Top 20 iconic scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Clocking in at around 558 minutes there are a plethora of memorable scenes from Peter Jackson’s award-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And that’s just the theatrical cuts. The extended editions deliver over two more hours of movie magic.

To celebrate 20 years since the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring I’ve listed 20 of my favourite moments from the extended trilogy.

Be warned: there are spoilers after the photo of Bilbo’s bench.

Hobbiton Movie Set, New Zealand.
Bilbo’s pipe and book at Hobbiton, Matamata.

20. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

I’m kicking off my top 20 with a scene that happens towards the end of The Return of the King.

After an arduous journey that has involved, among other things, treachery, a giant spider and a journey through The Dead Marshes, Frodo and Sam finally arrive at Mt Doom to end their quest.

Both hobbits are weary after their long journey. Sam tries to comfort Frodo against a backdrop of raining fire balls, saying how it will be spring soon in the Shire. Sam talks of blossom and nesting birds, but Frodo says with desperation and anguish how all he can see is Sauron.

Frodo goes to walk but falls, and in a very touching moment where Sam epitomises his moniker ‘the Brave’, he says to Frodo that while he cannot carry the One Ring for him, he can carry Frodo.

19. “Help! Someone help him.”

On two occasions Gandalf says to Pippin the iconic “Fool of a Took!” line.

The first is in Moria, after Pippin accidentally creates a raucous knocking a skeleton down a well. The second is when Pippin sneaks a peek at Saruman’s palantír (a seeing stone), which he retrieved out of the waters at Isenguard.

Pippin’s actions are “strangely fortunate”, as they reveal part of Sauron’s plan to destroy Minas Tirith. However, as Sauron now thinks that Pippin has the One Ring, Gandalf takes him to Gondor, separating him from his beloved best friend, Merry.

The scene is spectacular: Billy Boyd (Pippin) delivers a very convincing performance as he receives akin to an electric shock from the palantír, unable to put it down until Gandalf intervenes.

18. “Remember today, little brother.”

In the extended version of The Two Towers there is a flashback scene where Boromir defeats Sauron’s forces and reclaims Osgiliath. He has a touching moment with his brother, Faramir, who in the present day has taken Frodo and Sam captive.

Boromir celebrates his victory and tells Faramir that he should remember this day, as life is good, but their shared joy quickly turns to frustration as their father, Denethor, arrives. We then come to understand how little Denethor thinks of Faramir, and why it was Boromir sent to Elrond’s secret council instead of his younger brother.

As Boromir departs for Rivendell, he utters the same words to Faramir, but in a much more sorrowful tone and without the reference to life being good.

17. “Sméagol is free!”

The Stoor hobbit formally known as Sméagol is one of the most complex characters within Middle-earth. Suffering from poor mental health after years of being consumed by the One Ring, Gollum has developed two distinct personalities – the childlike Sméagol and the devious Gollum – and refers to himself as ‘us’ and ‘we’.

We see both Sméagol and Gollum throughout the trilogy, and there is a particularly memorable scene in The Two Towers where Gollum is arguing with himself about Frodo and Sam while they’re sleeping nearby (“Wicked, tricksy, false”).

Andy Serkis delivers a magnificent performance, helping the audience to clearly see which version we’re watching, as Gollum berates Sméagol, telling him he has no friends and is a murderer. Sméagol appears to win the battle of wits (“Sméagol is free!”), but for how long?

16. The Argonath

As the remaining Fellowship glide along the River Anduin and into the realm of Gondor, the majestic Argonath welcomes them.

Giant monuments carved in the likenesses of fallen kings Isildur and Anárion, the Argonath demonstrates not only the scale of Middle-earth but also its rich history. The carvings are truly impressive, and you feel the same sense of awe as the Fellowship as they pass by them.

For years I used a point-of-sale display – rescued by my mum from WH Smith – that had the Argonath at either side to hold all of my various trilogy-related memorabilia.

15. “It’s the deep breath before the plunge.”

There’s a simple scene between Gandalf and Pippin in The Return of the King that I find very poignant.

After arriving at Minas Tirith and realising that Sauron’s forces will shortly be attacking, Gandalf and Pippin look out towards Mordor – the closest Pippin had ever been – and reflect on what has happened since the Fellowship started their quest, as well as what is yet to come.

Thinking back to the first few scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring, and a time when Gandalf was best known to Pippin and his friends for his fireworks, Pippin has now experienced so much as well as seeing a side of Gandalf that he never knew existed: Gandalf the warrior.

14. “Get off the road!”

A short while after departing the Shire, Frodo and Sam – quite literally – bump into their friends Merry and Pippin. After realising they’ve on a road, something that Gandalf warned not to do, Frodo implores his friends to: “Get off the road!”

