An adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into three films (directed by Peter Jackson) with great commercial and critical success. The movies were filmed together and released one year apart for the holiday seasons 2001-2003.One of the biggest movie projects ever undertaken, the overall budget was around $285 million and principal filming for all three films took place over 18 months in Jackson's native New Zealand. The entire project took eight years, factoring in the early pre-production and the fact that additional pick-ups were filmed in between each films release. The trilogy was a great financial success, with the films being the 32nd, 24th, and 6th (8th, 4th, and 2nd following the third film's release) highest-grossing films of all time, respectively, unadjusted for inflation. The films were critically acclaimed, winning 17 out of 30 Academy Awards nominated in total, and received wide praise for the cast and for the innovative practical and digital special effects. Return of the King is the first (and currently only) fantasy movie to ever be awarded the Best Picture Oscar.The films were remarkably faithful in many respects, though many changes were made due to the many factors involved with adapting such a monumental work. Among the most significant changes (some of which are controversial) include the nature of Saruman's death, the characterizations of Faramir, Arwen, Denethor, and Gimli, and the removal of various subplots to make the story as a whole more appealing to movie audiences or to streamline their remarkably nuanced events from the books. Check out the Biggest Complaints page to see some of the less-popular changes.The theatrical versions were lengthy epics (the first two clocking in around 3 hours and the third 3 1/2 hours), and the "Extended Editions" (released before the succeeding movies) added at least another half-hour to each film's running timenote Around 12 minutes of that extra run time is credits added for the fan community website. Unusual for such a thing, Peter Jackson has stated that the Extended Editions are not an actual Director's Cut but merely a fan-friendly extension to enlarge the world of Middle-Earth and see what things they left out of the faster paced Theatrical Versions.An adaptation of The Hobbit is being made into a three-part prequel style story, the first part of which was released in fall 2012. Many actors (such as Ian Mckellen and Andy Serkis) from the LOTR trilogy returned to reprise their roles.
Interesting real-life lampshading: Viggo Mortensen actually went to the prop department and asked them to make him a prop whetstone he could use as part of his costume. He realized that if Aragorn would be killing so many orcs, he'd have to keep his blade sharp somehow.
In the extended edition, there's even a scene of him sharpening his sword while resting in Lothlórien.
Accent Adaptation / British Accents: A multitude of accents from all over The Isles are used with great effect throughout the trilogy to enhance characterization. The high-ranking characters (Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond, Galadriel etc) have RP (the Queen's English) accents, which lends them gravitas and enhances their position of authority. Bilbo and Frodo (arguably Hobbit gentry) also use RP, but it is less clipped and veers more towards an Estuary accent. The Orcs have Ray Winstone-esque theatrical Cockney/SE London accents to emphasize their loutishness. Gimli was given a Scottish accent to mirror what in the text was simply gruff speech. (By John Rhys-Davies, who was raised in England by Welsh parents).
Of course, by this time the Scottish accent had already been used in countless depictions of Dwarves - it was almost expected of him to do that. Which is interesting, as according to Tolkien, the Dwarvish language Khuzdul bears many similarities to Semitic languages, not Scottish.
Sam, Merry and most of the hobbit extras in films use a Somerset/Rural accent, which befits their pastoral life-style and setting. The exception is Pippin, for whom Billy Boyd used his native Scottish accent. (He had attempted a more conventional English accent, but switched back to the Scottish accent because the English accent ruined his comic timing.) It was given the justification that, in the story, the Tooks are from a different area of the Shire that is much more hilly, reflecting the terrain of Scotland, as well as the fact that the Tooks invented golf.
The only character who pronounces Quenya and Sindarin language names exactly as intended in the books is Elrond, as played by Hugo Weaving.
Viggo Mortensen's pronunciation, however, is very good. People who are interested in learning Elven would be highly advised to listen to his dialog.
Acoustic License: In The Two Towers, when Saruman is addressing his army of ten thousand Uruk-hai, his voice appears to be magnified by magical means. However in the extended version of The Return of the King Saruman speaks to the protagonists from the top of Orthanc and no similar effect is used (online cartoon spoof site Sev Trek suggested that he was using his pointy wizard's hat as a megaphone).
Action Bomb: In The Two Towers, during the battle at Helm's Deep, the Uruk-hai placed a bomb in the drainage tunnel at Helm's Deep, with an Uruk with a torch blowing himself up to set it off.
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The heartwarming and peaceful scenes of The Shire in Fellowship of the Ring (especially in the Director's Cut), filled with laughter, friendship and happy children (what a warrior lays down his life to protect) is what makes us actually care whether or not Frodo and the Fellowship defeat the Lord of the Rings or not.
While Two Towers has a very loud build up with the arrival of Saruman's army at Helm's Deep, the extended edition cuts away from this bombastic action to focus on cowering civilians in the caves underneath, with the Uruks chanting in the distance.
When the orcs are trying to break down a gate deep within Minas Tirith, Gandalf takes a few minutes to tell Pippin about the peaceful nature of the afterlife — a Far Green Country. The music at this point transitions from fearsome to quietly spiritual.
Word of God reveals that Arwen was initially slated to appear at Helm's Deep to fight alongside the heroes. It was eventually realized that this may be pushing it a little too far (even Liv Tyler hated the idea), and in the end she was replaced by Haldir. If you look closely during the extended edition you will see some of the elves are actually women.
However, it could be argued that Denethor had already suffered his Despair Event Horizon, since when they meet him, he has long since been aware of the death of Boromir. The Extended Cut of the second film shows a flashback to the victory in Osgiliath, where Denethor appears much more cheerful, implying that his grimness and fatalism stem from the death of his beloved son, rendering him a shell of who he once was.
Although never a villain, Faramir was more hostile to the hobbits in the movie than he was in the books, and is tempted by the Ring, until Samwise tells him what the Ring did to Boromir.
Adaptation Distillation: Many favored aspects of the books were taken up a notch, while much detail was glossed over.
Most notably, the removal of the Tom Bombadil sequence, which doesn't really add anything incredibly significant to the narrative of the books.
The final chapters of the books, the Scouring of the Shire, were removed entirely. Even if they were somewhat anti-climactic, they gave the book a darker vibe, arguably one of Tolkien's recurrent themes.
Adaptation Dye-Job: Boromir in Fellowship of the Ring is described as having dark hair. For the movies they gave him light brown, bordering on blond. Faramir's hair is not as dark, either. The vast majority of Men of Númenórean ancestry are said in the books to have dark hair and grey eyes.
The elves of Lothlórien are shown to be uniformly blonde, though only elves with particularly strong Vanyar ancestry, such as Galadriel, have blonde hair in the books.
While Frodo and Pippin are brunet, Merry and Sam are fairly blond, when in the books it specifically says that blond hobbits are a rarity.
Some fans argue that this applies to Legolas. While his hair color is never mentioned in the book, one scene at night apparently describes his head as "dark", so it can be argued if this applies to his hair color. (The justification probably comes from the 'golden head' attributed to his father Thranduil in The Hobbit.)
Aragorn is more unsure about returning to the throne of Gondor, and must be convinced by Elrond to do so.
Faramir is also an example. In the book he immediately recognizes the danger of the Ring, thereby becoming the only "normal" Human in the entire story who isn't tempted by the Ring. Of course, Rule of Drama prevailed, so in the movie he follows in his brother's footsteps and tries to get the Ring to Gondor, due to massive angst over being the less-favored son. The Steward also treating Faramir as The Unfavorite also was added to justify this change.
Denethor could apply as well, while his actions are more or less the same, the book actually gives him reason to despair in the end while the movie manages to keep it much more ambiguous.
The beginning of Return of the King has Sméagol kill Déagol over the Ring. Well, what if the friend you trusted most easily turned on you over one little trinket?
In Two Towers, Théoden buried his son after being under a spell from Saruman for a long time and was so trapped by the spell that he wasn't aware about his son dying until afterwards.
Théoden: No parent should have to bury their child.
Although the hobbits aren't children, their small size and innocence invoke feelings of protect similar to children, and the members of the Fellowship clearly think of them as their charges. Boromir's anguished "They took the little ones!" as he is dying is particularly heartbreaking.
Age Cut: Averted in the Fellowship Of the Ring when Elrond talks to Gandalf about an incident thousands of years in the past. We cut to a shot of Elrond in the past and he looks exactly the same, since elves are immortal.
Agony of the Feet: Sean Astin stepped on a big piece of broken glass when wading into the river, and Viggo broke his toe kicking a helmet (see Throw It In).
All-Star Cast: A staggering list of recognizable names in the cast, not to mention that these movies made recognizable the names of every actor in them whose names hadn't been beforehand.
