Forget Angels in America: The real “Gay Fantasia on National Themes” is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bilbo Baggins’ birthday address to his dear “Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles and Proudfoots” may have just as well been a rallying cry for “jocks and bears, bulls and otters, cubs, tops, geeks, and beefcakes.” Such is the rainbow power of a saga which centers on Sir Ian McKellen, one of our oldest and most preeminent queer actors, embarking on a mission of peace with four twinks, two daddies, a bearded pocketgay, and Orlando Bloom. Aragorn may be the heir to the throne of Númenor, but there’s a whole crew of underrated kings that deserve some love, too. Namely, our heroes’ most dominant adversaries, the orcs.
2021 marks The Lord of the Rings movies' 20th anniversary, and we couldn't imagine exploring the trilogy in just one story. So each Wednesday throughout the year, we'll go there and back again, examining how and why the films have endured as modern classics. This is Polygon's Year of the Ring.
Vicious foot-soldiers of the Dark Lord Sauron, the orcs’ description by author J.R.R. Tolkien as being “squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes” hasn’t necessarily aged like a fine wine, leading many to question whether they were an inherently racist creation. (The current answer is more complex.) And while director Peter Jackson can’t necessarily escape that cringey context, he does his best to render these creatures (and their “thicc with two C’s” brethren the Uruk-hai) into gloriously old-fashioned movie monsters, as indebted to his earlier horror-comedy splatter films as they are to the Ray Harryhausen sword-and-sandal flicks and George Miller’s feral Mad Max villains.
In Jackson’s much-maligned Hobbit trilogy, these minions were largely realized through motion-capture and CGI, giving them a plastic, Ken-doll-by-way-of-Nosferatu feel. And while Azog the Defiler (swoon) does rock a pretty snatched bod and a piercing pair of baby blues, we like our orcs practical here. Something you can hold onto, y’know?
This is why we have no choice but to bow down to the inimitable talents of Weta Workshop founder Richard Taylor, whose staggering contribution to the films is detailed on the exhaustive Extended Edition DVD bonus features, and entailed, in his own words, “the design, the fabrication, and the on-set operation of the special makeup effects and prosthetics, the armor, the weapons, the creatures, and the miniatures.” According to producer Barrie Osborne, that’s over 45,000 constructed elements, 10,000 of which were facial prosthetics and 1,800 of which were bodysuits that would completely encase the orc performers in foam latex.
The transformation procedure required a team of 12 makeup artists and a multi-step process consisting of facial application, body suit dressing, teeth installation, and wig fitting. And while it could take up to 11 hours to achieve a camera-ready lewk for just one orc, the result is a magnificently diverse collection of Middle-earth baddies whose iconic monstrousness has too long overshadowed their fuckability.
On that note, here are the trilogy’s dominant daddies of Mordor and Isengard ranked from hard passes to fine asses.
21. Clingy Orc
Not only does this creeper closely resemble the Monster From Behind Winky’s Diner in Mulholland Drive, AKA The Least Fuckable Thing in a Movie Ever, he’s just so clearly that gay who’s blowing up everyone’s DM’s just trying to get a little attention. Sir, you may want to “put a maggot hole in my belly,” but it’s 3 a.m.. Good night and good luck.
20. Greedy Orc
At every party, there’s inevitably someone who has a little too much rosé and thinks they can start eating the hobbits. It’s not that we all wouldn’t appreciate “just a mouthful” of Dominic Monaghan, but he’s precious cargo and consent is important. Thank you, next.
19. “The Trees are Strong” Orc
Okay, so there’s a lot going on here. The staples, the teeth, the dangling chain earring — all forgivable. But the fact is this queen is just so fucking horny for tearing down trees, and we do not stan an anti-enviromental king.
18. Wet Orc
He’d rather be dry, but at least he’s alive. Listen, I love a Shawshank moment as much as the next guy, but if your best photo is you drenched in the dark you’re hiding something.
17. Handsy Orc
Aside from undressing a rope-bound Elijah Wood, but leaving his face covered in spider webs (maybe the kinkiest thing anyone has ever done in a movie), this little piggy is most identifiable for his ass-out style of walking, which is just a bit too eager for me. Sorry to this man.
16. Screaming Queen Orc
This one might be cute save for the dead, shark eyes, which honestly remind me of Madonna’s contacts in Evita. Love her, but it’s a problem in that movie and it’s a problem here.
15. Blinded By the Light Orc
This was basically my face when I saw the wonder that is Paddington 2 for the first time. I don’t like his teeth, but I know a kindred spirit when I see one.
14. Ornacia Orc
Honestly, there’s something just a little too Who Down in Whoville about this one for me. Fun fact, though: Jackson and co-writer, co-producer Fran Walsh hypothesize on the commentary that the skull on his head may belong to his mother, which I can only imagine is the Orc equivalent of a heart-shaped tattoo that says “MOM.” Family comes first, and I’m glad to see him representing that.
