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I have seen all three Hobbit movies and Saruman was a good friend of Gandalf and he even helped him when the Orcs had caught him.

I have just seen The Lord of the Rings Part one few days back (although it was released long time back even before The Hobbit), and I saw a completely different Saruman. He went against the "the good" and joined Sauron.

In the entire movie Sauron was not around except in the beginning where they show a flashback of the war. Saruman's theory was that Sauron is regaining strength and he should join him.

Now the amount of effort that Saruman put in setting up an army, if he had done that much effort to help Gandalf and his army (of Elves, Men, Dwarves and Hobbits, other wizards that were in the Hobbit along with the ugly creatures he brought to life) he would have probably defeated Sauron by destroying the ring.

I am still trying to understand why Saruman did not help Gandalf if he was so powerful. Was he possessed by Sauron or got attracted to the Ring himself? Is that why he did all this. I hope I am not being too hasty looking for an answer before watching the other two LOTR movies.

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First of all: Yes, you probably should watch at least The Two Towers before reading much further: that movie is all about Saruman's plans and schemes.

Having said that, there's a combination of things that have driven Saruman to act the way he does in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first thing you need to realize is just how long a gap there was between the two trilogies. When Bilbo went on his adventure in The Hobbit, he was about 50; at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, he's celebrating his 111th birthday - 61 years later.

During that time, a lot has happened to Saruman; the main things he's done are:

  • He's started using the Palantir to spy on Sauron; this is the crystal ball in his chambers in Orthanc, the one that freaks Gandalf out when he sees it. Gandalf is worried about the effect of using those stones, and says so, right off the bat; later on we find out that Sauron not only has one, but that he can use it to extend his influence a bit and corrupt the mind of its user (and Saruman isn't the only victim).
  • He's taken up ringcraft; I don't remember if this is ever really explored in detail in any of the editions of the movie, but Saruman has been trying to recreate magic rings of his own, attempting to rediscover what Sauron had managed to do with his Rings of Power. Having the One Ring in his possession would be a huge boon to his research -- or so he tells himself. Really, like everyone else who desires the ring, he's basically fooling himself, and ultimately playing into Sauron's hand. But knowing what Gandalf wants to do with it, Saruman certainly doesn't want him to succeed.
  • He's suffering a tiny bit of a nervous breakdown over Sauron's return. This partly goes back to point #1, Sauron getting into Saruman's head via the Palantir, but also the fact that Saruman seems to genuinely believe that Sauron is strong enough to defeat all of Middle-earth. Saruman and the other wizards were sent to Middle-earth specifically to fight Sauron, but Saruman has apparently decided that such a job is hopeless. The only way to survive what he knows is coming, in his mind, is to ally with Sauron and hope they don't get betrayed.
  • Finally, there has always been a tiny bit of tension between the two. The big issue is the fact that Saruman is, nominally, the head of the Wizards, so Gandalf is technically his subordinate. However, Gandalf, by all accounts, seems to be the "better" wizard. In fact, Gandalf was the first choice to have Saruman's position, and turned it down. Gandalf's also the one the Elves and Rangers and others turn to when they need help. Additionally, More specifically, he's the one that was given one of the Three Elven Rings of Power (I think you'll find that out at the very very end of Return of the King). Thus, Saruman is a bit jealous of Gandalf, and probably worried that Gandalf will try to take Saruman's position (and, in Saruman's mind, probably The One Ring) for himself.

All of these things, taken together, make Saruman decide that he and Gandalf do not have the same goals. At first, he doesn't try to actually hurt Gandalf, showing there's probably a modicum of respect left between them. But, he has no intention of letting Gandalf destroy the ring, and tries to take him out of play while Saruman's agents search for the ring.

  • There were few different reasons in the link shared by @Napoleon Wilson's Link which explain the books and movies both. But overall i understood the motive from both yours and his explanation. – User56756 Jun 18 '15 at 23:40
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    @Shrilekha as the link NapoleanWilson gave points out, Saruman doesn't actually appear in The Hobbit, the book, and his motivations in the movie aren't all that clear; he may have already been under Sauron's influence, but I tend to think he was still in denial about his return until the confrontation at Dol Goldur, which started him down his dark path... – KutuluMike Jun 19 '15 at 0:29
  • Yes you right. It is not that clear in the Hobbit movies. He probably changed his mind during the gap of 60 years as he saw the opportunity. – User56756 Jun 19 '15 at 3:02
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    @Shrilekha: actually, Saruman had already started betraying Gandalf&Co. 90 years before the Hobbit took place: TA 2851: The White Council meets. Gandalf urges an attack on Dol Guldur. Saruman overrules him. Saruman begins to search near the Gladden Fields. [...] It afterwards became clear that Saruman had then begun to desire to possess the One Ring himself, and he hoped that it might reveal itself, seeking its master, if Sauron were let be for a time. (From Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings.) – leftaroundabout Sep 18 '16 at 16:13
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I will supplement KutuluMike's very good answer with the following observation.

Gandalf relates that the Istari were not to defeat Sauron by force, but to inspire the Elves and Men to resist him. It appears that Saruman was the first to abandon this position, and he appears to have gone whole-hog in this regard.

Not only does he gather an army (including orcs, for Eru's sake, what was he thinking), but he also investigates making his own rings of power.

By the time Saruman realized that this was not going to work (because Sauron still outstripped him on all measures of power), he was too far into this mind-set to turn around and had become Mini-Me to Sauron's Dr. Evil.

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