Well, I know that every Tolkien movies is pretty much up for grabs, but let us be honest. Those earlier efforts were not quite up to scratch. The animated Hobbit movie was the least terrible of the lot, but the elves were a sickly green colour, and rather wizened. The animated Return of the King was tedious, and mispronounced Cirith Ungol. I thank heaven that I was never subjected to the 1978 Lord of the Rings. About all I know if it comes from this rather hilarious - albeit, disparaging review, and this picture:
So, that pretty much leaves us with the Jackson movies. To be honest, I was bitterly opposed to the idea of someone making movies out of one of my favourite books. I had no intention of seeing them at all, originally, but my brother and several sisters decided that we were all going to see The Fellowship of the Ring together, in the theater, so I found myself going along with them, voicing my unhappiness all the way there. It was better than I was expecting. Much, much better. It turned into something of a Christmas tradition there for a while, rushing out to see the new Lord of the Rings movie when it came out, and then rushing out to see it again each time we had friends or cousins come to visit. They ended up being amongst my favourite movies of all time. And, incidentally, thanks to the influence of the films, I turned into a passionate, full-blown Tolkien scholar for a bit. I learned how to use Elvish characters for writing in English, I learned enough Quenya to write a poem in it, and to translate The Song of the Sword of Alan from Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. I read so much Tolkien that I knew as much about the history of Middle-Earth and the Undying Lands as I did regular history. Tolkien was a huge influence on me for several years.
That being said, I have a wee touch of a love-hate relationship going with the Jackson films. I do genuinely enjoy them, and watching them has the same effect on me as the books do: they make me want to be much better and braver than I am. For the most part, Peter Jackson completely captured the look and the feel of Middle-Earth. The most important characters are perfectly cast. The soundtrack is sublime. There is lots of Elvish being spoken. You can tell that the makers of the movies loved their source material, and loved being able to bring it to life. However, I am rather a Tolkien purist, and some of the changes to plot and characters just rankle me dreadfully every time I watch them. I truly wish that was not the case, but it is. To be fair, much of what I objected to at first viewing was rectified to a greater or lesser degree by the Extended Editions that came out after the cinematic releases - but not all. The Two Towers is the worst, with Aragorn son of Arathorn being carried off a cliff by a warg, the changes to Faramir's character, that odd bit with Frodo and Sam in Osgilioth, etc... The Return of the King, by contrast, is a vast improvement, though I am still mad at whoever it was that thought it was a good idea for Frodo to send Sam away. And what, exactly, was the deal with the whole "Arwen is dying" subplot? That was just peculiar. Still, The Return of the King is a splendid film, and it manages to make up for its own shortcomings, and the shortcoming of the Two Towers as well. Since I have to chose a favourite, however, I am going to say that The Fellowship of the Ring is the film I watch with the most unalloyed enjoyment. It is the truest to the book that I love. Besides, it has Boromir in it, and he is probably my favourite character.
PS. If you have not watch Born of Hope, you ought to. It is very superiourly made fan movie, about Arathorn and the birth of Aragorn.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Middle Earth Challenge, click here.