Peter Jackson's Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug director.

91%

5. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

It took a few decades to get there, but once J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books finally, officially made their way to theaters, they did it in a big way -- and they did it the right way, courtesy of Peter Jackson's sure-handed direction (and a $93 million budget), not to mention a pitch-perfect cast that included Elijah Wood (as the pure-hearted hobbit Frodo), Sean Astin (as his stalwart friend Samwise), and Ian McKellen (as the mighty wizard Gandalf), united in their quest to save Middle-earth from the malignant advances of the dark lord Sauron. Full of eye-popping special effects (including those used to bring to life the warped Gollum, played by Andy Serkis) and bolstered by a screenplay that did justice to its hefty source material, it was an unqualified smash -- both with audiences and with critics like the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, who observed, "Watching it, one can't help but get the impression that everyone involved was steeped in Tolkien's work, loved the book, treasured it and took care not to break a cherished thing in it."


94%

4. Heavenly Creatures

Jackson's impressively violent early work might have made him a natural fit for a movie about the grisly true-life tale of two teenage girls (played by Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet) whose obsessive relationship leads to a shocking act of bruality -- but few of his fans could have been prepared for Heavenly Creatures, an absorbing, assured film that blended elements of drama, science fiction, and romance while drawing beautifully compelling performances from its leads. Ultimately nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar at the Academy Awards, Creatures vaulted Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh to international acclaim, jump-started Winslet's film career, and wowed critics like David Rooney of Variety, who wrote that it "Combines original vision, a drop-dead command of the medium and a successful marriage between a dazzling, kinetic techno-show and a complex, credible portrait of the out-of-control relationship between the crime's two schoolgirl perpetrators."


94%

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

After all that buildup, the final installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy had a lot of epic expectations to live up to -- and by most accounts, 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King met or exceeded them, delivering the franchise's passionate fanbase a suitably sweeping conclusion to the saga that many of them had loved since long before Jackson ever stepped behind a camera. Clearly, given all the anticipation that later greeted The Hobbit, Jackson was the right person to adapt the beloved books that served as his movies' source material; as Bill Muller put it for the Arizona Republic, "Not only has Jackson boldly and faithfully brought J.R.R. Tolkien's world to life, he's created the most epic and sweeping fantasy adventure of all time."


96%

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

He set a high bar for himself with the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring -- and then Jackson surpassed it with the second installment, 2002's The Two Towers, which took a plotline that largely amounted to a lot of walking and turned it into a legitimate three-hour epic, complete with elves, dwarves, hobbits, amazing large-scale battles, and sentient, ambulatory trees. A two-time Academy Award winner (and Best Picture nominee), The Two Towers racked up nearly a billion dollars worldwide during its theatrical run, and prompted suitably hefty praise from critics like Salon's Charles Taylor, who opined, "Yes, there are some 'middle-chapter' problems, but Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptation hasn't lost its devastating humanity, its heart-stopping cinematography or its epic sweep."


100%

1. Forgotten Silver

From Preston Tucker to Joe Meek and beyond, we love biopics about overlooked, overshadowed, and/or forgotten pioneers -- so when Peter Jackson premiered Forgotten Silver, an alleged documentary about the unjustly forgotten New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie, its claims that McKenzie was responsible for the first talkie and color film proved irresistible to many viewers. Only one problem: None of it was true, and Jackson -- who co-wrote and co-directed with his friend Costa Botes -- was actually perpetrating a skillful fraud, right down to the interview segments with Miramax's Harvey Weinstein and film critic Leonard Maltin. Some were understandably annoyed when the truth came out, but that didn't prevent critics from bestowing universal praise; as Wade Major wrote for Boxoffice Magazine, "Forgotten Silver succeeds best because it was birthed by the filmmakers' own innate love for the art and history of movie making, a joy that bleeds through in every frame of the film."


