The Fall of Gandalf
Shifty: It’s hard to pick out the most iconic scene in the entire trilogy but one that is right up there and continually used in montages is the fight between Gandalf and the Balrog. It offers us that epic “You shall not pass!” line as well as some brilliant imagery that sticks with us after we leave the theater. Gandalf going one on one with the Balrog would be enough to get on any list, but it’s also the repercussions and ultimate fall of our hero that puts this scene up there. Gandalf gives his life to defend the rest of the fellowship and the scenes of the group mourning his death afterwards mirror how much they cared for their friend. This is also the moment that Aragorn seized control of the group and took one step closer to fulfilling his destiny.
Jamie: Gandaf’s epic throw down with the Balrog was the pinnacle of fantasy action in The Fellowship of the Ring. Everything had built up to this point: the group’s dynamic was tight and Gandalf was cemented as the strong, dependable leader. When he fell in the mines of Moira, everything we knew up until then was thrown out the window. The glue that held the fellowship together was gone and now Aragorn must step up to pick up the pieces. Besides the symbolism and plot devices this scene offers, it was purely badass all around.
The Breaking of the Fellowship
Shifty: After much deliberation and debate inside my head I came to the conclusion that the breaking of the fellowship at Amon Hen is my favorite moment in the entire trilogy. This scene starts with the battle of Amon Hen and continues with the death of Boromir, and Aragorn’s promise to him that he will reclaim the throne and save the race of men; and then ultimately ends with the final shot of the movie. This entire sequence brings us to our lowest of lows, with 2 of the strongest members of the Fellowship having died, Merry and Pippin having been taken by the Uruk-hai and Frodo deciding that he need not risk anymore lives and claim the journey as his own. The brilliance of this scene is that it can take us from depressing lows to spirited highs in a moment’s notice, which is shown in the formation of Sam and Frodo’s partnership, the humbled “Let’s hunt some orc” promise by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to find Merry and Pippin, as well as that lasting shot of the first movie. Seeing Frodo and Sam maneuver the mountaintop while Mordor and its fiery volcanoes are hovering in the distance is a sight to behold. It manages to not only end on a cliffhanger of eagerness but one of positivity and happiness, after the fellowship is broken and they all have reached rock bottom. It’s this sort of resolve and relentless determination that is the foundation of the entire trilogy and is practiced by a majority of our heroes. All of the above makes it a beautiful scene and a personal favorite.
Riders of Rohan
Jamie: The scene where Éomer and his Éored encounter Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli is a powerful one. The image of these horselords circling around the trio presents us with the idea that these Rohirrim are strong and unified under their leader, even through their banishment. They are immediately suspicious of the trio, thinking they may be spies of Sauruman. The discourse between the trio and the horselords is brilliant, although short. Each side established their loyalty to one another and they finally come to the conclusion that they are all allies in the war against evil. Éomer gives the trio two horses without second thought, a testament to the generous nature of Rohirrim. Not only does this scene help to develop the characters and their relationships (Legolas and Gimli especially) but it bridges the gap between the trio on their quest and their arrival in Rohan. It is a precursor for what’s to come, in a way, and a great one at that.
Shifty: Helm’s Deep is arguably the most bad-ass battle in the entire trilogy, with this being the crown jewel of that entire sequence. Aragorn asking Théoden to ride out and meet the uruk-hai head on as the sunset rises is such an inspirational and chill-inducing scene that it had to be on my list. Couple this with the fact that Théoden believed he was riding to his death and you get a glimpse inside a man who was fearless in defending his people and dying with honor. Aragorn doesn’t tell him that Gandalf and Éomer are arriving at dawn to help defend the keep, and it makes for an even better moment. His speech before they head out starts a trend of scene-stealing lines from Théoden throughout the rest of the trilogy, and who can forget the excitement of seeing Gandalf charge down with the sunlight behind him? It’s perfection.
Smeagol vs Gollum
Jamie: Gollum is perhaps the most iconic character from the Lord of the Rings and rightly so. Besides his obvious physical uniqueness, the character of Gollum is a complex multi-dimensional figure that acts as both an antagonist and protagonist in the story. By the time this scene comes around we know that Gollum used to be the hobbit Sméagol before the Ring corrupted him. This scene exemplifies the internal struggle between Sméagol, or the goodness that is left inside him, and Gollum, the misguided creature that the Ring has created. Not only does the scene define Gollum as a character, but it allows the audience to feel sympathy for him, along with the already established distrust. The audience gets to feel Frodo’s own struggle with trusting Gollum. The scene is well-written, well-acted, and well delivered.
