To truly do The Silmarillion justice would require 9 films. That may seem like too many, but The Silmarillion is as dense as a scone made of neutron stars. Making 9 films of The Silmarillion would NOT be like expanding The Hobbit to 3; on the contrary, I think Tolkien might argue that 9 would be too few.
Now even a few years ago, the prospect of a 9-film series would have seemed like madness, but anyone paying attention to Hollywood trends in the last few years knows that this thing called the Marvel Cinematic Universe has happened, and right now we are 12 successful films and a gazillion dollars into that bad boy with no end in sight. And oh, by the way, Star Wars Episode VII hasn’t even been released yet and already there are 5 films in the “happening” category, with who knows how many more planned. 
Still, while I really do want to see stories of The Silmarillion come alive on a screen of some size, I’m also a hardcore Tolkien fan, and want to see justice done to the stories. I think 9 is the right way to do it, and in this article, I will outline just what I think those 9 films should be.
In my previous post in this series, I broke The Silmarillion into 3 trilogies and spoke about the prologue trope that Jackson established with Galadriel’s opening narration in The Lord of the Rings. With that one device (and as I understand it late addition), Jackson set himself up for success. With Tolkien’s works, we must be drawn out of our world and into his. Solid intros are necessary for this reason, and also because there is so much that just wouldn’t fit into the normal flow of a film but that still deserves to be told.
In this post, I am going to outline the 9 films as I see them. I will do so according to these attributes:
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: A one sentence summary of the plot.
- INTRO: What backstory should introduce this film.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: There is no single protagonist in The Silmarillion nor even a mere handful. However, different tales within The Silmarillion focus on a single protagonist or group of protagonists, and so I will identify these for each film.
- 3 ACTS: Most films follow a 3-act structure. I will identify those 3 acts for each film.
- KEY SUBPLOTS: There are dozens of subplots throughout The Silmarillion. I will mention the major ones that would go well in each film.
Previous posts in this series:
- The Long Defeat: Why Christopher Tolkien must act to secure the best visual treatment for The Silmarillion.
- A Majestic Whole: Is cinema the best visual medium for The Silmarillion?
- A Trilogy of Trilogies: Why 9 is the right number of films for The Silmarillion and what the core of the story is.
Trilogy 1: The Dawn of Middle-earth
Film 1: Journey to the Blessed Realm
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: The Valar must bring the Elves to Valinor and protect them from the destructive Melkor.
- INTRO: The Music of the Ainur & the Ancient Battles with Melkor.
- 3 ACTS: (1) Oromë discovers the Elves. (2) The Defeat and Chaining of Melkor. (3) The Departure of the Elves for Valinor.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Fëanor, Finwë, Thingol, Oromë, Melian, Melkor, Manwë.
- SUBPLOTS: Melkor’s threat to the Elves; the 3 Tribes and the sundering of the Elves; Thingol & Melian.
Film 2: The Darkening of Valinor
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: Melkor is freed from bondage and works secretly to gain revenge against the Valar and the Elves.
- INTRO: Intro to the Valar, the long ages past since film 1, & the creation of the Silmarils.
- 3 ACTS: (1) The Unchaining & Treachery of Melkor. (2) Melkor & Ungoliant Strike. (3) The Cleansing of Valinor.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Fëanor, Finwë, Fingolfin, Galadriel, Yavanna, Olwë, Manwë, Melkor.
- SUBPLOTS: Fëanor vs. Fingolfin; Sauron; Galadriel’s early story.
Film 3: The Fall of the Eldar
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: Fëanor and the Elves pursue Morgoth in the hope of regaining the Silmarils.
- INTRO: Melkor Throwing Down the Lamps (flashback through the eyes of Manwë).
- 3 ACTS: (1) The Pursuit of Melkor. (2) The Oath of Fëanor & the Kinslaying. (3) The Flight to Beleriand.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Fëanor, Manwë, Fingolfin, Galadriel, Yavanna, Olwë
- SUBPLOTS: The peaceful nature of the Teleri; Melkor’s treachery to Ungoliant; Nienna’s Tears; the descendants of the Two Trees; the friendship of Thingol, Olwë, and Finwë.
Trilogy 2: The War of the Jewels
Film 4: The Siege of Angband
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: The Elves of Beleriand must join forces to defeat Morgoth and recapture the Silmarils.
- INTRO: The Hiding of Valinor and the Creation of the Sun and the Moon.
