Film: The Lord of the Rings
"The Legend Comes To Life".
In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Sauron forged in secret a Master Ring to control all others, and into this ring he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. One Ring to rule them all.
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 film's release. In fact, the very last shot filmed (a few skulls tumbling along the ground), was quickly shot in the studio after the third film was released and included in the extended edition.
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
. Unusual for such a thing, Peter Jackson
has stated that the Extended Editions are not an actual Director's Cut
(feeling the term would unfairly imply that he was unsatisfied with the theatrical releases) 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
was made into a three-part prequel style story
, the first part of which was released in winter 2012 and the last in winter 2014. Many actors (such as Ian Mckellen
and Andy Serkis
) from the LOTR trilogy returned to reprise their roles.
Provides examples of:
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A through C
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Limbs and heads get lopped off frequently in this movie. 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. Sam, Merry and most of the hobbit extras in films use a Somerset/rural accent, which befits their pastoral lifestyle and setting. The exception is Pippin, for whom Billy Boyd used his native Scottish 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).
- 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 The 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. Theoden also delivers a monologue where he doubts whether the Rohirrim can win and wonders what will become of his kingdom.
- 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.
- Frodo and Sam have many scenes that show The Power of Friendship. Likewise, there are many flashback scenes that show Aragorn and Arwen's romance.
- Action Girl: Éowyn aside, Arwen also has a moment in the limelight in the first film.
- 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.
- So are some of the Easterlings who enter the Black Gate. The two who come over to check out the "rocks" are women.
- Act Of True Love: The entirety of the trilogy is one of these for Samwise Gamgee. He followed Frodo into Mordor, being his keeper for the whole trip.
- Adaptational Villainy: The movie version of Denethor lacks most of the redeeming qualities that he has in the books, in which he is a Good Is Not Nice character who nevertheless was a capable leader until driven off the Despair Event Horizon.
- 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.note 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.)
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
- 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 scene of Denethor 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.
- Adaptation Personality Change: Did this with a few characters. Arwen's role is expanded and she becomes an Action Girl, Faramir becomes tempted by the ring and his Parental Favoritism issues are more played up. Elrond is also made to be bitter and cynical, thinking humans are useless. Merry was also more serious in the book but in the films is more carefree and comical. Denethor also gets a bit of Adaptational Villainy when he was simply Good Is Not Nice in the book.
- Adult Fear:
- Advantage Ball: Rather than worry about such things as tactical realism, advantage in battle seems to be principally a matter of who makes the most badass entrance, regardless of such matters as numbers and equipment.
- 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: Averted when the other hobbits make a fire on Weathertop (inadvertently drawing the Nazgul to them) and Frodo panics when he sees it and tries to put it out with his foot. Hobbits are stated to have tough soles in the book.
- 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.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: What Sauron and Saruman try to do to Minas Tirith and Helm's Deep, respectively.
- 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.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Orcs and Uruk-Hai.
- 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 Mithril vest 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.
- Ascended Extra: Arwen's transition from book to screen.
- Ash Face: Merry and Pippin, after setting off a firework at Bilbo's birthday party.
- Audible Sharpness: Any time a sword is pulled out of a leather scabbard, with a metal-on-metal sound effect. Lampshaded in the DVD audio commentaries: they originally wanted to do it realistically, but they put them in after test audiences reacted badly, as our subconscious is trained on and used to the trope.
- 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 dissonant, 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.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: In the film adaptation, during the battle of Helm's Deep, Aragorn and Gimli fought the Uruk-hai while the main gate is repaired.
- Badass Army:
- The Elven army is implied to be one of these in the films given how disciplined and co-ordinated they are. Not because they're inherently better, mind you, they've just had literally thousands of years of training and combat experience.
- And even more so, the Army of the Dead mentioned above.
- The Army of the Last Alliance seen in the prologue of The Fellowship. Justified in that they trained for years before marching on Mordor.
- The Uruk-hai army that attacks Helm's Deep definitely qualifies as an villainous version.
- Badass Boast: "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn!" "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"
- Badass Grandpa: Speaking of Gandalf, the guy has been around since the creation of the universe. In Tolkien's mythic theology, he, like the other wizards, is essentially a member of one of the lower choirs of angels.
- King Théoden was 71 years old when he died. In real life, Bernard Hill (the actor) was around 58 during the filming.
- Aragorn, being a nearly-pure Numenorean, is well into his 80s despite looking no more than half that. This is addressed in the extended edition of Two Towers, when Eowyn is flabbergasted to learn Aragorn's true age during a conversation.
- Badass Normal: Both Éomer and Éowyn. It must run in the family.
