary people doing good. Sam is given no task, no demands are made of him, no one expects him to be a hero like Frodo and Aragorn, but Sam devotes himself to the quest anyway. And ultimately this gardener ensures the defeat of Sauron.  
Elizabeth hails from the farmlands of Georgia, but she has spent enough time wandering in the lands of Middle Earth, Hyrule, and Westeros to consider herself a native of many places.
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