In case you were wondering, here are Jackson's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring -- 95%
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers -- 95%
3. Dead Alive -- 87%
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King -- 86%
5. Heavenly Creatures -- 84%
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- 83%
7. Forgotten Silver -- 82%
8. Bad Taste -- 76%
9. Meet the Feebles -- 73%
10. The Frighteners -- 72%


Take a look through Jackson's complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.

Finally, here's a (slightly NSFW) compedium of Peter Jackson cameos:

Comments

Market Man

Eric Shankle

Dead Alive is a damn good zombie flick. Didn't like Heavenly Creatures. Of course I love The Lord of the Rings, in my opinion it's the greatest trilogy of all time and some of the best films ever made.

Dec 12 - 04:48 PM

Will Lasley

Will Lasley

Agree with pretty much every word of that.

Dec 16 - 08:22 PM

Gerald Tofusandwich

Gerald Tofusandwich

Heavenly Creatures is far and away the best thing Jackson has ever done.

Dec 23 - 09:32 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

Heavenly Creatures is by far and away, indubitably, without a shadow of Mordor, easily the best thing he's done. Well said Gerald! Jackson's fall from grace, from the sublime masterpiece that is Heavenly Creatures, to the "Feeble" work of Lovely Bones, King Kong, and the lowest, most contemptible ebb, Unexpected Journey - in fact the entire Hobbit trilogy is among the most worthless Hollywood projects of all time - is surely one of the cinema's worst, most astonishing and calamitous cases of artist regression (with the possible exception of Orson Welles signing off with the voice of Optimus Prime. But at least that had a humble, campy charm). Whether his success went to his head, whether he just got lazy, or greedy or whether his earlier masterpieces were just flukes - I cannot think of another film maker who has gone so dramatically from the sublime to the ridiculous toxic garbage as Mr. Jackson.

Dec 11 - 06:09 PM

Market Man

Eric Shankle

I'd say that Fellowship of the Ring is his best work but I do agree that post-LOTR he has been rather weak. King Kong was alright, didn't see The Lovely Bones, and The Hobbit: AUJ was a huge disappointment. PJ seems to care more about visuals now instead of emotional depth and proper narrative flow. LOTR had a lot of visuals as well but it wasn't used in such excess as we see in AUJ (and apparently it's bad in the sequel as well, many video game comparisons). It's funny that FOTR, made over 10 years ago, has scenes such as Moria and Amon Hen that trump anything in The Hobbit.

Dec 11 - 08:14 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Orson Wells voiced Unicron, not Optimus Prime. Everything you else you wrote seems pretty spot on though.

Dec 20 - 12:58 AM

Charles Hopper

Charles Hopper

It amuses me how you overstate such a subjective opinion into something objective when it is clearly not meant to be that way. I enjoyed The Hobbit: AUJ and think it does justice to the source material and is a fine standalone movie. Does the pacing slog at times? Yes. Could there be more practical effects? Certainly. Should you let these things bother you? Not at all. I'd be nice if they were better, but I still enjoyed the package in its entirety. And The Desolation of Smaug should be an improvement. I'll wait and see, but I'm hopeful.

Dec 11 - 10:18 PM

Alessandro Moroni

Alessandro Moroni

AUJ completely lacks a narrative focus and is severely inflated by excerpts taken from LOTR trilogy those have nothing to deal with Tolkien's story. It's a much over-filmed "prequel to the prequel", and I'm afraid that despite the obvious improvment of DOS (for sure, couldn't be worse than AUJ) the whole Hobbit trilogy will be remembered as an inflated work not bringing major glory at all to the brilliant LOTR moviemaker.

Dec 12 - 12:16 AM

Charles Hopper

Charles Hopper

I'm sick of people comparing things they don't like in movies in video games. It's rather unprofessional. While I did see one spot where the visuals seemed sub-par (By movie standards. Not comparing to video games.), and there might be more, I've still heard positive things about the visual and practical effects and how better they are than in An Unexpected Journey. As the second and third movies release, we'll grow more attached to people like Bilbo, like in the book. Can't wait!

