The Lord of the Rings record at the Academy Awards

This chart does not include categories that are inapplicable.

Categories in orange bold face swept nominations for all three films.

The Fellowship
of the Ring
The Two
The Return
of the King
Nom. Won Nom. Won Nom. Won Nom. Won
Actor in a Leading Role
Actor in a Supporting Role X 1
Actress in a Leading Role
Actress in a Supporting Role
Adapted Screenplay X X X 2 1
Best Picture X X X X 3 1
Director X X X 2 1
Art Direction X X X X 3 1
Cinematography X X 1 1
Costume Design X X X 2 1
Film Editing X X X X 3 1
Makeup X X X X 2 2
Original Score X X X X 2 2
Original Song X X X 2 1
Sound X X X X 3 1
Sound Editing X X 1 1
Visual Effects X X X X X X 4 4
Totals: 13 4 6 2 11 11 30 17
31% 33% 100% 57%
Funny Stuff

Here is an article that had me in stitches:

Here's a comic by Scott Kurtz


The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King each earned more nominations than any other film in its year.

The trilogy as a whole has earned more nominations than any other series of films, beating The Godfather by two.

Each film of the trilogy earned a nomination for Best Picture. Altogether, there are five categories in which the trilogy was nominated three years in a row (and Original Score should have been a sixth; see below). All three films won Visual Effects, the only category in which the entire trilogy swept. (Again, Original Score should have been a second.)

The numbers take a dip in the middle with The Two Towers, but the Sound Editing category bucks the trend. Thanks to The Two Towers earning that nomination, only 3 of 17 applicable categories are missing a nomination for the entire trilogy.

Put me firmly within the camp of people who believe that Andy Serkis deserved at least one nomination for Actor in a Supporting Role. All the animators in the world would have made Gollum look like a brick were it not for Andy's performance to give them a template. His voice work, body movements, facial expressions and dedication to the character were fantastic. If Gollum could not possibly have come to life without Andy's performance – which he couldn't – then why should that performance be discounted?

The Two Towers was snubbed for a nomination in the Original Score category. The Academy said the reason was that since Howard Shore had already won an Academy Award for the first film, his music for the second was ineligible. New Line Cinema pitched a fit, claiming (correctly) that almost 90% of the music for The Two Towers was original composition. Had this been taken into consideration beforehand, I feel certain that The Two Towers would have been nominated for Original Score, and might very well have won. The Return of the King rightly was nominated also.

In the chart above, there's a lot of blank space in the four acting categories, Ian McKellan being the sole recipient of any nomination. By far, this trilogy contained the finest ensemble cast of any film I've ever seen. Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Andy Serkis, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood, in my opinion, gave acting performances worthy of Academy recognition, even if in nominations only. Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, John Noble, Brad Dourif, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill and David Wenham were also superb. Shame on the Academy for snubbing one of the finest all-around casts ever assembled in the history of cinema.

The Fellowship of the Ring should have won Costume Design and Art Direction. The time, care and detail – over a year's worth of work – which went into both of these far surpasses what has been done for any other film in history.

The beacon fires scene alone should have earned The Return of the King a Cinematography nomination. I am stunned by that snub. At least The Fellowship of the Ring won.

The Fellowship of the Ring should have won Adapted Screenplay. I can't think of any novel in the world that was, or would be, harder to adapt to the big screen than The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

But on to The Return of the King.


It was nominated for 11 awards, and it won 11 awards, tying Ben Hur and Titanic for the most ever.

Out of all that it was nominated for, I feel that The Return of the Kingas a bare minimum – wholly deserved:

I wanted so very badly for The Return of the King to win Best Picture and Director. I've been waiting for these movies for over two decades, and they were more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. If it hadn't won both of those awards, I would have been seriously dejected.

Yet, on a deeper, more soulful level, I actually wanted it to win Adapted Screenplay more than any other award, partially because I'm a writer also. I simply cannot stress enough how difficult it was to translate Tolkien's work to the screen. It was huge, it didn't follow "proper" storytelling formula, and the first two films did not win this category. I felt that the difficulty of the screenplay needed to be recognized more than anything else. It was the also the category about which I was most worried; I feared that sentimentality for Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, and ignorance of how complicated Tolkien's novel is, would combine to shut out The Lord of the Rings entirely in this category. But they won!

And they did win Best Picture and Director. It was a night for which I've been waiting for years. And the Best Picture award was handed to Peter Jackson by none other than Steven Spielberg! God, I felt like having a cigarette.

Neither Matrix film, nor Terminator 3, was nominated for Visual Effects. Interesting.

If only The Return of the King had been nominated for Cinematography! I think it would have won, thus enabling The Return of the King to set the new record at 12. Alas. (Sub-groups within the academy nominate, but the entire academy votes.)

I find it interesting that in some categories (Cinematography, Original Score) the attitude (at least at one time) was that awarding the first film was enough, and the second two could be skipped since they were merely continuations. Yet in other categories (Best Picture, Director), the attitude was that the final film should be crowned for all three and the first two could be skipped. And in yet still other categories (Visual Effects, Art Direction), no one had anything against nominating all three films one year after another. All this from the same organization, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Let's hear it for consistency.

Back to the Lord of the Rings page

Back to my home page