Shifty: If there’ i one moment that I think can stand up to the test of time and push through the boundaries of film to become an immortal piece of cinematic history, it’s Sam’s monologue at the end of The Two Towers. It’s one of the defining moments of the entire trilogy and one of the most beloved film scenes of the last century. It’s so poetic that there really is good left in the world that we fight to keep alive everyday, whether it’s being mentioned in a fantasy story or part of the real world. It’s this heart-breaking and awe-inspiring speech that mirrors the struggles the human race deals with on a daily basis as well as what is happening in the film. This scene is one of those rare moments that captures that magical feeling of emotion inside your soul that knows you’re watching something truly special. It’s one of the most beautiful and uplifting moments that I can possibly think of, and it’s one of my favorite movie scenes of all-time.
Become who you were Born to Be
Jamie: On the eve of battle Aragorn receives a mysterious visitor to his tent. It is Elrond, bearing Andúril, the sword forged from King Elendil’s sword Narsil. Up until this point, Aragorn had rejected the idea of becoming King. This scene is pivotal in his character development because as he takes the sword from Elrond’s hand he is finally accepting his role in life and his position as the King of Men. Everything about the scene is powerful and inspiring and it provides the audience with a “yes, finally!” moment. It also kick starts the action in a major way. This scene is basically about fulfilling one’s destiny and truly exemplifies “the return of the king”.
Shifty: The moment that defines the title of our third chapter is a moment that deserves to be on every fan’s short list of Lord of the Rings moments. Aragorn’s entire life has led to the moment we see him transition from a shy and reluctant leader of the fellowship to a bold and confident leader of men. Once his character arc is complete we can move towards the final act of the trilogy as he picks up the reins of Gondor and grabs his destiny by the balls.
Shifty: The metaphorical imprint of this scene is one that helps give it a lasting impression in the hearts of fans that have seen these movies. Pippin’s sweet and comforting song set to the march of Faramir to his death while the stubbornly evil Denethor stands watch without a care in the world is both beautiful and hard to watch. Mixing such violent imagery with a soothing melody makes the violence in question that much more brutal and pointless. Props to Billy Boyd for actually singing in this scene, as it added to the emotion and realism of the moment.
Rohan Aids Gondor at Pelennor Fields
Shifty: This is the moment where the human race finally puts aside their petty differences and reunites against a sweeping evil that will destroy the world as they know it. It’s Rohan coming to Gondor’s aid after Gondor refused to send help to Rohan, it’s the second piece of the equation (the final is Aragorn befriending the army of the dead) of winning a battle of insurmountable odds. It’s a scene that mirrors our own history and reluctance to join forces at first but ultimately decide to put aside our problems and unite against a common enemy. Nothing says epic quite like the moment where the Riders of Rohan run through that infantry of Sauron/Saruman’s batch of orc, Uruk-hai and goblin scum. We even get a rousing Braveheart inspired speech by Théoden to kick things off (what’d I tell you about this man stealing every scene he’s in?). Plus, let’s be serious, can you get any better than seeing Éomer launch a 6 foot long spear 30 yards into the chest of a Haradrim oliphaunt rider.
Legolas vs the Oliphaunt
Jamie: Legolas has always been considered an integral part of the fellowship. Even with much valued scouting and fighting skills, Legolas was often a silent background character next to the feisty Hobbits or charismatic men. Throughout the entire movies he (along with Gimli) stood by Aragorn’s side no matter what danger they faced and this situation was no different. During the battle at Pelennor Fields our heroes are presented with the giant oliphaunt creatures, an extremely formidable task. Legolas takes one look that reads “I accept this challenge” and quickly goes about uprooting the entire enemy squad riding the animal and then takes down the beast itself. The best part of the scene is when Gimli tells him that it “still only counts as one.” This scene was a testament to just how important Legolas was to the fellowship, both in his pure skill and his unwavering brave loyalty to the cause. And it was also really awesome.
Shifty: It’s a demonstration of the ninja-like awesomeness that is Legolas. This guy could take on an entire army and come out without a scratch on him. Riding down the trunk of the elephant to greet Gimli is his hero moment of the series, and one of my personal favorites as well.