- 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 drive off 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.
- Batman Gambit: While Treebeard is taking him and Merry home, Pippin tells him to take them past Saruman's tower, claiming that the closer they are to danger, the further they are from harm. However, it's all a ruse to get Treebeard to see the devastation that Saruman wreaked upon the forest, which drives the Ents to attack Isengard.
- Battle Butler: Sam.
Faramir: Are you his bodyguard?
Sam: His gardener.
- 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!"
- Battle in the Rain: Helm's Deep.
- The Battle of the Peak as well (when Gandalf fights the Balrog on top of the Misty Mountains). Gandalf uses the thunderstorm to his advantage by letting a bolt of lightning strike his sword, which he then stabs into the Balrog's chest, killing it.
- 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.
- During the "Flight to the Ford" scene, Arwen gets a small cut on her cheek from a branch (due to being on a high-speed horse run), but is otherwise unharmed.
- 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.
- Being Watched:
- Frodo notices that Gollum is stalking the Fellowship when he catches a glimpse of him in Moria. Gandalf replies that he's known about it for days.
- Celeborn warns the Fellowship that they're being hunted by Orcs before leaving Lothlorien.
- And then, of course, the Eye of Sauron, which is instantly drawn to anyone who puts on the Ring.
- Big Bad: Sauron.
- Big Badass Battle Sequence: At least one per movie.
- Big Good: Gandalf.
- 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 squarely into the "evil" category at the end of The Two Towers and stays there in The Return of the King.
- 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.
- Blade on a Stick: Elf King Gil-Galad's spear in the prolog of Fellowship of the Ring, and the Chinese style polearms carried by Haldir's Elves at the Battle of Helm's Deep.
- Black Speech: Sauron and the Ring-wraiths use it.
- Blood from the Mouth: When Aragorn is fighting Lurtz, the orc headbutts him in the face and his mouth is bleeding afterward.
- Bloodless Carnage: Okay, some blood, but with all the hacking and slashing, they had to keep the rating from being too high.
- There is quite a lot of gore if you watch closely, but the gushing blood is almost indistinguishable from grime and filth orcs are covered in.
- 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 has 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.
- Boxed Set
- Brave Scot: Gimli may be from Middle-Earth, but he comes across as this with his thick Scottish accent, red hair and habit of calling everyone "laddie".
- Brick Joke: Nobody tosses a Dwarf!
- 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.
- Bring Him to Me: Alive and unspoiled.
- Broken Aesop: Narrowly averted in that Peter Jackson originally wanted simultaneous physical battles between Aragorn and Sauron (in the flesh) and between Frodo and Gollum, with Frodo pushing Gollum into the fire. He also reverses Frodo and Sam's pity for Gollum, removing a couple key lines of dialogue, and implies the Ring was deluding Frodo into feeling that way. Fortunately, this Alternate Character Interpretation was mostly cut out, even from the extended edition, outside of the odd lembas escapade.
- 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.
- The Cast Show Off: Billy Boyd both actually sang and wrote the song Pippin sings in Return of the King.
- Catapult Nightmare: Aragorn had one of these in ROTK.
- 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 Army of the Dead later in the same battle.
- 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 film, 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 defeat Shelob.
- Chewing the Scenery: The lure of the One Ring apparently encourages elves from Valinor to do this, if Galadriel is any indication.
- CCG Importance Dissonance
- 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.
- Child Soldiers: Glimpsed in The Two Towers.
- Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb: When Frodo and Sam are following Gollum to Shelob's lair.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Just watch Legolas in the movie. (A good laconic synopsis is here.)
- Collapsing Lair: Barad-dûr, when Sauron is finally defeated. See Keystone Army.
- 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.
- Combat Tentacles: The Watcher in the Water, which wasn't clearly described in the book, is shown as a giant squid-like monster when it attacks the Company.
- 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:
Frodo: Where are you taking us?
Merry: How do we know this Strider is a friend of Gandalf?
Frodo: We have no choice but to trust him.
- Comically Missing the Point:
Sam: It's too quiet. There hasn't been sight nor sound of a bird for two days.
Gollum: No, no birdses to eat. No crunchable birdses!
- Convection Schmonvection The lava pours out of Mount Doom within feet of Sam and Frodo at the end of the movie. Then the eagles swoop down and pick them up.
- Conveniently Timed Attack From Behind:
- When Merry and Pippin try to escape from the orc camp and are chased by Grishnakh, he has them at knifepoint and says nobody will save them now ... then the Rohirrim attack the camp and one of them throws a spear into his back.
- Later on, Treebeard saves Merry and Pippin by stepping on an orc for them.
