One ring to rule them all. It’s one of the most famous lines from The Lord of the Rings, but it may also apply to the film franchise it spawned. The Peter Jackson-directed trilogy revolutionised filmmaking, and inspired a small but respectable line of LEGO sets. Long after its release, they remain impressive fantasy-themed entries in the broader LEGO lineup.
LEGO Lord of the Rings history
The Lord of the Rings started life as a novel by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. Its various parts were published from 1954 to 1955; the original intention was to publish it as a single work, although most people will recognise it as a trilogy of books instead.
Set in the fantasy realm of Middle-earth, the story follows a hobbit (a species of diminutive, humanoid creatures) called Frodo Baggins. With the aid of several friends, Frodo must travel to the perilous land of Mordor. It is there – and only there – that he can destroy the One Ring, a powerful magical object sought by the malevolent Sauron.
The original books are some of the most famous in fantasy literature, and have inspired numerous adaptations since their release. However, a film adaptation proved to be something of a sticking point. While early adaptation attempts inspired other films (such as Excalibur and Willow) a live-action, feature-length version of the original story remained out of reach for some time.
That all changed at the turn of the century, when The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring graced our screens. Directed by Peter Jackson and debuting in 2001, the film won praise for its visuals, acting and faithfulness to the original work. The Two Towers and The Return of the King received similar accolades; today, the film trilogy is one of the highest grossing in the world. It’s also a critical darling, with 17 Academy Awards to its name.
Despite the trilogy’s massive success, LEGO sets inspired by it wouldn’t appear until long after the trilogy ended. The first LEGO Lord of the Rings sets appeared in 2012 – and even then, they weren’t a tie-in for the original films. They appeared alongside merchandise for The Hobbit, whose first film adaptation was debuting in cinemas at the time.
When it comes to LEGO licensed sets, this approach is par for the course. LEGO Star Wars – by far the most successful licensed theme – launched in 1999, joining The Phantom Menace’s theatrical debut. Similarly, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean appeared in 2011 – at a time when the franchise was enjoying a (brief) resurgence. It’s common for LEGO themes to piggyback old subject matter on newer projects, even if the newer ones are often less popular than their predecessors.
This may explain why the collection of Lord of the Rings sets remains small. 16 sets (including some promotional items) tied directly into the film trilogy when The Hobbit was released. The franchise also had a starring role in the video game LEGO Dimensions, which saw Gandalf reappear as a starring character.
Since then, no new Lord of the Rings LEGO has appeared on shelves. However, there’s a slim possibility that could change going forwards. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is an ambitious new, Amazon-produced prequel TV series, bringing fans to an earlier era of Middle-earth’s history. That said, it is not – for legal reasons – a direct continuation of the films we fell in love with. That factor, combined with the absence of many beloved characters, may prevent a ‘return of the king’.
LEGO Lord of the Rings sets
The Lord of the Rings takes place in a bucolic, high-fantasy world, with the LEGO sets it inspired reflecting that environment. As such, many of these sets would be right at home in a broader LEGO Castle collection.
The Fellowship of the Ring
Eight LEGO sets directly reference The Fellowship of the Ring, recreating pivotal scenes from the movie. 9469 Gandalf Arrives is one of the more accessible: it depicts Gandalf’s arrival in the Shire at the start of the movie, with a cheerful Frodo Baggins there to greet him. The horse-drawn cart is also quite versatile, and includes a few of the fireworks Gandalf lets off during Bilbo’s birthday party.
Of course, things don’t stay cosy and peaceful for long. The discovery of the One Ring sends Frodo and his friends away from the Shire and right into the hands of the Ringwraiths. 9472 Attack on Weathertop depicts a chunk of windswept ruin, but it packs in a large number of play features.
The main build can open up to better access its interior, which features flaming torches and a pair of flick-fire missiles. A trapdoor also allows you to get the drop – literally – on one of the two included Ringwraiths, one of which comes with a horse.
Frodo and Merry – his dim-witted fellow hobbit – appear in this set, as does Aragorn. A particularly interesting feature of the set is the One Ring, which is depicted with a new element. While it’s a little out of scale with its owner, it’s a great accessory thanks to its golden chrome finish.
