Discussion: The Best Scenes From Return of the King

In the final instalment of this series, we are looking at the best moments from the Return of the King. In the epic conclusion to this saga, the fellowship are faced with their biggest challenge yet as Frodo, Sam, and the villainous Gollum march closer to Mordor, and the spotlight falls on Minas Tirith, the last stronghold of Gondor. It’s a breathtaking final, one that is grounded in the last strength of the free people of Middle-earth. The Return of the King is a testament to all the hard work that went into creating this epic fantasy adventure. It’s a culmination of all the work that has gone into proving that epic fantasy is equally as compelling as any other movie genre. It paved the way for other fantasy franchises on the big and small screen and rightfully deserved the 11 Academy Awards it received in 2003. In a film that runs over 250 minutes (Extended Edition), here are the best scenes from Return of the King.

The Palantír

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In a brief reprieve following the Battle of Helms Deep, members of the fellowship are reunited with Merry and Pippin. Before departing for Edoras, Gandalf and company seek out a powerless Saurman for information on the upcoming battle. In this confrontation, we get a glimpse of the Palantir, Saruman’s direct link to Sauron. Pippin’s fixation on the Palantir would lead to the confrontational moment when he succumbs to the will of the Palantir, getting a glimpse of Sauron’s plan. This moment was so effective in luring the fellowship into a false sense of security while they regroup. Yet, with Legolas’ keen sense, that looming threat of danger slowly builds leading to Pippin succumbing to the will of the Palantir effectively crushes this lull, reminding us that they may have won the battle, but the war has yet to be resolved.

The Lighting of the Beacons

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This scene puts New Zealand’s stunning landscape at the very forefront. As Pippin lights the beacons, a sequence of dramatic and breathtaking shots are taken from the many locations of these beacons. These beacons act as messengers to Rohan, signalling the call for aid, but it really is a moment that perfectly captures how the landscape of New Zealand played its part in creating Middle-Earth.

The Sacrifice of Faramir

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Following his encounter with Frodo and Sam, Faramir’s focus lies on the defence of Gondor. However, as the second son to Denethor, Faramir lives in the shadow of his departed brother, Boromir. In the last effort to reclaim the city of Osgiliath, Faramir marches to his doom. Starting with a solemn march through the city of Minas Tirith, Faramir laments about the beauty of this city, knowing in his heart that he is not likely to return. It’s a small moment, but the between the music, the march through the city, Faramir’s words, and Gandalf’s plea, this moment is a harrowing display of the sacrifice of the men of Gondor.

Paths of the Dead

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The Return of the King is as much about Aragorn embracing his destiny as it is about destroying the one ring. Aragorn is faced with many choices in this film, and the definitive moment where he comes to embrace his heritage is in his choice to take the path of the dead. With Elrond’s encouragement, Aragorn takes it upon himself to rally the dead. Traitors to the crown of Gondor, forever cursed until they fulfil their oaths. With his loyal companions, Gimli and Legolas, Aragorn is taken on a dark journey that could change the fortune of this war. The sense of danger is felt at every step of this journey as Legolas recount the deeds of the fallen as they walk through the staggering rocks towards the way of the dead. As they wade through the darkness, the use of sound heightens this sense of dread which effectively makes viewers feel the cold, damp darkness of this dead city, heightened by the desperation of our heroes.

The Ride of the Rohirrim

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Helms Deep reminded us of the strength of men. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is a stunning display of heroism in the face of certain death. Minas Tirith, the final stronghold of the men of Gondor is under siege. With Gandalf leading the march from within the walls of the city, it’s but a matter of time before the might of Mordor breakthrough their final barrier. Hope is scarce as the weight of Mordor’s army overwhelms the last strength of Gondor. That is, until the horns of Rohan chime. No matter how many times you watch the film, that moment will always leave you sighing with relief. Help has arrived, and under King Theoden’s leadership, the riders of Rohan charge with all their might to aide their closest allies. With the sound of their horns, the theme of Rohan blaring in the background, and the defiant march of the Rohirrim, this scene is iconic and brings a renewed sense of strength to all.

The Shieldmaiden of Rohan

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One of the most iconic moments in the film comes in the epic confrontation between the shieldmaiden of Rohan, Eowyn, and the Witch-King of Angmar, Lord of all Nazgul. This moment is the culmination of Eowyn’s bravery and loyalty to her uncle and king. The rising shot of the Witch King and his weapon is a stark reminder of the danger he poses. In a battle of will and determination, Eowyn and Merry are able to subdue the Witch King in a cataclysmic declaration that spotlights Eowyn’s finest moment. 

The Houses of Healing

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This scene can be found in the extended edition and it’s a beautiful sequence that deals with the fallout of the battle of the Pelennor Fields and a moment that should have been included in the cinematic release. The opening of this scene gives Karl Urban his finest moment as they search for the wounded leads to the devastating moment Eomer’s finds the body of his sister, Eowyn. His cry of anguish and sorrow pierces your heart, reminding you of the harrowing consequences of war. Panning off to the house of healing, we are treated to a sequence with no dialogue, set to a melodic song sung by Liv Tyler. In this we get a quiet yet tender moment of emotional and physical healing that also leads to a distant interaction between Eowyn and Faramir, giving some precedent to their eventual romance.

“I Can’t Carry it For You…but I Can Carry You”

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Yet another iconic moment in the entire franchise and one that highlights the desperate stretch of Frodo and Sam’s journey. Over the course of Return of the King, we see the will of the ring take its toll on Frodo. Sam, is Frodo’s guiding force, leading him forward when his will wanes. It’s a moment of desperation and one that reminds you of the strength of hobbits.

“The Eagles are Coming!”

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In a bold, almost sacrificial move, Aragon unites the armies of Gondor and Rohan in a final march to Mordor, not in the hope of victory, but in the hope of time. Time to give Frodo and Sam the chance they need to be rid of the ring. In a battle where our heroes are vastly outnumbered, victory seems hopeless. However, the arrival of the eagles provides some light to the darkness as these majestic creatures come to the aid of men, taking on the remaining Nazgul, and providing a needed spark of hope.

The Return of the King

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Some may criticise the many endings of Return of the King, but after the many battles, the losses, and the struggles, the relief in celebrating their triumph effectively puts into perspective the feet they have accomplished. This scene is a celebration of all they’ve accomplished. From the very moment we were introduced to Strider, we have been privy to his transformation from a ranger, to reluctant leader, and the rightful king. His coronation is the defining moment of Aragorn’s journey, one that is celebrated with the free people of Middle-Earth, as the men of Rohan and Gondor, the elves, and our fellowship rejoice in this new world. As we pan through the crowds, we see the many who aided in Aragorn’s journey, but the king’s march ends at the feet of four hobbits. At this moment Aragorn declares to his friends “you bow to no one” and in an act of respect, friendship, and love, the king and his people bows to our four unlikely heroes. It’s a beautiful moment that acknowledges the bravery and strength of the hobbits. It’s a moment that allows the viewers to absorb all that the fellowship have endured in the search for peace.

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If you missed the previous instalments to this series, check out the
Best Scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring
Best Scenes From Two Towers.

What are your favourite moments from Return of the King?
What’s your favourite film in the franchise?


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