All There in the Manual: While not necessary to understand the movies, reading the books can provide valuable background information that just couldn't be fit into the films.
Particularly The Hobbit, the events of which are recapped in less than a minute. If you haven't read it, quite a few of the little continuity nods will go right over your head. And seeing an aging Bilbo leaving Middle-Earth won't be nearly as emotional.
Always a Bigger Fish: In the Fellowship of the Ring. The goblins have the party surrounded in the mines of Moria — until the Balrog makes its first appearance. They run for it. So, needless to say, does everyone else.
And This Is for...: Samwise Gamgee, the normally non-threatening gardener, even did this, dedicating Orc kills: "This is for Mr. Frodo! (stab) And this is for the Shire! (slice) And this is for my old Gaffer!" (thrust)
Annoying Arrows: Averted for the most part. Arrows are very, very lethal in the films and people from both sides go down after getting hit by one. Played with (for dramatic effect) when Boromir gets tagged with several in a row: he's visibly pained but still keeps fighting for a while uninhibited until the fourth one brings him to his knees and he's helpless to stop Merry and Pippin from being taken. Also, the Uruk-hai berserker with the bomb-igniting-torch at Helm's Deep keeps running unimpeded when Legolas shoots him several times.
The Apple Falls Far: When the hobbits almost tumble into a pit in Moria, Boromir drops a torch, which is followed by a long tracking shot of it falling into the abyss.
Armor Is Useless: There are many instances of mooks and redshirts dying from a single blow despite being encased in armor. Most notably, orc and goblins tend to wear particularly heavy-looking plate armor, yet often go down to a single swipe or arrow. Aragorn and Legolas also go without armor for a majority of the series, despite being some of the most capable fighters.
Slightly justified where the elves (and Aragorn) are concerned: Legolas is heard to pass advice on the weaknesses of Uruk-hai armor to his fellow elves in Helms Deep, so they can Attack Its Weak Point. When humans or orcs fire a volley, it tends to fell significantly less troops per arrow fired, though orcs get around this by sheer numbers.
Aragorn might be wearing leather armor the rest of the time, it's a bit hard to tell. Not the best armor out there, but someone who calls himself a "Ranger" would prefer mobility over protection.
And averted when Frodo is speared, only to reveal his Mithrilvest had protected him.
Also averted when Théoden is speared at Helms Deep. While he had to withdraw from the battle for the time being, he was seen back in the fight later.
Archer Archetype: Legolas notably, and exaggerated somewhat from the books — especially with the jumping on elephants and shooting point-blank.
Arrow Cam: The Fellowship of the Ring features another "point of view" arrow shot.
Army of the Dead: in the book, they're ghosts who accompany Aragorn to prove his kingship, inspire fear and awe, and ensure only stone cold badasses are brave enough to fight alongside him. In the film, they are the Cavalry.
Author Phobia: Peter Jackson actually used his own phobia of spiders to measure the effectiveness of Shelob's design and animations.
It seems that he only got one minor thing wrong: spiders don't sting, they bite. Yet it is true to the book. Justified in that Shelob is an Eldritch Abomination, not a simple giant spider, so the rules don't necessarily apply to her.
Award Bait Song: The films gave us three stellar Tear Jerker examples: "May It Be" and "In Dreams" from Fellowship of the Ring and "Into the West" from The Return of the King. "May it Be" was nominated for an for Oscar, "Into the West" was nominated and won. "Gollum's Song" from The Two Towers averts the trope by being in a minor key, having a much darker tone, and being sung in a dissonent, shrill voice.
Awesome Moment of Crowning: The Return of the King was pretty much all about getting to this moment, since Aragorn was the rightful ruler all along. And in the end of the movie, the coronation gets a good five minutes and a reunion for Aragorn and Arwen, which makes it an almost perfect Awesome Moment of Crowning.
Note that, after the Balrog drags him off the bridge, the first thing Gandalf does is deliberately fall faster so he can catch up with his sword, and start stabbing the flaming monster, while in freefall. Other badasses wish they could be Gandalf.
Badass Grandpa: Speaking of Gandalf, the guy has been around since the creation of the universe.
King Théoden was 71 years old when he died. In real life, Bernard Hill (the actor) was around 58 during the filming.
Sam. Oh Sam. An ordinary guy who wants nothing more than to take care of his garden back in Hobbiton, Sam goes on to save Frodo countless times, take out quite a few orcs, and kill Shelob by himself with nothing more than a Cool Sword and a magical flashlight.
Badass Longcoat: Aragorn wears a dark-green "ranger coat" throughout most of the series. Unfortunately, he sheds it when he becomes king.
On that note, the other Dúnedain rangers, who only appear in storyboarded scenes and the trading card game, wore longcoats, as well.
Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In the extended cut of Return of the King, what to do with Saruman is a bit of a problem for Théoden and the Fellowship. He resists coming quietly to be questioned until Grima backstabs him after being kicked around one too many times.
Battle Chant: In Return Of The King, just before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Théoden gives his "arise, arise, riders of Théoden". The entire army begins then chanting "Death" over and over (even Merry chants it).
In the book, the "Death" chant appears only at the end of the chapter, just before the corsairs' ships arrive.
Battle Cry: Due to the martial nature of the series, there are a few examples:
the Rohirrim : "FORTH, EORLINGAS!"
Aragorn's cry of "ELENDIL!"
And Théoden's "DEATH!"
An amusing example: when Boromir is teaching Merry and Pippin how to sword fight, they charge him shouting "For the Shire!"
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: People often don't remember Aragorn's speech before the Black Gates quite right—possibly they're remembering the version in the trailer, which was from a different take. Théoden's speeches get this, too, to a lesser extent.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Frodo is badly stabbed on Weathertop, and later loses a finger, Boromir catches several arrows in his chest, Aragorn spends the whole trilogy bloody, bruised and scraped. Practically all of the cast is harassed by either the Watcher in the Water or a cave troll. But all pretty boy Legolas gets over the course of the trilogy is a bruise and a little smudge of dirt. Éowyn made it through almost the entire Battle of the Pelennor Fields unscathed, with nary a cut or bruise... until the Witch-King smashes her shield (and shield-arm) with his gigantic flail.
Théoden also gets a spear in the shoulder during the battle of Helm's Deep. He's not badly injured, due to his armor, but he has to switch his sword to his other hand for a bit.
Behind the Black: In The Two Towers, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli stop their run after Aragorn senses something. The Three Hunters run behind a rock and miss, by a matter of inches, being trampled by a huge contingent of horses and riders that are coming over the hill. Why the particularly perceptive Legolas or Aragorn couldn't see or hear the riders coming from a mile off is left unexplained, but the scene is played purely for effect. In the books, the hunters did in fact spot the riders coming from a long way off and had plenty of time to prepare themselves.
Big "NO!": The films have a whole bunch of them, most of them reasonably done:
Gimli has a Big "NO!" when he discovers the tomb of Balin, which dissolves into mournful blubbering.
Frodo also has one upon Gandalf's "death."
Right at the climax of the third film, when Frodo succumbs to the lure of the One Ring while standing on the edge of the Crack of Doom. It's actually two smaller "no"s, then followed by what might be the biggest "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" ever heard as Frodo puts on the Ring, alerting the Big Bad to his presence.
Yet another in the third film is Legolas in the final battle When Aragorn's about to be killed by a troll. It's definitely in the extended cut and the trailers at least.
Big Damn Heroes: As in the books, it happens at Helm's Deep and twice at Pelennor Fields, though a little varied. Unique to the films are two scenes in FOTR:
When Frodo is stabbed at Weathertop, the Ringwraith reaches out, likely to grab the Ring. Cue Aragorn literally jumping in, wielding torch and sword. He fights the five of them off, setting most of them on fire.
At Amon Hen, Merry and Pippin are surrounded by Uruk-hai; one runs in and seems to be ready to decapitate them (even though his orders say to bring them alive and unspoiled), when Boromir jumps right in between them and kills the Uruk.
There's also a scene in The Two Towers when Merry and Pippin have been abducted and Pippin was about to be eaten by an orc when they were unintentionally rescued by the surprise attack of the Riders of Rohan.
Big Eater: All the Hobbits, but especially Pippin.
Big Shadow, Little Creature - Sam, a hobbit, tries to scare a squad of Orc warriors this way. Unlike in the book, it doesn't really work. Also unlike the book, he kills them all easily.
He doesn't frighten them off, no, but they're clearly apprehensive until they actually see him.
Black and White Morality: For the most part, though Boromir and Frodo are otherwise good guys who succumb to the evil temptation of the Ring without meaning to. Aside from that, though, pretty much everyone besides Gollum is either clear-cut good (if they oppose the forces of Mordor and Isengard) or evil (the leaders and armies of Mordor and Isengard) and even Gollum falls sqarely into the "evil" category at the end of The Two Towers and stays there in The Return of the King.
