J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth universe is nothing short of indescribable. Tolkien and his son, Christopher, created a whole new world, along with its geography, history, religions, species, and even languages with several dialects. In all that detail, Middle-earth has numerous heroes and scary villains, each more powerful than the next.
However, the best-known ones are depicted in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies. Some powerful villains like the Ungoliant and Melkor weren’t in the movies, so they won’t be on this list. Without further ado, here’s the ultimate list of the 20 most powerful The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit villains, ranked from weakest to strongest.
Most Powerful Villains from The Hobbit
7. Mr. Lake-Town & Alfred
We start off our list of the most powerful The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit villains with Mr. Lake-town and Alfred. Mr. Lake-Town was the so-called mayor and master of Lake-town in The Hobbit, who was as big of a dirtbag as you can find. He led the town in a way that only worked for him and those around him. While the people struggled, his buttons were literally bursting out the seams from his huge belly.
He punished innocent people and was as corrupt as they came, but the worst thing he did happened when the people needed a leader the most. When Smaug flew to burn everything to ashes, Mr. Lake-town let go of his power, grabbed as much gold and goods he could carry, and tried fleeing, leaving everyone behind to die.
The same goes for his right hand, Alfrid, who you just couldn’t get rid of. He sat on two stools all the time, switching sides to his convenience. Being loyal is unknown to Alfrid, and he also tried to flee like a coward once things got rough. The guy dressed up as a woman when all the healthy men of the town were called to fight.
Luckily for the fans, neither of these sleazeballs survived. Mr. Lake-town is killed when Smaug falls from the skies right onto his boat, while Alfrid – who Mr. Lake-town left behind, got catapulted into a Troll’s mouth, suffocating them both.
They weren’t really powerful, as they were only cowardly men, but if there were villains I hated the most in The Hobbit trilogy, it had to be these two.
6. The Goblin King
The Great Goblin, also known as the Goblin King, wasn’t as powerful as he was hideous. He is a huge, fat, white Goblin with an under-chin as big as his head, donning a crown made out of bones and staff with a cattle skull on top.
The scariest thing about the Goblin King was the army he controlled, counting thousands of goblins. Still, as big and ugly as the Great Goblin was, he was twice as dumb. He had Bilbo and the Dwarves trapped, surrounded, and ready for the plate, but they still managed to escape.
Gandalf did quick work out of the Goblin King, sending Middle-earth’s Jabba the Hutt down into his death in a blink of an eye. He didn’t really display any kind of strength in the movie. Still, a huge villain like that has to be considered a threat. I mean, had he just stepped onto Bilbo or his crew, they’d be pancakes.
5. Trolls (Tom, William & Bert)
Now, I have to admit. Although the Huggins Troll brothers, Tom, Bill, and Bert, were antagonists in The Hobbit, I loved them. The nasty Stone Trolls lived in Eriador and used their brute strength and size to vandalize Middle-earth, pillaging, killing, and robbing as they saw fit.
Had they not been so stubborn, they might’ve ended Thorin and the Dwarves before they even got the chance to complete their quest. The Trolls had them tied up but little did they know, Bilbo escaped.
They were bickering about how to best cook the Dwarves, and while they argued, Bilbo used his mouth to keep them occupied for long enough that the sun came up, turning the three Stone Trolls into, well, stone.
The three also appear in The Lord of the Rings when the Fellowship stumbles upon their petrified bodies. Frodo remembers Bilbo’s story about the three Trolls who died arguing about ways to cook “thirteen dwarves and one hobbit.” He clearly remembered it wrong, though, as the hobbit was never getting cooked – Bilbo escaped and virtually saved the Dwarves.
4. The Wargs
The Wargs appear in both Peter Jackson’s trilogies, but I believe they had a more significant role in The Hobbit. Wargs are a terrifying wolf species and powerful creatures, as big as a truck and as bad as the goblins who usually ride them. They have huge jaws, are extremely resilient, and durable, and have a bad temper.
Luckily, they aren’t the smartest creatures – they rely on the goblin rides to guide them in battle. Without a rider, the Warg is not nearly as dangerous. They can still attack and kill, as seen when a riderless Warg attacked Gimli in The Lord of the Rings before Legolas killed it with an arrow (and it fell right on top of the dwarf).
In The Hobbit, Azog and his Orc army used Wargs to corner Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves on a cliff, making them climb trees and wait for death. They only survived because the Eagles arrived just in time to save them from falling into their deaths – or being eaten by the beasts.
One Warg alone isn’t that dangerous, but they hardly ever come alone – it’s usually a whole pack you have to deal with, along with the bloodthirsty goblins who ride them.
Orcs are known to be hideous creatures, but hardly any of them are as hideous as Bolg. He’s the son of Azog the Defiler, one of the main villains in The Hobbit trilogy. Bolg has metal connecting his shattered skull – the guy has clearly seen happier days.
