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The Stories

While I highly recommend reading The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings, you don't have to in order to enjoy the films. As more pictures and fiction become available, I will update this.

I will not get into detail about JRRT, there are tons of sites out there that will fulfill every wish you might have about him and his stories. What I will do is give a brief synopsis of the movies and plenty of eye candy!

Fellowship of The Ring

The story begins with Frodo Baggins, a young Hobbit in Middle Earth.  The Hobbits' friend, Gandalf, an Istari wizard has returned to Hobbiton to visit his old friend Bilbo, Frodo's adopted parent and sole surviving blood relative, on his "eleventy and first birthday" (111 years old). Unbeknownst to them all, Bilbo possess a powerful artifact, though Gandalf has suspected something for years. Discovered in a cave in the Misty Mountains, the Ring holds incredible power and has kept Bilbo youthful. He leaves after his party, but Gandalf tells him to leave the Ring behind after seeing his Hobbit friend disappear when he put it on.

As it turns out, Gandalf discovers the sinister history of Bilbo's Ring and urges Frodo to leave the Shire and Hobbiton before the owner's goon squad (the Nazgul, Undead Kings, or Ringwraiths) come looking for it.  He does as the wizard asks, finding himself accompanied by Samwise Gamgee, his best friend. 

Meanwhile, Gandalf seeks counsel from his order's head, Saruman, only to discover the powerful wizard has turned evil, aiding and abetting Sauron in his quest to recover the ring. As Gandalf struggles against Saruman, being imprisoned atop Orthanc, events with Hobbits take a turn for the worse.

They flee to Bree, the nearest town on the way to the elves. On their way, they acquire Merry and Pippin, an unlikely pair to join the adventure. But once the Nazgul come after Frodo and the Ring, nothing could turn them from helping their friend. The four make their way to the Prancing Pony, where Strider, a mysterious Ranger, saves them from Sauron's (the Ring's owner) henchmen.

From there, Strider takes them to Rivendell, the Last Homely Home, and realm of Elrond, one of the few to remember The War of the Ring over two thousand years before. On their way, they pause at Amon Sul, an abandoned watchtower. The Nazgul find them and mortally  wound Frodo. Arwen (who replaces Glorfindel) seeks them out and takes Frodo to her father, Elrond, for healing.

Elrond calls a Council of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, with Frodo and his companions on the periphery. Suffice it to say, havoc breaks loose over who will take the Ring of Power to be destroyed. Then Frodo speaks up, and eight others  join him. Gandalf, who feels he must help, offers to come with them. Additionally, Strider, who is actually Aragon, son of Arathorn and heir to Gondor's throne, pledges his sword.   Boromir, the son of Gondor's steward, steps forward as do Legolas, Elven prince of Mirkwood, and Gimli, son of Gloin, as the Dwarves representative. Of course, Sam, Merry, and Pippin aren't about to let Frodo go without them, so Elrond grudgingly agrees to make them a part of the Fellowship of the Ring. Thus an unlikely group forms to escort the Ringbearer to Mt. Doom in Mordor, Sauron's home and the Ring's birthplace. For only in the fires (lava) of Mt. Doom may the Ring be destroyed.

Troubles plague the party as they draw near the Misty Mountains as  Gandalf's former mentor and head of the Istari order has betrayed the light and seeks the Ring for himself. Using evil powers gained from Sauron, Saruman tries to bury the party under the snows of Caradhras. Frodo opts to try the "easier" route of Moria, the Dwarven kingdom under the Mountains. Instead of the warm welcome Gimli foresees, the Fellowship finds a massacre instead.  For many years the Dwarves of Moria lay as they fell, victims of orcs and goblins and with a single ill-thought move from Pippin, the nine face the same threat.

They manage to escape to the other entrance, but lose Gandalf to a terrible demon known as the Balrog. Suffering the loss, the remaining members head for Lothlorien, an enchanted forest. There they met Galadriel, a powerful Elf who gives each of them insight into their deepest wishes and fears.  Frodo learns what he bears will break the Fellowship and that he alone must carry the burden. Once the eight depart Lothlorien, they travel down the Great River to Amon Hen.  Boromir, overcome by the call of the Ring, attempts to take it and causes Frodo to flee.

