Rating multiple versions of ''Lord of the Rings'' -- We wade through the various DVD editions and pick the best one

By Rachel Orvino
Updated April 11, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Rating multiple versions of ”Lord of the Rings”

Selecting one LOTR DVD is trickier than navigating the mines of Moria. You’ve got three films — The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King — each with its own theatrical and extended versions. Director Peter Jackson even foresees an ultimate collector’s edition with more deleted scenes and a blooper reel. In the meantime, here’s some Elvish insight into the copious versions out there.

THEATRICAL RELEASES Perfect for the purist who wants to own exactly what appeared on the big screen. The extras are only adequate: made-for-TV specials, production featurettes from lordoftherings.net, and previews of the extended versions and of the videogames based on the films. EXTENDED CUTS Talk about striking mithril! Jackson saved the best extras: comprehensive behind-the-scenes features, insightful commentaries (with hilarious banter between hobbits Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan), and a few Easter eggs (mainly sketches from the MTV Movie Awards). THE ONE TO RULE THEM ALL? Forced to choose a single DVD, we’d crown the extended Return king. The extra scenes add depth to secondary characters, such as Faramir and his fractious relationship with his father, while the cast farewells are truly touching — as when the New Zealand stuntmen perform the haka, a traditional Maori dance, for Viggo Mortensen. Also included: the series’ most enjoyable Easter egg — Monaghan pretending to be a German journalist, interviewing Elijah Wood via satellite. Frodo Baggins, you’ve been punk’d!