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What To Watch While You're Waiting For Amazon's Lord Of The Rings Prequel

It's been a long 17 years since the debut of the final Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King, and six years since the final installment of The Hobbit franchise, The Battle of the Five Armies. That's a long time to go without any new Middle-earth content, but thankfully, our long international nightmare is almost over. A new Lord of the Rings TV series from Amazon is on the way. The series isn't another adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's classic book trilogy, but rather, it will tell an original tale set many, many years earlier. The still-untitled series has recently finalized its cast and is expected to begin filming in February 2020, which is undeniably great news. Unfortunately, that means that the earliest we'll be able to actually watch the series is 2021. So what are fans supposed to do until then?

Lucky for you, there are plenty of other options when it comes to watching fantasy on the small screen. Although nothing may fully replace The Lord of the Rings, you should still be able to find some solace in shows that feature elves, wizards, and massive dragons. So if you're dreading having to go another year before you get to return to Middle-earth with Amazon's Lord of the Rings series, start watching some of the shows from the list below. They'll help you pass the time so quickly, you'll be convinced that there's sorcery afoot.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance does some amazing worldbuilding

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance was low-key one of the best television series released in 2019, and the fact that it's also a hardcore fantasy show is the icing on the cake. A prequel series to the cult-favorite Jim Henson dark fantasy film from 1982, Age of Resistance mixes the old school puppetry of the original Dark Crystal with modern peak TV sensibilities, and the two taste great together. The series is a relentlessly entertaining ten-episode adventure that manages to please fans of the original film while also appealing to novices.

The series does a tremendous job of building out the world and mythology of its setting, Thra, while also introducing loads of memorable new characters. Its story is a classic good versus evil fantasy tale, complete with magic, prophecies, and monsters. Lord of the Rings fans especially should appreciate the series' protagonists, the Gelflings, a diminutive and unassuming race who are more powerful and capable than they appear. In other words, they're basically hobbits with smaller feet (and whose women have wings).

The series is also just downright impressive to watch. Most of what you see on screen is really happening, thanks to elaborate puppets and enormous, heavily-detailed sets. The CGI that's used is very well-done and seamless, and it never escapes the viewer that you're watching a very high-quality production from people who deeply care about the story they're trying to tell.

The Witcher is perfect for Lord of the Rings fans

Bar none, this is the hottest fantasy TV series to debut since Game of Thrones premiered back in 2011. And while The Witcher, which is based on the Polish novel series by Andrzej Sapkowski, may not live up to pundits' calls for it to be "the next Game of Thrones," it's still a bona fide hit. It also should hold a particular appeal to fans of The Lord of the Rings.

A big reason as to why Game of Thrones was able to become the biggest show on TV is because it was able to appeal to people who weren't traditionally fans of fantasy. How did it do this? By focusing on the politics of Westeros and minimizing the more magical elements of its source material, A Song of Ice and Fire. The Witcher, by contrast, does no such thing. This is a show by fantasy nerds, for fantasy nerds. The magic is front and center, the monsters are plentiful, and the plot makes no attempt at taking itself too seriously. One episode features a massive battle on par with a GoT skirmish, but it's full of a bunch of magicians casting all sorts of crazy spells. In that way, it's similar to the battles from Lord of the Rings, which are known to contain such participants as giant walking trees and ghost armies.

Since The Lord of the Rings is basically the OG work of fantasy nerdom, LOTR fans who consider themselves old school fantasy nerds should really enjoy all the magical details in The Witcher.

Game of Thrones will get you ready for Amazon's LOTR prequel series

Game of Thrones isn't the nerdiest fantasy series to ever make it to television. It's extremely gritty, its magic is rarely seen and dismissed by most characters, and the White Walkers, its main fantastical element, were infamously and unceremoniously brushed aside in the show's wayward final season. However... that doesn't mean it isn't worth watching, especially if you're a fan of The Lord of the Rings.

Although it doesn't dive headfirst into high fantasy quite like The Lord of the Rings or The Witcher, Game of Thrones is still, at the end of the day, a fantasy series. It has dragons, it has the aforementioned White Walkers, it has a couple of sorceresses, and it even has a small race of elf-like beings called the Children of the Forest. And while all of these things are present, making the series fantasy, its main focus is on the characters and their relationships.

