The Gaffer’s Elite! Soundtracks

Gaffer Gamgee

Ranking All Things Middle-earth

Today I’d like to introduce you to this first post in a weekly series entitle The Gaffers Elite!, in which I will attempt to do the impossible: rank all things Middle-earth films – from most to least favourite. “Least” shouldn’t even exist in this franchise but a ranking is a ranking after all, and something has to make it at the bottom of the list.

Every week I’ll be giving a quick look at the soundtracks, characters, battles, events …. and films; what I think should be at the top of said list and what should be just below.

So let’s kick things off by ranking Howard Shore’s soundtracks!

#1 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingFoTR Soundtrack

Why? No one can deny the power of Howard Shore’s musical opening in this history-making trilogy. Peter Jackson may have provided the visuals and the storytelling, but without such a majestic and sweeping score in the first installment, The Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be as extraordinary and believable as it is.

Highlight: ‛The Departure of Boromir’


#2 The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyTH AUJ Soundtrack cover

Why? After 9 years, Howard Shore manages to draw us back into Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth. Whilst this particular soundtrack contains a large amount of familiar motifs and recurrent themes, you can’t but feel nostalgic at how the music resonates as a younger, fresher and more innocent score than The Lord of the Rings – yet, still retaining that sense of belonging to the world. Shore just got it right again.

Highlight: ‛Misty Mountains’


#3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingRoTK Soundtrack

Why? What a monumental conclusion to such a staggering trilogy. Shore manages to live up to the visuals and the sounds: weaving a grand tapestry of musical notes ranging from the dark and creepy, to the beautiful and divine.

Highlight: ‛The Eagles’


#4 The Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersTTT Soundtrack

Why? Sweeping, moving, epic. Yes, Howard Shore manages once again to pull off the gargantuan task of offering new material to the ever-expanding world of Middle-earth. Introducing new themes, races, characters and locations, we are left reeling from the invigorating intensity of these musical compositions. Simply sublime.

Highlight track: ‛Where is the Horse and the Rider’


#5 The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugDoS Soundtrack

Why? Initially, I wasn’t impressed by the soundtrack of this second installment from The Hobbit trilogy. That sentiment was instantly withdrawn once I had allowed myself to delve a few more times in the film. There is a wealth of breathtaking tracks to choose from. The creepiness of Mirkwood seeps out to haunt you; your heart pounds out of control at the urgency during the Wilderland track; not to mention this second part now being forever synonymous with Smaug’s 6-noted motif. This is pure artistic composition.

Highlight track: ‛Girion, Lord of Dale’


#6 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesThe Battle of the Five Armies Soundtrack Cover

Why? To be honest, this has been the least listened to, due to its rather recent release. Yet, Shore seems to have faltered in delivering the needed dose of awe to potentially round off 6 films. Perhaps it suffered as a result of the lacking storytelling elements and direction in the third act. Suffice to say, there are more than a few hidden gems here that are worthy of many praise and excel as other pieces of music from the entire franchise.

Highlight track: ‛Fire and Water’


I was going to do an Honourable Mentions list after this, but then I realised that there are just too many (pretty much all!) tracks from the 6 films that are as equally deserving and beautiful.

So I will reserve my judgement to let you share your most favourite and treasured pieces. Pick and choose! Mix and Match! And share in the comments section below … 😉

Next time we rank: Middle-earth Battles … ooooh

Copyright of images belongs to Warner Bros. Studios, MGM Studios and New Line Cinema

11 thoughts on “The Gaffer’s Elite! Soundtracks

  1. This is a difficult question indeed which for begins right at the top.

    I have a difficult time deciding between these three for the top spot:
    a) The Two Towers
    b) An Unexpected Journey
    c) The Desolation of Smaug

    I found The Two Towers to immediately grip the music-lover in us all with Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursuing the orcs to the “Fellowship” theme. The sweeping Rohan theme was terrific in its own right, but the music that accompanied the Ents regulating on Isengard, was, um, DAMN. That and the Hornburg made for one of my all-time favorite soundtracks of the past 15-20 years.

    Alas, that brought it even with An Unexpected Journey whose variations on the Misty Mountains orchestral theme was nothing short of epic. I also loved the Warg Scouts piece and the legendary Erebor theme. I can’t say enough about how fitting and perfect Shore’s score was for this film.

    Yet, that brings it equal with The Desolation of Smaug. For the Hobbit Trilogy, there is no better single composition that embodies the mournful state of the down-trodden, yet hard-fighting dwarves destined for greatness than the last 1:20 of Girion Lord of Dale piece. I’ve heard it referenced as “The Line/Lineage of Durin.” This is truly one of my favorite pieces of film score ever. When Shore incorporated this theme into the dwarf company’s entry into their sacred Erebor, it made the overall effect that much more profound.

  2. Kili and Tauriel’s Theme is one of my favorites. Ik, I confess, I actually liked their romance in DoS. I just disliked it in BotFA because it took away the epic Last Stand of Fili and Kili.
    K/T in DoS = really like! 🙂
    K/T in BotFa= really dislike! 😡
    However, I believe that my favorite track in all o these movies is the Shire Theme! 😀

  3. I felt the same way about the Desolation of Smaug soundtrack at first, but came to love it. Interestingly, my son, who is quite musical and plays several instruments loved if from the first viewing.

  4. The Rings scores are definitely my all time favorite movie scores. I practically know them by heart. It’s really hard to name just a few, but the Ring’s theme never fails to give me the chills, and the music in the Shire is so perfect. I also love all the music related to Rohan. The themes have a glorious quality to them, with a slightly melancholy feel at the same time. I don’t know the Hobbit scores as well yet, as they are more recent, but I absolutely fell in love with the song the Dwarves sing in the 1st one. And Billy Boyd’s song in the last was such a perfect ending. Oh, and the music in Moria is so epic! Ok, I’m stopping now…

    1. It’s very hard indeed to select just a few of the tracks. The soundtracks of The Lord of the Rings will always remain on top, but I think The Hobbit’s attempt to reach that level was a worthy one and successful in many ways. 🙂

      1. No, I think this lies at the crux of so many people’s “disappointment” with the Hobbit films. It was not intended to be on the same level as LotR! Like the source material, LotR is the much darker, deeper, and more emotional of the two stories. To make The Hobbit films more emotionally “powerful” than LotR would be stupid. In many ways I think PJ & Co. have tried to make the Hobbit films too much like LotR to its own detriment. By making the two so similar in many ways it just encourages these kinds of discussions and comparisons and lead people to hold direct, one on one comparisons instead of looking at the two as distinct, individual stories that all feed into the same overall history.

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