Dec 12 - 12:14 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Oh Yeah, The Hobbit is suppose to be at Bilbo huh? Ha, doesn't really play at that way in the films. No no no we need to focus on Thorin Oakenshield and his right as King! What High Stakes! He either returns as King under the mountain?OR DOESN'T! Yes what high stakes in deed.

Dec 20 - 01:00 AM

Andrew Rossi

Andrew Rossi

how is return of the king rated so low by viewers? grant it 83% is not bad, but i kinda would like to hear how someone could not like those movies.

Dec 12 - 04:58 PM

Anthony DePierro

Anthony DePierro

Stupid, the audience is.

Dec 12 - 06:34 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Stupid fffat audienceses'!!!

Dec 12 - 06:46 PM

Spirit Bear

Martin Tam

small attention span I bet

Dec 12 - 08:24 PM

Bertram Krogh

Bertram Krogh

Worse is that King Kong is nowhere to be found on the viewerâ??s list..

Dec 13 - 12:43 AM

Movie Fail

Soren Hough

I mean, I personally think The Two Towers is easily the best of the three films. I liked The Return of the King like I liked The Fellowship of the Ring, but The Two Towers is a step beyond... The tension-building toward the magnificent battle of Helm's Deep is unparalleled.

Dec 13 - 02:33 AM

King  S.

King Simba

The tension leading to Helm's Deep was incredible, but I slightly preffered the buildup to the Battle of Minas Tirith in Return of the King. For two hours I was on the edge of my seat waiting and almost dreading for the battle to start.

Dec 13 - 03:52 AM

Dave J

Dave J

All I can say is about that is that the theatrical version is not as good as the extended version soley because viewers wanted to know what happened to Sauron for his whereabouts was absent in the short version!

Dec 13 - 12:12 PM

Morgan Hayes

Morgan Hayes

It's most likely because Return of the King has 33,000,000 votes, compared to Fellowship's 1.2 million, so it's much harder to maintain such a high level of acclaim. Same goes for Jackson's King Kong at 32,000,000 votes, which is at a 53%.

Dec 14 - 01:25 AM

Jared Hansen

Jared Hansen

I like the series but ROTK is the weakest for me, because it becomes too overblown to take seriously and the script is pretty ragged around the edges. Some of the characters get butchered in the adaptation as well. That's not mentioning the obvious poor choices in editing - the infamous 30 minute ending being the worst offender.

Dec 28 - 10:56 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

I think it's because out of the 3 films it took the most liberties with the original story. I could elaborate if you'd like.

Dec 20 - 01:02 AM

Teddy K.

Ryan Gavetti

Bad Taste is an unbelievably fun movie to watch nowadays. You can certainly tell Jackson understands and excels in the medium of film even from his low-budget projects like Bad Taste. It's a ridiculous outing, but I'm still surprised by the superb technical command Jackson had here.

Dec 12 - 05:06 PM

Preston Orrick

Preston Orrick

The original cover has the alien giving the middle finger!

Dec 12 - 04:40 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

"Forgotten Silver" is hardly a movie at 53 minutes. It was a TV program that never had a theatrical run.

"Meet the Feebles" and "Dead Alive" remain Jackson's greatest accomplishments. I mean, other than that Ring thing.

Dec 12 - 05:20 PM

Willem DaPerson

Willem DaPerson

Yes, that whole Fantasy bother...

Dec 11 - 04:32 PM

Christopher Kulik

Christopher Kulik

I pretty much agree with this list, as I've seen all of Jackson's movies except for BAD TASTE and MEET THE FEEBLES...I know, I have catch-up to do. The first Jackson movie I saw was THE FRIGHTENERS, sadly the last starring role for Michael J. Fox (not counting his voice work of course). I loved its insane style so much: Jeffrey Combs as the FBI agent and his driver's seat tube was hilarious. This led me to BRAINDEAD (prefer its original title) which really got me interested in his work. Loved HEAVENLY CREATURES, and really loved KING KONG, still the finest remake of the past decade, I think. I own the LOTR extended editions, and I still have to go through them, which is why I'm actually passing on seeing THE HOBBIT in the theaters. (The only movie left this year that I MAY see in theaters is Katheryn Bigelow's ZERO DARK THIRTY.)