Game of Thrones is basically a political drama with fantasy elements, and it's a darn good political drama (final season notwithstanding). There's a reason the show won the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy four times, being that it's really good. The series appeals to pretty much everyone, not just fans of fantasy like LOTR. But LOTR fans will probably like the series more than most, as J. R. R. Tolkien was one of the biggest influences on GoT author George R. R. Martin.

J.R.R. Tolkien would probably love Merlin

The Lord of the Rings is often cited as the progenitor of high fantasy. Drawing from many sources — from Ancient English tales like Beowulf to Norse mythology where elves and dwarves reside — J. R. R. Tolkien created a whole new genre. But some fantasy elements present in Tolkien's work can be found in a story that's far, far older: the stories of Arthurian legend. Various critics and scholars have noted numerous similarities between the stories of Arthur and The Lord of the Rings, such as in some of Tolkien's naming conventions. Prior to his death, Tolkien was even writing an epic poem about the legendary king called The Fall of Arthur. It was eventually published, unfinished, after the author's passing.

Given the connections between Arthurian legend and LOTR, it stands to reason that fans of one should be fans of the other. So if you're a Lord of the Rings fan, you should be watching Merlin. The BBC-produced series aired for five seasons and followed the adventures of a young Arthur and his trusty wizard Merlin, and while it obviously drew influence from its ancient source material, it also managed to put a modern spin on the story while greatly fleshing out the titular magician as a character. It probably won't be confused for "peak TV" like some of the other entries on this list, but it's still a magical series that makes for a fun way to pass some time.

The Dragon Prince is fantasy for the whole family

While The Lord of the Rings is by no means aimed at children, it's still a family-friendly piece of entertainment. The violence is decidedly in the fantasy realm and lacks gore, there's a complete absence of sex, and even adult language is hard to come by. By contrast, many of the shows on this list are meant solely for adults. Shows like Game of Thrones and The Witcher are overflowing with explicit violence, nudity-filled sex scenes, and F-bombs — things to which many parents wouldn't want to expose their children. But if you're looking for a fantasy series that you can absolutely watch with your kids, then you should check out The Dragon Prince.

The animated Netflix series has recently concluded its third season, and it seems to be getting more popular all the time. It takes place in a world that's been corrupted by dark magic. Elves and humans are engaged in destructive a generations-long war, and only through young members of each race coming together — and locating the legendary Dragon Prince — can they hope to stop the war and heal their world. It's a story that's filled with classic fantasy tropes and characters, but it also mixes in strong themes of tolerance that makes it especially beneficial for younger viewers. Plus, there are dragons, which is always a bonus.

The Shannara Chronicles is definitely worth a watch

After Game of Thrones became the biggest show on television, studios began a mad dash to find the "next Game of Thrones." This is a trend that's still going on today, with series based on The Wheel of Time, The Kingkiller Chronicle, and of course, The Lord of the Rings all in the works. But one of the first attempts to capitalize on GoT's popularity was The Shannara Chronicles, and it didn't exactly succeed in its mission.

The series is based on the extremely popular Shannara novels by Terry Brooks, one of the most celebrated fantasy authors of all time. But the TV series wasn't quite able to capture the feeling of the books. Part of the reason for that may be where the show ended up. The Shannara Chronicles aired on MTV, a network that's not really known for genre TV or compelling scripted dramas. As a result, the series ended up being more youth-oriented than it probably should've been and — after a move to another odd fit, Spike TV, for season two — The Shannara Chronicles was canceled after just two seasons. But that doesn't mean it's not worth watching.

The Shannara Chronicles is still based on Brooks' work, so its foundation is solid. Its post-apocalyptic setting is unique among its fantasy brethren, which makes for a nice change of pace, especially when you start throwing more traditional fantasy elements like elves into the mix. The Shannara Chronicles may not have lived up to its Game of Thrones aspirations, but it's still worth a look for LOTR fans.

His Dark Materials is like the anti-Lord of the Rings

Think of what your favorite fantasy series was when you were growing up. Was it The Lord of the RingsHarry PotterThe Chronicles of Narnia? Now, what do they all have in common? As you may or may not have noticed, any of the most popular, kid-friendly fantasy series are religious allegories for Christianity. Gandalf is basically Jesus, yada yada yada. But author Philip Pullman's series His Dark Materials, which kicked off with 1995's The Golden Compass, purposely has no such hidden religious agenda. In fact, it has the exact opposite, with overt themes that are heavily critical of religion.

