Sam vs. Shelob was by far the most impressive scene. Somehow even the excellent movie scene couldn't compare to the images the book conjured. And Sam's charge into Cirith Ungol ("Spider Tower) in order to rescue Frodo is simply priceless. He's barely halfway through them and the orcs are convinced that there's a mighty Elf Lord around, with a sword and an axe and magical fire.
What makes it even more awesome? As Gorbag points out to Shagrat, this is the first time anyone has ever "stuck a pin in" Shelob. That is why he's convinced there's a great Elvish warrior on the loose.
Tolkien also pretty heavily implies that there were Elven and Gondorian warriors who didn't do as well as our brave little hobbit.
The entire Chapter 5 of Book 1 (A Conspiracy Unmasked) was a bit of a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Fatty Bolger.
Meriadoc's strike as well (and remember, Elrond wanted Merry and Pippin to return to the Shire: no Merry or Pippin means the Ents don't rise, Saruman is in place, Gandalf doesn't die and thus doesn't become powerful enough to depose Saruman, the Witch-king lives, and Faramir is dead). Arguably, it was Merry's blade which was the undoing of the Witch-king, as it was forged with spells specifically for the defeat of Angmar.
It gets even better when the writing implies the Witch King is having an "Oh Crap I didn't think of that" moment.
Gandalf once equates Merry and Pippin's coming to Fangorn to two stones that start an avalanche (LotR III ch. 5).
Several awesome moments (unfortunately left out of the film) occur at Helm's Deep.
When Aragorn is the last one to run for the safety Hornburg after the Deeping Wall is breached, he stumbles on the stairs, and the following orcs make a dive for him. But the first to appear is shot by Legolas kneeling at the top of the stairs; and then those climbing over him are crushed by a boulder thrown from above
Aragorn standing above the gates shortly before dawn and inviting Saruman's forces to surrender, as no foe has ever breached the Hornburg. He even makes the Dunlendings pause, but the Orcs renew their attack — just when the Horn sounds in the Deep, and Théoden & co. ride out, throwing Saruman's forces into a panicked retreat before Gandalf and the reinforcements arrived to hem them in and help finish them off.
"I have still this to say," answered Aragorn. "No enemy has yet taken the Hornburg. Depart, or not one of you will be spared. Not one will be left alive to take back tidings to the North. You do not know your peril."
After Aragorn and Éomer led a small sortie out of the side gate to take out a ram, they are on the way back when Éomer gets jumped by some Orcs who had played dead. But then a small figure appears from the shadows and decapitates two Orcs, causing the rest to flee. Turns out Gimli decided to partake in the sortie "to shake off sleep", but decided their human foes "seemed over large for [him]", and so simply stood by and watched.
Gimli wins the orc-slaying contest 42 to Legolas' 41. Last damned orc had a iron collar that nocked his axe too.
The Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings got much more of a chance to shine in the novels. Sam's was clearly going berserk on Shelob after finding Frodo (supposedly) dead and winning (sure, it was a fluke, but who cares, it's gigantic friggin' spiderthe queen hell god demon badass spider of ever). The "Scouring of the Shire" section of Return of the King was pretty much a crowning moment of awesome for the entire hobbit race, and Merry and Pippin in particular.
Pippin gets one earlier at the Battle of the Black Gate, when he single-handedly takes on an Olog-hai (a breed of troll which are bigger, stronger, sturdier and more vicious and cunning than regular trolls, and able to endure sunlight) to save a friend. And wins.
While it would have had no business whatsoever being in the movie, "The Scouring of the Shire" is one long Crowning Moment of Awesome for hobbitry in general. Particular chills at Pippin's moment of riding forward, sword out and armor shining, to tell one of Saruman's henchman to show some respect to Frodo.
Or the part where the ruffians gang up on Farmer Cotton in Bywater. He's just standing there, warming his hands at a bonfire, when they start threatening him. He calmly tells them to back off. They don't. One hundred armed hobbits led by Merry appear out of nowhere. Merry repeats the request to leave. The ruffian leader takes a swing at Merry. He's shot with four arrows before it connects.
The Nazgul flee from the Brandybucks after Fatty raises the alarm. A bunch of Hobbits, who have no idea who they're dealing with and have no magical power, and whose last battle was against wild animals, ran off Sauron's elite minions with a well-organized horn-call.
Okay, "YouShallNotPass""You cannot pass" was awesome, but nothing can touch his completely still "You cannot enter here." when Gandalf stares down the goddamn Witch-king.
And don't forget that the Witch-king did not neglect to respond in kind. "Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see him? Die now, and curse in vain!" And then he pulls back his hood, revealing that his "head" consists of a crown floating in midair above his shoulders, while drawing his Flaming Sword. It's almost a pity the Rohirrim had to show up and interrupt what had all the makings of a truly epic throw-down.
Lobelia Sackville-Baggins goes from disliked character to awesome when she attacks a group of the thugs infesting the Shire with her umbrella in the penultimate chapter of Return of the King. To quote one of the hobbits, "They've taken people we miss more, but you have to admit she's showed more spirit than most." When she's freed from prison after the hobbits' revolt, the crowd cheers her.
"I'll give you Sharkey, you dirty thieving ruffians!"
When Frodo and company return to the Shire, they find armed guards trying to order them around. They simply laugh at them.
Théoden's speech to Saruman in the ruin of Isengard. Saruman's just spent a few pages using his magic to sweet-talk the entire army of extremely ticked-off Rohirrim in leaving him alone. He's got them eating out of his hands when he asks Théoden whether they will have peace. Théoden promptly tells him where to shove it. "When you hang from a gibbet at your window for the sport of your own crows, I will have peace with you and Orthanc." Thankfully, added back into the extended cut of the movie.
Made even more impressive by the fact that very, very shortly before this encounter, Saruman's apprentice had been able to turn Théoden into his puppet. That's one hell of a comeback.