Meanwhile, Saruman's creations, the Uruk Hai, pursue them singlemindedly. These hybrid orcs fight fiercely and are much stronger than regular orcs or goblins. Aragon tells Frodo he must go on alone, then turns to face the monsters. Merry and Pippin discover Frodo, then distract the Uruk Hai away from him. Boromir pulls himself together to defend the two Hobbits, dying in the process. The Uruk Hai capture Merry and Pippin and head toward Orthanc, once known as Isengaard, the Istari stronghold.

Aragon finds Boromir before he expires and assures him he will do what he can to protect Gondor and find the little ones. Sam runs down Frodo and demands to go with him, citing Gandalf's orders to never let Frodo out of his sight.  They depart across the river toward Mordor while Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli go in search of Merry and Pippin, thus breaking the Fellowship completely.

Frodo and Sam reach Mordor's border, the two stand there, studying the formidable landscape they must cross.  Thus ends the Fellowship of The Ring.

The Two Towers

In Emyn Muil, Frodo dreams of Gandalf's confrontation with the Balrog and his fall into darkness. He awakens from the nightmarish visions and he and Sam continue on in their trek to Mt. Doom. Gollum attacks them, desperate for the One Ring, and in the end, Frodo takes pity on him and makes the sorrow creature promise to show them the way to Mordor. As the movie progresses, you see how Frodo begins to have a quiet desperation of his own, needing to know that even one as taken over by the Ring can be redeemed.

Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli continue to race after the Uruk-hai that captured Merry and Pippin. They come across Eomer, Theoden King's nephew, who has recently been banished from Edoras under a edict crafted by Grima Wormtongue, the King's advisor and secret agent of Saruman. Eomer tells of a band of Uruk-hai he and his riders destroyed and that they saw no evidence of the Hobbits. Fearing the worst, the trio make their way to the battle place, near the entrance to Fangorn forest.  Almost certain that the Hobbits met their end, Aragorn and the others grieve. However, Aragorn discovers evidence that Merry and Pippin escaped into Fangorn forest.

Indeed, they did, pursued by one of the Orcs who had considered them for a meal. Saved by an Ent named Treebeard, the Hobbits work over a period of time to encourage all the Ents to move against Saruman. Only when Treebeard discovers the destruction of the woods around Isengard does he call his fellow "treeherders" to action and does indeed bring down the corrupt Istari.

Prior to this, Treebeard takes Merry and Pippin to see the mysterious White Wizard. The scene segues to the one of Aragorn and his companions finding the dead Orcs and evidence of Merry and Pippin's survival. They enter the forest, though not without misgivings. There they also confront the White Wizard, believing it to be Saruman, only to have it revealed that Gandalf has returned, more powerful than before and taking Saruman's place. As he put it "I am what Saruman should have been." Together, the four travel to Edoras and tackle the task of freeing Theoden from Saruman's influence through Grima Wormtongue. Unfortunately, this only comes after Theoden's son dies from an Orc attack and in his grief, Theoden decides that Edoras must be abandoned. The people retreat to Helm's Deep, a fortress carved into the hillside, previously unbreeched.

On the way to the stronghold, Wargs attack the group. Theoden sends the women, children, and old men with Eowyn on a different route and faces the beasts and their riders. In the end, the Men triumph, but not without loss. Hama, Theoden's right hand man, falls first and many others. In a departure (major) from the books, Aragorn plunges into the river and is considered lost. The Evenstar, given to him before he departed Imladris, Legolas retrieves from a dying Orc. Theoden commiserates, but urges the surivors to hurry toward Helm's Deep.

