1. Ian McKellen as Gandalf - - The lone Oscar nomination of the acting ensemble in this trilogy (what a shame), McKellen turned in such an iconic role that it's impossible to see him without seeing Gandalf anymore. Every single mannerism, expression and even his body language is so seamlessly blended with that of such a magical character that you almost question if he's acting or if he's just that good. He just has that twinkle in his eye that is inescapable when it comes to close-ups.
2. Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn - - Arguably the best actor in this talented ensemble, Mortensen was born to play this role and completely immersed himself as the character. His arc from a ranger desperately trying to escape his destiny to a man who owns up and fulfils the title is one of the best journeys in the series. I go to bed every night thanking God that he was recast at the last minute over Stuart Townsend.
3. Andy Serkis as Gollum - - The pioneer of motion-capture, Serkis proved that this technology is so much more than a man in a costume interacting with actors. He IS an actor and gave one of the very best performances over the past 20 years as Gollum. The ability to create two completely different characters and balance them against one another was outstanding. Plus getting us as an audience to sympathize with that character was a feat all on its own.
4. Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee - - While Frodo is the heart and soul of the story it's Samwise the Brave who's with him every single step of the way. The emotion he put forth in all three movies was something really touching and his hold on the audience as a fan favorite completely reflects that.
5. Christopher Lee as Saruman - -Here's another experienced legend that is well-versed in the world of Tolkien and it shows in his amazing performance as The White Wizard. He's so manipulative and cunning in certain scenes but you always get the sense that he's never as fully entranced in wrongdoing as the other villains of the trilogy are... like his heart isn't totally in it for the sake of just being evil.
6. Cate Blanchett as Galadriel - - Blanchett is arguably the best actress on the planet right now and her legendary performances span into so many different genres that it's almost unbelievable. Here she commands the movie whenever she's on screen and her ethereal look matches up perfectly with her wonderfully warm ability to project an immortal being. Oh, and her opening narration can not be overlooked.
7. Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins - - No stranger to Tolkien's work Holm, slipped so seamlessly into the world of Middle-Earth and perfectly captured the bombacious spirit and nervous conditioning of Bilbo Baggins. He's absolutely brilliant in his small screen time and set the blueprint for Martin Freeman's performance in The Hobbit trilogy.
8. Liv Tyler as Arwen - - Tyler's role in the trilogy is often understated but you can't look past her angelic, warm and internally conflicted performance in the trilogy. She goes through a varied amount of emotional mindstates throughout all 3 stories and when she does finally get to Aragorn at the end of The Return of the King there isn't a single person who isn't bursting with eternal happiness.
9. Sean Bean as Boromir - - Another wonderful actor who brings it in just about every role he tackles, Sean Bean was literally the perfect choice for the troubled character of Boromir. I remember reading that he was first cast back in 1999 and flipping out because of how perfect the unison between his previous performances and the Son of Gondor were. With somewhat limited screen time and only one movie to work through a massive character arc Bean perfectly brings this man to life while simultaneously elevating the performances of those around him.
10. John Noble as Denethor - - Sauron is the faceless enemy of the franchise, Saruman is the corrupted one and the biddings of orcs and uruk-hai bring out an evil nature... but it's Denethor the twisted father who's all the more easy to hate. This is thanks in large part to a performance along the lines of Marcia Gay Harden in The Mist where you cringe with anger everytime their character pops up on screen. Noble provided a much needed ounce of slimy, villainous hatred to the movie at a time where each character journey was colliding into one sole mission again.
11. Discalimer* As one of the very few movies that I consider to be perfectly casted in just about every role it was hard to narrow it down to only 10, but these are the 10 Earth-Shattering performances that I thought elevated the films even further.