- When the Rohirrim are attacked by orcs on the way to Helm's Deep, Gimli gets pinned under the body of one of the Wargs, and another one creeps up on him. Aragorn then grabs a spear out of the ground and skewers it before it can attack.
- Sam also stabs an orc from behind with Sting when he rescues Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol.
- Cool Mask: The Witch-King.
- Cool Old Guy: Gandalf and Théoden.
- Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: The "bow guy" is something else.
- 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.
- Creative Closing Credits: They contain the names of every single member of the Tolkien fan club in the special edition.
- Creator Cameo: Creator/PeterJackson makes several appearances throughout the films. At one point he is shot to death by Legolas.
- Cruel to Be Kind: After their narrow escape from the Mines of Moria, most of the Fellowship is extremely distraught at the loss of Gandalf and stop just outside the exit to mourn. However, Aragorn orders Boromir to get them on their feet and continue the journey, answering protests of not giving them a moment by noting that by nightfall, the whole local area will be crawling with Orcs fully intent on killing them or worse and the Fellowship must get to safety before dusk.
- 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.
- Curiously Flammable: The Nazgul at Weathertop
- 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 J
- 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 lighthearted 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.
- 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.
- Death by Adaptation: Haldir. (In the book, the elves don't even show up at Helm's Deep).
- 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: he 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 of a Thousand Cuts: How the Fellowship kills the cave troll in Moria.
- 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 Viggo Mortensen 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 the Ents corner him in Orthanc. Théoden calls bullshit on it.
- 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.
- The Army of the Dead could also count for the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
- 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.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Frodo and the Hobbits are the obvious examples, but Lady Galadriel also goes barefoot.
- The Dog Bites Back: Saruman really shouldn't have mistreated Wormtongue the way he did, as we see 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. Either that, or Sam would have been forced to murder Frodo in order to finish the Ring's destruction.
- 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.
- Dug Too Deep: According to Saruman, the Dwarves of Moria did this, unleashing the Balrog.
- DVD Commentary: All three films, including the Extended Editions, have several impressive tracks by the Director, Producers, Production Designers, and Cast.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: A very heavy price is paid for their victory. Poor Frodo will never be the same.
- Elite Mooks: The Uruk Hai.
- Enemy Civil War: The orcs of Mordor and Isengard do not play nicely together. In fact, Saruman is only allied with Mordor out of convenience; he plans to betray Sauron once he gets the Ring and overthrow him.
- 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.
- Epic Movie: Collectively and individually, averaging at about three hours each. And that's just the theatrical cuts. The extended edition of The Return of the King actually has a running-time of four hours, and that's without counting the end credits which are another 20 minutes themselves.
- Establishing Character Moment: Quite a few.
- Sam telling Frodo the promise he made to Gandalf in the beginning. ("Don't you lose him, Samwise Gamgee!")
- Merry and Pippin's mischief at Bilbo's birthday party.
- Boromir instantly suggesting the Ring be turned over to Gondor to use against Sauron.
- Legolas defending Aragorn against Boromir.
- Gimli grabbing an axe and attempting to destroy the Ring right at the council.
- Saruman chastising Gandalf for consorting with Hobbits.
- Lurtz chokes the first orc he sees within seconds of his birth.
- Gandalf arriving in Hobbiton for Bilbo's birthday party. All the children are excited to see him, while the adults look on disapprovingly.
- Faramir is introduced after his men attack a troop of Haradrim, and he shows empathy for one of the enemies that they killed. Unlike the War Is Glorious mindset of most other characters, he then says "War will make corpses of us all."
- Wormtongue's introduction in Edoras shows that he is manipulative, creepy and nevertheless a little pathetic.
- Evil Chancellor: Gríma Wormtongue.
- Evil Gloating: See Fate Worse Than Death.
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 Is Hammy: Saruman, Gollum, and the Witch-King.
- Evil Is Not Well Lit: Mordor is called the Land of Shadow for a reason. Also, the inside of Orthanc is always dimly lit, and Minas Morgul is shown as being pitch-black save for a Sickly Green Glow.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Saruman has a deep, booming voice. The Uruk-Hai captain Lurtz also has a very deep voice, as do other orcs, when they're not...
- 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. Even Sauron himself has a somewhat raspy (if deeper) voice when he's heard onscreen.
- 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.
- Fantastic Racism: A major theme of the books and movies is the heroes learning to overcome their differences. Elves VS Dwarves is the most prominent, although Elves and Men are shown having some grudges against each other too.
- 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.
: (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.
- Fallen Angel: Sauron, Saruman and the Balrog of Moria.
- The Films Of The Book
- 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".