Bolg has no superpowers other than being incredibly strong and durable, but he had shown a great mind when it comes to strategy. Of all the Orcs – including Uruk-Hai – from The Lord of the Rings, Bolg might be the most cunning and brutal.
Still, he was always the second behind his father, and one has to point out that, even though Bolg had his moments, he still failed at capturing, killing, or even depleting the Company despite having them cornered and served on a platter more than once. As mighty as Bolg might’ve been, his father, who’s next on the list, beats him in every aspect.
2. Azog The Defiler
Next on our list of most Powerful The Lord Of The Rings & The Hobbit Villains is Azog, the Defiler. Azog, the Defiler is a huge, pale, intimidating Orc chief who wanted nothing more than to kill Thorin Oakenshield and destroy his bloodline. Azog hunts the Company for almost the entire trilogy. Although he didn’t succeed in his mission, in the end, the Defiler caused as much trouble for Bilbo and the Dwarves as everyone else put together (not named Smaug).
Azog and his armies were also responsible for taking over Moria and costing the Dwarves their home. In the last movie of the trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies, he and Thorin finally come face to face, and Thorin kills Azog after a hard-fought battle. The price for killing Azog was high but worth paying.
Azog, the Defiler, is by far the most powerful Orc we’ve seen in both trilogies, which is why he well deserves such a high ranking on the list.
It should be no surprise that Smaug is on top of the list of the most powerful villains in The Hobbit. This colossal dragon from Middle-earth sitting on a never-ending pile of treasure vowed to burn everything and everyone who tries to steal even a single coin of his treasure or wake him up from his long slumber.
Smaug was huge, extremely strong, packed with huge teeth, claws, wings, fiery breath, and impenetrable scales covering him from head to toe, making it impossible to kill. On top of all that, Smaug could hear the slightest whisper and react as fast and agile as you can imagine.
On top of all that – Smaug is incredibly intelligent. He is cunning, knows how to speak, and in the end, burning up an entire city is merely a few minutes of work for the spectacular beast. The best way to describe the sheer power Smaug possesses is with his own words: “My teeth are swords, my claws – spears, my wings – a hurricane, and my breath – DEATH!”
Luckily for – well, everybody – one of Smaug’s impenetrable scales was missing – leaving just enough room for Bard to shoot a spectacular shot with the gigantic arrow and nail Smaug right in the tiny hole where the missing scale should’ve been.
In only a few moments, Bard did what nobody could do for decades, even centuries – Smaug ruled for 171 years, but no one knows his true age. Had it not been for the bare patch and Bilbo’s sharp eye to notice it, The Desolation of Smaug around the Lonely Mountain would still be the dragon’s dominion.
Most Powerful Villains from The Lord of the Rings
13. Grima Wormtongue
What Mr. Lake-town and Alfrid were in The Hobbit, Grima Wormtongue was in The Lord of the Rings. He was a weak, pathetic servant of the Dark who you just loved to hate and just wanted to see gone as soon as possible. This makes him a perfect Lord of the Rings villain, although not so powerful one.
Grima was Saruman’s servant who played a servant role to Rohan’s King Theoden. He led Saruman right into Theoden’s mind, poisoning it and making the King completely lose his sense of self, not even being able to see the difference between friends, family, and enemies.
Wormtongue deceived, manipulated, and almost destroyed Rohan from within, all because Saruman promised him Eowyn, Theoden’s niece if their plan works. Grima wasn’t powerful, but his strength came from his betrayal and manipulation. As Eowyn said to him: “Your words are poison.”
Luckily, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas came at the right time to save Theoden, banish Saruman, and toss Grima out of Rohan. However, Theoden had already banished Eomer, his nephew, and the Rohirrim. They even let Wormtongue go because, as Aragorn said: “Enough blood has been spilt on his account.”
Gothmog in The Lord of the Rings movie was a hideous, disfigured Orc-general who led troops through Osgiliath in the Battle of Minas Tirith. Peter Jackson and the writers didn’t want another Uruk-Hai Orc-general, which we’ve already seen and know their capabilities.
Instead, they opted to go for ugliness instead of brute strength (yeah, like the Uruk-Hai were pretty). The entire left side of Gothmog’s face and the body was disfigured and crippled. He was a great war mind and general, but in terms of his power – the guy had a stumpy arm and a huge limp.
Still, he was cunning and had great reflexes – shown when a huge stone from a catapult flew in his direction, and he evaded it just as it was about to hit. In the end, Gothmog met his end from Gimli’s ax and Aragorn’s sword, just as he was closing in with a mace to kill Eowyn.
11. The Watcher In The Water
There were countless nightmare-inducing creatures in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but the one that made me hate deep water for years as a kid was The Watcher in the Water.