Gandalf was pretty awesome soon thereafter, though perhaps less so because of his very nature being 'greater' as it were than Théoden. Having failed with Théoden, Saruman exerts his will even harder on trying to convince Gandalf to come up and make peace with him, so much so that even Théoden believes he will do so, with all feeling as if the pair are above them. Gandalf just laughs it off, and when Saruman tries to withdraw he commands him to come back saying he had not given him leave to go, and Saruman returns as if unable to refuse (though he clearly wanted to), and then Gandalf breaks Saruman's staff.
'Saruman!' he cried, and his voice grew in power and authority. 'Behold, I am not Gandalf the Grey, whom you betrayed. I am Gandalf the White, who has returned from death. You have no colour now, and I cast you from the order and from the Council.' He raised his hand, and spoke slowly in a clear cold voice. 'Saruman, your staff is broken.' There was a crack, and the staff split asunder in Saruman's hand, and the head of it fell down at Gandalf's feet. 'Go!' said Gandalf. With a cry Saruman fell back and crawled away.
Particularly powerful in the Toronto musical version, as this scene was done entirely in prose with the background music all but gone, Brent Carver's ridiculously powerful voice thundering through the theater...
YOU ARE COLOURLESS!
And Théoden's speech to the Rohirrim before the charge at Minis Tirith.
Boromir getting shot full of arrows and still killing dozens of orcs to save the Hobbits. The fact that the Hobbits were captured anyway is moot.
Frodo standing up to the ringwraiths right before he reaches Rivendell.
Frodo: By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair, You shall have neither the Ring nor me!
Plus the bit a little earlier, where he refuses to take Glorfindel's faster horse and leave his friends to the Black Riders, until he's assured that they're after the Ring and will only follow him. And he's in terrible pain from the Witch King's enchanted sword during all this.
The crow of the rooster at the Siege of Gondor, signalling that the Sun had risen again, and with it came the Riders of Rohan.
Rohan answering Gondor's call at Minas Tirith is and will always be the most gorgeous instance of The Cavalry in literature.
And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.
That whole last bit of chapter V, where Théoden blows a horn with such strength that it bursts into pieces, after which he is compared to one of the Valar. And then the Rohirrim as a whole start singing. While brutally slaughtering everything near them.
''Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day's rising,
he rode singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
Hope he rekindled, and hope ended;
over death, over dread, over doom lifted,
out of loss, out of life, unto long glory.''
When the Ring tempts Sam and he, not an Elf Queen, not a Angel-Made-Flesh Wizard, not the Designated King of Men, just a humble EveryHobbit gardener, refuses it.
Fridge Brilliance adds extra awesome to this. While we're not told this, Frodo has no doubt been doing exactly what Sam did for months.
The last march of the Ents. Just... the last march of the Ents. With the song about how they're going to rip down Isengard and the description and their eyes and... makes me breathless just thinking about it.
And then Saruman, who'd already proven that he didn't understand Ents, made a major tactical error: he set one on fire. Good idea: bad timing.
Pippin: "I thought that they had been really roused before; but I was wrong... It was staggering... They roared and boomed and trumpeted, until stones began to crack and fall at the mere noise of them... I saw iron posts and blocks of masonry go rocketing up hundreds of feet, and smash against the windows of Orthanc..."
Rather tame, but worth a mention anyway: when the hobbits are staying with Tom Bombadil, Frodo decides to slip on the Ring for a joke. Tom simply looks up as the other hobbits freak out and says (not an exact quote) "Put that away, Frodo. Your hand looks much more attractive without it." Think about this for a moment. Even GANDALF has freaked out at the prospect of using the ring. And this random dude is completely blase, despite the fact that he clearly had power and knew about evil. And then Tom Bombadil actually JUGGLES the ring, then makes it "disappear" by sleight-of-hand.
Frodo's while in the Wight's barrow, a situation that Gandalf compared to Weathertop in its level of danger. And it makes one wonder what he would have been like without the Ring. Black Riders? A little scary. Man-eating trees? Freakish, let's get away. But try to kill my friends? I'm going to effing stab you.
The even more impressive thing about this was that minutes before, Frodo had been too scared even to move, even when he got attacked by the barrow-wight himself.
See the above defiance of the Ringwraiths at the Ford of Bruinen, and add to that his confrontation with Gollum on the slopes of Mt. Doom:
Before it stood stern, untouchable now by pity, a figure robed in white, but at its breast it held a wheel of fire. Out of the fire there spoke a commanding voice. "Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom."
Dáin Ironfoot, when just a boy, slew an Orc-chieftain. This set the tone for his long, Badass life.
Which includes, but is not limited to, looking the Balrog of Moria in the face and living to tell the tale and defending the body of his friend King Brand to the death-at the age of 252. And still kicking ass until the very last breath.
Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli racing across Rohan in pursuit of the orcs. They ran 45 leagues - that is 155 miles or 250 km - in less than four days with the will of Saruman set against them.
While not quite as action oriented and amazing as most entries, Bilbo's compliment/criticism/Take That during his birthday party is a CMoA for giving us this the ultimate line for leaving an entire audience wondering if they were just insulted, complimented, or both.
" I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less then half of you half as well as you deserve."
The End of the Entmoot. Think of it this way, ancient beings, wise but mind-numbingly slow to regular folk, peaceful treeherders, suddenly get it into their heads that they have an enemy to defeat. This is no mere Misfit Mobilization Moment; this is what happens when you piss off the things that are to trolls what elves are to orcs. They tear through Isengard's fortress like it were made of paper.
We go, we go, we go to war, to hew the stone and break the door!
Minas Tirith has been breached, is partly on fire, and the Rohirrim are not numerous enough to take and hold the Pelennor Fields, but they're putting up a fight. Suddenly the ships of the Corsairs of Umbar appear on the river, announcing that Mordor's reinforcements have arrived... and run up the flag of the King of Gondor, which has not been seen in centuries. Sauron's forces are horrified, Gondor's are reinvigorated, and much ass-kicking ensues.