However, many of the "evil" characters (Saruman, Wormtongue, Denethor, and even Sauron himself) weren't always evil, and that point is made very clear several times in the books. "For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so."
Black Knight: Sauron from the intro of the Fellowship of the Ring opening wears a huge suit of armor, roars monstrously, and swings a gigantic mace everywhere, sending scores of soldiers flying with each blow. He is modeled after his former master Morgoth from Silmarillion, and the books (or at least the appendix) did mention him taking part in this particular battle personally, so at least it's fairly justified.
The Witch-King fulfills this trope in both the books and the movie.
Bloodless Carnage: Okay, some blood, but with all the hacking and slashing, they had to keep the rating from being too high.
Bookends: Several examples in The Two Towers (which may seem odd as it's the middle film):
At the start of the film the Hobbits are wondering around in the general vicinity of Mordor. At the end, they're still wondering around in the general vicinity of Mordor.
Near the start of the film, Frodo attacks Gollum with Sting held in his left hand and holds the tip to his throat. Near the end, he does the same to Sam, except with Sting in his right hand.
Faramir's arc starts with Denethor mockingly asking if Faramir wants to attend the Council of Elrond to "Show his quality". At the end, Sam earnestly tells him that he's shown his quality.
The trilogy as a whole begins and ends in Hobbiton. Additionally, it starts with Bilbo beginning work on his book There And Back Again and ends with Frodo writing the final lines of the sequel. The Lord Of The Rings
Bottomless Quivers Nobody ever runs out of arrows despite firing dozens of them and never being shown replenishing their quivers or picking the arrows out of the bodies.
Bow and Sword in Accord: Aragorn (though he doesn't use it often). Legolas, most other elves, Faramir's rangers, and the more heavily armoured Gondor archers.
A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example: early in The Fellowship of the Ring the four Hobbits stop for "second breakfast," but Aragorn pushes them on. Pippin complains, so a couple of apples come flying out of the bushes from Aragorn's general direction. One hits Pippin in the head, and he looks up at the sky in confusion. Much later, just after the Ents have trashed Isengard in The Two Towers, Pippin mentions that he's hungry, then sees some apples floating in the water. He grabs one, then looks up in the same manner.
Buffy Speak: Pippin during the creation of the Fellowship: "You need people of intelligence in this kind of mission... quest... thing."
Butt Monkey: Gimli in The Two Towers and Return of the King (Not so much in Fellowship, and not at all in the book).
He did have a few small moments of it in Fellowship though.
NOT THE BEARD!!!!!
Butterfly Of Transformation: The white moth that brings giant eagles to the rescue when Gandalf is imprisoned at Orthanc, and again when the Gondor army is at the gates of Mordor. (Only appears in the Jackson films, not the book).
Call That A Formation?: While lip service is paid to forming battle-lines, the battles quickly devolve into total chaos.
Cannot Cross Running Water: Arwen uses an invocation to Ulmo to raise the waters of Rivendell and prevent the Ringwraiths from crossing the ford. (Compare the book, where the waters rise due to a boundary spell set by Elrond).
Captain Obvious: Legolas, who tells the audience what a diversion is. Every single line he's given in the film is a Captain Obvious. The writers joke about it on the commentary.
In addition to the lead actors who were trained on horses, and numerous digital extras, the Riders of Rohan were portrayed by regular horse riders from all across New Zealand who came with their own horses to act as extras.
For The Return of the King, The New Zealand Army provided extras for the final battle in front of the Black Gate. Behind the scenes commentary on the DVD's makes note of how good they were as following directions and setting up formations, as well as how much enthusiasm they brought to the combat scenes.
Cavalier Consumption: Denethor appears to be more interested in eating his chicken and tomatoes than he is in Faramir's safety.
The Cavalry: Minas Tirith is about to be overwhelmed by an enormous horde of Orcs—and then the Rohirrim appear at the top of the hill, blowing their horns.
The same happens at Helm's Deep, with Gandalf and Éomer's éored.
Chekhov's Gun: The small glass vial containing the Light of Eärendil, given to Frodo by Galadriel in the first film. It comes in handy in the third film, when Frodo is lost in Shelob's lair. The elven rope given to Sam also comes in handy, though it's only given a bit of relevance in the extended edition. Given the length of time between the release of the film in theaters, this turned into a bit of a Brick Joke.
In the book all items received by the Fellowship in Lothlórien fit this trope (most notably the Elven cloaks and brooches). She even gives Sam a box of dirt. The movie keeps most of them with the exception of Boromir's belt (in the book it served to help Faramir realize that he indeed saw his dead brother and not just a vision).
In the beginning of the second film, Saruman instructs his mooks to dam the river. At the end of the films, the Ents break the dam, dramatically destroying Saruman's army and Elaborate Underground Base in the ensuing flood.
If counting where Bilbo and Frodo's sword, Sting, received its name in The Hobbit killing the giant spiders of Mirkwood as they attacked the ensnared dwarves, it's perhaps one of these or a Brick Joke that Samwise uses Sting to kill Shelob.
Chewing the Scenery: The lure of the One Ring apparently encourages elves from Valinor to do this, if Galadriel is any indication.
Chromatic Arrangement: All merchandise, including the special edition DVDs, was color-coded by film. Fellowship was green, Two Towers was red, and Return of the King was blue.
Except, irritatingly, the Complete Recordings soundtracks: Fellowship was red, Towers blue, King green.
These colours were made to match those of the limited edition soundtracks released at the same time as the films, which were designed before the films were even released. So in a way the Complete Recordings show the original colour concepts, then they went and changed them for the extended edition DVDs.
Color Wash: Especially noticeable in day-for-night scenes. There's even a scene in Return of the King where Pippin is searching for Merry, that appears as a daylight scene in the theatrical version but was regraded to night for the extended version.
An interesting example occurs with several shots used more than once (Green Dragon Inn exterior, Boromir's last stand, a certain close-up of Elrond) in different movies: frame-by-frame comparison shows exactly the same imagery with drastically different colors.
Come with Me If You Want to Live: Aragorn gets introduced this way in Bree, as a wilderness expert who can outrun the Nazgûl. More so in the film, since they set out that very morning after they outwit the Nazgûl ambush. Film!Aragorn fits the trope to a T:
A distressing amount of people seem to believe that the Witch-King of Angmar is Sauron himself. Must be the helmet he wore at Pelennor Fields. His helmet was actually changed to the one seen in the movie, since his original helmet was even more similar in design to Sauron's, and they were afraid people would get confused. You can still see the original helmet in the video game, though.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Ents vs. Isengard. Army of the Dead vs. Forces of Sauron, unlike the book, which describes it as a long day of battle.
Cut Apart: The first movie has closeups of sleeping hobbits mixed with Ringwraiths surrounding the beds. When the stabbing begins, we discover the beds are empty and the hobbits in another room.
D through F
Daylight Horror: The Ringwraiths are frightening at night. They prove to be just as frightening when they chase Arwen and a sickly Frodo across a bright green field in the middle of the day.
Darker and Edgier: The three movies seem to alternate between this and Lighter and Softer compared to the original book. They drop a couple of the more light-hearted scenes of the book (Tom Bombadil, for example) and focus more on the bloody battles (easier to do in a visual medium), while omitting some of the creepier book-scenes and adding a lot of comic relief.
Also the Mouth of Sauron, whose fate is unknown in the books.
Death Is Such an Odd Thing: Orlando Bloom said in the commentaries for the extended edition that this is what he was trying for, when the camera had its closeup on his face in the One-Woman Wail montage after Gandalf fell, was coming to grips with what death was, as an elf whose only experience with it previously had been seeing enemies die in battle.
Death Wail: Aragorn lets out one when he finds Merry and Pippin's elven belts on the Orc funeral pyre. In Real Life, it was because the actor had just broken his toe on the helmet he kicked.
Defeat Equals Friendship: Defied. Saruman tries to offer Théoden and the Fellowship a peace council after Helms Deep. Théoden calls bullshit on it.
Deleted Scene: Many put back in the extended editions, but some were still left out.
Despair Gambit: Sauron and his minions do a lot of this, often with considerable subtlety. Perhaps the most overt example is at the beginning of the Battle of Pelennor Fields, when the orcs start the siege by catapulting the heads of Gondorian soldiers into the city.
Determinator: The Nazgûl; Frodo himself and Gollum to some extent.
Deus ex Machina: The eagles showing up in the final battle to keep the Ringwraiths at bay.
Digital Head Swap: One of the techniques used to create the proper scale for the Hobbits.
