The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) is the final instalment in the hugely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is the most critically acclaimed of the three films (earning a joint all-time record 11 Academy Awards) and the biggest box office success of the franchise.
Sauron shows no signs of stopping even as Isengard crumbles. His eyes are on Minis Tirith, the last beacon of hope for Gondor. While Merry and Pippin are reunited with the Fellowship (though not for too long), Frodo and Sam are now right under Sauron’s eye, behind the gates of Mordor. There’s treachery afoot, battles to win, fathers to impress, and cities to conquer. And a king to return.
Will Middle Earth succumb to evil? Will Sam ever see the Shire again? Will Pippin be a fool until he dies?
Will Frodo destroy the ring?
In this Movie List from The Film Magazine, we are counting down the most impactful, hilarious and memorable moments from the gripping conclusion of Peter Jackson’s fantasy saga, for this: the 10 Best The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Moments.
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10. Mount Doom Erupts
Inside the volcano things aren’t moving fast enough. The ring isn’t melting. Just as it looks like our King will be defeated, Sauron’s tower falls and the eye implodes. The ground surrounding the heroes disintegrates, taking the orcs and trolls with it.
It’s over. They’ve won.
Or have they?
In the seconds after everyone’s elation, Mount Doom explodes. Everyone looks crestfallen as Sam and Frodo are still up there. This device has been used before with Gandalf and the Balrog, Aragorn and the warg. For a second, this feels different. There is a moment when we truly believe that Sam and Frodo made the ultimate sacrifice.
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9. Merry and Pippin Lead the Charge
Vastly outnumbered, Aragorn and his followers head to the black gate to draw Sauron’s eye while Sam and Frodo make the final leg of their journey into Mount Doom. Aragorn’s “not this day” speech is stirring and emotional. This is it. It’s now or never.
“For Frodo!” Is the battle cry.
And, in an army of a thousand experienced soldiers, it is Merry and Pippin who run first. They’ve come so far from the firework stealing miscreants of the first film. They are warriors as brave as any man or elf.