13. Moria Orc
D’aww. Listen, we love a smile, but this little BB is just cooped up 24/7 in a dark, clammy mine. Take a little vacay, grab some sun, and then we can talk.
12. Stabbed Orc
I don’t know if y’all have ever seen H.R. Pufnstuf but this queen has always reminded me of Witchypoo, so I can’t say I’m really vibing. But we do appreciate someone who can serve face while getting literally stabbed in the heart.
11. Starving Orc
Now we’re getting somewhere. This king hasn’t had nothin’ but maggoty bread for three stinking days, but to tell the truth, it’s working for him. Maggoty Bread Diet for the win. Get your endorsement, boo.
10. Mullet Orc
See: literally anyone walking around Brooklyn taking a break from their nose-gauges. A little Joan Jett couture for the punk queens.
9. Boss Orc
There is a point at which a giant catapulted piece of wall is about to absolutely crush this boss betch and he casually slides out of the way. Then he spits on it. The scene should honestly be on Pornhub.
8. Prologue Orc
Credit where credit’s due, this is the first orc we ever saw in a Lord of the Rings movie. I’m not really a piercings guy, but there’s something about his confidence that is… violently sexy? Seriously… those eyes? Those cheekbones? Swipe right.
7. “Manflesh” Orc
Ricky With the Good Nose here can smell Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom from miles away and that’s a special skill we can appreciate.
6. Ladder Orc
I don’t know how many poppers this guy had before this went down, but in case it’s not clear, this is an orc who’s so horned up he is literally trying to FUCK A LADDER. Bonus points for legit twerking in a Lord of the Rings movie.
5. Commander Orc
Look, sometimes the sexiest thing in the world is security, and I don’t know about you but I just get the sense this silverfox serving Blue Steel here can PROVIDE. And it’s not like he doesn’t know how to have a good time, too. Lest we forget, his most iconic quote is “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!” which is honestly the post-COVID dance track we’ve been looking for.
4. Warg Rider Orc
Call me crazy, but I think he’s a bit of a cutie. Aside from the gnarly scars giving a touch of experience to his lean swimmer’s build you really get the sense this guy is good at mounting a whole lot more than wargs, if ya know what I mean. Michelle Pfeiffer once spoke of a “cool rider,” a man who “if he’s cool enough, he can burn me through and through.” Not to mix metaphors, but I think this skinny legend might be “the one that I want.”
OK, so first off (and I cannot state this strongly enough), his name is SHAGRAT. As in a RAT who SHAGS. This is very good. Add that to the fact that he literally starts a full-blown riot for possession of Frodo’s glittery silver undershirt, a move that would scream Messy Bitch Who Lives For the Drama if it wasn’t imbued with such ferocious passion. As such, his no-holds-barred cry of “Hands off my shiny shirt!” becomes an “It’s Britney, bitch”-esque mic drop for the Third Age, the brave rallying cry of a man burning down a culture of boiled leather and rusty armor and embracing the alluring glow of lamé. We have no choice but to stan a naturally gray legend who also appreciates high fashion.
2. Torch Orc
I feel like the 30 seconds this guy is onscreen is the Lord of the Rings equivalent of the Hercules Mulligan Yorktown verse in Hamilton in that it’s arguable nothing has ever fucked harder in the history of anything. This king had one job and he did it shirtless living his best Olympic Opening Ceremonies fantasy. Next Pride Parade, I want him front and center shaking his ass to a club remix of the Chariots of Fire theme.
1. This Fucking Guy
The only logical choice for number one, this dom top is most famous for filling Boromir with a flurry of giant arrows, but did he have to do it while serving such intense hotty-with-a-body realness? Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Jackson shoots him like Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in Dr. No, with a slow-motion strut that reads less as “I’m gonna go kill Sean Bean” than “Touch this. Touch all of this.”
But it’s impossible to deny his super-charged, Grindr-hookup-gone-wrong fight with Viggo, a knock-down, drag-out fight scene so unbelievably horny it makes Call Me By Your Name look like The Straight Story. Jackson stages it with sweaty grunts and thirsty stares so loaded they’d make Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett blush. There’s even an Extended Edition-exclusive moment apparently deemed too hot for theaters where this freak grabs the knife Aragorn just shoved into his leg, pulls it out, and LICKS IT LIKE A THREE-COURSE MEAL. And in case you thought he was a one-trick pony, look out! He’s vers, hunty! ‘Cause when Viggo stabs him in the stomach, he welcomes it WITH PLEASURE, using his bare fucking hands to pull himself forward for further impalement, clearly the Orc-ish gesture for “Daddy only gave her a taste, but she wanted the whole enchilada!”
Tragically, this lens-fogging display of homosexual mania is cut short when Viggo delivers the killing blow, leaving our man decapitated and us with one nagging question 20 years on, “Hey babe … how’s your head?”
So there you have it, Mordor’s finest ranked from the left-swipes you wish Isengard would have never unleashed to the grade-A babes to whom your hobbit hole is open anytime. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go take a cold shower.