Aragorn lives and somehow Theodred's horse, Brego, finds him and carries him toward Helm's Deep. On the way there, Aragorn stumbles on the huge masses of Orcs bearing the standards of Saruman on their way toward the fortress. He hurries there, telling Theoden of what he has seen. Rather than despairing, the King readies as best he can, well aware that the efforts are most likely futile given the numbers they face. However, before Gandalf left, he told Aragorn to wait for him on the dawn of the third day and that gives him some hope.

An unexpected (and another departure from book canon) arrival from Lorien brings a burst of confidence. An Elven battalion, led by Haldir and commissioned by Elrond, stands ready to fight side by side in rememberance of the Last Alliance. And fight they do. In the cold, wet, dark, they face the bestial Orcs of many subraces. First with bow and arrow, then with sword, the Rohirrhim heart falters when Saruman's use of an explosive at the one weak spot (revealed by Grima) in the Deeping Wall collapses. The Men retreat inside, urging the women into the caves for protection. When all appears darkest, Aragorn reminds Theoden of his words, that he will continue to fight to the last man. Dawn begins to break and praying that Gandalf will indeed appear with help, Aragorn and the others ride out to suprise the Orcs with an attack.

Above the valley, Gandalf does indeed arrive, Eomer and his men at his side. Using his staff, the Istari blinds the fell creatures with light and together with the Eomer's forces and the surprise of Theoden's attack, they break the Orcs' spirit. The beasts flee into a newly noticed heavy wood. Once within, they disappear and the watchers hear the sounds of Orcish screams. The woods have their revenge against the desecration of their fellows. The scene ends with Gandalf and the others looking East, realizing that though the battle has been won, the war must still be fought. 

Near that East, in Ithilien, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum see Haradhrim (Men of the South or Southerns) marching. Aware of time pressing, they turn to leave, only to find themselve captured by Rangers of Ithilien. Their leader questions them and reveals himself as Faramir, brother of Boromir. Unaware of Boromir's fate, Frodo and Sam express distress at the news of his death. Another departure from the books has Faramir considering taking the Ring to his father and dragging the three to Osgiliath. However, after an attack by Nazgul, he sends them on their way and the movie ends with Gollum decrying to Smeagol (his good alter ego) that Frodo betrayed them and that they must get the Ring back. With an eerie foreshadowing, Gollum says the "She will take care of, yes, she will."

The Return of The King

The movie opens with Sam and Frodo sleeping in a small hollow while Smeagol/Gollum waits outside. He wakens them, urging them to move quickly. Sam mistrusts Gollum completely. He realizes the Ring has begun to truly wear on Frodo, who eats little and sleeps less. They trudge on, coming to Minas Morgul, the Witchking's fortress, formerly Minas Ithil, a Numenorean stronghold. The Ring tries to draw Frodo into the place, but Sam and Smeagol pull him away. The Nazgul and his Orc warriors march out for an unknown destination and after they leave, Smeagol directs the Hobbits up the cliffside to Cirth Ungol and to a very unpleasant surprise.
Movie departure has Smeagol causing Frodo to distrust Sam and telling him to leave after an incident with their remaining food. Distraught and hurt, Sam begins to leave, then discovers Gollums deception. Inside the tunnels, Gollum disappears, leaving Frodo alone in the shadowy interior. The creature tells Frodo it's the only way if he wishes to get into Mordor. Exhausted, yet determined to do what he set out to do, Frodo moves on and stumbles across something. To his disgust and fear, he sees piles of bones, wrapped in some sticky cordlike stuff. He panics and backs away into a huge web. A scuttling sound brings the Light of Earendil out and reveals a monstrous spider. True panic takes over and Frodo flees through the tunnels, kicking aside bones and bodies, fighting entangling threads. He loses Sting to a mass of webs, but makes his way outside of the tunnels.
Frodo believes he has won free, but behind him Shelob, the horror spider, looms and when he turns at a noise, she stings him and then wraps him in webbing. Sam has followed and tells her to release him. Obviously, Shelob is more than just a spider, given what Gollum has said and the fact that she actually listens to Sam. However, not as he would wish, for she attacks him. He uses Sting, which he recovered from the webs, and the Light of Earendil, both of which Frodo lost. After a frantic battle, he manages to stab her in the belly and she retreats into the tunnels to figuratively lick her wounds.

