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The most powerful elves in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings

Peter Jackson's blockbuster Lord of the Rings film trilogy drew on author J.R.R. Tolkien's deeply intricate world in order to recreate one of the most compelling narratives of the modern era. Introducing Tolkien's books to a new generation, it sparked a 21st-century demand for fantasy in epic fashion — and years after the series conquered the box office, it still stands as a cinematic triumph.

The Jackson-helmed adventure through Middle-earth introduces the reader to many different races and beings as it goes along. Dwarves, Hobbits, men, orcs, trolls, Ents, and others all play their part. One of the most important peoples to impact the story, though, are elves. These ethereal creatures often prove to be filled with deep knowledge and wield dynamic, supernatural power behind the scenes.

With all that in mind, we've put together a ranking of the most powerful elves in Middle-earth, breaking down why each one made the list — and how they make the servants of Barad-dûr and Isengard quake in fear whenever they cross paths. For simplicity's sake, we're going to restrict the list to Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. If we counted other things, like The Hobbit trilogy or The Silmarillion, it would create a very crowded playing field. Keeping it more or less within the bounds of the primary cinematic representation of Tolkien's flagship trilogy helps narrow things to a reasonable number. However, while each character will technically be chosen based on the films, we'll occasionally bend the rules a bit to also include background elements from the original source material as well.

Galadriel

Let's kick things off with a character that represents pretty much everything powerful about Elvendom on Middle-earth — and she never even needs to pick up a sword to prove it. Galadriel is the queen of Lothlorien, an elvish realm that she rules along with her husband Celeborn. Apart from the natural power that comes from being a monarch, Galadriel also wears one of the three elvish rings of power. Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, enables the elvish queen to protect Lothlorien through concealment and supernatural preservation.

In addition to her ring, Galadriel also has her mirror, which figures prominently in the storyline of The Fellowship of the Ring. The mirror functions as a sort of portal or looking glass through which viewers can see things in the past, present, and future. While it can function on its own, the elvish queen has a power over the mirror itself, as she has the ability to command it to reveal specific information if she wishes.

Along with her fancy equipment and sovereign authority, Galadriel is also equipped with a wealth of knowledge and experience that few other creatures in Middle-earth can claim. She was present in the earliest histories of the elves, initially spent time in Valinor — the "Undying Lands" that Frodo is headed for at the end of the Return of the King — and is thousands of years old. Her over-powered status can be summed up by the fact that Sauron considers her a primary enemy.

Elrond

Elrond is the archetype of the "wise elf." Much like Galadriel, he's been around for quite a while and is heavily involved in the events of both the Second and Third Ages — the end of the Third Age being the time when the Lord of the Rings story takes place. He is the son of the heroes Eärendil and Elwing, both of whom had a mix of elvish and human ancestors. This gives Elrond and his brother, Elros, a choice between the immortality or mortality of the two races. While his brother chose mortality, going on to found the line of kings that led directly to Aragorn, Elrond chose his elvish heritage and became an immortal beacon of hope in the struggle against Sauron. 

He leads forces in the Last Alliance — the events depicted at the very beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring — and, by the time of Jackson's films, rules Rivendell, one of the last strongholds of the elves in Middle-earth, dispensing his wisdom to all free folks that seek it.

Elrond is also the bearer of another of the three elven rings, Vilya, the Ring of Sapphire. While its powers are less defined than Nenya, Elrond's ring is generally considered to be the most powerful of the three. Once again, Elrond's pre-eminent status and power can be summed up by the fact that Sauron has a personal and bitter vendetta against both Rivendell and him personally.

Gil-galad

While Galadriel and Elrond get a healthy amount of screen time, one of the most powerful elves to ever step foot in Jackson's Middle-earth trilogy ends up getting little more than a brief cameo. We're talking about Gil-galad. The elvish ruler is literally called the "High King of the Elves of the West."

He's one of Sauron's main enemies in the War of the Last Alliance during the Second Age — again, the events shown during that clip from the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring. During that war, he gathers the elves and then joins with Elendil and the armies of men in order to defeat Sauron and force him to give up the One Ring. 

In addition to leading massive armies and wielding an unstoppable spear, Gil-galad is given not one but two elven rings, Vilya and Narya, though he ends up passing them along to other owners. While he dies in the same combat with Sauron that ends with Isildur chopping off the Dark Lord's ring finger, the heroic king is ever after remembered as one of the most powerful elves to ever rule in Middle-earth.

Glorfindel

While he's not technically accredited as a character in Jackson's trilogy, the elf lord Glorfindel is almost certainly present at the council of Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring, so we're going to include him in the list. We have to — the guy's resume is stunning. While he shows up over and over again in Tolkien's writings, there are a few major points that help him make the shortlist of the "most powerful."

Once again, we're talking about an elf that's thousands of years old here, one born way back in the earliest days of elvish history. So he's clearly wise and experienced. On top of that, at one point he defeats a balrog Gandalf-style, taking on the fiery demon in single combat on a mountainside before sending the pair crashing down to an epic death. But even then, the elf-hero isn't done yet, not by a long shot.

His spirit is eventually sent back from the "Halls of Mandos" — a sort of elf purgatory where their spirits wait for the end of days —  and heads back to Middle-earth, where he dives right into the action yet again. He's the one who predicts that the Witch King won't be killed by a man (cue Eowyn!) and in the books, it's Glorfindel, not Arwen, that saves Frodo from the Black Riders. From elvish resurrections to battling balrogs, there's no doubt that Glorfindel makes the list in spades.

