The Greatest Christmas Movie Is The Lord of the Rings

Gabriella Paiella
·4 min read

When I heard the news that New York was going to be hit with its first major snowstorm of the season, one that could result in over a foot of snow and potentially knock out the power, I prepared in the most pragmatic, survival-minded way possible: I pulled out my Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs.

To be fair, snowstorm or not, I do this every year around the holidays. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King had successive late December releases during my formative tween and early teen years, and so they’ve always been indelibly linked to this season for me. But this is about more than 12-year-old me having my sexual awakening the first time I saw Aragorn’s chin in a suburban movie theater in 2001. [This is where my therapist starts scribbling in their notebook.] It’s because the Lord of the Rings movies are technically Christmas movies—the greatest Christmas movies.

I’ll admit to some bias here. I’m not, you know, buying Funko Pops or staging an environmentally disastrous Lord of the Rings-themed wedding, because I’m a functioning adult with a healthy sense of shame. Even though I do own a copy of The Silmarillion and tear up every time I hear Enya’s songs on the soundtrack. And when I was in Paris last year, I may have dragged my husband to a Tolkien exhibition after seeing posters around the city, even though he had never read the books or seen the movies and neither of us speaks French. (It was there that I learned two things: Mordor in French is Le Mordor. Also, not every Parisian is cool—some are, in fact, nerds. And all 30 of them were at the exhibition that day.)

Beyond that, there is some actual, tangible evidence that places the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the pantheon of Christmas movies.

The most obvious is that there are elves. Yes, the elves are tall and lithe and have silky blonde extensions. And one of the main ones is now married to Katy Perry, one is Stephen Tyler’s daughter, one was in The Matrix, and the last one is angry and sexy Cate Blanchett. Sorry, where was I going with this? They’re still elves. But if you’re looking for the traditional Keebler cookie and Santa’s workshop variety short kings, there are hobbits. For more atmospheric holiday touches, the palantir are basically snow globes, Gandalf looks like Santa, and Saruman looks like the weird mall Santa you don’t want to let near your kids.

Timing-wise, the fellowship sets off for their quest to destroy the One Ring on December 25th. Jesus’s birthday! It’s right there! This was intentional: J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic who once wrote to a friend that Lord of the Rings “is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in revision.” And Christ-like themes show up in the whole trilogy, from Frodo bearing the burden of his ring like a cross, to Gandalf the Grey dying and getting a glow up in the form of resurrection as Gandalf the White. Every day, I thank God that Tolkien did not live long enough to share his opinions on Twitter, unlike, say, other wildly popular and previously beloved fantasy authors of our era.

We must remember that Christmas, along with being a day for loved ones to gather together and be imbued with the holiday spirit, is also a time to unearth deep-seated familial trauma and replay conflicts from our youth ad nauseam. The Lord of the Rings trilogy acknowledges this fully. Denethor’s relationship to his sons Borimir and Farimir puts the most awkward scenes from The Family Stone to shame. And, just generally speaking, there are a lot of uncles throughout.

There is also, notably, no fucking in The Lord of the Rings, no matter what Led Zeppelin would have you believe and what 12-year-old me wanted to see. This is a point in the Christmas movie column. I don’t care what agenda Love Actually or The Holiday is pushing, Christmas is not a time for fucking. (It’s for unearthing deep-seated familial trauma.)

Ultimately, what makes the Lord of the Rings trilogy perfect Christmas movies is that they, in total, clock in at nearly 12 hours long. Even in a typical year, we would be winding down from work and faced with an expanse of frigid downtime to fill. This is exponentially true this year. As Gandalf put it to Frodo: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” And you should decide to watch The Lord of the Rings again.

Ten years ago, Folgers coffee first aired their now-infamous “Coming Home” ad. Little did they know, it would go on to inspire everything from parody videos to severely NSFW fan fiction. Here, GQ talks to the people involved in this holiday miracle.

Originally Appeared on GQ