They do as he asks, even though Merry and Pippin don’t understand the importance. Sure enough, within a few minutes a mounted Ringwraith appears, giving the audience our first full, in-depth look at some of the evil that Sauron controls.

A series of events are then put into place that truly bring home the danger that Frodo and his friends are in.

13. “If you want him, come and claim him.”

There are several magical moments within the trilogy. When they aren’t down to Gandalf’s doing, many are thanks to the elves – the elvish rope that unknots itself and the lembas bread that can sate the stomach of a grown man with one mouthful, for example.

Another example is courtesy of Arwen, who summons a fleet of water horses at the Ford of Bruinen while taking Frodo to her father in Rivendell for healing. It’s a powerful sight: the lone elf astride her white horse facing down nine Ringwraiths on black steeds.

The Fellowship is dominated by men, but Arwen is one of a handful of women – the others being Galadriel and Éowyn – who have a very real impact on events during the War of the Ring. Who can forget tenacious Éowyn’s iconic “I am no man!” when facing off against the Witch-King of Angmar?

12. “Hobbits? Never heard of a hobbit before.”

There are many wondrous beings and beasts within Middle-earth, including the gruesome wargs, a terrifying giant spider and the majestic oliphants. There are also the ents, one of which Merry and Pippin meet while taking refuge in Fangorn Forest.

Billy Boyd (Pippin) delivers a fantastic doubletake when he realises that the tree he has just climbed isn’t just a tree, but an ent. JRR Tolkien had a well-known affinity for trees, and the ents were an imaginative, wonderful way of channelling this admiration.

11. “Oh! My old ring…”

There are several instances throughout the trilogy where you see the power of the One Ring consume an individual. Gollum is taken over completely while Bilbo has a flash of angry jealousy and Galadriel reveals what were to happen if she took ownership of it.

Bilbo demonstrated remarkable strength and resilience during his ownership of the One Ring, which is what makes the brief glimpse of ‘dark Bilbo’ in The Fellowship of the Ring so unexpected and upsetting. We saw a few instances of the fierce protectiveness that the One Ring provoked in him in the first 30 minutes of The Fellowship of the Ring before he leaves the ring for Frodo, but ‘dark Bilbo’ is something else entirely.

10. “All will fade.”

As Denethor’s son Faramir faces almost certain death while trying to defend the stronghold of Osgiliath from an orc attack, Denethor enjoys a lavish meal and Pippin sings to him a mournful song about how “all will fade”.

It makes for uncomfortable viewing: the excess of Denethor’s meal and the way he eats the lush tomatoes set against Boyd’s beautiful rendition of ‘Edge of Night’ and Faramir and his men suffering thanks to their futile mission.

This is a polarizing scene and expertly performed by Billy Boyd (Pippin) and John Noble (Denethor).

09. “What kind of an army would linger in such a place?”

As Isildur’s heir, Aragorn has the right to summon the Army of the Dead, a group of deserters who had abandoned their oath to aid Isildur during the War of the Last Alliance, a 12-year war that culminated in the fall of Sauron and the loss of the One Ring.

During The Return of the King, while King Théoden is camped on the way to Gondor, Aragorn slips off, closely followed by Legolas and Gimli, to address the Army of the Dead as the true King of Gondor by revealing the re-forged blade of Anduril and commanding that they fulfil their oath.

You’re left unsure as to whether the Army of the Dead will join Aragorn (unless you’ve watched the extended version, where there are additional scenes), as when we next see Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli they are jumping off corsair ships coming into dock at Minas Tirith.

They jump off and start charging at the waiting orcs – suddenly joined by the Army of the Dead who glide across the water and rush passed them, filling the screen with their green ghostly presence and crushing the orcs as if they were snowflakes.

08. “Behold! The great realm and Dwarf city of Dwarrowdelf!”

We travel to many different countries throughout the trilogy, including the Shire (home to the hobbits), the strongholds of Gondor and Rohan (realms of men), and the elvish homes of Rivendell and Lothlórien.

When the Fellowship are forced to go through the mines of Moria (also known as Darrowdelf) to escape Saruman’s reach, we experience one of the largest dwarven kingdoms. The production design of Moria is exquisite: the scale, with its vast labyrinthine structure, is astounding.

As Gandalf casts a light with his staff to illuminate their path, the Fellowship are astounded, as are we, the audience. The crescendo of the score as it reaches its climax adds to the momentum.

07. “You’re late!”

Following Galadriel’s prologue, the first member of the Fellowship that we come across is Frodo sitting under a tree, reading a book. He hears Gandalf humming ‘The Road Goes Ever On’ and he stands, his eyes growing wide as the camera zooms in when he realises who it is coming.

It is so perfectly Hobbit-like and quite poignant when you think back to that scene when Frodo is traversing Mordor or trapped in Shelob’s lair.

