From cannon fodder to complex heroes – A brief history of orcs in film

When you think of high fantasy, several images probably come to mind. Humans in armor, riding horses into battle. Ethereal Elves staying aloof from the messiness of men. Bearded Dwarves in their underground cities. And of course, the hordes of orcs which destroy the “centuries of peace” with their warlike ways.

Tracing these tropes back to their origins leads to J.R.R. Tolkien and his work. High fantasy is a fairly young genre, less than a century old. As with most genres, for years, the story was played straight. Humans and their allies were good, orcs and theirs were evil. But subversion comes to all media. With Warcraft now in theaters, a larger audience is being introduced to the idea that orcs are people too.

But how did we get here? In the video above (and below), discover a short overview of orcs through the years; from hideous beasts to complex culture.