Parents' Guide to

The Lord of the Rings (1978)

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Animated adventure too dated and dark for younger kids.

Movie PG 1978 135 minutes
The Lord of the Rings (1978) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 7+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 6+

The story you love, the version you never saw

This is no Disney movie. The animation is unique and innovative for 1978. There are action scenes with live action motion capture heavily doctored to look like animation, which results in a realistic depiction of battles. Think Braveheart in a cartoon. This may be scary to some younger viewers. The story is a good one - if you aren't familiar with LOTR then you should know that it is one of honor, purpose, and objective good and evil, themes which are often avoided in modern children's movies. It is definitely worth watching, even without your child. However I wouldn't recommend a young child watch it without an adult. My 6 year old son and I watched it together, though he had already seen Peter Jackson's adaptation of the trilogy. Compared with the 12 hours it took for Jackson to tell this tale, 2.5 hours is much more palatable for a young child to sit through, though a trade-off is that some storylines are skipped over. In summary, this epic story is told with awesome visuals, though parental guidance is recommended for some younger viewers.
age 2+

When there’s a whip there’s a way


Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (8 ):

Some animated films hold up decade after decade, but the animation meets live-action silhouetting of this fantasy adaptation seems awfully dated more than 30 years after its release. Of course, what really makes this version seem almost obsolete at this point is the fact that Peter Jackson arguably made the definitive adaptation of Tolkien's masterpiece in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The animation might make parents think this is a good starting point for young viewers to be introduced to Tolkien, and that's true for second or third graders who may not be ready to see the intense battle scenes in Jackson's thrilling films, but much younger kids will be frightened at some of the biting action sequences in director Ralph Bakshi's interpretation.

Parents in their 40s will remember how popular this film was in 1978, and may want to share the experience with their children. If they've seen Jackson's epic trilogy, however, don't be surprised if they don't understand some of the story changes and characterizations (especially Gandalf, who's much sterner and duller in this version since he's responsible for explaining what's going on to the viewer). Some of the director's choices seem downright cheesy now, like the fact that Sauron is just the black shadow of a horned man wearing a cloak, or the orcs that look like mummies or mannequins, and let's not even speak of the completely live-action Helm's Deep battle, which ends triumphantly. Then the narrator informs viewers that the battle for Middle-earth has been won -- but anyone familiar with the story knows that's not true -- the Fellowship gathers up their forces to march on Mordor. There's nothing wrong with adaptations that take liberties, but this one seems off -- like the filmmakers were forced to put a prematurely happy ending to a story that continues.

Movie Details

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