Sam believe Frodo dead for his friend lays motionless without breath and staring unseeingly. The arrival of Orcs from Minas Morgul cuts short his mourning and an overhead conversation has him frustrated and determined to follow them as they carry Frodo into the evil stronghold. Rather than killing him, Shelob's poison merely paralyzed him, keeping him alive for her "larder." Sam once more follows Frodo.
Inside the main fortress, Saruman's Uruk-hai and the Orc, never easy allies, begin to argue and it turns into a free-for-all, killing nearly every one of them. Sam enters to find Orcish bodies littered everywhere. A few survivors greet him and he calls on uncommon strength and bravery to dispatch them in order to get to Frodo.  Prior to this, Frodo had awakened to the squabbling, but laid still, trying to remain undetected. However, the victor of the fight over Frodo's mithril chain shirt discovers his victim's return to consciousness. Just as he bends to threaten Frodo, Sam kills him. Frodo babbles out an apology for not believing in Sam and that he fears it's all for nothing as the Ring is missing.
Sam smiles and pulls out the Ring, telling Frodo he thought him dead and was going to try to finish the quest. Frodo demands that Sam return it to him and after a few tense moment, Sam does so willingly. They manage to escape Minas Morgul in "borrowed" Orcish armor and head for Mt. Doom. As they approach nearer, they can see Barad-dur, Sauron's tower, and the burning eye which has plagued Frodo's consciousness. 
In Minas Tirith, Faramir and his men lose control of Osgiliath to the Orcs again. Denethor, mad and desconsolate from peering into the Palantir too much, sends his son out to regain it, despite the impossible odds. Only Faramir returns, wounded nearly unto death.  In the distance, the Rohirrhim, called by the watch fires Gandalf had Pippin set, arrive and have to deal with Nazgul attacks. Gandalf takes Pippin and rides toward them, lighting the skies with his staff and providing cover for the brave riders.  The Orcish troops attack the walled city with seige towers and ballistas, the latter filled with Gondorian soldiers heads. When the Rohirrhim arrive and attack, the Orcs are unprepared for calvary unafraid to die. Things look up until the trumpet of a mumakil sounds. The Haradhrim have arrived. The Orcs bring a huge battering ram into play and break down the walls, the Southerons tackle the Rohirrhim, wreaking terrible devastation.
Amongst this chaos, Eowyn, disguised as a Rohirrhim rider, faces down the Witchking, who has felled Theoden and Snowmane, his horse. Merry stabs at the Nazgul's leg and this allows Eowyn to strike a killing blow. But even dying, the Nazgul wounds his killers, leaving both Merry and Eowyn with a spreading darkness. Merry collapses and Eowyn manages to drag herself to her mortally wounded uncle. He dies and she grieves, falling unconscious. In the extended edition, Eomer finds her and Theoden and mourns them both as dead. Pippin uncovers Merry and vows to care for him.
Denothor, driven completely insane with his perceived loss of his last son, tries to immolate himself and Faramir. Pippin calls to Gandalf and they prevent this. Yet another departure from the book comes as Denother catches fire after dousing himself with oil and runs, burning, to the end of the wall and plummets to a fiery death.
Aragorn, having won the alliance of the Dead in the Paths of the Dead (previously), takes over the Black Numenorean Corsairs' ships and sails to Osgiliath. There, he, Legolas, and Gimli, with the Dead, retake Osgiliath and make for the Fields of Pellenor, where they overcome Sauron's forces. Inside the walls, Gandalf and Pippin wait with the remaining Gondorians for the Orcs and Trolls to break through the last gate.  Once the Dead defeat the enemy, Aragorn releases them from their oath and they find peace.
After the battle, Aragorn goes to Minas Tirith to heal the wounded, including Eowyn. As she recovers, she and Faramir grow close. Through his healing touch, Aragorn gains the trust of the Gondorians.