The entire Battle of the Pelennor Fields is one of these. Big Damn Heroes? A truly epic one (the charge of the Rohirrim) then an even more epic one (Aragorn's arrival). Then there's Éowyn and Merry killing the the Witch-King of Angmar on solely Heroic Resolve. And all the speeches Théoden and Éomer give, which would frankly inspire anyone to go out and fight evil on horseback with a sword. And Theoden's Dying Moment of Awesome (also a powerful tearjerker). It also helps that Tolkien describes the battle in huge amounts of detail, it's every phase and movement catalogued, with his usual mastery of language making it one of the finest chapters of his entire Legendarium.
Is it possible for a sword to have this? More specifically the sword that Merry picks up in the Barrow-Downs that he uses to cripple the frikkin' Witch-King Of Angmar, which then crumbles into dust after he uses it. Tolkien describes it as fulfilling its task, and since it's a magic sword but no Glamdring or Narsil.
Thorin son of Thráin son of Thrór, only a youth, improvises when his shield is wrecked by using a tree branch as both shield and club! This bit of ingenuity earns him the appellation "Oakenshield".
The narration describing the actions of Sauron the moment Frodo claims the Ring as his own are nothing short of epic:
And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung. From all his policies and webs of fear and treachery, from all his stratagems and wars his mind shook free; and throughout his realm a tremor ran, his slaves quailed, and his armies halted, and his captains suddenly steerless, bereft of will, wavered and despaired. For they were forgotten. The whole mind and purpose of the Power that wielded them was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain. At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ring-wraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.
The invention of the game of golf.
To explain: A hobbit decapitates an Orc-chieftain with a club. And the head goes sailing off a ways, into a hole in the ground.
The orcs name was Golfimbul. Think about it. Golf-im-bull Golfing ball.
Galadriel's awesomeness is revealed in a single line of the Appendices. After the Ring is destroyed, the forces of Lothlórien attack Dol Guldur. "They took Dol Guldur, and Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed." She destroyed a fortress of Sauron by herself.
The Witch-King's entry into Minas Tirith before his confrontation with Gandalf. He weakens the gates with black magic to allow the ram to do its work and then becomes the first enemy in almost four thousand years to enter Minas Tirith.
"In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face."
Even very minor characters get moments. Hama, the door-warden of Meduseld, commands his visitors to lay aside all weapons before they may meet Theoden. When Gandalf tries to pull 'an old man needs a stick to lean on', The Guards Must Be Crazy is averted. Hama is not deceived, but he deems that Gandalf is here to help, and his judgement is vindicated. He goes on to die valiantly at the Hornburg, and is specifically named by Eomer as one of the reasons Rohan can never accept negotiations with Saruman.
Peter Jackson's Film Trilogy
Fellowship of the Ring
The Battle of the Last Alliance, shown in the prologue of the first film. We're first shown a short clip of Sauron's orcs rampaging around Middle-Earth, before we hear Galadriel's voice say "But there were some...who resisted." Next thing we see is an army of men boldly marching straight at a massive horde of orcs at the foot of Mount Doom. We then cut to a shot of the aforementioned massive horde of orcs charging at the almost equally large Last Alliance army...who then proceed to wipe the floor with the orcs.
From the same battle scene, Elrond giving his archers the order to fire, and a volley of arrows goes flying through Elrond's line, narrowly and accurately missing their own troops to lay into the onrushing horde.
And also Sauron himself demonstrating the power of the One Ring and obliterating the forces of the Last Alliance by himself.
Gimli in Moria: "Let them come! There is one dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!" The epicness of the soundtrack at this point doesn't hurt either.
Another Gimli moment comes a few scenes later, as the Fellowship flees to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. The chamber opens up and suddenly they are surrounded by thousands of orcs. The rest of the Fellowship looks terrified, but Gimli? He just hefts his axe and growls. "You take the thousand on the right, I'll take the thousand on the left!"
The you in his statement refers to the rest of the Fellowship. That's right, he's basically saying, "You guys take that half; I got this."
The cinematic and musical richness of the Fellowship's encounter with the Argonath—the rock-hewn statues of two notable kings of the ancient border of Gondor. It draws pause to think of how really, really ancient the history of Middle-Earth is—so much that that characters really are dwarfed (sorry) by their role in it.
Aragorn's climactic fight against Lurtz at the end of the first movie.
On a duel level, (pun intended) Aragorn, having been knocked half-senseless, swinging his sword at the last moment to knock out of the air the dagger being thrown at him. A classic action moment, elevated when you learn the sequence was not choreographed nor a special effect. The prosthetics that Lurtz had on—specifically the contacts—made him throw a knife that was supposed to be a far miss straight at Viggo Mortensen's face. Mortensen deflected the knife himself out of pure reflex and badassery.
Note that the "being knocked half senseless" wasn't acting or scripted either. The stuntman's prosthetic makeup hindered his depth perception, making the headbutt that he delivered to Mortensen quite real and quite painful, nearly knocking him out cold. The punch to his gut was also not pulled, and the sound you hear him making is him grunting in actual pain.
Just before Lurtz' decapitation though, he has his own CMoA when Aragorn stabs him in the belly and he pulls the sword in deeper, grinning at Aragorn as he does so.
"Grinning," hell, he was trying to bite Aragorn's face off.
That fight was so awesome, audiences all around the world have been reported applauding the cinema screens after Aragorn takes Lurtz's head off.
When he tells Frodo to go alone, then he stands and turns to meet a mob of Uruk-hai, saluting with his sword in an utterly badassSlow Walk. And starts kicking ass.
Trapped with Frodo on the wrong side of a gap too wide to leap, Aragorn surfs a crumbling stone pillar, shifting his weight so that it'll crash into the next part of the stairs. All this while Shore's score builds to a tense, expectant crescendo... and then, when Aragorn succeeds, the Fellowship's theme blares forth triumphantly.
