The Lord of the Rings returns to Netflix very soon – but it might only be temporary

A promotional image for The Fellowship of the Ring, which shows the film's main characters
The Lord of the Rings trilogy prepares for another streaming adventure. (Image credit: Warner Bros./New Line Cinema)

The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is heading back to Netflix – but it might only be a temporary stay.

Revealed in a New on Netflix press release, the world's best streaming service will become home to Peter Jackson's award-winning film series on February 1. 

The announcement brings and end to a near three-year wait for the trilogy's return to Netflix, and marks the first time that all three movies will be simultaneously available on the platform. However, the movies will only be available to stream on Netflix in the US. UK viewers will have to sign up to Now TV to watch them on British shores.

The Lord of the Rings' reinstatement on Netflix is a curious move. One of Netflix's biggest rivals – Prime Video – is home to The Rings of Power, which acts as a pseudo-prequel series to J.R.R. Tolkien's legendary fantasy book series and, by default, Jackson's movies. 

On the surface, it would have made more sense for Amazon to strike a licensing deal with Embracer Group, the current owner of the rights to Lord of the Rings, to bring the trilogy to its streaming service. However, given that The Rings of Power's creators are just as confused as we all are about the franchise's new owners, who knows why that won't be the case.

It's also unclear how Netflix's latest licensing deal will impact The Lord of The Rings trilogy on HBO Max. Currently, all three movies are watchable on Warner Bros. Discovery's (WBD) main streaming platform. Warner Bros. was indirectly responsible for distributing the films in the early 2000s – it owns New Line Cinema, the subsidiary behind Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. So it would be strange if WBD removed the three films from its HBO Max back catalog to allow Netflix to stream them exclusively.

A new Netflix adventure, but for how long?

A promotional poster for The Return of the King featuring its main characters

The Lord of the Rings trilogy might not be on Netflix for long. (Image credit: Warner Bros./New Line Cinema)

Equally, it remains to be seen how long Netflix's latest Lord of the Rings licensing arrangement will last.

Previously, The Fellowship of the Ring – the first entry in the hugely popular film series – made its Netflix debut in January 2018. However, it was removed a few months later before returning in August. Its second stay lasted five months before The Fellowship of the Ring was removed entirely in January 2019.

Meanwhile, its sequels – The Two Towers and The Return of the King – were added in September 2019 before leaving in March 2020. Those departures coincided with HBO Max's official launch, with the streaming platform being released into the world in May 2020.

Given the movies' formerly brief stints on Netflix, it'll be interesting to see how long all three films will stick around for. Obtaining the rights for any third-party content is an expensive endeavor for any streaming company, so it's unclear how long Jackson's Lord of the Rings flicks will remain on Netflix. 

It's possible that the streaming giant agreed a temporary deal with WBD to add the films to its back catalog, with the view to attracting new subscribers. Netflix has set a deadline for its crackdown on password sharing, so maybe this is its way of enticing new customers to purchase their own accounts. However, considering Netflix added 7.66 million new subscribers to its userbase in Q4 2022, it's not struggling to convince people to sign up.

Regardless, based on the brevity of their previous Netflix outings, we'd advise you to stream The Lord of the Rings film trilogy once February 1 rolls around. Who knows how long they'll be available for, so you're best watching them as soon as possible.

For more Lord of the Rings and other streaming content, read up on what we know about The Rings of Power season 2. Additionally, find out whether Jackson's trilogy is part of our best HBO Max movies list, or see what the best Netflix movies and best Prime Video movies are right now.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

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