The ring has also proven remarkably versatile, appearing in sets long after this theme’s retirement. It’s used as an engagement ring in 10243 Parisian Restaurant, and as decoration in 70751 Temple of Airjitzu.
Orcs are some of the most fearsome enemies in the Lord of the Rings movies, and earned their own set in 9476 The Orc Forge. This large structure is dedicated to creating weapons for the orcs to use in combat, although new orcs can also be ‘birthed’ from the ground beneath it.
A wooden bucket filled with metal can be raised to the top of a slope via a winch, and its contents can be tipped into a cauldron. This cauldron can then be transferred to a flaming pit, which uses a light brick to better stimulate the flames. A section under the winch breaks apart to reveal an orc, reflecting their grotesque arrival into the world.
Unsurprisingly, the included minifigures and accessories may prove more appealing. Two Mordor orcs, an Uruk-hai and Lurtz can be found in this set, alongside swords shields, breastplates and helmets for them to use. The shields and helmets are especially interesting; they feature unique designs and white handprints. How said handprints were produced in this context remains a mystery.
The orcs in the Fellowship of the Ring are commanded by Saruman, a wizard corrupted into the service of Sauron. His dramatic showdown with Gandalf is referenced in 79005 The Wizard Battle; both Saruman and Gandalf appear here, although Gandalf is missing both his hat and his cloak this time around.
This is one of only two LEGO sets to include Saruman. The inclusion of this character and its low price made its purchase a no-brainer for Lord of the Rings fans, although sadly he’s rather expensive to buy on his own nowadays.
A chunk of the Tower of Orthanc can be found here as well; while small, some impressive play features are included. A crystal ball in the middle of the build can spin around to reveal the Eye of Sauron, while Saruman can be hurtled from his throne by pressing on a bar built into it.
The titular Fellowship of the Ring is formed during the Council of Elrond in the elven home of Rivendell. This pivotal scene is referenced in 79006 The Council of Elrond, which recreates some of Rivendell’s architecture. Its mix of warm browns and pearl golds captures the essence of this scene quite effectively.
Like the other Lord of the Rings sets, this one isn’t just a pretty face. A section of the set can be raised up to catapult a minifigure backwards. This references Gimli’s ill-fated attempted to destroy the One Ring with his hammer; Gimli is included for this purpose, alongside Frodo, Arwen and Elrond himself.
The Fellowship is forced to travel through the mines of Moria towards the film’s end. 9473 The Mines of Moria depicts an early fight in this scene – specifically, the one in Balin’s tomb. The set includes a brick-built rendition of the tomb itself, as well as the surrounding masonry and a well into which a skeleton can be tipped. A treasure chest with various valuables can also be found here.
As befitting the set’s size, the minifigure selection is suitably generous. Two skeletons and two Moria orcs can be found here, as can a mighty cave troll which uses bespoke elements. On the heroes’ side, Pippin, Gimli, Boromir and Legolas can be found in this set. A selection of swords, axes and other weapons allow for a thrilling battle to be waged.
The Two Towers
The Two Towers received just three conventional sets that directly reference its events. Two of these focus on the Battle of Helm’s Deep, one of the movie’s more thrilling scenes.
On the cheaper end of the spectrum, 9471 Uruk-hai Army recreates a small part of Helm’s Deep itself. Although this stretch of wall is relatively short, there’s a lot of thoughtful design features in it. A built-in staircase allows soldiers on the ground floor to reach the ramparts. These feature a removable catapult, a flag and a torch to play with.
On the villains’ side, a large ballista can be constructed. This houses two flick-fire missiles, which have grappling hooks attached to the front. However, rather than being flicked they are fired by sliding a trigger on top of the ballista itself: a more elegant solution than what we’re used to.
Six minifigures – four orcs and two soldiers, including Eomer – are included with this set. If you were looking to recreate the battle of Helm’s Deep on a budget, this may have been the set for you.
Of course, the real star of the show here is 9474 The Battle of Helm’s Deep. This massive medieval structure includes two main components: an outer wall with a large tower (upon which the Horn of Helm Hammerhand is positioned) and a throne room that sits behind it. A part of the outer wall is destructible, and there are plenty of places to pose minifigures on top of it.