Death of the Witch King
Jamie: The prophecy foretold that no man could kill the Witch King, leader of the Nazgul, but it didn’t say anything about brave women and hobbits. Eowyn is my favorite character in the Lord of the Rings. I love watching her grow from a sad, insecure girl into a brave woman and watching her fight, even with forbidden to do so. The audience can really appreciate the realism of her fight scenes as she is clearly terrified when she comes up against the Witch King, but stands her ground to defend Theoden nonetheless. To me, that is a true hero. Her line “I am no man” is perhaps my favorite movie line ever. And let’s not forget brave little Merry, who’s decisive stab gave Eowyn the window she needed to end the Witch King. The two make a wonderful pair, both excelling in expectation and bravery.
Shifty: Another excellent scene that shows the growth and strides of a character that has been coddled and left out for most of her life. Eowyn starts off a bit immature and longing for the day that someone could take her away and let her outwardly embrace who she is on the inside. To see her grow from a wavering character that is unsure of who she is to a fierce soul that will risk her life for Théoden and her people is a sight to behold.
Aragorn reunites with Arwen
Jamie: Aragorn and Arwen have one of the most celebrated fictional romances of all time. Their love is not an easy one, since they are of two different kinds, but it is pure and true nonetheless. The audience can’t help but be rooting for their hero to finally get the girl at the end. By the third movie, Arwen’s fate is bound to the war of the ring. With the increase of Sauron’s dark presence her life force falters. When Aragorn is crowned the King of Men and sees Arwen standing before him healthy and happy, it is symbolic of the victory of good over evil. Just as Middle Earth has survived, so has Arwen, and consequently, her and Aragorn’s love.
You Bow to No One
Shifty: Out of all the ending scenes in Return of the King it’s this moment that feels like the rousing finale more than any of the others. The hobbits get the respect and admiration that they rightfully deserve all while the king of the free people leads the kneeling of the city of Gondor at their feet. This problem was always seen as too big for the race of hobbits, and each one of them showed true heart and determination to rise up against an evil that would easily cast them aside as little more than a nuisance. They ultimately prove their worth with a perseverance and positive spirit that wavers but never breaks through each unconquerable circumstance they’re placed in. Is there another moment that makes you feel all gushy inside while at the same time making you sob like a little bitch with a skinned knee? If you find one let me know please, thanks.
Shifty: Aragorn’s final, tearfully delivered words before leading the charge towards the Black Gate is so simple yet meaningful beyond anything else he could have conjured. A rousing speech would have seemed out of place at the gate so the moment’s focus shifts to the ring bearer himself. It’s Frodo’s courage and ultimate sacrifice that is the hardest of all the characters in the entire trilogy. He basically chooses to carry the burden that no one else wanted to bear, while quietly accepting his doomed fate from the very beginning of the journey. He is aided along the way by many characters, specifically Sam, who never wavers in his partnership or dedication to Frodo. Those simple words bring forth such energy and emotion from the audience and the characters at hand that it still brings goosebumps every.single.time.
The Green Dragon
Jamie: The beginning of the trilogy showed us Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin happy at home in Hobbiton and hanging at The Green Dragon. Drinking, socializing, and longing for Rosie Cotton, these four hobbits had no idea the adventures that were in store for them. By the end of the trilogy the friends hobbits (dressed to the nines) end up back in the pub solemnly sitting over their drinks while their community (who have had no idea of the events that have taken place outside of the Shire) look on somewhere disapprovingly. My favorite part of the scene is when Sam finally gets up the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams, who he ends up marrying. This scene shows how everything has come full circle. They are right back to where they started, all changed, for the better or for the worse.
Shifty: I love this scene for the misconceptions and parallels to real life scenarios that we’ve all faced. There are moments in our lives that define us and forever change the course of who we will become. No matter how much we want to go back and recreate a moment as it used to be we’ll never be able to. We see this in the hobbit’s return to the Shire and their empty expressions in the pub. How could they possibly go back to living their lives as they had before? Sure the shire is exactly as they left it (something that I wish they kept from the novels is the shire being overrun by evil and the hobbits defending it) but the 4 hobbits are forever changed by their experiences, and they slowly start to realize that life will never be the same.
Well there you have them, our 15 favorite moments from The Lord of the Rings trilogy! Getting it down to 15 was hard enough and there are of course a hundred more moments that we love throughout the epic 11 and a half hour journey through Middle Earth… so tell us some of yours in the comments below!