Celeborn

While Galadriel is clearly the most powerful ruler in Lothlorien, she certainly receives a lot of help from her husband and king, Celeborn. While he doesn't have the experience of having lived in the Undying Lands, Celeborn has certainly seen quite a few things in his day. He was born a prince of the elvish kingdom of Doriath and lived through most of the events of the First, Second, and Third Ages. Once again, this helps him make the list of the most powerful if only because of his incredible amount of experience and his extremely deep knowledge. 

Along with the age and knowledge (pretty much a prerequisite at this point), Celeborn rules as a king of elves for most of his life. At various points, he and Galadriel lead their people from one land to the next, usually in a more or less eastward direction, as they continually try to distance themselves from war and destruction. While Celeborn's accomplishments aren't quite as flashy as others on this list, his ability to lead his people through danger for centuries and still be going strong by the time of The Lord of the Rings is impressive, to say the least.

Círdan the Shipwright

Círdan is another character that just makes the cut for Jackson's trilogy, popping into the background at the end of The Return of the King as Frodo, Bilbo, and their companions arrive at the Grey Havens. The elvish lord can be seen on the docks next to his peers Galadriel, Celeborn, and Elrond — and yes, they're peers.

Círdan the Shipwright, while technically serving in a peripheral role, is one of the steadiest forces for good throughout The Lord of the Rings, steadily holding down the fort along the western coasts of Middle-earth and keeping the lines of communication open to the Undying Lands to the west. He maintains docks and ships, providing transport for elves that want to leave Middle-earth in favor of Valinor across the seas. 

Círdan is old, wise, and is the fourth elf on the list to be given an elven ring — Narya, the Ring of Fire. The ring inspires others against domination and tyranny and causes its bearer to be particularly resistant to the wearing effects of time — that last part being something all three rings have in common. Perhaps the Shipwright's best demonstration of wisdom, though, comes not in maintaining ships or deep-seated experience, but rather in the fact that he wisely recognizes Gandalf's need for his ring after the wizard arrives in Middle-earth. He ends up freely giving it to the Grey wizard in order to help him fight the Dark Lord.

Legolas

Legolas is a prince of the elven kingdom in Mirkwood. He functions as an emissary of his father, King Thranduil, and is well known as one of Middle-earth's mightiest warriors. He also possesses that trademark elvish wisdom, although his exact age and history are largely unknown. Regardless, that hardly changes the fact that he kicks butt pretty much every time he whips out his bow and arrows or long knives from one end of Middle-earth to the other. From Moria to Helm's Deep, Gondor to Mordor, Legolas regularly has his enemies trembling in their boots... those who survive for more than a few seconds, that is. 

Even more important than his battlefield prowess, Legolas has shown himself to be a powerful visionary. Not only does he blend seamlessly into the Fellowship of the Ring, serving as a willing team member, but his enduring relationship with Gimli the Dwarf flouts long-held racial prejudices and his support of Aragorn is critical in the man's pursuit of the throne of Gondor. Throughout his adventures, the Prince of Mirkwood stands tall as a character whose genuine friendship and love regularly triumphs over hostility.

Arwen

Arwen is the daughter of Elrond and his wife Celebrían. Like her father, she is also half-elven and is allowed to choose between immortality and eventual death from old age. While she was born in the Third Age, she is still very old by the time The Lord of the Rings kicks off and already has centuries of experience and wisdom. 

In the end, Arwen's story is highlighted by the fact that she marries Aragorn and becomes the queen of Gondor. This, along with her noble heritage, wisdom, and experience, are the main elements to her story in the original source material and are good enough to get her on the list on their own.

However, since we're talking about the Peter Jackson trilogy in particular, Arwen gets one more bonus that puts her over the top: she saves Frodo from the Black Riders and carries him to safety in The Fellowship of the Ring. As we know from earlier, the harrowing flight to the ford is originally carried out by none other than Glorfindel. However, Arwen's heroic substitution serves to show off a bit of the daughter of Elrond's brawn in addition to her renowned beauty and wisdom. Taken all together, she's a shoo-in.

Haldir

Haldir is a captain of Lothlorien that plays a significant role in the original books, though it's hardly enough to make a list of the most powerful elves in Middle-earth. Even in The Fellowship of the Ring, the elven commander is little more than a footnote. However, he does serve the important function of leading the Fellowship through Lothlorien to Galadriel and Celeborn in their palace deep in the woods. In addition, his knowledge of the common tongue gives him a unique position of power and communication amongst his fellow elven brethren.

But Haldir's impact doesn't stop there, as Jackson's vision for the golden-haired warrior ended up extending past the role of guardian and guide. As the forces of Isengard close in on the undermanned forces at Helms Deep in The Two Towers, it ends up being none other than Haldir himself who slips in ahead of the host of Uruk-Hai, arriving at the gates with trumpets blaring and a host of Lothlorien's best soldiers at his back. In the ensuing battle, Haldir shows his mettle as he and his elvish champions fight nearly to the last man defending the walls, with the captain himself giving his life in the defense.

Figwit

Last, and certainly least, we have Figwit. The elves mentioned so far have been truly great beings that wielded impressive levels of power, whether it was through political influence, military acumen, long-developed wisdom, or hidden spiritual strength. One character that we simply couldn't resist tacking onto the end of the list, though, is Figwit. 

The inconsequential elf is a bit of an enigma, partially because he never should have existed in the first place. In fact, his wiki fandom page is plastered with a banner at the top declaring that he isn't canon. The elf, portrayed by actor Bret McKenzie, first appeared briefly in the council of Elrond as an obscure character off in the corner.

After that, his popularity (and nickname) began to gain steam until Peter Jackson caught wind of the fan-created character and decided to bring him back in as the elf that tries to stop Arwen from riding away in The Return of the King. To go from a nothing extra to such high demand from the fans, not to mention Jackson himself, is enough to win him an honorary spot on the list.