Disney Death: Alongside Frodo's examples from the book that made it into the film, we also have Aragorn's plunge off of the cliff in The Two Towers, alongside Gollum's 'death' right after going through Shelob's tunnel.
Disney Villain Death: Alongside examples from the book, we also have a couple unique to the films, those being Saruman's (Uncut version only) and Denethor's deaths. Though it should be noted that unlike most versions of this trope, we actually see the result of Saruman's fall.
The Dog Bites Back: Saruman really shouldn't have mistreated Wormtongue the way he did in Return of the King (at least in the extended edition).
The Dog Shot First: In the book, Gollum bites the Ring off Frodo's hand, leaves the hobbit writhing in pain, revels madly in his triumph, and falls into the Crack of Doom through his own fault. In the movie, Frodo, apparently still in the Ring's thrall, gets up and starts fighting Gollum for the Ring, knocking them both off the edge where Sam rescues Frodo. Peter Jackson figured it was more satisfying for the audience to see Frodo actually take part in the Ring's destruction, but it lacks the book's irony: Frodo ultimately fails in his quest, but his uncle Bilbo sparing Gollum's life out of pity all those years ago let Gollum live so that he would destroy the Ring. Gandalf's line that "Bilbo's pity may rule the fate of many" loses something.
This is arguable, because if Bilbo had not spared Gollum, he would have never gotten Frodo and Sam to Mordor. Also, if not for Gollum, Frodo would have walked out of the Crack of Doom with the Ring, most likely gotten killed by the Nazgûl, and the Ring would have gotten back to Sauron, anyway.
Door Closes Ending: Seen as Sam returns to his family and home, having just seen the last of the fellowship leaving.
The Dragon: The Witch-King of Angmar to Sauron. Aided by the fact that his mount, a Fell Beast, actually looks kind of like a dragon.
DVD Commentary: All three films, including the Extended Editions, have several impressive tracks by the Director, Producers, Production Designers, and Cast.
Engagement Challenge: Similarly to the book, Elrond is disapproving of Aragorn and Arwen's romance until Aragorn proves he's worthy of being King. The scene in the third movie when he arrives bearing Andúril was added to show that he had changed his mind and given them his blessing.
Epic Flail: The Witch-King's weapon of choice. Also, Sauron wields a huge mace in the flashback to the battle with the Last Alliance.
Saruman: Who now has the strength to stand against the armies of Isengard and Mordor? To stand against the might of Sauron and Saruman ... and the union of the two towers? Together, my Lord Sauron ... we shall rule this Middle-Earth!
Evil Sounds Raspy: A side effect of corruption by rings of power. Gollum speaks this way after possessing the One Ring for centuries, and the ringwraiths rasp their few lines.
Evil Tower of Ominousness: The (original) Dark Tower, Barad-dûr. It's actually depicted as under construction during the first film; the completed tower itself is first seen at the end of the film, from the Seat of Amon Hen; and revealed in the second film.
Exact Words: Legends goes that no man can kill the Witch-King. Éowyn reveals she isn't one a moment before she stabs him in the head.
Fade to White: Peter Jackson enjoys doing this, especially at the end of the third film.
Fate Worse Than Death: The heroes (and the unfamiliar reader) assume Frodo suffered such a fate. Subverted, somehow, as Aragorn deduced the messenger was lying.
Aragorn: (smirks, strolls up to the Mouth of Sauron, and cuts of his head) I do not believe it. I will not.
Averted with Saruman's Disney Villain Death. To shorten the film, the Scouring of the Shire had been deleted and he was made to die, but in Tolkien's eyes the original fate of the Wizard has been much worse: for a Maia, a minor god, and a powerful ruler able to sack a kingdom, to be reduced to begging through the countryside was a much greater humiliation.
Fanfare: The fellowship theme, the Rohan theme at points, and the Gondor theme.
Fatal Method Acting: Averted, thankfully, but nonetheless a close call for Viggo Mortensen, who was pulled under by a current and nearly drowned while filming the river scene in TTT.
Final Speech: While both Boromir and Théoden had some last dying words in the book, they really spice it up in the films, especially with Boromir's last line to Aragorn: "My brother, my captain, my king".
For the Evulz: The ultimate reason why Sauron does all the things he does.
Forced Perspective: Used to great effect to help the average-height actors playing hobbits and dwarves seem to-scale with their man and elf co-stars.
Also used in reverse in one shot from The Fellowship of the Ring: While climbing Caradhras, Frodo falls and drops the Ring. There is a shot of the Ring lying in the snow in the foreground. The filmmakers used a larger model of the Ring in this shot to make it seem closer, while still in-focus.
Foreshadowing: In an Extended-Version-only scene, Frodo and Sam see a group of wood elves on their way to the Grey Havens while they're leaving the Shire. The final film ends with Frodo going to the Grey Havens and leaving Middle-Earth with the rest of the elves.
Gollum's Song, sung by Emiliana Torrini and played over the credits of The Two Towers, ends with 'You are lost, you can never go home.' While it's ambiguous who exactly this is directed towards, by the end of the quest Frodo at least suffers a tragic case of You Can't Go Home Again.
In Return of the King Gimli mentions how he wishes he could summon a legion of Dwarves to march on Gondor with the Rohirrim. However Legolas tells him, "Your kinsmen may have no need to ride to war. I fear war already marches on their own lands" which may be a reference to the Easterlings' siege on the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor and their allies that happens off-screen at the same time as the siege of Minas Tirith.
Four Temperament Ensemble: the four main hobbits — Pippin (choleric), Sam (melancholic), Frodo (leukine), and Merry (sanguine).
Great Offscreen War: Not a typical example, as it takes place at the same time, rather than before, the main conflict—but in the extended edition of Rot K, there is a moment when Gimli says that he wishes he had Dwarf warriors beside him. Legolas replies that he fears the Dwarves are already at war; anyone who has read the appendices knows that both of their homelands (Erebor and Mirkwood, respectively) are indeed fighting Sauron's armies in the north. The Dwarves even lose their king in the conflict.
Green Aesop: The conflict between Isengard and the Ents.
Saruman: "The old world will burn in the fires of industry. The forests will fall!"
The vision Frodo sees in Galadriel's mirror is of the Shire being burnt to the ground and its inhabitants enslaved by orcs.
Groin Attack: Happens a couple of times to orcs during battles.
Particularly to an Uruk-Hai at Helm's Deep, Gimli hits him with an axe.
He Didn't Make It: The Two Towers has a strange example because that scene was filmed before the script was totally ironed out, the director wasn't sure what actually did happen to Aragorn, so decided to keep the dialogue vague to save time.
Interestingly, Éowyn wears a helmet properly like the Rohirrim (along with Merry, Éomer, and Théoden) but she needed a custom one made so that her face was still recognizable to the audience.
Hey, It's That Guy!: Elrond considers humanity to be a broken species for much of the trilogy. While he's not openly hostile (nor does he comment on the smell), he openly shows his contempt. At least this time he has a reason for it (that being Isildur's betrayal).
And yes, he's wearing a dress again. Sort of, anyway.
Seems like somebody went from Flipper to carrying the Soul Jar of the Big Bad.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Sauron's demise becomes a Karmic Death when you realise it was his corruption and degradation of the innocent hobbits Sméagol and Frodo and their resulting conflict over the Ring in Mount Doom that causes it to fall into the fire.
Hooked Up Afterwards: Faramir and Éowyn, as the book chapter of them meeting and falling in love over time was cut, but restored in the extended edition.
Homage Shot: Peter Jackson shot one bit at Bilbo's birthday party in Fellowship of the Ring ("Proudfeet!") as an exact copy of a shot in Ralph Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings. Jackson even helpfully points this out in the commentary. A circle-round shot of the four hobbits at Weathertop is also lifted from the original, although the camera moves much faster and Aragorn is absent. Same goes for the four hobbits hiding under a root by the wayside with the Nazgûl leaning in above them.
The scene at the black gates of Mordor appears to be an homage to the Wizard Of Oz.
Not exactly an homage shot, but the Nazgûl attacking the Hobbits' room at the Prancing Pony was drawn from Bakshi's film. In the books, it's explicitly stated by Aragorn that they would not have openly attacked the inn in this manner, and that their assailants were instead Men of Bree under their influence.
I Am Not Left-Handed: When Gandalf confronts Saruman while the latter is speaking through the possessed King Théoden, Sauruman mocks him with the declaration "You have no power here, Gandalf the Grey!". At this, Gandalf casts off his grey outer cloak, revealing himself (to possessed!Théoden's shock) as Gandalf the White before successfully casting Saruman out of the king's mind.