One more thing: for those who have seen THE FRIGHTENERS, didn't Peter Jackson have the most AWESOME director's cameo? Even Hitchcock would have loved it.

Dec 12 - 05:22 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I prefer his "Braindead" cameo, as the embalmer.

Dec 12 - 05:48 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Love R Lee Ermey being R Lee Ermey in it too.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

And Chi McBride. Jake Busey's teeth always crack me up.

Dec 12 - 07:00 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I remember seeing The Frighteners in the theater with a group of friends. We had no idea what it was about and ended up loving it. Combs was awesome in it and Jake Busey was creepy as hell. Fun note: Its also a Robert Zemekis production!

Dec 12 - 09:45 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I prefer his "Braindead" cameo, as the embalmer.

Dec 12 - 05:48 PM

Zane B

Chum Chum

His splatter films got me hard. Bad Taste, Braindead, Meet The Feebles, this guy is fucking nuts. He calmed down for the Rings trilogy

Dec 12 - 06:05 PM

Anthony DePierro

Anthony DePierro

I really have never understood the hate on "The Lovely Bones". I remember watching it and being joyfully entertained. I thought it was good.

Dec 12 - 06:33 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Died the death of expectation.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

I like when Stanley Tucci falls off the cliff.

Dec 12 - 07:27 PM

Dave J

Dave J

The CGI death of the main antagonist just wasn't convincing!

Dec 13 - 12:09 PM

Hugo Emanuel Melo

Hugo Emanuel Melo

I read the book it's based on and it's so bad I skipped on the movie. If it's anything like the book it's really not my cup of tea, regardless of how much I love most of Jackson't works.

Dec 12 - 02:35 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Kind of agree with what Hugo is saying. It's a hard book to like because of how Brutal the subject matter is. The Book is a heart punch, kick to the groin, and a salt tablet to the eyes. The film reeks of silly hallmark exposition and "violent" crimes that are anything but violent which is weird because it's not like Jackson to pull his punches on the violence. I'm told people who haven't read the book also hated the film though.

Dec 20 - 01:07 AM

Anthony DePierro

Anthony DePierro

Stupid, the audience is.

Dec 12 - 06:34 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Stupid fffat audienceses'!!!

Dec 12 - 06:46 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Stupid fffat audienceses'!!!

Dec 12 - 06:46 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Love R Lee Ermey being R Lee Ermey in it too.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Died the death of expectation.

Dec 12 - 06:48 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

And Chi McBride. Jake Busey's teeth always crack me up.

Dec 12 - 07:00 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

I like when Stanley Tucci falls off the cliff.

Dec 12 - 07:27 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

The Lord of the Rings trilogy are classics, and King Kong is one of the best remakes ever. Apart from Lovely Bones, which wasn't on this list, I haven't seen any other of his movies. But I hear wonderful, wonderful things about Braindead(Dead Alive).

Dec 12 - 07:34 PM

markit8dude

Paul Bongiorno

Bad Taste is 9th.. WTF?

Whereas the ~10 hours of Jackson's movies showing dwarfs walking, i.e. the LOTR trilogy ranks better?

Blasphemy!

Dec 12 - 07:48 PM

Spirit Bear

Martin Tam

small attention span I bet

Dec 12 - 08:24 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I remember seeing The Frighteners in the theater with a group of friends. We had no idea what it was about and ended up loving it. Combs was awesome in it and Jake Busey was creepy as hell. Fun note: Its also a Robert Zemekis production!

Dec 12 - 09:45 PM

Justin Von Konsky

Justin Von Konsky

Shouldn't this say "Peter Jackson's only movies?" LOTR Forver!!!

Dec 12 - 11:01 PM

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