Boromir's crowning moment coincided with his redemption, when he charges in to protect Merry and Pippin from the Uruk-hai. Then Lurtz puts an arrow in his chest. Boromir falls to his knees, looks at Merry and Pippin, then he gets back on his feet and starts fighting again. Twice.
His last line to Aragorn: "My brother. My captain. My king." Total awesomeness there.
The scene at the Bruinen Ford: do you know how "(If you want him) come and claim him!" should sound in Greek? Molon labe!
Sam's first Crowning Moment Of Awesome in all the movies is the sequence after Aragorn has dragged Frodo up the stairs. While his friend is busy getting creeped out by the strange man, he pulls a drunken Merry and Pippin out of the crowd, spots Frodo being pulled away, grabs a chair and a candelabra and prepares to take down a guy with a sword. A preview to the later awesomeness with Shelob, but a Crowning Moment Of Awesome nonetheless considering all we'd seen of him at this point was a complaining, not-as-bright-as-Frodo-but-not-stupid sidekick.
Sam's next moment comes when the four hobbits are surrounded by the Ringwraiths. As the hobbits huddle together fearfully, Sam shouts "Back, you devils!" and attacks the nearest wraith. After doing nothing but running from them up to this point, Sam is the first hobbit to fight back.
The entire Bridge of Khazad-dûm scene is masterfully translated to screen. Everyone runs over the bridge while badass music plays, and then tiny, frail-looking Gandalf battles a gigantic, flaming demon three times his size. And to crown it all is when he yells his famous, "you shall not pass!" line. The delivery is a crowning moment of awesome in and of itself, but it shows that Gandalf is no longer a charming old man who can magically shoot fireworks, but is now a supreme force of good who will face evil, and kick its ass.
How is Gandalf reminding Bilbo that he's not "some conjuror of cheap tricks" not on here yet?
A quiet one, but: Frodo and Aragorn's last meeting on Amon Hen. We've just seen Boromir driven mad by desire of the Ring, attacking Frodo to get it, and reduced to sobbing and clawing at the dirt. Right on the heels of this, Frodo comes face to face with Aragorn, cringes away in fear, and then, when Aragorn realizes why, actually offers him the Ring open-palmed. Aragorn walks toward him, eyes burning in his face, reaches toward it...then drops to his knees and gently closes Frodo's hand over the Ring. With Faramir's character change, this makes him the only Man to refuse the Ring point-blank—even when it is freely given.
Gimli has one at Helm's Deep, too. Dwarf lands on bridge; circular axe-sized swath appears in enemy troops within two seconds. In another classic Gimli moment during the same battle, leaping off of a 20 foot wall onto a sea of orcs and narrowly avoiding impalement on their enormous spears in the process, only to crash down on top of an orc and then nearly drown in knee-deep water. What a card, eh?
Gimli's moment during the warg attack while marching to Helm's Deep. He's pinned by the carcass of a warg and an orc comes in, thinking it will get an easy kill. Gimli just reaches up, grabs the orc's head, and snaps its neck! Proving that a dwarf doesn't need to be flashy to be awesome.
Gimli has another great one after Helm's Deep in the extended version, he and Legolas are discussing their kill count competition:
Legolas: Final count, forty-two.
Gimli: Forty-two? Oh, that's not bad for a pointy-eared elvish princeling. Hmph! I myself am sitting pretty on forty-THREE.
Legolas: [takes out an arrow, and shoots the Uruk Gimli is sitting on in the stomach] Forty-three.
Gimli: He was already dead!
Legolas: He was twitching.
Gimli: He was twitching because he's got my axe EMBEDDED IN HIS NERVOUS SYSTEM!
[rattles the handle of his axe; the Uruk's arms and legs twitch]
Also pretty amusing how a medieval society knows enough about life science to use the phrase "nervous system."
And remember that Legolas had a very unfair advantage of a ranged weapon, having racked up 17 kills by the time Gimli got his first two. Even a tie would have been impressive, and he still won!
The scene at Helm's Deep where the Rohirrim charge down hill and into the horde, riding down everyone on the slope only to find Gandalf has arrived with reinforcements is made of pure win. Topped off with Sam's declaration that "There is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for!" The only way Jackson could have made it better is if he went back to his early work and had Aragorn and Gimli charge down the slope with lawnmowers raised...
"Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath! Now for ruin! And the red dawn!"
More than one battle in history was won by a numerically and tactically inferior force overwhelming and routing their enemies with nothing more than epic rage. Gandalf kinda helped a little there too.
The Patrick Stewart Speech, the odds, the courage, the music... THEN The Cavalry shows up? This scene is the crowning moment of awesome of crowning moments of awesome.
"That is no orc horn!" The elves arrive at a woefully undermanned Helm's Deep, just before the Orcs get there. Totally wrong compared to the books, but still awesome.
Even more awesome given that Elrond sent them, since he seemed ready to all but give up on the race of Men not long before (justifiably given his experiences with Isildur, but still). A crowning moment for Elrond, Haldir, and the race of Elves in general.
Faramir has a rather understated one when he lets Frodo and Sam go, simultaneously rejecting the Ring and successfully doing what his older brother couldn't.
Madril: You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go, your life will be forfeit.
Faramir: Then it is forfeit.
The last march of the Ents. Saruman's forces were taken out by walking trees.
If you look carefully one of the Ents is using a CAVE TROLL to swat Orcs with.
Also, Treebeard's roar as he finds the forest destroyed. It has the perfect mix of pain and anger, where you completely understand what's going on in his mind. and all the other Ents coming out of the forest just tells you Saruman messed with the wrong species.
When Gandalf comes to Meduseld.