Insane Troll Logic: In The Two Towers, there is the following exchange where it's used twice in a row:
Pippin: If we go south, we can slip past Saruman unnoticed. The closer we are to danger, the further we are from harm. It's the last thing he'll expect.
Treebeard: That doesn't make sense to me, but then you are very small. Perhaps you're right.
Which surprisingly makes sense. The last thing any army expects is for the enemy to go straight to their most heavily protected base. For a Hobbit (small and subtle) like Pippin, it's a plausible strategy. For an Ent like Treebeard (that can be seen from a mile away), its nearly impossible. However, Pippin has something else in mind....
Interscene Diegetic: While Pippin is singing for Denethor, the scene cuts to Faramir and his soldiers.
In Vino Veritas: At the end of The Return of the King, Sam avails himself of some liquid courage before going up to talk to Rosie. The next scene is Sam and Rosie's wedding.
Ironic Echo: Gandalf finds a record of Isildur's journal, accounting the finding of the One Ring.
Isildur: "I will risk no harm to the Ring. It is precious to me."
Averted in some dubs where they change Gollum's my precious but miss this echo.
Kubrick Stare: At the climax of The Return of the King Frodo gives off a crazed Kubrick Stare to Sam at Mount Doom before putting the Ring on.
Lampshade Hanging: Performed by Sam in one of the Osgiliath scenes in The Two Towers when he whines to Frodo that "by all rights, we shouldn't even be here!" - referencing the fact that the two characters never go to Osgiliath in the book.
Specifically, No One Could Survive That is seen in both Aragorn's line "It cannot be. You fell.." speaking of Gandalf, and Sharku's line "He's dead. Took a little tumble off the cliff." speaking of Aragorn.
The "Fellowship theme," a traditional balls-to-the-wall triumphant brass theme as heard over the montage of the fellowship traveling out of Rivendell towards Caradhras. Later used for the Three Hunters, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Notable in that, according to the composer Howard Shore, it never quite makes a full reappearance after the events in Moria; at least one note is off, or the rhythm is changed.
The "Hobbit theme," a sort of jaunty flute piece with bassoons and oboes evoking pastoral countryside. Plays over the "Concerning Hobbits" narration. Gets more and more wistful the more the hobbits, especially Frodo, go through Break the Cutie - only to be restored to full brass-filled glory when everyone bows to the hobbits during Aragorn's coronation.
The "Rohan Theme." Wistful when we first hear it on the Norwegian fiddle when the heroes arrive at Edoras, it later appears in full-on brass mode for Helm's Deep. Plays over the charge of the Rohirrim at the Battle of Pelennor Fields, with Norwegian fiddle and brass sections working together.
The "Gondor Theme." Majestic, soaring theme that wouldn't sound entirely out of place in a pirate movie. Heard as Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith and gallop up the city to see Denethor, as well as over the lighting of the beacons. An early version of this theme is played on solo French horn as Boromir speaks at the Council of Elrond.
The "Andúril Theme" is related to the Gondor Theme and associated with Aragorn's march to kingship.
Actually that's the "Minas Tirith Theme", first heard in an Extended scene in Fellowship when Boromir and Aragorn talk in Lothlórien. It seems it originally was never meant to be associated with Andúril, but Howard Shore changed his mind.
The "Mordor Theme." Dark and dramatic with lots of brass and ominous chanting when needed. Heard as Gandalf witnesses the arrival of the Nazgûl. Used to excellent effect first as a threatening sound when Sauron first appears before the Allied Army, single-handedly stopping their attack with his very presence, and then blasting into angry brass and choir as he sweeps away scores of soldiers with casual swings of his mace.
There's another "Mordor Theme" as well, which is a dissonant, menacing melody, often featuring an instrument called a rhaita, which gives the theme a slightly Middle-Eastern feel. It is featured at its most ominous during the siege of Gondor, as the giant battering ram, Grond, breaks through the gates.
"Gollum's Theme," appears all the way through the second film whenever Gollum is around, but most notably as a song in the end credits sung by Emiliana Torrini.
The "Isengard Theme," played with heavy brass and percussion in the Caverns of Isengard or when the Uruk-hai are on the move. Unlike other themes, which are in more conventional timing, Isengard's theme is done in 5/4 time, which sounds a little bit off or unnatural (as most music these days is done in 4/4, 2/4, or 3/4 time), to reflect the twisting of nature and industrial methods of Saruman.
The percussion in question is actually banging an opened piano's wires with chains.
The theme for the elves, or at least Galadriel's elves, is first heard as an ethereal, dreamy piece with generous amounts of Cherubic Choir and One-Woman Wail. In the second movie, though, it gets transformed into a badass military march during the scene where the elven army comes to the rescue at Helm's Deep.
"The History of the Ring," representing the power of the One Ring, especially when it changes hands or when someone tries to take it — plays under the title card of each movie, so easily mistaken for the theme to the trilogy itself — or perhaps it is, in a way.
Éowyn's theme (the only theme other than Gollum's associated with one character), played usually whenever she's standing at the front of the Golden Hall.
The March of the Ents/General Badassery about to Happen theme (can be heard here).
Actually called "Nature's Reclamation", or simply the Nature theme. Though it's not always directly related to nature. In any case, the scene of dawn at Helm's Deep doesn't count, since the music was edited in (it originally sounded like this).
There is a Moria theme, too, profoundly sad and full of grandeur, with a soft chorus of deep (Maori) voices in Khuzdul. It plays once, as the Fellowship walk through the deserted corridors of what was once a bright and majestic city under the mountain.
The Theme of the Gray Havens. Introduced rather late into Return, during the most desperate moment of the siege of Gondor, when Pippin believes all is lost. Comes to its full fruition when the last of the Elves and Frodo leave Middle-Earth from the Grey Havens.
Before that, it gets its first true moment when Sam carries Frodo up Mount Doom.
Legend Fades to Myth: According to the prologue, this is why things came to be as they were at the end of the Third Age: people forgot about past threats, and grew complacent. Sauron exploited that.
Lethal Chef: Éowyn, as seen in the extended edition. She provides Aragorn with a bowl of stew—he eats one bite, and tries to pour it out as soon as her back is turned.
Also the Nazgûl that Aragorn throws a torch at on Weathertop.
Also includes an Ent on fire at one point. Dousing the flames as the dam on the River Isen burst is a fairly notable Funny Background Event.
Marquee Alter Ego: Andy Serkis felt depressed about his groundbreaking work as Gollum being relatively anonymous. So the filmmakers shot a flashback scene as Sméagol for him.
Meaningful Echo: The tune from "Concerning Hobbits" (the piece that plays as the Shire is introduced) appears at the end of the first movie in " The Breaking of the Fellowship".
After Gandalf removes the spell of age from Théoden, Éowyn looks at him and he says, "I know your face." When Théoden lays dying on the Pelennor, he looks up at Éowyn and says the same. In the book, he died without knowing she was there, but his last moment here is definitely a heartwarming one.
And Sauron's outside the gates of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King.
Miracle Food: Elven lembas bread (which got more emphasis in the original book) is featured in a scene from the Extended Edition DVD. Legolas explains to the hobbits Merry and Pippin that a single bite of lembas can fill a grown man's stomach for a day. As soon as Legolas leaves:
Merry: How many of them did you eat?
Pippin: Three. [groans]
Monogender Monsters: The movie's portrayal of Uruk-Hai, being all male and spawned from mud pits.
In the books Orcs are said to "breed after the fashion of the Children of Ilúvatar" (elves and men) but only males are seen.
And to think the film's producers were worried that women wouldn't come to see this picture because they perceived the book as appealing primarily to males, since it's a war story featuring mostly male heroes. They seem never to have bothered to research this; the books, and Middle-earth in general, have always had an extremely strong female readership for many reasons.
From about 1969 to 1971, there was a movement among fans of Leonard Nimoy to cast him as Aragorn in a live-action film version (this is long before Bakshi). The official fan club was quite serious about this, especially after Nimoy was cast as a romantic, dramatic stage magician and master of disguise in Mission: Impossible.
My God, What Have I Done?: Several, ranging from Boromir realizing he was seduced by the Ring to Wormtongue coming to understand that Saruman's gambit isn't just the overthrow of Rohan (possibly involving him getting Éowyn), it's absolute genocide of the human race.
Gríma seems to believe that Saruman is biting off more than he can chew and that he might be able to play both sides against the middle - right up until Saruman shows him the magically frenzied 10,000+ superhumans in plate armor. The look on his face is priceless.
Frodo has a "What did I almost do?" moment in The Two Towers. Under heavy influence from the Ring, Frodo doesn't notice that the Witch-King of Angmar is swooping in to grab him. Sam pulls him out of the way, simultaneously trying to get the Ring off. In response, Frodo pins him and threatens him with Sting. Sam manages to talk him down, but you can clearly see the horrified expression on his face as he drops the sword.