Now, Pullman's books have been adapted as a new HBO series, which premiered in 2019. The story is complex. It takes place in a multiverse, but the main setting is an alternate reality to our own world, where humans have physical, animal embodiments of their souls called daemons. There's also a church that basically rules the world, a material called dust that forms the basis of human consciousness, and just for good measure, witches. Now, that may not sound much like Lord of the Rings, but if you're looking for an epic adventure with some fantasy elements and heavy religious undertones (in this case, anti-religious), then you'll find plenty of similarities between LOTR and His Dark Materials.

Carnival Row will show you what Amazon is capable of

When the Lord of the Rings TV series does finally start streaming, it will do so on Amazon Prime Video. Therefore, it makes sense to watch another Amazon Original fantasy series in order to get an idea of what kind of production values you can expect. So with that in mind, we suggest Carnival Row for your viewing pleasure.

The series, which debuted on Amazon last year, is a wholly original story. That is, unlike most fantasy TV shows, Carnival Row isn't based on a book series. Instead, it was created specifically for television. The show takes place in a steampunk world where humans and magical creatures, namely fairies, share a tenuous coexistence. Most humans view the fairy tale beings, who immigrated to their world, as invaders. The themes of racism and xenophobia are pretty heavy-handed, but the series is still a unique and imaginative spin on the fantasy genre, especially considering that it's classified as a neo-noir mystery, as well as a fantasy.

But what should really interest LOTR fans about Carnival Row is how the show looks. It's gorgeous, and it's obvious that Amazon spared no expense in its production. This is certainly good news because with LOTR shaping up to possibly be the most expensive TV series ever produced, it's nice to see that Amazon knows how to put big budgets to good use. Plus, the cast of Carnival Row looks pretty familiar, what with Legolas himself, aka Orlando Bloom, as the series star, and you know you want to see him return to a fantasy world.

The Mandalorian is way more fantasy than sci-fi

Yes, this is a Star Wars series, and yes, Star Wars is generally classified as science fiction and not fantasy. But despite its space setting, Star Wars has always been more of a fantasy story than a sci-fi one. A New Hope famously follows Joseph Campbell's timeless Hero's Journey, a story template that's been used in countless fantasy tales. It also features a princess, a farm boy who becomes a knight, and an old wizard mentor who dies and then returns from beyond to offer guidance.

The Mandalorian may not be quite the classic fantasy story that A New Hope is, but it's still fantasy enough to appeal to LOTR fans. It tells the story of a lone wanderer who comes into the possession of a stupidly adorable child with magic powers, and the two of them go on a bunch of quests together in the style of Lone Wolf and Cub, meeting colorful characters and strange creatures along the way. It's like a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, westerns, and samurai flicks, blended together into a delicious genre stew.

It's also worth noting that the series is really, really good. Along with The Witcher, The Mandalorian was arguably the biggest new show to debut in 2019, and both series show that the future of fantasy on television is bright. That's certainly good news to fans who are anxiously awaiting the LOTR TV series because if that show wants to compete with The Mandalorian and The Witcher, it had better be great. Of course, it won't have Baby Yoda, so that's one big point for Star Wars.

Before you watch the prequel series, revisit the Lord of the Rings trilogy

While you're waiting for the Lord of the Rings TV series, you can watch all the fantasy and genre series you want in an attempt to fill that Tolkien-shaped hole in your heart. But let's be honest, nothing is really going to live up to LOTR. The original modern fantasy epic remains the high point of the genre for many, and there's simply no replacement for the genuine article. So if you really have a hankering for LOTR while you're waiting for the new series, the absolute best thing you can do is watch the movies.

The three films, directed by Peter Jackson, are nearly two decades old now, but they still hold up beautifully. From the special effects to the performances to the sheer spectacle of it all, there's nothing quite like watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy on the biggest screen you can find.

Watching the movies again now will also put you in the right mindset to watch the TV show. With Amazon's series acting as a prequel to the films, it would behoove you to familiarize yourself with the world of Middle-earth and a few of the characters from the films, as a fair amount of movie elements are expected to show up on the new series, such as the powerful elf Galadriel. And the last thing you want is to be lost while taking in the new LOTR series, right? So watch the movies again now as a refresher. For Gondor!