Gandalf: I release you. (raises hand and holds it towards the Saruman-possessed Théoden)
Théoden: (starts to laugh) You have no power here, Gandalf the Grey. (continues laughing, then exclaims in pain as Gandalf throws off his cloak, fully exposing his power)
Gandalf: I will draw you from him, Saruman, as poison is drawn from a wound. (presses harder, Théoden yells again)
Saruman: If I go, Théoden dies!
Gandalf: (Presses even harder) You did not kill me. You will not kill him!
When Saruman's hold over Theoden is lifted, Theoden's transformation effect is, bar none, one of the most stunningly impressive piece of visual effects of all time. in 5 seconds he goes from an ancient, dead-eyed, white haired, hunchbacked, butt-ugly albino to a perfectly hale and hearty (guessing) 40-something year badass.note Theoden was supposed to be 71 at the time of the War Of The Ring. Bernard Hill, who played him, was 57 back then.
The Freefall Fight between Gandalf and the Balrog in The Two Towers. It was only hinted at in the novel, but the film managed to portray exactly what you might expect a sword-wielding wizard and a giant fire demon beating the stuffing out of each other while falling into the bowels of the earth to look like.
Pippin gets two in The Two Towers- first in having the presence of mind to drop his cloak clasp for the others to find, then in convincing Treebeard to bring them to the Shire by slipping through Isengard, thereby making sure Treebeard knows why he needs to fight.
The Two Towers gets one of the most awesome of all. The last charge of Helm's Deep's defenders is rushing from the gates into the Uruk-Hai army, and even though they're all being Badass, it still looks like they're lost. Then Gandalf's words get echoed, the sun rises... and Gandalf and Éomer appear on the ridge. They proceed to have the following exchange:
Cue the arrival of The Cavalry as Éomer's Riders of Rohan charge down the hill towards the Uruk-Hai, the sun shining brightly behind them as they proceed to absolutely crush the Uruk-Hai.
Sméagol gets one when he tells the Gollum side who's been mocking him to buzz off. Gathering strength and courage and telling him to leave and never come back. It doesn't last but it shows that Sméagol still exists and remembers what his life was like before he encountered the Ring and when he was geniunely happy.
This one is better with some Fridge Brilliance. Gollum is his personality possessed by the ring, Sméagol tell the One Ring, the Ring to Rule Them All, the most powerful magical artifact in the novel's universe to fuck off and the Ring says Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
Well, he's a hobbit, after all.
A minor (and anonymous) moment of awesome for the Rohirrim who, when Eomer's forces attack the Orcs holding Merry and Pippin captive, takes the time to notch arrow to bow and turns backwards to shoot an Orc. While on horse, of course. Sagittarius, meet your Middle-Earth counterpart...
Meta-example, when Aragorn kicks the helmet and screams about Merry and Pippin's apparent deaths, Viggo Mortensen broke two of his toes with that kick. Him managing to stay in character and work the pain of that into his performance produced the best take they had and it was used in the final film.
Return of the King
For some reason, Pippin singing that hobbit song "All Shall Fade" while Faramir rides to his death gives me goosebumps and chills every single time.
In a meta example, that song was written by Billy Boyd. Using an adapted version of Tolkein's own words. In one day. The crew cried during the filming of that scene. And then he recorded it in Abbey Studios so that the sound crew could juxtapose it with the simplest orchestral backing they could manage. How's that for a moment of awesome?
Before that, not in the theatrical release but on the DVD and the videogame, when the Mouth of Sauron comes out to meet Aragorn and offer to spare them if Aragorn surrenders, as the fight is hopeless (showing the clothing that Frodo and Sam had discarded earlier, to say they were dead), Aragorn replies by chopping off his head. Gimli notes that negotiations seem to be over.
Directly before this, we are treated to an awesome speech by Aragorn:
"A day may come, when the courage of men fails, and we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship — but that is not this day! A hour of wolves, and shattered shields, as the age of Men comes crashing down — but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear, on this good earth, I bid you STAND! MEN! OF THE WEST!"
And to top it off, it's paraphrased from the Poetic Edda ("Voluspa", verse 45: Axe-time, sword-time, | shields are sundered, || Wind-time, wolf-time, | ere the world falls; || Nor ever shall men | each other spare.)
To make it even more Awesome after his speech and The Horse rears up? All done by itself, that wasn't part of the script The Horse did it all on its own.
Aragorn also drove off a gang of immortal Nazgûl with a sword and a torch on Weathertop. Outweighed by his later moments, but it allowed for a true anticipation of the badassery to come.
Such as the scene where Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, standing openly on the shores of Gondor's borders, towards the pirates of Umbar:
Gimli: Right. We warned ya! Prepare to be boarded!
Corsair Leader: Boarded!?! By you and whose army?
Aragorn:This army. (Cue ghost army swarming over entire pirate fleet at once).
Aragorn parrying the dead king's blade.
Aragorn grabbing the dead king by the neck and telling him straight up that he is the new king of Gondor and the ghost army will obey him.
It was unfathomably moving in the films because the fact that she would not face away from this embodiment of black sorcery despite being visibly horrified was far more courageous and awesome than simply not being afraid in the first place (which was what happened in the books, although that is mostly because she seems to be a bit unhinged). One is merely an ability, the other is a heroic choice. The fact that she was scared out of her wits, stood her ground, and still delivered a Pre-Mortem One-Linerquadruples the sheer Badassery.
"Do not come between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not smite thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the Houses of Lamentation, beyond all darkness; where thy flesh shall be devoured and thy shriveled mind left naked before the Lidless Eye." Nuff said.
Let The Duke say it: "Courage is being scared to death—but saddling up anyway." In the movie, she's showing real courage by looking at something she fears (and, let's face it, anyone in their right mind ought to fear him) and refusing to back down. It's easy to stand your ground against something you don't fear. It takes a lot more, and says more about your character, to stand your ground when you're terrified. That is badass.
If you watch the scene, Éowyn is clearly pants-browningly terrified of this creature in front of her, and stares at Its mace with horror. But she stands there, between it and her King, because she is that badass.