The throne room is smaller, but comes with several attractive features: an ornate chair, a dining table with food, weapons racks and a large, attractive banner. Four Uruk-hai orcs are included to storm the fortress, as are minifigures of Gimli, Aragorn, Haldir and King Theoden.
The other LEGO set inspired by The Two Towers is 10237 The Tower of Orthanc. By far the theme’s most ambitious set, it measures almost 75cm tall and uses 2,359 pieces. Six interior rooms give fans plenty to interact with, though space in each one is relatively limited.
The bottom room contains a dungeon with all the usual trappings – a ball and chain, mismatched bones and a rat. A pack of wargs can also be found here, although they’re produced with stickered detail.
The entrance hall is relatively less interesting, containing a chandelier, a statue, and a pair of axes and banners. The mysterious handprints can be seen again on these elements. There’s also a trapdoor to deposit unwelcome visitors in the dungeon.
An alternate version of the tower’s throne room is on level three, bearing some resemblance to 79005 The Wizard Battle. That set’s throne, lanterns and crystal ball reappear here, although some small shelving units are added this time around. A balcony is provided, from which Saruman can observe the lands surrounding the tower.
Interestingly, the chandelier in the entrance hall works in tandem with this room. Pushing on the chandelier’s underside triggers a light brick, illuminating the crystal ball in the process.
The upper chambers of the tower (which can be detached from the ones beneath them) contain an alchemy room with a cauldron and various potions. Wisely, the torches are extinguished on this level. The next level contains various books and portraits of Middle-earth wizards, while the top level acts as a reference to certain lines from the movie.
The very top of the tower contains an open area for Gandalf to be kept captive on. While lacking in conventional play features, an area like this is essential for any LEGO version of this building.
In addition to the tower itself, a massive brick-built Ent can be found in this model. It features extensive articulation thanks to both click hinges and ball-and-socket joints. Its hands can easily grip minifigures – convenient, considering most of them in this set have hostile intentions! A pre-moulded eagle with articulated wings also makes an appearance, and can be ridden by a minifigure.
An Uruk-hai, a Mordor orc, Grima Wormtongue, Gandalf and Saruman accompany the Tower of Orthanc. Grima Wormtongue can only be found in this model, making this set highly desirable for Lord of the Rings completionists.
The Return of the King
The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to a triumphant close in The Return of the King. While this film also received just three sets, they’re unusually diverse in their subject matter. As such, they’re an excellent choice for any LEGO fan.
9470 Shelob Attacks contains several key characters from the movie, although it’s inadvisable for arachnophobes. It features Shelob herself – a giant spider who can shoot out ‘webbing’ to ensnare her prey. Her legs feature extensive articulation, and a small chunk of terrain is also included. Frodo, Sam and Gollum accompany her, and come with various accessories including the One Ring itself.
The way to Mordor is barred by the formidable Black Gate, which 79007 Battle at the Black Gate recreates. Bearing a superficial similarity to the Tower of Orthanc, most of the set’s pieces go into the gates themselves. While relatively narrow, they can be walked across and barred to keep out intruders.
The gates are accompanied by a large tower with some interior space; the bottom of it can hinge upwards to allow entry by the film’s heroes. A small catapult can also be fired from the top of it. Only one tower is included in this set; however, multiple copies of the set can be connected together for a more accurate appearance.
The eagle from 10237 The Tower of Orthanc reappears here, alongside Gandalf the White, Aragorn and a pair of Mordor orcs. Another interesting minifigure is the Mouth of Sauron, who features an intricately detailed helmet and a toothy grin.
Pirate ships have appeared on several occasions in LEGO form, but 97008 Pirate Ship Ambush is definitely one of the most unusual. Its hull is shallower than most other LEGO pirate ships, while its sails run parallel with the hull instead of at a perpendicular angle. An onboard dungeon allows you to hold a minifigure captive while the ship is in transit.
Other, more familiar features of the ship (like anchors, a moveable rudder and a ship’s wheel) are also included, as is a great selection of minifigures. In addition to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, two Mordor orcs and a Pirate of Umbar can be found here. The King of the Dead and two of his soldiers round out the minifigure selection, allowing for plenty of different play scenarios.