Never Tell Me the Odds: In The Return of the King, when Aragorn suggests that Gondor march against Mordor as a diversion, Gimli comments, "Certainty of death, small chance of success... What are we waiting for?"
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In The Two Towers, Aragon stops Théoden from killing Wormtongue because too much blood had already been spilled. Wormtongue turns around and gives Saruman the secret to defeating the defenses at Helm's Deep thus causing nearly all the defenders to be killed. Too much blood indeed.
Frodo begins to channel this as the Ring begins to take a hold of him. Over the course of the second and third film, we see him gain tired, red bags under his eyes and his skin turn a deathly pale colour. During a fight with Sam, we see Frodo display a frenzied, almost feral, look in his eyes and begin to snarl in an all-too-familiar way...
The Psychotic Smirk that Frodo displays when he finally submits to the Ring. Similar to the flashback with Isildur in film one.
Oculothorax: In the film version, Sauron is depicted as a literal flaming eye. In the books, the term "The Eye of Sauron" is not meant literally, but rather as a symbol of Sauron's vigilance, evil and influence; which several characters describe or perceive as being like a great eye Wreathed in Flames.
The original covers for the U.S. hardcover edition showed Tolkien's painting of the Eye, and some of his descriptions might give readers the wrong impression.
Two more in The Return of the King: the arrival of the Rohirrim at Minas Tirith where they see just how huge the orc army is, and then when it seems they've actually won, the Oliphaunts arrive.
Théoden gets another when he sees the Witch-King coming right at him on its flying steed, in the moment before the Fell Beast bowls his horse over and drops it on him. The camera actually zooms and lingers on Théoden, who clearly lets out a sigh rather than, say, trying to dodge out of the way.
That huge orc army gets their Oh Crap moment as the Rohirrim charge, completely ignoring the arrows and spears (slightly) thinning out their numbers.
In a subversion, the orc army gets a Oh Crap when Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn get off the boats and charge at them. They Oh Crap BEFORE seeing that these three dudes brought an army of ghosts with them, at which point they simply panic.
And then there's Gandalf giving a big speech to the Gondorians about how they can fight whatever comes through the gate. When the first thing through is three huge trolls, Gandalf gets a look on his face like, "Well, I wasn't expecting that."
Let's face it, the whole Battle of Minas Tirith was a series of alternating Oh Crap moments for both sides. Denethor's Freak Out. The gate getting knocked down by Grond, the Rohirrim's arrival followed by the Oliphaunts. Gandalf nearly getting killed by the Witch-King, and then the latter getting destroyed by Éowyn and Merry. And of course Aragorn bringing a big damnundead army to clean up the place.
There's also Saruman's reaction to the Ents trashing Isengard. It's exactly the face you'd expect to see if someone was woken up with the news that the trees had come alive and were trashing his yard.
When Arwen summoned a tidal wave to beat the Nazgûl. Granted, they don't have faces, but their behavior was probably enough to convey it.
Merry, Aragorn and Gandalf's faces turn from triumph to horror when they see Mt. Doom implode.
There is another great one in the prologue battle, when Sauron makes his appearance on the battlefield. These mighty Dúnedain have just mopped the floor with the Orcs, and are about to declare their victory...then all of a sudden a black-armored giant with a very big mace strides into their midst...
Aragorn and Legolas are busy fighting the Uruk-Hai on Amon Hen, when suddenly they hear the Horn of Gondor being blown frantically. "Boromir!!!"
Offscreen Rebuilding: Minas Tirith looks spiffy when Aragorn is crowned at the end of Return of the King.
Offscreen Teleportation: Gandalf manages to move from Bilbo's party to Bag End in Fellowship before Bilbo himself gets there, even though he is seen sitting in the audience while Bilbo is running home, made invisible by the Ring. All without crossing paths with him, either. He is a wizard, but not even the most powerful beings in Middle-Earth can manage actual teleportation.
This is a bit better explained in the extended edition, where it shows Bilbo spending some time packing up for his journey after returning from the party; Gandalf simply shows up while Bilbo is getting ready to leave.
According to information given in The Silmarillion, Galadriel is one of the oldest Elves at around 10,000 years oldnote no authoritative source for her exact age seems to exist, but a calculation here puts her age at around 8,440 years at the time of LoTR, give or take depending on how long the pre-solar years were. Not bad for someone who was played by 32 year old Cate Blanchett.
In the Extended Edition, Aragorn admits to Éowyn that he is 87 years old during the events of The Two Towers. Being a descendant of Númenor, he's in his prime. He goes on to live to 250.
Gandalf, while looking like a frail 70-year-old, is a Maia (god-like entity) who has been around since the creation of the universe.
One-Way Visor: The Mouth of Sauron in the return of the King Extended Edition.
Onrushing Army: The orcs love to charge. As do any humans fighting with them. Aragorn and his army do it too at the climax of Return of the King.
Orcus on His Throne: Sauron is a rather less sketchy figure than in the novels; he is instead a literal flaming eye, on top of Barad-dûr. Peter Jackson originally planned for Sauron to take physical form in the battle in front of the Black Gate, but thought better of it.
The Other Darrin: A very odd instance of this trope, as Andy Serkis plays Gollum in all three films, but the CG model used for the first film has quite a different face from that used in the other two. As Gollum is only seen in long shots (and very dark lighting) in the first film, it's not glaringly obvious, but it is noticeable.
Parental Marriage Veto: Emphasized a lot more in the films with Elrond's outright disapproval of Aragorn's and Arwen's relationship. In the book he is saddened, but gives the conditions not out of spite but to provide the best for his daughter.
In the books, it's made clear that Elrond himself is ethnically half-human (more if you count distant ancestor Beren), and Aragorn is a very distant descendant of his own brother. In the films it appears that there is only one precedent for a mixed marriage and it ended rather badly (not untrue, but not the whole story)
Peter Jackson himself invoked this in his explanation as to his complete rewrite of the meetings of Faramir and Frodo's group: in the books, he lets them go free after learning of their quest and agreeing with it; in the film, he keeps them captive in order to take The Ring. Jackson said specifically this was because after the first book, the Ring's power to corrupt became an Informed Ability until it surfaced again at the tail-end of Return; in order to remind the viewer that it was basically evil incarnate, and keep with the rules Tolkien himself set, he had to have Faramir be tempted by the Ring.
Also, he wanted to move Shelob to the third movie because anything was going to pale next to Helm's Deep, and that left Frodo and Sam completely out of (action-y) danger for the entire movie. There had to be a threat, and poor Faramir got drafted.
When Tolkien commented on ideas for a film version by Forest J. Ackerman, he said they should probably skip the Hornburg entirely so that the Ents' attack on Isengard as well as the final battle would look that much more impressive. (We’re all glad the filmmakers didn’t take him up on that.)
Postponing his acquisition of Andúril to the third film gave Aragorn greater credibility as a ranger earlier on, as he got to demonstrate his knife skills more. Having him leave Narsil's shards in Rivendell also avoided the visible incongruity of a trained survivalist, who needs to travel light, hauling a priceless historical artifact all over the wilderness with him.
In the books, there's a lot of random elves who show up, do one incredibly plot-crucial thing, and are never seen again. Most of their jobs went to Arwen, so she'd have something to do to make the audience actually give a damn about her. Elrond got the rest.
And then later completely turned on its head when Arwen was to be added to the Battle of the Hornburg before Peter Jackson decided it would be too much, which led to another elf getting a one-off: Haldir. Unfortunately, he dies in the films, while in the books his fate is undetermined.
The Queen's Westron: Nearly all characters speak with an English accent or another from the British Isles like Scottish or Irish, quite possibly as a Translation Convention for the Common Tongue of Tolkien's universe.
Radial Ass Kicking: The Balrog chases them off before the fight actually happens but in the Mines of Moria, the Fellowship finds itself completely surrounded by a really absurd number of goblins.
Happens again, on an even larger scale, at the siege of the Black Gate.
Rain of Arrows: Elves, mostly. Orcs manage it during the siege of Minas Tirith with ballistae, though.
Rated M for Manly: Gimli's personality in the film, as opposed to the book. The Dwarves in the book, as conceived by Tolkien, are far more dignified. But Gimli's part in the film has been written partly to provide comic relief and partly to provide a contrast to Legolas as played by Orlando Bloom and therefore he got a comically-exaggerated masculine attitude: almost-suicidally brave, gruff, deep-voiced, tremendously proud and braggart, fond of malt beer and red meat off the bone, Deadpan Snarker to the best, spiteful towards those who don't live to his standards of bravery.
Gimli (in the caves of the Dead): You waste your time, Aragorn! They had no honor in life, they have none now as dead!