- 3 ACTS: (1) Fëanor battles Morgoth. (2) The Noldor and Sindar clash. (3) The Glorious Battle.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Fëanor, Morgoth, Fingolfin, Thingol, Melian, Maedhros.
- SUBPLOTS: The Coming of the Dwarves; Thingol vs. the Noldor.
Film 5: The Battle of Sudden Flame
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: Morgoth secretly plots the destruction of the Elvish forces besieging his stronghold.
- INTRO: The Founding of Nargothrond & Gondolin; the Coming of Men.
- 3 ACTS: (1) The long siege and the looming threat. (2) The Battle of Sudden Flame. (3) The Death of Fingolfin.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Fingolfin, Barahir, Finrod, Beren, Morgoth.
- SUBPLOTS: Ulmo’s influence; Elves & Men clash; Finrod & Barahir’s friendship; Thingol’s isolationism.
Film 6: The Tale of Beren and Lúthien
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: A mortal warrior and immortal princess must obtain a Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth.
- INTRO: Melkor seduces Sauron; Thingol and Melian’s courtship. (flashbacks)
- 3 ACTS: (1) B&L meet. (2) Beren’s mission. (3) The Silmaril obtained & Lúthien’s choice.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Beren, Lúthien, Finrod, Huan, Thingol, Melian, Sauron, Morgoth.
- SUBPLOTS: Sauron’s treachery to Gorlim; Thingol’s pride; Finrod’s death; Celegorm & Curufin.
Trilogy 3: The Fall of Beleriand
Film 7: The Ruin of Beleriand
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: As the forces of Morgoth overrun Beleriand, the Elvish kingdoms must come together or fall.
- INTRO: Aulë makes the dwarves. (flashback)
- 3 ACTS: (1) The Battle of Unnumbered Tears. (2) The Fall of Nargothrond. (3) The death of Thingol.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Thingol, Melian, Turgon, Maedhros, Húrin, Huor, Fingon, Morgoth.
- SUBPLOTS: The Feud of the Nauglamir; Dwarvish ways; the treachery of the Easterlings.
Film 8: The Fall of Gondolin
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: Though hidden for years, Gondolin is threatened after the fall of the other Elvish kingdoms.
- INTRO: The History of the Hidden City (incl. Maeglin’s story).
- 3 ACTS: (1) Fleeing from Doriath. (2) Tuor’s Happiness in Gondolin. (3) The Fall of Gondolin.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Turgon, Túrin, Tuor, Maeglin, Ulmo, Idril, Morgoth.
- SUBPLOTS: Túrin stuff ; Turgon’s pride; Ulmo’s influence.
Film 9: The War of Wrath
- PLOT-IN-BRIEF: Eärendil undertakes a desperate and perilous journey to Valinor to obtain the aid of the Valar against Morgoth.
- INTRO: Beren & Lúthien epilogue.
- 3 ACTS: (1) Eärendil & the havens of Sirion. (2)The Voyage to Valinor. (3) The War of Wrath.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Eärendil, Elwing, Eönwë, Maedhros, Maglor, Morgoth.
- SUBPLOTS: Maedhros, Maglor, and the end of the Silmarils; the birth of Elrond & Elros; the destruction of Beleriand.
So that’s my outline for 9 Silmarillion films. I have to be honest, even at 9 films, I feel like a lot of important stuff has been excluded. But if I had the opportunity to see these 9 films over the course of a decade or two, I would be absolutely ecstatic.
As for the stories of the Second Age, I’ll have to cover those another time.
NEXT UP: Part 5 – A Silmarillion TV Series
Do you agree with my assessment of The Silmarillion‘s core? Do you think a film series could work? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
– What’s beautiful about this is that it portrays Tolkien as something of a prophet. After all, it was Tolkien that showed a writer could successfully concoct a “secondary reality” (as he called it) and be incredibly successful in doing so. The Star Wars and Marvel “secondary realities” are just two examples of this phenomenon in contemporary culture. Star Trek has been going down this road for some time, and the number seems to be growing every day.
– The story of Túrin is one of Tolkien’s proudest achievements, but in terms of the overriding plot of The Silmarillion, it’s a detour. I think it would be great as a standalone film or two, sort of like what the Star Wars folks are looking to do with the Anthology films, but in terms of these films, I think Túrin needs to be relegated to the place of a subplot. Having said that, you may now threaten me with bodily harm in the comments below.