- Fire-Forged Friends: Gimli and Legolas probably count as Trope Codifiers. They openly hate each other at their first meeting (Gimli: "Never trust an elf!"), but by the end of Fellowship they are inseparable.
Gimli: Never thought I'd die fighting side by side with an Elf.
Legolas: What about side by side with a friend?
Gimli: ...aye. I could do that.
- Foe-Tossing Charge:
- Sauron during the prologue, to get to Isildur.
- Theoden and Aragorn also do this at the climax of the Battle of the Hornburg, riding out of the gates and scattering the orcs on the bridge.
- For the Evulz: The ultimate reason why Sauron does all the things he does. All he cares about is having power over others, and the idea that his enemies don't never even occurs to him.
- 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).
- Friends All Along: The first time we see Arwen.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Sam's Weapon of Choice against orks and the troll in Moria.
Sam: I think I'm getting the hang of this.
- Funny Background Event: During the Entish assault on Isengard, one of them catches fire. The Ent running around and then dousing himself in the overflowing Isen is hilarious if you notice it.
- More of a funny foreground event. As the ents break the dam overlooking Isengard, there is an ent in the foreground holding a struggling orc in his hand. When the ent sees the dam breaking in the background, he casually throws the orc in the path of the torrent and walks away.
- Giant Eye Of Doom: The Eye of Sauron.
- Giant Spider: Shelob
- God Save Us from the Queen!: "In place of a Dark Lord you would have a QUEEN! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Treacherous as the sea! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me, and despair!"
- Gollum Made Me Do It: More pronounced in the film than the book, where we're asked to take Gollum as more of a whole person.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: Trope Namer.
- Good Lips, Evil Jaws: The film has a lot of Orcs with no lips at all. They're humanoid, and besides just being ugly look fairly normal. They have rather human mouths, if unusually sharp teeth, but these mouths are not covered by lips.
- 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 RotK, 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.
- Have I Mentioned I Am a Dwarf Today?: Gimli is extremely prone to this.
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: Déagol's death in the third movie.
- 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.
Éowyn: Where is Lord Aragorn?
Gimli: He fell.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Unless you are a Rider of Rohan, or an Elf soldier, or a Dwarf, or a soldier of Gondor.
- 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.
- The High Queen: Galadriel. In a case of Meta Casting, she is played by Cate Blanchett, famous for portraying Elizabeth I, a Trope Codifier of High Queendom.
- Hilarious Outtakes: While Jackson and company are saving the gag reel for the high definition Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition, a few bloopers have surfaced. Creator/SeanAstin just wants a close-up.
- 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.
- Hollywood Drowning: Averted. Sam's near-drowning occurs without much flailing or noise. Frodo knows he's drowning because he knows Sam can't swim.
- 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 Gate 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.
- Hopeless Suitor: Éowyn for Aragorn
- Hope Spot:
- The first half of the battle for Pelennor Fields has the Rohirrim absolutely curb-stomp the Orc legions. Just as Théoden proclaims that they'll drive them back and retake Minas Tirith, the Oliphaunts arrive.
- Hostile Weather: The snowstorm on Caradhras. The movie clearly shows that Saruman is behind it too, while in the book it's left vague.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: When Gandalf confronts Saruman while the latter is speaking through the possessed King Théoden, Saruman 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.
- I Gave My Word: After Pelennor Fields, the army of the dead demand Aragorn release them, as he promised he would. Gimli points out they could still be useful, but Aragorn chooses to keep his promise.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Sam to Frodo during The Two Towers.
Samwise: It's me. It's your Sam. Don't you know your Sam?
- I Lied
Frodo: Sméagol promised!
Gollum: Sméagol lied.
- I Like Those Odds:
Gimli: Certainty of death, small chance of success... What are we waiting for?
- I Meant to Do That: Gimli, when he falls off his horse in The Two Towers.
Gimli: Nobody panic! It was deliberate. It was deliberate.
- I'm a Humanitarian:
- "You will taste man-flesh!"
- "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!"
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Several characters.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Elvish archery in general; see for example the Elves in the prologue shooting Orcs off the slopes of Mount Doom at what looks like over a mile away. And there's Legolas specifically, of course, who shoots Orcs in the head while shield-surfing.
- Inertial Impalement: Subverted in The Two Towers: The Rohirrim cavalry charges down a steep incline where orc pikemen are massing. However, the sun rises just in time for them to be dazzled, and the charge completely breaks the line apart.
- 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, and after he leaves the table, we see some delightedly wide-eyed reaction shots of the other three hobbits. 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.
- It Has Been an Honor: Many times.
- Boromir's last words to Aragorn:
"I would have followed you, my brother... my captain... my king."
