1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

IMDB Rating: 8.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

Storyline

In a time of ancient magic and legendary heroes, the malevolent dark lord Sauron seeks the One Ring, which holds the world’s ultimate power. Against this backdrop, the unassuming Hobbit, Frodo Baggins, inherits the Ring and steps into legend. With a fellowship of unlikely allies, Frodo embarks on a perilous mission to destroy the Ring by casting it back into the fiery chasm of Mount Doom, where it was forged.

Why it’s a Major Movie

The Fellowship of the Ring symbolizes one of the greatest achievements in fantasy filmmaking. It sets the epicness and sparks the journey that spans three incredible movies that are each a spectacle of visual effects, incredible performances, and immersive storytelling. This was the first installment of the defining film of the 21st century and Peter Jackson’s most groundbreaking work. As an adaptation of the beloved J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, Jackson masterfully brought to life the world of Middle-Earth with an unmatched dedication to the source material.

Also, the film broke new ground in special effects, notably in the creation of Gollum, a menacing character brought to life through motion capture technology. Jackson’s visionary direction, enhanced by breathtaking cinematography and a stirring musical score, enthralled global audiences and set box-office records. The film’s remarkable artistic and commercial success paved the way for equally successful sequels, forging an indelible legacy in movie history.

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

IMDB Rating: 8.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%

Storyline

In the third and final instalment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance. On one side, the dark lord Sauron amasses a dreaded army. On the other, the heroic Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee draw closer to Mount Doom in their quest to destroy the one ring. Supporting them from afar is the rightful king, Aragorn, who must unite the races of Middle Earth for one final battle.

Why it’s a Major Movie

The Return of the King is known for its dramatic climax, emotional depth and staggering visual grandeur. The film encapsulates optimism, despair, courage, and sacrifice, playing out on an epic scale. Peter Jackson’s dedication shines through every frame, presenting audiences with a satisfying conclusion to a monumental cinematic journey. The film’s scope, from intimate character moments to battle sequences crafting an incomparable cinematic spectacle, exemplifies Jackson’s visionary direction.

This film also received widespread critical acclaim for its superb screenplay, high production values, and stunning special effects. It bagged numerous awards, including a record-breaking 11 Academy Awards, matching the feat of Titanic and Ben-Hur. It became one of the most successful films of all time, both critically and commercially, thereby proving Peter Jackson’s genius in fantasy storytelling.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

IMDB Rating: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%

Storyline

Continuing the epic adventure where The Fellowship of the Ring left off, The Two Towers follows the separate paths of the fellowship. Frodo and Sam continue their journey towards Mount Doom, guided by the precious creature Gollum. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli try to rescue the hobbits Merry and Pippin, captured by orcs. Meanwhile, the wizard Gandalf returns to help defend the kingdom of Rohan against the evil Saruman’s approaching army.

Why it’s a Major Movie

The Two Towers stands out of the trilogy for expanding the scope of Middle Earth, introducing new challenges for the ensemble cast, and raising the stakes. The film, under the expert control of Peter Jackson, never loses sight of its characters amongst the incredible special effects and epic war sequences. It showcases how Jackson’s imaginative and creative prowess can grow a world, add depth, and maintain the tremendous grip of the story on the audience.

Moreover, The Battle of Helm’s Deep, considered one of cinema’s most impressive battle sequences, became a benchmark for fantasy filmmaking. This segment of the trilogy ensures the audience remains invested in the story, setting the stage for the concluding chapter. The film does not falter from the standards set by The Fellowship of the Ring and emerged as a crucial middle chapter of a film series that dramatically reshaped fantasy cinema.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64%

Storyline

In this epic prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the humble hobbit Bilbo Baggins is unwittingly thrust into an epic adventure by the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves. The team faces various challenges, from goblins to orcs to deadly wargs, as they seek to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.

Why it’s a Major Movie

An Unexpected Journey marks the return to Middle Earth by Peter Jackson. Although met with scepticism initially, Jackson proved his mettle once more with his attention to detail and commitment to storytelling. The flabbergasting New Zealand landscape and depth-filled 3D cinematography made the voyage back to Middle Earth a worthwhile experience. Jackson’s dedication to expanding the universe is evident in the ways he connects the events here to his previous Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Whilst some critics argued the film was overstretched, others admired Jackson’s brave decision to keep the story immersive. His vision amplified a rather compact story into a full-fledged epic adventure, replicating the success of the LOTR trilogy. The film’s visual and sound effects, alongside an ensemble cast, enthralled audiences worldwide. It may not have matched the universal acclaim of LOTR, but it remained a major film due to Jackson’s audacious storytelling approach.