In Mordor, Sam and Frodo struggle to avoid the remaining Orcs and the Eye's awareness. A few run-ins later and after discarding their armor, they collapse on the side of Mt. Doom, Frodo unable to continue. Aragorn ahs gathered the allies together to make a stand before the Black Gates. While all know they cannot stand against Sauron's remaining forces and truly win, they hope to gain the Dark Lord's attention long enough to allow Frodo the chance to cast the Ring into the fires of Mt. Doom. Although the Mouth of Sauron tries to discourage them by showing them Frodo's shirt, Aragorn refuses to believe Frodo failed and takes the Mouth's head. This signals the opening of the Black Gates and the final stand.
On the slopes of Mt. Doom, Sam offers to carry Frodo to the Cracks so that Frodo may finish what they started.  Unbeknown to them, Gollum has survived as well and lurks nearby. As Sam, burdened with his friend's limp form, approaches the doorway into Sauron's forge, Gollum attacks. He tries to take the Ring from Frodo and Sam lobs a boulder at him, angered at the creature's treacherous nature. While they fight, Frodo manages to stumble into the forge and stands before the Cracks of Doom. Sam emerges victorious against Gollum and hurries as best he can to join Frodo.
However, the long exposure to the Ring and its desperate striving for survival have taken their toll on Frodo. With a burst of strength, the Ring takes over the Hobbit completely and he puts the Ring on instead of casting it into the fires.  Sam, cries out in dismay, completely focused on Frodo. Behind him, Gollum strikes Sam down and approaches the spot where Frodo had stood. He watches in the volcanic ash as Frodo moves away from the edge and pounces.  A strange dance occurs as Gollum grasps at the Hobbit, trying to find Frodo's hands. At last, he succeeds, bringing the one with the Ring on it to his mouth, where he bites off the finger bearing his "precious."
At once, Frodo becomes visible again, clasping his bleeding hand to his chest and crying out in pain. Sam manages to regain consciousness and crawls over to Frodo. Gollum skips and dances around, completely entranced with his prize.  Oblivious to the danger, his steps take him to and over the edge. Even to the end of his life, he tries to preserve the Ring, his hand extended over his head as the lava closes over him. The Ring sits on the surface for a few moments, the Black Tongue tengwar briefly flaring to life before the gold melts and returns to the Fires.
Sam and Frodo clamber to their feet as the forge begins to crumble about them, great gouts of fire spewing forth and the lava rising. They find refuge on an outcropping, yet the heat becomes fierce and dangerous. They remember the Shire and Sam regrets not asking Rosie to marry him. As they lose awareness, in the distance the shapes of great birds appear. The Eagles, one bearing Gandalf, approach and retrieve the Hobbits.
Frodo awakes in a light and airy room.  Merry and Pippin greet him as does Aragorn. Legolas also joins them and lastly, and most importantly, Sam.  Aragorn will now become the King of Gondor. Arwen has remained in Middle-earth and Elrond gives her away at Aragorn's coronation, despite his sorrow in losing her forever.  Eowyn and Faramir will be at their sides, acting as Stewards to the King. Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo return to the Shire, wiser, older, and world-weary.
The movies do not address the Scouring except in a brief vision in Galadriel's mirror in the Fellowship. However, Peter Jackson does show that none of them quite fit in anymore, but Frodo most of all. Everything
that he has been through has changed him forever. The Morgul wound he received on Amon Sul still pains him, especially on its anniversary. Sam does indeed marry Rosie and Merry and Pippin become respected citizen. At last, Elrond and the other Elves decide to leave. Bilbo, grown very fragile will travel with them to Valinor, for he bore the RIng for quite some time. The Hobbits make the journey to the Grey Havens and to the distress of Sam and the others, Gandalf tells them that it is time to leave. Frodo turns to his dear friends and bids them farewell. He gives Sam the Red Book, urging him to finish the story. With that, he follows Gandalf onto the White Ship and they sail into the West.

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