- Gimli and Legolas before the final battle, in their final lines of dialogue:
Gimli: I never thought I'd die fighting side by side with an elf.
Legolas: How about side by side with a friend?
Gimli: ...Aye, that I could do.
- It May Help You on Your Quest: Galadriel's gifts. All of them. Even moreso in the book, where she gives Sam a box of dirt with a mallorn nut in it. It helps.
- I Want Them Alive: and un-spoiled.
J through P
- Jabba Table Manners: The Steward of Gondor messily gobbling down his dinner as he apathetically sends his youngest son to his death in the film.
- Kill It with Fire: Strider uses this method to drive off the Nazgul at Weathertop, with a Throwing Your Torch Always Works finisher.
- Kill Stealing: Gimli accuses Legolas of this in The Two Towers during the fight with the warg-riding orcs.
*riderless warg charges at Gimli*
Gimli: Bring your pretty face to my axe!
*Legolas shoots the warg when it's within mere feet of Gimli*
Gimli: That one counts as mine!
- Kneel Before Frodo: Trope Namer. Aragorn and a courtyard full of people bow to the hobbits during his own coronation.
- 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. Foreshadowed in Fellowship when Isildur (in flashback) gave Elrond exactly the same stare, in exactly the same circumstances. One of the powers of the One Ring is to cause Kubrick Stares.
- 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.
- Large Ham: Gandalf gets lines like "I will draw you Saruman, as poison is drawn from a wound!" and "YOU...SHALL NOT...PASS!. Also see "Evil Is Hammy" above.
- Leave No Survivors: In the films both Saruman and the Witch-King tell their minions to kill everyone in Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith, respectively.
- Leeroy Jenkins: a number of Internet parodies compared this to Aragorn's final charge.
- Never Found the Body/No One Could Survive That: Aragorn's plunge off the cliff with the warg, Gandalf in Moria.
- 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 "Minas Tirith Theme", first heard in an Extended scene in Fellowship when Boromir and Aragorn talk in Lothlórien unintentionally become the "Andúril Theme" and associated with Aragorn's march to kingship. 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. When the ring is destroyed and Sauron's tower is falling, the melody reappears one last time, but the dissonance is triumphantly resolved.
- "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).
- 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.
- Licensed Pinball Table: Click here.
- Light Is Good / Dark Is Evil: Subverted in some instances (with Saruman the White, for example); played straight in others.
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Easily the most infamous example.
- Live-Action Adaptation
- Lock and Load Montage: Aragorn gets a short one before the Battle of Helm's Deep. Théoden gets one before that during his semi-Heroic BSOD.
- Man Hug: Frodo and Sam tearfully hug each other after Sam risks drowning to accompany Frodo to Mordor. Other examples from the trilogy are Gimli and Aragorn when the latter turns up alive at Helm's Deep, and Boromir and Faramir in a flashback following the recapture of Osgiliath.
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: When Gollum talks to Sméagol, it's via some variation on this mechanism. (Most noticeable in The Return Of The King.)
- Manly Tears: Boromir's Final Speech:
I would have gone with you to the end, my brother...my captain...my king.
- Sam and Frodo share this a lot in Mordor.
- Man on Fire: The Steward of Gondor and nearly Faramir.
- 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.
- Not precisely word for word, but the essence of this is present in Boromir's first and last scenes. In the former, when he's informed that Aragorn is heir to the throne of Gondor, he retorts that "Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king," pouring as much scorn into the words as he can. In the latter, when he's dying in Aragorn's arms, his last words are "I would have followed you, my brother. My captain. My king."
- Meaningful Funeral: For Théoden.
- Melancholy Moon: At the waterfall in Ithilien.
- Mickey Mousing: The music matches the marching and chanting of Orcs as they drag the battering ram, Grond, towards the gate of Minas Tirith in Return of the King.
- Million Mook March: Saruman's army in The Two Towers.
- 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.
- Monster Shaped Mountain: Gargantuan carvings of kings, both human and dwarf, appear in several films.
- Mr. Exposition: Legolas, when he's not being Captain Obvious.
- Mr. Fanservice: Most of the Fellowship as well as some secondary characters were targets of the Estrogen Brigade even before the books were adapted for screen. Having the characters played by delectable-looking actors merely made this trope more prominent.
- 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.
- Frodo has another after he fails to destroy the Ring, instead knocking Gollum off the ledge by accident in the scuffle to possess it. The look he gives Sam makes it clear that he's deeply saddened by what he did.
- Natural Spotlight
- 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.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Rivals: How the Ring gets destroyed.