LEGO Lord of the Rings minifigures
Minifigures are a draw of any LEGO licensed theme, and the Lord of the Rings theme has plenty to enjoy. Beloved characters like Frodo, Gandalf and Gollum debuted in LEGO form, with some enticing design choices made to bring them to life.
However, the relatively short lifespan of the theme means that collecting all the main characters can be challenging – particularly as several only appear in a single set. This is par for the course for licensed LEGO products, although it does mean modern-day Lord of the Rings fans may struggle to recreate Middle-earth as a LEGO version.
Frodo – the protagonist of the trilogy – is relatively easy to find. He appears across four Lord of the Rings sets, with his brown jacket and red waistcoat being worn in most cases. However, 9469 Gandalf Arrives features a Frodo in a sand green shirt – reflecting his appearance at the start of the trilogy.
Frodo also receives a new hair element with extensive texture. This captures the look and feel of his thick hair in the movies quite effectively, and is shared amongst LEGO versions of Pippin, Merry and Sam.
In keeping with their short stature, all LEGO hobbits use shorter leg elements to scale them properly with other characters. However, they lack the dual-moulding of later minifigures, which means their large, hairy feet are (as yet) unrepresented in LEGO form.
The dwarf Gimli also uses shorter legs in his minifigure counterpart. His minifigure is identical across his appearances in the theme, but he uses a new beard and helmet element in each case. The helmet is particularly attractive thanks to the detailed printing across multiple surfaces.
The other members of the Fellowship of the Ring make appearances in the Lord of the Rings theme, although they are relatively less interesting. Aragorn and Boromir are structurally identical, using a shaggy hair element that appeared in the Prince of Persia theme. Both also wear capes – at least in some sets – although Boromir’s hair and facial features are ginger rather than brown.
Legolas – one of the best possible candidates for a licensed minifigure – receives a new hair element, with pointed ears and long, flowing hair. His expression is suitably serene, and his head features prominent cheek lines to reflect his elfin visage.
Legolas’ fellow LEGO elves have similar facial features, although their hairstyles vary. Elrond is particularly interesting; his hair element includes a silver crown, while the hair itself comes with textured plaits than hang down his front. He features both friendly and stern expressions, although a fiercer version – 5000202 Elrond – was included with the LEGO Lord of the Rings video game.
Female elf Arwen comes with a similar hairstyle, although she lacks the crown and plaiting of Elrond’s hair element. Like Elrond she comes with two expressions; one is serene, while another is more perturbed. She can be found in 79006 The Council of Elrond, alongside Elrond himself.
Wise wizard Gandalf appears on several occasions in LEGO sets, with slight variations in most of his appearances. His floppy wizard hat is surprisingly rare in the main Lord of the Rings theme; it can only be found in 9469 Gandalf Arrives, with other versions using a long, grey hair element.
While this hair isn’t immediately desirable, it does come with some benefits. It allows either cheerful or angry expressions to be displayed, even if the fine detail is concealed beneath his beard.
Following his encounter with the Balrog, Gandalf returns as Gandalf the White. In keeping with this new name, he receives white leg and torso elements as well as a white cape. He also shares an (unprinted) hair piece with Saruman, with hair that hangs around his temples more prominently.
The villains of The Lord of the Rings are splendidly rendered in LEGO form. The aforementioned Saruman is a particular highlight, thanks to his bespoke hair element and malevolent expression. He shares a head element with a later version of Count Dooku in the Star Wars theme, since both live-action characters were played by the late Christopher Lee. As such, Star Wars fans may find unexpected joy in this theme.
Grima Wormtongue – an agent of Saruman – is similarly interesting. While most licensed LEGO characters use a light nougat skin colour, this one uses a yellow shade to depict his sallow appearance. He features both anxious and angry expressions, as well as a black cape to complement his dark outfit.
Other minions of Sauron approach their subject matter from different directions. The Ringwraiths use standard hood elements and raggedy cloaks, with relatively simple torso printing to depict their black robes. Interestingly, their black head elements are completely unprinted.