5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 74%

Storyline

The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim their lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. As they approach the gold-filled mountain, they must face the most terrifying creature – Smaug, a dragon that will test not only their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of their journey itself.

Why it’s a Major Movie

The Desolation of Smaug, the second instalment of The Hobbit trilogy, presented a darker tone than the first film. This change allowed Jackson to delve deeper into the complexities of both characters and their surrounding environments. The portrayal of Smaug, both terrifying and fascinating, reflects Peter Jackson’s commitment to delivering multi-dimensional characters. Smaug is not just a beast; he is intelligent, cunning, and an antagonist who plays a fundamental role in driving the plot forward.

The film also received an overwhelming response for its stunning visual effects and thrilling action sequences, especially the barrel escape. Not only does this film continue the narrative of the storyline effectively, but it also sets the tone for the final act. Despite some criticism regarding its length and pace, the film remains nearly as captivating as the LOTR trilogy due to Jackson’s ability to scale new heights in storytelling and spectacle.

6. The Lovely Bones (2009)

IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 31%

Storyline

The Lovely Bones is a powerful and emotional film that tells the story of a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from purgatory. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal in an incredibly moving test of the human spirit.

Why it’s a Major Movie

The Lovely Bones represents a departure from Peter Jackson’s usual fantasy epics. This film showcases Jackson’s ability to tackle a different kind of storytelling, blending elements of mystery, drama, and supernatural. The film’s concept of life after death presents visually stunning sequences emerging from Jackson’s unique vision. The director’s attempt to explore heavier and darker themes through a fantastical lens is commendable.

Undeniably, the film met with mixed reviews upon its release. However, it featured an impressive performance from Saoirse Ronan in the leading role. Jackson’s crafting of the film, the emotional weight carried within the narrative and its exploration of life after death give The Lovely Bones a significant position within his filmography. It may be seen as an artistic risk but a necessary one that demonstrates his range and ambition as a filmmaker.

7. King Kong (2005)

IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%

Storyline

Peter Jackson’s reimagining of the classic brings the story of an ambitious director Carl Denham, who coerces his cast and crew to travel to the mysterious Skull Island. There they encounter Kong, a gigantic ape who immediately becomes smitten with the crew’s leading lady, Ann Darrow. When Denham decides to capture the monstrous beast for his Broadway show in New York City, he unknowingly invites chaos.

Why it’s a Major Movie

King Kong is another epic adventure film from Peter Jackson, maintaining his usual combination of rich storytelling, complex characters, and stunning visuals. It is Jackson’s love letter to the original 1933 film that he first saw as a child and inspired him to become a filmmaker. The film’s balance of human drama and monster movie tropes is testimony to Jackson’s ability to turn a well-known story into something new and yet reassuringly familiar.

Though some criticized the film for its length, there is no doubt about the sheer spectacle and grandeur that Jackson brings to the story of King Kong. The incredibly realistic portrayal of Kong is a testament to Jackson’s dedication and his ability to push boundaries in filmmaking. With a strong ensemble cast and emotional depth, King Kong solidified Jackson’s reputation as a master filmmaker who beautifully balances character, story and spectacle.

8. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%

Storyline

Set in 1950s New Zealand, Heavenly Creatures is a psychological drama that explores the intense relationship between two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, who share an intense friendship and elaborate fantasy life. However, when their relationship is threatened by their parents, they conspire to commit a heinous crime, leading to a shocking conclusion.

Why it’s a Major Movie

Heavenly Creatures marked a shift in Peter Jackson’s filmography. Until then, he was known for his low-budget horror-comedies. This film, however, displayed his knack for telling a compelling narrative, successfully depicting intense psychological drama. Using fantastical elements blended with the harsh realities of the crime, Jackson tells a story that’s both dreamy and nightmarish.

This film introduced Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey to the world, both delivering powerful performances under Jackson’s skillful direction. Also noteworthy is the special effects that illustrate the girls’ shared fantasy world, a predecessor to the ground-breaking effects Jackson would later use in his fantasy epics. Exemplifying Jackson’s prowess for portraying complex characters and scenarios, Heavenly Creatures stands as an impactful movie in his filmography, highlighting his storytelling abilities beyond the fantasy genre.