- Nightmare Face: In Fellowship of the Ring, when Bilbo wants to take a look at the One Ring. Holy crap!
- 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.
- Noodle Incident: The "incident with the dragon" is this to anyone who hasn't read the books.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Council of Elrond is dissolving into this, causing Frodo to make his heroic choice.
- Notable Original Music: Lord Of The Rings gave certain cultures and factions their own distinctive, powerful theme that has made the music of the trilogy as much an identifying mark as anything.
- Particularly the themes that went along with Rohan, which involved a Norwegian spike fiddle for its distinctive sound.
- Nothing but Skulls: The Paths of the Dead. Parodied hilariously in DM of the Rings.
- 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.
- Oh, Crap: The series features many examples.
- Despite being nothing but a big CBS eye made out of flames, Sauron somehow manages to convey his shock when he realizes his Soul Jar is at the one place it can be unmade.
- Bernard Hill as King Théoden does a series of great Oh, Crap faces:
- In The Two Towers, Théoden asks "Is this all you can conjure, Saruman?", then looks extremely unnerved when the Uruk-Hai answer by blasting a hole in the Deeping Wall.
- 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. Similarly:
- 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 damn undead 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.
- An arguable example is Boromir's deadpan "They have a cave troll." Spoken in an almost Graham Chapman voice.
- Legolas gets a pretty good Oh, Crap look in Moria when he realizes there's a Balrog down there.
- The collective expressions of the entire Mordor army when they realize their master Sauron has been defeated. There's something satisfying about seeing a big, scary troll running away like a little girl when Sauron was destroyed.
- 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!!!"
- Elrond has an Oh, Crap reaction to the fact that Saruman is breeding an Orc army of his own. An army that can move in sunlight.
- Frodo in the first film, when he realizes that the two words that Sauron's forces got from Gollum (Shire and Baggins) means that they know where the One Ring is and are coming to take it.
- Offhand Backhand: Employed a few times in battle scenes.
- Offscreen Inertia: Played for Laughs. In the extended version of The Two Towers (but not the theatrical version), the last thing we see Merry and Pippin doing before the film ends is lighting one up, and they're still smoking away several in-movie days later at the beginning of the next film.
- 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.
- Off with His Head!: Done several times, including to the Mouth of Sauron instead of the Death Glare from the book.
- Older Than They Look: Due to the Elves' immortality, all of the Elven characters fit.
- According to information given in The Silmarillion, Galadriel is one of the oldest Elves at around 10,000 years oldnote . 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.
- He's been in Middle Earth in his human-looking form for about 2000 years, and was the *last* of the Five Wizards to arrive. So Saruman and Radagast are older in that respect.
- One-Dimensional Thinking: The Nazgûl at the Fords of Bruinen in the first movie. Instead of just riding back into the forest they ride downstream where the wave is sure to catch them.
- One-Man Army: Aragorn.
- 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.
- 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)
- Parenthetical Swearing: Gandalf manages to make the word "Steward" sound... like something it's not.
- Phosphor-Essence: Galadriel glows with a bluish-white light when she explains how powerful and terrible she would become were she to accept the Ring.
- Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Inverted. Just when he needs him most, Frodo sends Sam away due to Gollum's ploy. Moments later he's paralyzed by Shelob. Luckily, The Power of Friendship prevails. (In the book, they're just separated in the maze of caves.)
- Plot Parallel: Because The Two Towers shows Frodo and Sam's travels concurrently with Aragorn's, the scene where Frodo reminds Gollum of his original name is immediately followed by one where Aragorn reminds Gandalf of his.
- Pragmatic Adaptation:
- The Precarious Ledge: The Fellowships must traverse a narrow ledge at The Pass of Caradhras through the snow, even as Saruman tries to bring them down with his foul chanting.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Éowyn says "I am no man!" before stabbing the Witch-King in the face.
- Pretty Boy: All of the male elves. Well, except for Elrond, who is old, but you can still tell that he must have been Bishōnen in his younger years (he is played by Hugo Weaving, after all).
- Pretty in Mink: Furs would obviously be worn by the royalty and high nobility.
- Prodigal Hero: As the related trope of Rightful King Returns would suggest, Aragorn is an example of this, having fled from his duty and being forced to take on his destined responsibility as king.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Aragorn doesn't seem to have any qualms about decapitating an unarmed herald who issues from the Black Gate to discuss Sauron's terms for the West's surrender. While the books had The Laws and Customs of War in effect, here it was more like "Anyone else want to negotiate?"
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "You! Shall Not! Pass!". Then the bridge practically broke in half.
- "LEAVE! NOW! AND NEVER... COME BACK!"