The huge, Kraken-like creature delved in the waters before the entrance to the Mines of Moria, sleeping until something, or someone, disturbed the peaceful water. Even a slight sound woke the beast, which happened when the Fellowship approached Moria, looking to enter the Mines.
The Watcher woke up, surfaced, and immediately attacked the Fellowship with its colossal tentacles, strong enough to rip a man in half. He was particularly interested in Frodo, as he felt the presence of the Ring.
As much as the Ring interested the creature, making it target Frodo, the Ring might’ve also saved Frodo’s life, as the beast tried to get the treasure before swallowing the hobbit with its enormous maw. It was enough for the Fellowship to wound the creature, save Frodo, and run into Moria. Watcher in the Water might not be the most powerful villain in Lord of the Rings but it’s definitely the most mysterious.
I hate Orcs. They are filthy, disgusting, and brutal, and there’s not a single thing about them that one could find appealing. However, the Uruk-Hai leader and general, Lurtz, take my hate to a whole new level.
Uruk-Hai are like the Orc special forces. They are the strongest, smartest, and toughest Orc species out there. Of course, their chieftain was the worst of the bunch. They could run for days without stopping, and once they caught up with the Fellowship near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, it was brutal – and Lurtz was in the middle of it all.
Lurtz took his giant bow and arrows and pierced half a dozen arrows through Boromir, eventually leading to his death. Even after that, when battling Aragorn, Lurtz showed what a monster he was. After Aragorn pierced his sword through his abdomen, Lurtz deliberately pierced it further to get closer to the would-be-King.
One swift move and Lurtz’s head went flying, and it was the happiest moment of the entire film for me.
Gollum, aka Smeagol, was not a villain, per se, but he was a major antagonist throughout The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Frodo and Sam used Gollum as a guide to Mount Doom, while he just wanted to get the Ring back – which he often calls “My precious.”
Smeagol got the Ring after Deagol found it in a river while the two were fishing. Smeagol killed his brother, instantly being corrupted by the Ring’s power. It eventually turned him into Gollum. Along the way, he went from being an okay guy to a complete douchebag countless times, leading Frodo and Sam into danger at one moment while saving their lives in the next.
Eventually, the Ring’s power was too much for poor Smeagol, as he fell into the fires of Mount Doom and burned with the Ring, smiling all the way down, just because the Ring was next to him again.
One of the horrifying dangers that Gollum led Frodo and Samwise into was Shelob – the gigantic spider living in the tunnels leading to Cirith Ungol, about Minas Morgul. Shelob was the spawn of Ungoliant, a primordial spider that was a lot bigger and even had special powers, which Morgoth used to destroy the Two Trees of Valinor in the First Age.
Shelob didn’t have powers, nor was she good or bad – but she was a menacing threat to anyone passing through her tunnels. Orcs, Men, Elves, Dwarves, or Hobbits – Shelob doesn’t pick; she just kills and eats.
One of the goblins explained that Shelob loves to paralyze her prey with her venom and then eat them while they’re still alive but can’t move. She’d do the same to Frodo had it not been for Sam. For some, Shelob might be the most terrifying villain in Lord of the Rings.
7. Mouth of Sauron
Not much is known about the Mouth of Sauron before he/it began serving the Dark Lord. Nobody remembers his real name – not even the Mouth of Sauron himself. All we know is he is one of the Ringwraiths and Sauron’s most trusted leaders, ranking behind only the Dark Lord himself and the Witch-king of Angmar.
It is believed that Mouth of Sauron was a Black Numenorean before becoming a Nazgul, which would explain his big posture and devotion to the Dark Lord. Most of the scenes with the beast were cut but later reinstated in Jackson’s extended version of The Return of The King.
Mouth of Sauron lied about Frodo and Sam being tortured and murdered before being decapitated by Aragorn.
Interestingly, the creature’s design ought to be completely different in the film. Its mouth ought to be sideways, but Jackson didn’t like the idea, so they simply used special effects to make it twice as big, along with the cracked lips and huge, rotting teeth. It should depict that even speaking on behalf of Sauron’s evil is enough to rotten the body, mind, and soul.
6. The Nazgul
The Nazgul, also known as the Ringwraiths, were Sauron’s slaves and his most powerful warriors, riding huge black drakes, screeching loud enough to kill a person, if not from the sound, then from fear.
They were all Men before Sauron put Nine Rings of power on their hands, torturing them until he broke their spirit and then turning them into his subordinates, obeying nothing and no one but the Dark Lord himself.
The Ringwraiths were incredibly powerful and hard to kill. Their leader was the Witch-king of Angmar, which I’ll talk more about separately. Interestingly, one of the Nazgul was Isildur, Aragorn’s ancestor. After Orcs killed him in a river, they took Isildur’s body to Sauron, who turned him into a Ringwraith.
