Legolas in Troy

The influence of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies on cinematic portrayals of ancient Greece and Rome


  • Antony Keen University of Notre Dame (USA) in England



Classical movies, Lord of the Rings, Classical reception, Peter Jackson, fantasy movies


The Lord of the Rings movies were a cinematic phenomenon, extremely popular. They are not often considered as works of Classical Reception. These films’ influence on subsequent ancient world movies has been understudied, and undervalued. A common model of cinematic Greece and Rome in the twenty-first century looks solely back to Gladiator. Undoubtedly Gladiator, and its commercial success, is important to how ancient world movies developed; but focussing solely on Gladiator does not explain a move away from Roman history towards Greek mythology, culminating in a flurry of movies about Greek mythological heroes. Lord of the Rings is an overlooked factor. Already in Troy two LOTR stars are in key roles, and the battle scenes seek to imitate those of Jackson’s trilogy. 300 mythologizes far beyond Frank Miller’s graphic novel, adding several monsters; LOTR’s influence is at play here. LOTR’s influence was one factor in a complex process that saw ancient world movies change in the twentyfirst century. LOTR fed into an atmosphere that moved ancient world movies towards Greece, away from Rome, through promoting the appeal of a combination of epic and the fantastic.