- "Pretty... Little... Fly... Why... Does it... Cry?... Caught... In a web... Soon... You'll be... EATEN!"
Q through Z
- 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.
- Reality Has No Subtitles: Depending on the circumstances, non-Common dialogue may or may not be subtitled. A notable early example is Elrond shouting orders to his troops at the battle on Mount Doom.
- 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. Here are some screen shots to whet your appetite.
- 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.
- Red Sky, Take Warning: "The Red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night!"
- Rebel Prince is Aragorn.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Gimli and Legolas.
- Refuge in Audacity: Seemingly Pippin's near-suicidal plan to go back to the Shire by going past Isengard.
- Relationship Compression: Éowyn/Faramir.
- 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.
- Retired Badass: Bilbo's primary role.
- Reverse Arm-Fold: Gandalf does this on the rare occasion that he's not clutching his staff or a pipe.
- Ridiculously Difficult Route:
- Passing over(Caradhras)/under(Moria) the Misty Mountains was this trope for the Fellowship.
- Frodo and Sam have to get into Mordor. How? By climbing up hundreds of "stairs" on an almost vertical mountain and crawling through a giant spider's lair. Because they obviously can't use the front gate.
- Aragorn has to go through the ghost-infested mountains that no-one has ever returned from before. Though perhaps in this case the trope is not entirely played straight since he went in there to gain the alliance of said ghosts...
- 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:
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Lots of'em. More, in the book.
- 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."
- Legolas's stunts.
- How could the beacon system between Gondor and Rohan be maintained? It made for an awesome scene. That's how.
- Rule of Symbolism:
- Christian symbolism is carried over from the books, although in a very discreet manner:
- 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".
- Rule of Two: Sauron and Saruman.
- Run or Die: The goblin horde in Moria, but especially the Balrog.
- Sad Battle Music: Pippin sings a song for Denethor. It's a sad melody. At the same time, Faramir and his battalion charge Osgiliath, and it doesn't go well.
- Savage Wolves: The Wargs are evil.
- Scare Chord: When Gandalf almost touches the One Ring and senses Sauron in it.
- When Bilbo sees the Ring around Frodo's neck in Rivendell.
- Scared of What's Behind You: In Moria Gimli thinks that the Fellowship is scaring off the orcs, naturally it's the Balrog that they're really reacting to.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: In the Two Towers, Aragorn actually listens to the rocks to track the Uruk-Hai.
- This may be because he was listening to the vibrations coming from several hundred Uruk-Hai in heavy armour running at full speed.
- Tolkien's avowed fondness for "Red Indians" is showing there.
- Scary Impractical Armor: Sauron, and a few other bad guys.
- 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.
- Serkis Folk: Gollum. The Trope Namer.
- 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.
- Short-Range Guy, Long-Range Guy: Gimli and Legolas.
- Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Throughout the film, cynical characters tend to get punished with pointless deaths. The trilogy as a whole is known to deconstruct cynicism relentlessly.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Pippin's song 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), and possibly The Wheel of Time; "History became legend. Legend became myth"
- Boromir, played by Sean Bean, cuts his finger on the Shards of Narsil and blurts, "Still sharp!"
- Shown Their Work: Six DVDs worth of bonus material about the making of the films.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Aragorn to the Mouth of Sauron.
- Gandalf delivers an epic and hilarious one to Denethor after the Steward starts ranting about the hopelessness of the coming battle.
- Simple Score of Sadness: The solo hardanger fiddle version of the Rohan theme.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Eowyn, who at first has some feelings for Aragorn, but later ends up falling in love with Faramir.
- Skeleton Government
- Solemn Ending Theme: "May It Be'' for the first movie, "Gollum's Song" for the second.
- 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: Gollum and Sméagol.
- 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.
- Spontaneous Reverb: When Pippin sings for Denethor in Return of the King.
- Start of Darkness: Sméagol's is shown in flashback as the intro to the third movie.
- 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.
- Storming the Castle: The Tower of Cirith Ungol.
- 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.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: "They're taking the Hobbits to Isengard"
- Stab the Sky: "For Gondor!."
- Standard Female Grab Area: Aragorn does this to Éowyn in The Two Towers, when she sees Gandalf working his magic on Théoden. She tries to fight him off until he tells her to wait.
- Starring Special Effects: Gollum, particularly in The Two Towers.
- 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.
- Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: After he watches the Balrog fall through the pit of Khazadum, Gandalf turns away from the lip of the broken bridge. Unfortunately, the Balrog manages to lasso Gandalf's foot as it falls, pulling Gandalf until he is dangling from the lip by his weak grasp. Certain that any attempt to recover would hinder the Fellowship, he bids them to escape the mine and lets go.