Rays from Heaven: These are used when Gandalf the White arrives at Minas Tirith and incidentally rescues Faramir from a dark Nazgul attack. It's especially symbolic because the clouds were literally sent from Mordor to aid the forces of darkness.
Reality Ensues: After Boromir falls after taking a number of arrows to the torso, Merry and Pippin draw their swords and charge in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge... and promptly get picked up off the ground and slung over their captors backs like a sack of potatoes.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Legolas' famous display of elf agility in mounting a horse in Two Towers was entirely improvised in post when Peter Jackson realized that, in throwing together the warg attack sequence, he had forgotten to shoot Orlando Bloom getting on a horse.
Actually, Orlando Bloom fell off his horse and broke his rib and thus couldn't do the stunt.
Recursive Translation: A particularly wonderful set of Chinese bootlegs for the first two films, although only the one from The Two Towers is currently available online.
Redshirt Army: It seems as though the only thing a soldier of Gondor is even good for is getting massacred by Orcs, Trolls, and other creatures that the forces of Sauron use.
Retcon: A very subtle one, but the Fellowship implied that Sméagol was the one whom the Ring "ensnared" when he grabbed it from the riverbed. ROTK shows it was actually Déagol who grabbed it, and then was murdered by Sméagol. Of course, those who read the books were not even slightly surprised.
Reverse Arm Fold: Gandalf does this on the rare occasion that he's not clutching his staff or a pipe.
Right Under Their Noses: Pippin wants the Ents to drop him and Merry off right at Isengard: "The closer we are to danger, the further we are from harm. It's the last thing he'll expect!" Lampshaded when Merry looks at him like he's crazy and Treebeard says the plan makes no sense to him, but Pippin was bullshitting. He really wants the Ents to see the desolation so they'll get mad and go to war.
The whole plan to destroy the Ring rests on this trope.
Rousing Speech: The charge of the Rohirrim and the siege of the Black Gate.
Bernard Hill said that the tipping of the spears with his sword was his idea.
"Forth, and fear no darkness!"
Rule of Cool: Peter Jackson has admitted that he and his design team weren't exactly sure whether a Balrog literally had wings or not in Tolkien's idea, but decided to go with the look in the films "just because it looked cool."
How could the beacon system between Gondor and Rohan be maintained? It made for an awesome scene. That's how.
In the first movie, when the Fellowship parts from Lothlorien, a white-clad Galadriel makes a blessing gesture◊, looking much like Catholic statues of Virgin Mary.
At the very beginning of Fellowship, Jackson bows to Tolkien with subtle grace: the film opens in total darkness, and the voice of Cate Blanchett begins to speak... in Elvish. Because with Tolkien the languages came first, and then the people who spoke them, and their stories. In the beginning was the word...
Perhaps the most obvious is Gandalf's arrival at Helm's Deep atop a white horse, in a scene straight out of Revelation.
Aragorn is given the messianic treatment as follows: He is the long-awaited returning king to a city long ruled by stewards, whose architecture resembles Rome and whose top tier looks an awful lot like the Vatican (It should be noted that Tolkien himself was a devout Roman Catholic).
Sam plays the role of Simon of Cyrene when he says "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you".
Scenery Porn: Some shots just gush over the scenery, like the mountains in the opening of the second movie, and the beacons of Gondor lighting up. The movie has been referred to as the "the New Zealand tourism board's best ad".
Scenery Gorn: Mordor. The mines of Moria. All those skeletons (shudder). Also the destruction of Isengard.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The troll, that Aragorn was fighting at the end of The Return of the King, runs away when Barad-dûr is exploding. Also, the goblin horde at the mines of Moria scatters when Balrog approaches.
Shaggy Dog Story: Subverted. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas run for days on end to catch up to the Uruk-hai... only to find them and the Hobbits slaughtered. Aragorn puts the pieces together though and figures out that they escaped.
Shield Bash: Éomer gets in a few nice shots with his shield on some orcs at the Battle of the Black Gate.
Shield Surf: Legolas does this down some stone stairs during the battle for Helm's Deep, blazing a trail for shield surfers everywhere.
Then he surfs down the trunk of an Oliphaunt in the third film.
Shout-Out: To the Ralph Bakshi animated Lord Of The Rings (the Nazgûl emerging from the tree as the four Hobbits hide in the roots), Shaka Zulu (the pre-Battle Of Helms Deep build-up), Gladiator (Aragorn's dazed horse ride to Helm's Deep; Frodo being carried by the Eagles note actually, that's more of a shout-out to The Road Warrior; come to think of it, the Mûmakil are more like Road Warrior battle cars than war elephants)
Boromir, played by Sean Bean, cuts his finger on the Shards of Narsil and blurts, "Still sharp!"
Spared by the Adaptation: In the book, one of the Ents is set on fire during parley with Saruman and presumably dies. In the film, it is lucky enough to be ignited just before Isengard is flooded and douses its head in the rising waters.
Split-Personality Makeover: Most notably with their voices, but there are subtle visual differences as well. (Sméagol's pupils are far more dilated than Gollum's, for instance.)
Metaphysical theses have been written on the "diagnosis" of DID for Gollum/Sméagol. Tolkien did not mean it this way. Several characters in the book, notably Sam, dialogue with themselves when they're trying to decide something. Jackson made it look more like what happens in Fight Club.
Stealth Pun: At the Prancing Pony, Merry comes back to the Hobbits' table looking pleased with himself, carrying a mug of ale that dwarfs (*ahem*) the others'. "This, my friend," he tells Pippin, "is a pint." "They come in pints?" asks a bewildered Pippin, before adding, "I'm getting one." What were the Hobbits drinking up to that point? Half-pints.
Steel Mill: Saruman runs one at the basement of Isengard. The scene was filmed in a real foundry, using real steelworkers using Orc costumes.
Stern Chase: The Nazgûl. "They will never stop hunting you." Also, the Three Hunters.
Stranger in a Familiar Land: The Hobbits after returning to the Shire. Merry and Pippin stare longingly at their military uniforms, while Frodo is burdened by his wounds and his experience as a Ringbearer. Sam is best able to cope with being back home, but shares a private toast with the others at the Green Dragon.
Suicidal Gotcha: Gandalf jumping from the top of Orthanc onto Gwaihir's back.
Sweet on Polly Oliver: An out-of-universe example: As revealed in the DVD supplementals, Viggo Mortenson apparently dated a female extra that was costumed as one of the (male) Rohan warriors. The other cast members never let him hear the end of it.
Sweet Polly Oliver: Partly averted. Éowyn's disguise worked only worked as long as no only looked at her closely or heard her speak. Thus Merry recognized her almost immediately, but he didn't mind as she was the only one who would take him to battle.
Tattered Flag: The royal banners outside of Rohan's Golden Hall are so beat up, one of them gets torn off by the wind.
Take the Wheel: In a medieval variation, Éowyn makes Merry take her horse's reins mid-battle.
The Team: The Fellowship of the Ring, which was formed for the purpose of destroying the OneRing by going into the deepest parts of Mordor and casting it into the volcanic fires of Mount Doom, where it was originally forged.
Technicolor Death: Although it's right in the prologue rather than the end of the movie, death for Sauron basically means becoming the exploding man.
Tempting Fate: "Is this it? Is this all you can conjure, Saruman?"
"No one's coming to save you!” *Orc promptly gets speared by Rohirrim*
Gandalf whispers Riddles in the Dark, as he wonders if that chapter of The Hobbit might not be entirely true.
"There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power!"
When the hobbits fall on each other after being purchased by Farmer Maggot "A shortcut to what ?" "Mushrooms !"
Took a Level in Badass: Merry and Pippin seem to have this by "The Return of the King". Going from constantly running away and hiding to fighting orcs head-on and winning.
Gandalf [to Pippin]: "Guard of the Citadel indeed!"
Tragic Hero: Boromir, whose desire to protect his people at all costs makes him easy prey for the power of the Ring.
Trailers Always Spoil: Gandalf returns in the second film, although anyone who read the book would spoil that, anyway.
Translation Convention: The movies made a point of having characters speak in Tolkien's invented languages when appropriate, with English (Common) subtitles for the 99.9% of viewers who don't speak Elvish. However, when native speakers were talking among themselves, they reverted to Common (or Westron). Thus Galadriel speaks to Elrond in Common rather than Sindarin; the Witch-King addresses his orc minions in Common rather than Black Speech; et cetera.
This last case is actually subverted: there are many dialects of Orcish, one for each tribe, with not that much in common with one another or with the Black Speech per se (which is only spoken by the Orcs in Barad-dûr and the captains of Mordor). So they use the Common Tongue.