5. The King of the Dead
The Men of the White Mountain were first summoned by Isildur to help defend Middle-earth from the Dark. However, when their time came, they betrayed Isildur, fleeing into the mountains, where they were cursed never to rest until they fulfilled their vow.
Enter the Army of the Dead. Before the Battle of Minas Tirith, Aragorn leaves his army and delves into the mountains. With a reforged Narsil – Elendil’s broken blade – he urges the Dead Men to fulfill their vows and fight for him.
The King of the Dead refuses at first, and they threaten to kill Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, but after they see the King’s blade, they accept and fight.
The King of the Dead and his army saved the day in the end. No one could harm them, as they were already dead spirits, swarming the battlefield and demolishing the enemy before Aragorn eventually fulfilled his promise and released them of their curse.
Saruman was once one of the most powerful wizards in the world. He was a White Wizard and the leader of the Order of the five mightiest wizards, sent to Middle-earth to help fight the evil emerging in the East.
However, he eventually succumbed to the One Ring’s power and became a villain. I say, to the Ring’s power because, although it seemed like he was Sauron’s ally, he planned on tricking the Dark Lord, too, as he actually wanted the Ring for himself, not to give it to the Dark Lord.
Be that as it may, he caused so much trouble, death, and pain throughout the trilogy that, despite Christopher Lee’s masterful performance as Saruman, I felt relief when I saw him pierced on that huge spike at the bottom of his tower. When the Ents led by Treebeard, Merry, and Pippen destroyed Isengard, I jumped up and down the room with joy.
Still, you can see the sorrow in Saruman’s eyes in The Two Towers when he sends his colossal army towards Helm’s Deep, and a tear rolls down his face, knowing what might happen that night.
3. The Balrog
We’re slowly reaching the top 3 of the most powerful villains in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. The Maiar were powerful primordial spirits created to help the Valar shape the world upon its creation in the First Age. Those who have fallen under Melkor’s influence – the first Dark Lord, much more powerful than Sauron – became Balrogs.
Balrogs were unfathomably powerful beings resembling demons who almost couldn’t be killed, using fire, might, and terrifying weapons to demolish anything in their path. Most of them were killed, but when the Dwarves dug too deep into the Mines of Moria, they awakened a Balrog.
Gandalf fought the beast as the Fellowship tried to help and almost threw it into a never-ending hole – but Balrog whipped Gandalf around the leg and pulled him down, leading to the legendary quote: “Run you fools.” It still gives me goosebumps.
Eventually, Gandalf defeated the beast but died himself, only to be resurrected as Gandalf the White in the sequel.
2. The Witch-king of Angmar
The horrible Witch-king of Angmar is the leader of the Nazgul and Sauron’s second-in-command. He is for a reason the second on our list of most powerful Lord of the Rings villains. The horrifying creature with no face was once a man. However, under Sauron’s service, wearing one of the Nine Rings, the Witch-King turned more and more into a creature rather than a Man, eventually becoming the most powerful Ringwraith of them all.
The history behind the character is long, as he successfully leads Sauron’s armies into many battles and significant victories – almost single-handedly taking down the Kingdom of Arnor. Truth be told, Arnor was already separated into seven smaller Kingdoms, so the Dark Lord and the Witch-king had a much easier job.
No Man could ever kill the Witch-king, as he eloquently says to Eowyn during the battle of Minas Tirith. Unfortunately for the Witch-king, he didn’t know Eowyn was no man, so she was able to kill him right there, turning him into nothing but air and dust.
Finally, the Dark Lord rightfully takes first place on this list of most powerful Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit villains. Not only is Sauron seemingly omnipresent and the main antagonist of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he has a history that would make any Dark Lord envious.
Sauron survived numerous incidents that would mean certain death for anybody. He was the exception to the rule, as Sauron cleverly put most of his power into the One Ring. Regardless of how many times you defeated him, Sauron would come back every time until the One Ring was destroyed.
And the only way to destroy it was in the fires where it was forged – meaning, Mount Doom in the middle of Mordor – Sauron’s land where no Man could enter alive. Oh, did I forget to mention that the Ring corrupts any being living in Middle-earth almost instantly? Luckily, hobbits were something special.
Interestingly, after Frodo destroyed the Ring, many fans believed Sauron was dead. Well, as it turns out, he wasn’t. You see, in Tolkien’s universe, a spirit can never be destroyed and reduced to zero. It can heal, regenerate, and regrow, albeit not take physical form. Only if it was pushed beyond a certain point could it never recover.
Sauron tried to bypass that rule by putting almost all of his native power into the Ring. However, when the Ring was destroyed, so little of Sauron’s spirit was left alive that he could never recover again – not even have a coherent thought. As Gandalf said in the books: “…becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows.”
There you have it – the ultimate guide of the most powerful The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit villains.