- Take the Wheel: In a medieval variation, Éowyn makes Merry take her horse's reins mid-battle.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: Aragorn is definitely this in the films. He also cleans up very nicely.
- Tattered Flag: The royal banners outside of Rohan's Golden Hall are so beat up, one of them gets torn off by the wind.
- The Team: The Fellowship of the Ring, which was formed for the purpose of destroying the One Ring 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*
- This Is Gonna Suck:
- "They have a cave troll.”
- Also, the Orcs who thought they could stand on foot against a cavalry charge on the Pelennor Fields. They realized about ten seconds before getting run down that it was not going to go well.
- Throwing Your Shield Always Works: Lurtz throws his shield at Aragorn during the skirmish at Amon Hen, pinning him to a tree. Aragorn gets free of the shield just in time to dodge another attack.
- Legolas also does it at Helm's Deep; after sliding down the staircase, he picks up his shield and throws it at an orc, pinning him around the neck.
- Tightrope Walking: Legolas goes running along a chain to attack the cave troll.
- Title Drop: In every single film.
- "You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring."
- "To stand against the might of Sauron and Saruman, and the union of the Two Towers."
- "Authority is not given to you to deny the Return of the King, steward!"
- The names of chapters from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are brought up on occasion.
- On entering Hobbiton, Gandalf is delighted to see preparations underway for A Long-Awaited Party.
- 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!"
- After Gandalf comes Back from the Dead, he says he fell "through fire ... and water". This is also a reference to a chapter in The Hobbit.
- Took a Level in Badass: Merry and Pippin, by the time of "The Return of the King", go 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.
- Translation Train Wreck: There's a fantastic Chinese subtitle track out there, here's a page with some screens.
- Troperiffic: Since it's based on the Trope Codifier for all of high fantasy.
- True Companions: Both in film, and out of film. By the end of the filming process, nobody in the cast wanted to leave, they loved each other so much.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Arwen and Éowyn.
- Ngila Dickson said specifically that she was a fan of designing spiffy gowns for Arwen.
- Untouchable Until Tagged: Boromir was on a rip roaring Orc slaying binge until a single arrow hits him, which was enough to get him mobbed and killed.
- 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).
- Viewers Are Goldfish: Amazingly, this was defied by Jackson and company when the studio wanted them to put a Previously On for The Two Towers. Played straight with footage like Boromir's death and Isildur cutting off Sauron's Ring (which was repeated at least three times during the course of the trilogy).
- 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.
- Walk into Mordor: Trope Namer. It's what they do. But not simply!
- Weapon Twirling: Boromir twirls his sword a few times while waiting for the goblin horde to break into Balin's Tomb in Moria.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Half the movies are about political disagreements between the good guys, and orcs seem to only work together if they're herded into it by torturers (and promised a good bit of violence as reward).
- We Can Rule Together: Saruman tries this on Gandalf. It doesn't work.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Though it's somewhat justified by their presence not existing in the book, what happened to the elven army at Helm's Deep? Are they all victims of Death by Adaptation? The supplementary book "The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare" states that they died to a man.
- Saruman and Wormtongue's unexplained disappearance in the theatrical cut of RotK is another example. Rectified in the extended cut.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Invoked a couple times:
- 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.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: Sam's monologue at the end of The Two Towers.
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 and What Army?: A corsair captain makes the mistake of asking Aragorn this in Return of the King. The answer, of course, is the Army of the Dead.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The "Samwise the Brave" scene includes Frodo reassuring Sam that he is an important part of the story.
Sam: I wonder if anyone will ever say, "Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring!" "Yes, that's one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn't he, Dad?" "Yes, m'boy, the most famousest of hobbits, and that's saying a lot."
Frodo (laughs): Why, you've left out one of the chief character — Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam. Frodo wouldn't have gotten far without Sam.
Sam: Now, Mr. Frodo. You shouldn't make fun. I was being serious.
Frodo: So was I.
- 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.
- You Leave Him Alone!: Samwise Gamgee to Shelob in Return of the King.
Sam: Let him go, you filth. Let him go! You will not touch him again!
- You Shall Not Pass: The Trope Namer, since Gandalf actually says "You cannot pass" in the book. He says both in the film, but the long, more meme-inducing one was "shall not."
- You Know What You Did: Many Tolkien fans have lamented Peter Jackson's decision to insert this, to drive a wedge between Frodo and Sam when the one absolute element in the books was their unswerving loyalty to each other. Then again, doing nothing but walk all over Mordor gets kinda boring after a while, and Jackson didn't have Tolkien's detailed descriptions of the journey to help him out.