The fact that she is that scared and still has the courage to stand firm and scream "I will kill you if you touch him!" shows that you do not fuck with Théoden when Éowyn is around.
Visual effects, acting, and music combine for one massive awesome moment when The Ring is finally destroyed; Sauron's shriek of pain driving the dark army into retreat, the Fellowship slowly realizing that Frodo has done the impossible, the music building to a crescendo as the dark tower crumbles, Merry calling out "FRODO!"...then the Mood Whiplash as Mount Doom erupts, and the heroes fear that Frodo and Sam are lost, all topped off by a very cool shot of Frodo and Sam scrambling for safety to avoid the rising lava...awesomeness on all levels.
The entire teamup of Éowyn and Merry in battle. Merry steers the horse through a charging oliphaunt's legs as Éowyn hamstrings it - with her own sword and one she plucked from an Orc like it was an apple. Another one falls and knocks them both off the horse, so they get off and take down at least ten orcs in the next thirty seconds. Éowyn beheads a Nazgûl steed like it was nothing, and then they work together to kill Sauron's second-in-command and most powerful warrior, gigantic flail and all.
And let's not forget that thing Éomer did with the spear. Two oliphaunts down without breaking a sweat.
And an associated one for Karl Urban, after his statement on the commentary that he practiced the spear flip for days just for that shot.
In keeping with the theme of the Rohirrim: Théoden's speech to his riders on the Pelennor Fields and the subsequent charge.
Let's not forget that Théoden tapping his men's spears with his sword was Bernard Hill's own idea, and was very difficult for him to do, as he's left-handed.
Speaking of Théoden: The first "Forth Eorlingas!", charging with five or so horses into a crowd of thousands of seemingly victorious Uruks.
That whole charge scene gave me more chills than any other movie, book, or any other form of media put together. It was an epic moment, period.
Not to mention the way the music was used. The typical theme of the Rohirrim, together with their battle cries and actually scared looking Uruks is just amazing. Then, the moment the two armies meet, the music cuts for a few seconds which leaves only the sounds of battle, and then changes to a darker tune. Pure epic-ness.
Also, the fact that the Uruks are scared proves that the Riders of Rohan are seriously terrifying when they want to be. They just keep coming no matter how many arrows the Uruks fire and that is not something they've seen before.
That ultimate, badass normal gardener, Samwise Gamgee. "Then let us be rid of it! Once and for all! Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you! Come on! *Crowning Music of Awesome*
That is the Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Film. Not merely Sam, or the Lord of the Rings films, but Film. Period.
Arguably, the whole film trilogy is literally the best defining point of Sean Astin's career.
That was very badass of Sam, but his Crowning Moment came when he challenged a truck-sized spider who, if you read the books, you knew was in fact no ordinary monster, but an unkillable demi-goddessthat even Sauron could barely control - armed with nothing more than a magic dagger and a magic lantern - and won. Sure, it was a fluke, but still. Just as Frodo is being webbed up by Shelob (the spider) and the music is descending lower and lower, it suddenly raises to a triumphant chorus, and Sam advances, weapons in hand. Let him go, you filth. Ooh, that's Awesome. Watch it here.
Samwise owned those films, no two ways about it. Taking over the world, enslaving mankind, killing everyone and everything on the planet, sure. But you even think about hurting Frodo, and Samwise Gamgee will f*** ing cut you. Of course, Tolkien did write Sam as basically the ultimate normal person, just a loyal, down-to-earth man who wants nothing more than to work in his garden and start a family. A whole Aesop about the everyday courage of the average person being equal to those of the heroic sagas.
Sam That's for Frodo.
stabs second orc
Sam And for the Shire.
stabs final orc
Sam And that's for my old Gaffer!
The Lord Of The Rings should just be called, "Samwise Gamgee Is Better Than You: The Movie."
Much has been said (by many people) about Tolkien's apparent love for the old pre-industrial classist social system where you had folks who were the well-to-dos and you had the folks who were the faithful servants. That said, Samwise Gamgee's role in the story was to show how Tolkien felt about those faithful servants, a badass Determinator who is solely responsible for his master surviving, let alone succeeding in his mission. He was based on the soldiers and batmennote Officer's servants. Think of what Alfred does for Batman, but in uniform. of World War One, who faced terrible conditions, and who Tolkien thought of as far superior to himself. In one of his letters, Tolkien describes Samwise as nothing less than The Hero of the saga, despite being the designated sidekick.
Sam gets another one when he starts a civil war on the outskirts of Mordor to rescue Frodo from Cirith Ungol.
As cool as Sam's battles against Shelob and the Orcs of the tower were, after being weary from all their trials and starved and thirsty in scorching wastelands, Sam still had the strength and determination to carry Frodo up the mountain.
Sam: "Then let us be rid of it, once and for all! Come on, Mr. Frodo! I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!"
Faramir's CMoA is when he leads a suicidal charge against the Orcs simply because his father and duty demand it. This is even though he KNOWS it will almost certainly be his death and has to go and prepare so he has plenty of time to think about it. All in an attempt to win the respect of his father.
Great missed opportunity for a Crowning Moment Of Awesome: Faramir attempting to surrender his office to Aragorn as the last Steward of Gondor. Would've taken thirty seconds.
This is admittedly for the villains, and it is only on the extended home video cut, but it's still incredibly awesome since it shows just how threatening the Witch-king really is: When he confronts Gandalf, says that Gandalf's exit from Middle-Earth is long overdue, and then makes his staff explode.
Actually, if Gandalf had taken the Ring for himself he would have been on equal with Sauron. The books actually cut away, not explicitly showing the confrontation and having the Witch-King leave Gandalf in whatever state he had been in when the Rohirrim arrived. It was simply the possible interpretation that worked best on film.
Gimli in Return of the King, just before the Fellowship decides to storm the Black Gate to provide Frodo with a distraction:
Gimli: Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waitin' for?