What happens next is the delightful “You’re late!” exchange between Frodo and Gandalf, which is the first of several examples of that phrase between characters.

The Shire looks like a beautiful, peaceful place, and many have drawn comparisons between it and the rolling English countryside. When I visited the Hobbiton set in Matamata, New Zealand, in 2017, I was truly blown away. The attention to detail and craftsmanship is outstanding, and it really felt like the hobbits had all just popped out for the day, leaving their washing out to dry in the sunshine.

06. “Harken to me! I release you from the spell.”

When we first come across King Théoden at the start of The Two Towers he is a wizened old man with milky eyes and straggly hair. You quickly find out that all isn’t well, as the person giving him council, Grima Wormtongue, isn’t in favour with King Théoden’s nephew, Éomer, and niece, Éowyn.

Several scenes later and the resurrected Gandalf the White releases his King Théoden from under Saruman’s control (implanted after years of deceit at Grima’s doing) in a battle of skill and wits that is ultimately decided when Gandalf reveals his new identity.

Saruman is expelled and King Théoden visibly changes, reverting to a healthy, slightly-older-than middle-aged state. Howard Shore’s terrific score delivers a rousing string performance that perfectly captures the mood, as is so often in the trilogy.

05. “I will take it.”

There is a lot to unpack from this pivotal scene in The Fellowship of the Ring. After Frodo has sufficiently convalesced from the attack at Weathertop, Elrond convenes a council attended by various races to decide the fate of the ring.

As one would expect there are multiple differences of opinion and quarrelling ensues. Frodo, who is diminutive not only in his stature but in his experience of worldly and political matters, starts to say that he will take the ring to Mt Doom, the one place it can be destroyed.

At first no one can hear him. It is Gandalf who first tunes into what he is saying, and Ian McKellen delivers such an expressive response, appearing visibly crestfallen as he knows the magnitude of what Frodo is offering to do.

The Fellowship of the Ring is quickly formed, as Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir all offer to accompany him. Plus, of course, Sam, Merry and Pippin, who could not be parted from Frodo, even when he had been invited to a secret council and they had not.

04. “I would have followed you…”

While Sean Bean has died in many of his films, his death scene in Fellowship of the Ring takes some beating. As someone who grew up watching Bean play the title role in the TV series Sharpe, I have quite a soft spot for him.

His death in The Fellowship of the Ring is a hugely powerful scene, and it comes just moments after he tried to convince Frodo to give him the One Ring for “the good of my people”. Boromir, a famed warrior, then valiantly lays down his life trying to protect Merry and Pippin.

Touching moments are shared between Boromir and Aragorn, with Boromir finally acknowledging and recognising Aragorn as the true King of Gondor. As Aragorn places Boromir’s sword in his hand, Boromir says to him: “I would have followed you… my brother… my captain… my king.”

03. “Look to my coming…”

The entirety of the Battle of the Hornburg is incredible – from the cinematography to the sound and the scale – but when Gandalf appears (“Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east”) surrounded by Éomer and the Rohirrim, I’m fist pumping, cheering and have tears of relief streaming down.

Just moments before their arrival, Aragorn and King Théoden had ridden out together, making one last display of hope and unity against what they thought was impending doom.

As Gandalf (astride Shadowfax) and Éomer charge towards them, they clash into the Uruk-hai’s waiting pikes like a wave. Set to a chorus of ethereal singing, the whole scene is very rousing stuff.

02. “You, shall not… pass!”

Gandalf’s iconic line – delivered perfectly by Ian McKellen – is a perennial fan favourite and one that I have had the pleasure of hearing in person, delivered by the man himself.

When I met McKellen during a private screening of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, he explained how when he visits schools to give talks, he says: “If you don’t revise for your exams, you shall not pass!”

As McKellen delivers his line you truly feel that he is standing opposite this giant, fiery beast, Howard Shore’s terrific score growing in grandeur, and the dark greys and black of Gandalf and his surroundings in complete contrast to the burning orange of the Balrog.

The whole scene at The Bridge of Khazad-dûm, is epic, especially Aragorn and Frodo’s impromptu helter-skelter ride, and it is followed by an equally powerful, emotional scene, not only for the Fellowship but for audience members unfamiliar with JRR Tolkien’s novel.

01. “Hope is kindled.”

I find the whole scene – from Gandalf asking Pippin to light the first beacon at Gondor to King Théoden’s exchange with Aragorn: “The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid,” shouts Aragon, to which King Théoden replies, “And Rohan will answer!” – extremely compelling, promoting a visceral reaction.

Gandalf’s underhand deed is a game changer for the fate of Middle-earth. There had long been bad blood between Gondor and Rohan (“Where was Gondor when our enemies closed in around us?”), hence King Théoden’s slight hesitation before delivering his reply, but this simple action unites the realms of men and gives us hope that Sauron can be defeated.


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