Ngila Dickson said specifically that she was a fan of designing spiffy gowns for Arwen.
Vertigo Effect: Used by Peter Jackson in both The Fellowship of the Ring (when Frodo senses the arrival of the Black Rider in the Shire) and The Return of the King (Frodo's first look into Shelob's lair).
Voice of the Legion: Galadriel gets a bit of this when she goes off on a tangent while being tempted by the Ring. In the extended edition of Return of the King, Saruman gains some echoes when he tries to intimidate/manipulate Théoden, Gandalf, Aragorn and the rest of the party from Helm's Deep.
When Gandalf first appears to the Three Hunters in Fangorn, Ian McKellen's voice is over/underlain by Christopher Lee's, which has a wonderful triple meaning: the blend concealed the newcomer's identity until the last moment so that those who hadn't read the books (or been spoiled by the trailers) would not know of Gandalf's resurrection; it played to Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas's worries that Saruman was after them thanks to Éomer's warning and Saruman's pre-Face-Heel Turn habit of wandering the forest to talk to the Ents; and it suggested that after coming back as the White Wizard, Gandalf actually was Saruman—or as Gandalf said, "Saruman as he was meant to be." (Also, having become Saruman "the Many-Colored" it could be said he truly wasn't the White any more even aside from his fall to evil.)
Wait Here: At Weathertop, Aragorn says he's going to have a look around and for the hobbits to "stay here." Naturally it doesn't work out exactly as planned.
Weapon Twirling: Boromir twirls his sword a few times while waiting for the goblin horde to break into Balin's Tomb in Moria.
What Could Have Been: Arwen was originally planned to be at Helm's Deep, giving Aragorn his sword Andúril, the Flame of the West, and also fighting alongside him.
The idea of Sauron taking form (specifically Kate Winslet's form - The Eye was really bishonen back in the day) and almost kicking Aragorn's ass at the final battle was also briefly entertained, and then mercifully abandoned in place of a troll.
Looks awful blue-skinned. In the book, the Gondorians were encroaching on their forest to mine it. Hmmm... Yeah, Tolkien did it first.note David Boyle wrote: "The good Woses have disappeared completely from the narrative, with their implicit message that indigenous peoples, too, are folk worthy of respect. If there are Maori experts on Tolkien..."
The movies were originally planned as duology because Jackson thought making a trilogy was going to be a hard sell. Thankfully, when he pitched it as a duology to New Line, they responded with "why do you want to make two movies?" and just as Jackson was about to launch into his defense of why it couldn't possibly be done in one film, they continued... "this is three movies."
Stuart Townsend was actually cast as Aragorn and in New Zealand filming. A couple of days in they realized it wasn't going to work out and called up Viggo Mortensen. There's even a still of him in character.◊ um... Yeah.
Jackson didn't realize until four days into filming that Aragorn should be an older, mature type.
Sean Astin lobbied for his father, John Astin, to be given the part of Gandalf.
When Miramax was unable to finance the original two films, they tried to get them meshed into one two-hour movie. Thankfully, Jackson understandably considered this to be "cutting out half the good stuff." Apparently, it was suggested that they:
Shorten Rivendell and Moria.
Cut Bree and the Battle of Helm's Deep.
"Lose or use" Saruman.
Merge Rohan and Gondor with Éowyn as Boromir's sister.
As well as having Ents prevent the Uruk-hai from kidnapping Merry and Pippin.
Frodo was originally gonna push Gollum and the Ring into the lava.
There was also another take that was true to the book - namely, that Gollum, while celebrating getting the Ring back, slips and falls off the edge. They decided to Take a Third Option and go with the take that's in the movie.
There was going to be a river rapids scene in the first film when the Fellowship was traveling by boat. However, real life wrote the plot when the equipment the crew was going to use was washed away or ruined by flood waters.
The tenor of the times in 2002 compelled them to actually cut out a lot of material that mostly served to humanize the other races, such as the bit with the Southron or the conversations with orcs. (The writers said that people felt it necessary to show that the villains were "irredeemably evil").
The musings on the Southron soldier are in the Extended Edition of The Two Towers. Though, it's Faramir who delivers the musings (in the book, it was Sam).
You know that song at the end of The Two Towers that's sung by someone who sounds an awful lot like Björk? Well, the original idea was for her to sing it, but she was pregnant at the time and declined the invitation. They used another Icelandic singer, Emilíana Torrini, instead.
The Balrog was going to be shown after falling in the water with its fire gone out and covered in slime.
Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke were being considered for Éowyn and Éomer. Thurman initially accepted the offer but had to cancel due to pregnancy.
Sean Connery was originally offered the role of Gandalf, but turned it down because he didn't like the first script. (Another version of this says he "didn't understand the story".) Russell Crowe was another actor who turned down a role from this movie (as Aragorn) because he didn't like the shooting schedule.
Christopher Lee originally auditioned for the role of Gandalf. He immediately realized that Gandalf was a very physical role and he might have been able to have done it 25 years ago.
Patrick McGoohan was one of the first choices for Gandalf but he had to turn it down due to his declining health.
Tom Baker was offered "a role" according to him, not necessarily "the role of Gandalf". He turned it down because he didn't want to be in New Zealand for months at a time. Speculation still exists on what this role may have been. Some speculate that it might have perhaps been Radagast the Brown (which eventually went to fellow Doctor Who alum Sylvester McCoy for Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit).
Nic Cage was offered the role of Aragorn, but turned it down due to the time commitment.
Jeffrey Combs (with whom Peter Jackson had worked on The Frighteners) auditioned for the role of Gríma Wormtounge. Combs contends that he lost the role due to a less-than-stellar British accent, which did not sound credible when opposite the likes of Ian McKellen.
During the scene in Ithilien when Faramir attempted to take the Ring from Frodo (only to be stopped by Sam), the original intention was to have Frodo have a moment where he changed into a hideous Gollum-like appearance, as Bilbo did in Rivendell. Although this was cut, you can still see traces of it in the moment where Frodo, face hidden from the camera, cowers against the rock, and the greatly disturbed look on Faramir's face.
Wargs look nothing like wolves, because killing wolves is no longer the acceptable behavior it was when Tolkien wrote the books. They were later made more wolflike for the adaptation of The Hobbit, supposedly at Guillermo Del Toro's behest while he was still slated to direct.
Of course, they are still referred to as "Wolves of Isengard" at one point.
They specifically avoided having the mûmakil use their trunks as "hands" as well as certain other behaviors that might make the audience identify them too closely with Real Life elephants.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Sometimes Gandalf uses his magic powers, and sometimes he doesn't. He does when battling Saruman, or when facing the Balrog, or when he scares off the Nazgûl that are chasing Faramir's men on the road to Minas Tirith. But at other times he seems to forget he's a wizard and is content simply to whack bad guys with his staff, most notably when he's fighting in hand-to-hand combat in the siege of Minas Tirith or in the final battle at the gate to Mordor. Ian McKellen even asked this question once.
McKellen: Why don't I zap them?
Jackson: (thinking quickly) ...ah, you see, the staff is out of batteries and the local alchemy shop is closed for the war.
Somewhat explained in the book and in the Silmarillion. The last time the Valar (gods) fought directly against a powerful evil, Middle-Earth was literally broken and much of the land was drowned beneath the sea. As a Maia (minor god), Gandalf vowed to not use his magical powers to directly interfere in Middle-Earth, letting the inhabitants of Middle-Earth decide their own fate. If you watch carefully, the only times Gandalf uses his powers are to fight another Maia or some force that has magic of its own (Saruman, Balrog, Nazgul), or to do some menial task that doesn't really affect anybody else (light source, fire). Gandalf is meant to be The Obi-Wan, not a Story Breaker Power.
Windows of the Soul: "There was no lie in Pippin's eyes", declares Gandalf after the former has looked into the Palantir, meaning that he has not revealed Frodo's mission to the Enemy.
There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.
World of Ham: Ask Gandalf and Saruman and even the Witch-King, as well as Aragorn and the Dead King as to why this trope was casted onto this page.
Younger Than They Look: Théoden while being possessed by Saruman looks to be a decrepit old man in his 80s or 90s. After Gandalf releases Théoden from the spell, Théoden quickly reverts back into his mid-50s look.
You Didn't Ask: When Frodo and Sam hook up with Gollum to guide them, Frodo asks Gollum to "take us to the Black Gate" of Mordor, which he does. They see how massive and impenetrable the entrance is, and when they are about to make a charge for it, anyway; Gollum pulls them back and tells them there is another way in. Sam asks why he didn't mention this before. Well... you didn't ask...
In the book Gollum points out that Frodo never told him what his intentions were, just saying that he'd go free if he guided them to the Black Gate safely.