Frodo's intellectual Crowning Moment Of Awesome: When in the midst of an orc regiment, tired and starving and dehydrated and PARANOID FROM THE FREAKING EYE LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER! and about to be discovered, he somehow has the idea to distract the officer by starting a fight. This may seem simple, but when you consider how hard it was to even breathe by this point, it's pretty amazing.
A little bit before that, when both hobbits are lying at the bottom, Frodo-already in phenominally bad shape-wearily looks up at the top of the mountain, gets this really determined expression on his face, and then attempts to reach the top by crawling forward on his hands and knees.
Denethor's death during the battle of Minas Tirith— where he, near-out of his mind with emotion, runs out onto the great pinnacle while on fire, and throws himself off. And then, the camera pulls back, and back, and back.... revealing his insignificance in the grand scheme of things.
Merry and Pippin got one at the Black Gate. After Aragorn decide to chage into the enemies, who's going second? Gandalf? No. Gimli? No. Legolas? No. Men of Rohan or men of Gondor? No. Just these two hobbits. Now THAT's being courageous.
Gothmog, the leader of the Mordor Orcs gets one at the beginning of the Seige of Minas Tirith, when his response to a car-sized peice of masonry being flung at him is to wait until the last moment, then casually side step it, completely avoiding harm. Then, just to show his superiority over the humans, he spits on it in disdain. To clarify, he'd told all his Orcs to "Stay where you are," as the masonry comes at them. All the Orcs around Gothmog don't bother to listen, and run about twenty feet in all directions, just to be sure. Gothmog freaking sidesteps the projectile at the last minute, moving all of three feet in the process. The "Damn," look a battle troll gives him is the icing on the cake.
Another moment for Gothmog comes when his second in command falls back after attempting to take down the main gates of Minas Tirith with a battering ram.
Gothmog:Get back there and smash it down!
Second in Command: But nothing can breach it!
Gothmog: *calm smile* Grond will breach it. Bring up the Wolf's Head!
When Sauron's army breaks the gate of Minas Tirith with a giant, flaming battering ram (Grond) and then rushes through with giant, armored trolls.
Grond itself is pretty cool. It's like the orcs of Mordor thought: "Well, a normal battering ram is one thing, but what if we made a giant metal one shaped like a wolf, on fire?" No wonder they all chant its name.
When the Orcs and Uruks get into a fight over Frodo's Mithril shirt, an Orc dropkicks an Uruk out of the tower.
Pippin: You called us out to fight.
"Eagles! The eagles are coming!" And they're dogfighting the Nazgûl!
In a deleted scene, the Mouth of Sauron appears before the party and viciously mocks them, claiming Frodo is dead and holds up his chainshirt to prove it, and then laughs about it to their faces. Aragorn's response? Shut the bastard up via decapitation. "I do not believe it! I will not!"
It was even more Badass in the original novel where, instead of decapitation, Aragorn delivers a Death Glare that makes the Mouth shit his pants out of fear.
"My friends. You bow to no one."
Gandalf rallying the Gondorian soldiers at Minas Tirith in the face of a massive attack by Mordor. After riding Shadowfax up onto the wall, he faces the army and says... "Send these foul beasts into the abyss!" followed by the soldiers showing us exactly why they've held out against Mordor for this long.
"They will answer to the king of Gondor!" (unveils sword to Aragorn)
In the extended version of the Return of the King, Aragorn literally uses himself as bait for Sauron by taking the palantír, staring down the Great Eye, showing Andúril to it, then taunting it by saying, "I don't fear you!"
A small one by comparison to all that's gone before, but still sweet: when Sam visibly decides that after all he's been through, literally going to Hell on Middle-Earth and back, he will be damned if he's too intimidated to go talk to a girl.
Aragorn singing his lines in the coronation ceremony in the third movie. Freaking awesome.
Gandalf kicking the Squishy Wizard trope in the balls during the siege of Gondor, Dual Wielding his staff and sword, killing Uruks left and right while also trying to get Pippin out of danger. Culminates in one for Pippin too: "Guard of the Citadel indeed!"
When all the armies stand outside the Black gates of Mordor preparing for battle and almost certain death, They stand frozen in fear for a moment. Then Pippin, who has been treated as a fool by most, and Merry, who many dismissed as being unable to fight, are the first following Aragorn to battle, letting out truly epic battle cries. If ever one needed a visual definition of Awesome, there it is.
In Return of the King, perhaps no moment is as awesome for being so completely straight and quiet as this brief exchange between Fire-Forged Friends Legolas and Gimli, who have spent much of their time with cheerful banter during the second and third films while in combat. Yet here they know this isn't the best time for joviality. Despite this, they find time to have a brief moment of awesome and heartwarming all at once as this scene, more than anything else, cements that they are, indeed, friends.
Gimli: Never thought I'd die side by side with an elf.
Legolas: What about side by side with a friend? *Beat*
In the Extended Edition the scene is called "Sauron Defeated", which is named for the ninth volume of The History of Middle-earth. The name says it all: Sauron begins screaming in what can only be described as mortal terror. At first, it seems like an overreaction. Then...Sauron is undone. Barad-dur starts collapsing under its own weight, the Lidless Eye begins to shrink until it explodes, and destroying the Dark Tower, while the shock wave reaches the Black Gate of Mordor, causing the very earth to open up and swallow the not only the gate but The Legions of Hell that were manning them, just narrowly avoiding the Army of the West. Watching it makes the whole three hours worth it.
Legolas brain-kebabing an orc with an arrow before killing another orc with the same arrow in Fellowship.
Legolas running along the chain whip that the cave troll was using against him to shoot it point blank in the head with two arrows simultaneously.
In the second film, his stunt in which he skateboards down the stairway connected to the main wall of Helm's Deep on a shield, while firing arrows. When he hits the bottom, he kicks the shield, impaling an orc with it.
