Ever since Game of Thrones burst into popularity, it has been compared with Lord of the Rings. The two fictional universes have a lot of similarities between them. Even the writers have two Rs in their name. However, in order to determine which one truly stands out, we need to dive deeper and examine their visuals, characters, script, world-building and iconic moments such as battles and endings. Remember that we are just comparing the video content here, not the books.
Visuals: Lord of the Rings takes the cake
Visuals could include both the actual locations as well as CGI. In that department, Lord of the Rings fares better. However, that is probably so because Game of Thrones had budget restrictions which the latter did not face. Movies do not face much of an issue when it comes to the CGI budget. That is because they make far more on the box office than TV shows can with subscriptions. That is why all the places in Middle Earth, including Mordor, Minas Tirith, Rivendell, the Shire, and Gondor looked so breathtakingly beautiful. Game of Thrones had some incredible visuals too. However, the lack of budget for over 80 hours of screentime did not help at all, especially with dragons, dire wolves and the wall.
World-Building: A tough call
World-building is an essential part of any fantasy fiction movie or show. However, it is a very tough competition between Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. Game of Thrones has a much more diverse world, with many more kingdoms and two separate continents. Much of the map, like the Land of Always Winter in Westeros is uncharted. Essos is, in fact, bigger than Westeros and much of the world remains undiscovered. George RR Martin even made a separate book called ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ to explain that world to readers.
Meanwhile, Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings has an intimate feel to it. It has a massive map with many diverse groups and species, but the languages make it much more real. JRR Tolkien literally created the entire Elvish language and its dialects by himself. It was made easier by the fact that he was a linguist, but to put that much effort into your world deserves appreciation. Therefore, it would be fair to say that both these worlds are complex and realistic in their own way.
Storytelling: Game of Thrones is more realistic
As we all know, Game of Thrones is always regarded as a very realistic fantasy show. No character is ever safe from death. In fact, George even remarked that Tolkien’s biggest mistake in Lord of the Rings was that Gandalf didn’t stay dead. Game of Thrones’s storytelling is quite true to life, with complex characters with incredibly morally grey areas. This is the trend seen in movies as well as tv shows of modern times. However, as soon as George left the production team, it all unfolded quite poorly. The storytelling was nowhere near as good in the final few seasons as it was from season 1 to 5.
This, however, doesn’t mean that the Lord of the Rings had a boring or outdated method of storytelling. Tolkien fought in the Great War (WWI) and wanted to use his writing skills for a more feel-good story. It was a major inspiration for Lord of the Rings. However, the moral messages from his story and the beauty of the plot are just majestic. The dialogues and the plot are so captivating that it leaves the viewers awestruck. Therefore, it is safe to say that both shows have a unique way of storytelling.
Characters: Realistic vs Traditional
Just like storytelling, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings differ in the nature of their characters too. Game of Thrones characters and families, such as Starks and Lannisters are modeled after real-life families from the War of the Roses in British history. Characters like Tywin, Jamie, Cersei, Daenerys, Lord Varys, Littlefinger, and many others are morally grey by design. Their lust for the Iron Throne and power was quite realistic. Moreover, their arcs are complicated, based on the very complicated lives that they have lived.
Meanwhile, Lord of the Rings has very traditional characters. They revolve around traditional concepts of good and evil, such as Sauron, Saruman, Gandalf, Frodo, Samwise, and the other hobbits. That is not to say that every character was either pure evil or good. Elves had done some questionable acts in their past. Similarly, humans were morally corruptible. The arcs were grand and received perfect closure by the end of the series. That wasn’t the case with Game of Thrones though, sadly.
Iconic moments: Battles and ending were better in Lord of the Rings
When it comes to the battle sequences, Lord of the Rings has a significant edge over Game of Thrones. A lot of it has to do with CGI budgeting, but despite that, the shots from battle sequences in Lord of the Rings are far more iconic and majestic. That is not to say that Game of Thrones had boring battle sequences. They were marvelous, but couldn’t be as memorable as that of Lord of the Rings. Their cinematography and CGI really took the cake here.
However, the ending of the two sagas is where the difference can be spotted like night and day. Game of Thrones failed on multiple fronts, such as incomplete character arcs, a weird plot end, and inconsistencies. Whereas Lord of the Rings had one of the most iconic endings to any fantasy fiction movie. All the characters had resolved their conflicts admirably and arrived at their logical conclusion. This is where Lord of the Rings stands alone.
Giving a verdict on two of the most iconic fantasy fiction in pop culture is a damning task. However, when considering all the factor, we can say that Lord of the Rings just edges ahead of Game of Thrones. This might be very upsetting to hear for fans of Game of Thrones. However, the reason for the former to be ahead is that Lord of the Rings is just a complete package from start to end. Every aspect of its world was well explained and each character had a meaningful and satisfying arc. Some of the dialogues of the movie resonate among the people to this day. Had Game of thrones not had such a controversial ending, then this would have been a completely different conversation. However, as things stand, Lord of the Rings takes the cake. We’ll also have more content to compare since a TV show is being adapted from Lord of the Rings books!