The Mouth of Sauron is a bit more unusual. Like other characters in the theme, he relies upon an intricately detailed helmet to capture his appearance. This helmet conceals his eyes (although none are printed on the head itself) while leaving his mouth exposed.
A wide variety of orcs appear in the Lord of the Rings theme. There are many different factions represented in LEGO form, which results in some variation in skin colour and facial features.
A few of the orcs (in sets like 9476 The Orc Forge and 9472 The Mines of Moria) come with moulded ears on their hair elements. Since many other orcs lack these ears (replacing them with helmets or nothing at all) these are very desirable. However, the unusual skin tones do limit their usability elsewhere.
The Uruk-hai are especially interesting characters thanks to their intricate printing and bespoke helmet elements. That said, the Uruk-hai Berserker – which can be found in 9474 The Battle of Helm’s Deep – goes in a very different direction. It features no helmet or neck elements, relying solely on head and torso printing to capture its wild appearance. Its face is concealed beneath a printed mask, although its sharp teeth are still visible.
A few more grotesque characters can be found in the Lord of the Rings theme. The King of the Dead and two of his soldiers can be found in 97008 Pirate Ship Ambush. Despite using standard minifigure parts, they are distinguished by their rotting appearance and rare sand green helmets. Their heads even glow in the dark, making these very special LEGO characters in any context.
Gollum appears in a single Lord of the Rings set – 9470 Shelob Attacks – alongside Frodo and Sam. He uses a brand new body element that reflects his emaciated appearance, as well as a pair of custom arms. He also features a stud on his back, which allows bricks to be attached to it.
The most exciting character in the Lord of the Rings theme is probably the cave troll, who appears in 9473 The Mines of Moria. With his blue skin and hulking appearance, he immediately stands out in any LEGO scene. His arms can move back and forth and his hands can rotate, reflecting the articulation of other LEGO bigfigs.
LEGO Lord of the Rings game
In 2012, a LEGO video game inspired by The Lord of the Rings was released on contemporary games platforms. This allowed LEGO fans to delve into a more expansive Lord of the Rings world than the LEGO sets themselves would allow.
LEGO Lord of the Rings didn’t reinvent the wheel when it came to LEGO game design. It was well-received at the time, reflecting the relatively fresh nature of its core mechanics. That said, it was possible the novelty was beginning to wear off this style of LEGO game design.
Players can relive the films by playing through 18 levels (six for each movie), engaging in simple puzzle-solving and combat along the way. They can also engage in boss battles against more formidable foes, such as Saruman and the Balrog.
The game builds upon the foundations laid down by games such as LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. Story levels are broken up by open-world areas, allowing you to visit familiar locales such as the Shire and Rivendell. These contain their own challenges and hidden items, and you can even mark points of interest for later exploration.
A particularly interesting addition to gameplay is a crafting mechanic. This requires the collection of Mithril Bricks during the course of gameplay, which can be found in a similar manner to Gold Bricks in other LEGO titles. This in turn allows you to create tools which can be used during the game.
If there’s one area in which the game may suffer, it’s in a lack of scope during combat. The Lord of the Rings is renowned for its sweeping battle scenes, but the LEGO version tends to limit these to combat within a relatively small area instead. Still, this is in keeping with LEGO game design more broadly.
With impressive (for the time) graphics and much of the films’ original audio, LEGO Lord of the Rings is a solid introduction to the series for younger fans. However, as is typical for LEGO games, older players may find it underwhelming.
In 2015, The Lord of the Rings earned a spot in LEGO Dimensions: the LEGO Group’s toys-to-life title. Gandalf is included in all versions of the game’s Starter Pack, allowing you to use the wizard right out of the box.
The game’s main story sees Gandalf join Batman and The LEGO Movie’s Wyldstyle on a journey across the multiverse, visiting Minas Tirith in one story level. An open-world Lord of the Rings world can also be explored, containing various puzzles to solve and quests to complete.
Within the game Gandalf can use his magic to levitate objects, illuminate darkened areas and protect himself from harm. Several other Lord of the Rings characters (including Gimli, Legolas and Gollum) were made available for separate purchase.
Each of these additional characters features distinct abilities and a small vehicle to build. Gollum comes with a tiny Shelob the Great, offering an innovative route to this character in LEGO form.