While The Lord of the Rings books were much more serious in tone and scope than The Hobbit book, there are many fascinating characters from Bilbo Baggin’s adventure that are very important to the story of Middle-Earth as a whole. And, since the movies made The Hobbit less of a children's story, there are actually many intelligent characters in the trilogy.
This list looks primarily at characters who would be considered intelligent on some level, so many of the more background dwarves that viewers don’t learn a lot about aren't included here. While everyone on this list is fairly smart, some are more so than others.
While Fili and Kili in the books came across as rather young and a bit more comedic, this isn't the case in the movies. They are young, but they do have some life experience.
And, they also have royalty in their blood which means they were raised with more refinement than some of the other dwarves in the company. However, they aren’t particularly smart when compared to some of the bigger players.
Bard is a character who gets a lot more backstory and scenes in the movies than in the books which makes sense seeing that there are their entire films. Bard might not have the long life of the elves or dwarves around him, but this doesn’t make him dumb.
He is clearly a leader in his community, and he also has a great deal of common sense. Without this and his quick thinking, he could never have killed Smaug.
As one of the five Istari, Radagast is a rather ancient and wise being in his own right. He is obviously very knowledgeable about animals and plants, and he cares deeply about all living things. So, he definitely is very smart and wise.
However, Radagast is also rather disconnected from the world and rather eccentric. He is intelligent, but he comes across as forgetful and like he has his head in the clouds.
Bilbo might be a Hobbit who had never left the Shire until he was roped into the entire quest by Gandalf, but he’s a very well-read Hobbit. Beyond his book smarts, Bilbo also has a very quick wit and is a fast learner.
He’s able to think his way out of life and death situations, such as the Riddles in the Dark moment with Gollum, and he has a good deal of common sense which allows him to plan ahead and also react quickly.
While in the books the dwarves are often made to seem a bit bumbling in comparison to Bilbo who often has to rescue them, they are a bit more balanced for the movies.
Balin in particular gives off an air of wisdom, and he also knows a lot about dwarven history. He’s definitely one of the most well-read and also level-headed dwarves which allows him to think through many situations.
Smaug was the last of the great dragons in Middle-Earth, and he was really old. Because of his age and because dragons have high intellect in general, he is a very small being. However, while dragons are sneaky, manipulative, and keen, they also have many blind spots in their intelligence.
Smaug spent most of his time guarding his hoard in Erebor, and he was able to be tricked by Bilbo. So, while he’s very smart, other characters do beat him out.
Thorin from the books is also quite different from the movies, and while some fans weren’t thrilled with this, it does make sense for the big screen. However, whatever version you’re looking at, Thorin is the leader and the most intelligent of the dwarves.
While he might not be as studious as someone like Balin, he has a lot of life experience, and at least in the books, he’s older than most of the other dwarves. He might not have the same kind of wisdom as elves, but dwarves have their own intelligence and skills.
Thranduil is an elf lord, so just by way of age and the fact that he has the same gifts as all elves, he’s really very intelligent. He’s a king, and he has a sharp tongue. It’s clear that he is always thinking and planning ahead.
However, while he is smart, he can also be illogical and let his emotions get the better of him. He’s not the calmest and collected of characters, and this is sometimes his downfall.
When we see Gandalf in The Hobbit, he’s a little younger and a little less wise than he is in The Lord of the Rings, especially because he hasn’t yet transformed through rebirth into Gandalf the White.
However, he’s still extremely smart. He always knows what’s going on, and he’s quite mysterious. He is always planning and learning and trying to protect Middle-Earth which is why he kept disappearing and leaving Thorin and Co. to their own devices.
While in the book, Elrond only makes a brief appearance and Galadriel does not’ at all, both of these characters were given an extended role as the story of the White Council casting the Necromancer out of Mirkwood.
Both of these characters have lived for thousands of years, and they are the two main leaders of elves in the Third Age. It’s hard to say which is more intelligent as Elrond is a bit more aware of the practical affairs or Middle-Earth while Galadriel is more mystical.