When he hit the bottom, he put an arrow through an orc's skull. By hand.
When he casually swung himself up onto a horse behind Gimli - one-handed, under the horse's neck, backwards, while it was moving. Anybody not suitably impressed by that move has never tried to mount a horse.
The funny thing is that they used CG to do that shot because Orlando Bloom had broken his ribs shortly before filming it, so he couldn't do the relatively conventional horse-mount that had originally been planned.
What about Legolas single-handedly bringing down a charging Oliphaunt? First, he climbs up the thing's tusk, then up the hind leg and onto its back, picking off every enemy soldier on it, all while counting off the kills in his and Gimli's kill count challenge. He then kills the Oliphaunt with three arrows at the same time in the back of its head, and as it slumps forward, dead and skidding, he glides down off its trunk and lands, with an expression that basically says "huh. okay then", in front of a positively appalled Gimli, who could only respond with, "That still only counts as one!"
Pretty good comeback though.
Now remember he basically killed every man riding this thing. How many were there? Like fifteen? Twenty? Yeah, Legolas wins this round.
Shooting a rope apart from an impossible distance was pretty damm cool too.
Another favorite: putting an arrow through the brain of an orc at a distance that would make Robin Hood blanch.
Also, cutting short Denethor's rant of despair with a decisive thwack to the head and then knocking him out.
Even better during that scene, after the first whack to the head, Gandalf just growls in disgust, then proceeds to knock him out with two more hits.
And then fighting the Balrog while both of them are still falling. Just after he desperately gives out that "Fly, you fools!", like he has lost the last of his strength. Holy SHIT.
It's only after seeing it that you realize that "Fly, you fools!" was less, "Don't try to save me, save yourselves," and more, "Don't worry, I got this."
Then he kills it. Gandalf fell God knows how far (fighting the whole way down), landed, got back up, then struck down a giant fire demon. And only then was he content to die. Because if he was going to die, he was damn sure not going alone.
Further punctuated by Gandalf's narration, wherein Sir Ian Mckellan delivers the most Metal line ever uttered on film: "Until at last, I threw down my enemy, and smote his ruin upon the mountainside."
Also also, Gandalf blasting away Saruman's Brainwashing of King Théoden, while simultaneously revealing that he's taken a level in badass.
The Ring itself has a Crowning Moment of Awesome when Gimli tries to smash it with his axe at the Council of Elrond. Not only is his axe shattered, not only is the Ring without a scratch, but the Ring doesn't even move.
The Ring has another moment when it's thrown into Mount Doom, and before it melts... it glows once again with the Dark Tongue words, like it did in the fireplace. Good job remembering that factoid, Mr. Jackson.
And another, in the beginning of the trilogy, when Bilbo drops the ring to the floor in the entranceway of Bag End and it slams to rest without bouncing, so perversely for so slight and small a thing that the audience recoils as if it were a pound of human flesh. Whoever was responsible for the effect, that was their Crowning Moment.
They put a magnet in that point. Simple, yet effective.
Arwen: (draws sword) If you want him, come and claim him!
Also for Arwen, having that vision and finally getting the balls to realize that she can't leave, despite her father's wishes.
From an effects standpoint, the shot in Return of the King where Andy Serkis' made-up face morphs into Gollum's CGI face at the end of the prologue.
Not part of the movie itself, but during filming they needed to go up this mountain using a chopper. Sean Bean didn't want to get into the chopper, so... the next few days he climbed the mountain dressed as Boromir.
Something from Behind the scenes just after the 55 second mark: A group of riders on their horses are running down a road when they come aross a car. Most of the guys just go around, but one of them jumps on top of the car and keeps on going! Badass Riders.
Note that this was an early CGI test during the process of creating virtual horse doubles. The virtual descendants of the car jumping horse would go on to get wiped out by flying Nazgul or be killed by arrows and be sent tumbling.
Something that works as CMoA for the setting more than any character is whenever we see Barad-Dur. In the first movie especially, the camera shows us this massive fortress — and then it pans back to reveal a freaking MOUNTAIN of iron and stone and adamantine crowned by the Lidless Eye. With a moat of lava!
Frodo outrunning the Nazgul on horseback, and when they corner him, he stands up for himself and tells them off:
Frodo: "Go back to the land of Mordor! And follow me no more!" Nazgûl: "The Ring! The Ring! To Mordor we will take you!"
Frodo: (draws sword) "By all the Shire, you shall have neither the Ring, nor me!"
When Aragorn says, "If I wanted the Ring, I could have taken it - NOW", you believe it.
The Moria-quest "We cannot get out" in The Lord of the Rings Online, where you get to take control of Ori, one of the dwarves of Balin's expedition to Moria. After the death of Balin, the remaining dwarves decide to make a last stand against the orcs of Moria. The quest ends with the player writing the last passage in the Book of Mazarbul, before the chamber is flooded with orcs and Balin's expedition is wiped out. While it may sound like a Downer Ending, being able to make a last, heroic stand in the chamber of Mazarbul and watching a good number of orcs fall before you is one of the absolute highlights of the game. Also awesome because it depicts an event not invented for the game, but actually one of the tiny bits of backstory that is briefly touched upon in the books.
Fellowship!, The Musical, is generally very silly, but the closing song is actually pretty cool:
My brothers, it's clear where our path lies: remember the pledge that we made. There's no time to waste, let's go hunt some orc! We've got some hobbits to save!
The original publication of Lot R is a Crowning Moment Of Awesome in itself. Co-founder Stanley Unwin published The Hobbit on his ten-year-old son's recommendation (believing that children were a good judge of good children's books), and commissioned a sequel which eventually became Lot R, which his now-grown son recommended as well - even though they might lose money on it. His father gave him the go-ahead: "If you believe this to be a work of genius, you may lose a thousand pounds." (The first print run, 3,500 copies, sold out within six weeks.)