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"For Frodo."
"Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers! I see in your eyes: the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship — but it is not this day! An hour of wolves, and shattered shields, when the age of Men comes crashing down — but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear, on this good Earth, I bid you stand! Men of the West!"
Aragorn

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a 2003 High Fantasy film and the third and last chapter of the Lord of the Rings film series adapting the novel saga of J. R. R. Tolkien, following The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. It was directed by Peter Jackson and released in December 2003.

Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee are finally reaching the end of their perilous journey and enter the dreaded lands of Mordor to destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom, and destroy Sauron once and for all with it. Meanwhile, following their great victory against Saruman, the other remaining heroes of the former Fellowship of the Ring and the cavalry of the kingdom of Rohan do everything in their power to help defend Minas Tirith, the citadel and capital city of the human kingdom of Gondor, against Sauron's humongous forces in a battle for the fate of the entire Middle-earth. And all throughout the battle, Aragorn proves himself worthy of claiming his heritage, the crown of Gondor.

Making the situation more difficult for the heroes of Middle-earth are the lunacy, despair, apathy, and sheer cowardliness of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor (and father of Boromir and Faramir) who's sitting on the throne in Minas Tirith and doing nothing to protect the city, as well as Gollum's resurfacing traitorous side, and a giant spider.

The film cleaned house at the Academy Awards, winning eleven Oscars including Best Picture, tying the record with 1959's Ben-Hur and 1997's Titanic, becoming the first fantasy film to win the top honor, and setting the record for the biggest sweep by a single film (as it won every award it was nominated for). Such victory was felt more as a crowning for the entire trilogy rather than just for this film alone.

Peter Jackson would return a decade later to helm a prequel trilogy, The Hobbit.


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King provides examples of:

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    Tropes A – C 
  • 0% Approval Rating: Denethor clearly hit this by the time Mordor arrived at Minas Tirith. When Denethor finally snaps in the face of Mordor's army and orders his men to desert their posts, Gandalf whacks him unconscious with his staff, and then proceeds to take control of Minas Tirith's defence. No one stops Gandalf from doing this, and everyone immediately starts following Gandalf's orders.
  • Abusive Parents: Denethor is emotionally abusive towards his son Faramir. The following may be one of the cruelest things a parent has ever said to a child in cinema:
    Faramir: You wish now that our places had been exchanged. That I had died and Boromir had lived.
    Denethor: Yes. I wish that.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: 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.
  • Actor Allusion: In the extended cut, Saruman is impaled on a spike that goes through his heart after falling to his death from Orthanc. Peter Jackson even says on the commentary that he wanted to be the last director to drive a stake through Lee's heart.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Prince Imrahil is omitted. His role in the book supporting Gandalf's defence of Minas Tirith and his support of Aragorn as King of Gondor are fairly important plot points, as he's the one that figures Aragorn can cure victims of the Nazgûl.
    • Beregond (and his son's) role as Pippin's friend is given to Faramir. Beregond's role in defending Faramir from premature cremation is simply cut, so Pippin's dash for Gandalf is even more desperate and they only get there just as the pyre is about to be lit. Purportedly Ian Hughes' character was meant to be Beregond, but the name was changed in post-production because the role had been so reduced. (Not that you hear either name said onscreen.)
    • Legolas mentions that Isildur was the last king of Gondor. In the books, there were 31 kings after him.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Denethor could apply: 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.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • The Eagles. In the book the force that turns the tide in the final battle is an entire army; in the film it's just five of them.
    • Samwise has to do a lot more fighting in the tower than he does in the book whereas all but two of the orcs have already killed each other and one of those is already mortally injured.
  • Adaptational Context Change:
    • In the book, Sam interrupts Gollum at a moment when he is having second thoughts about his betrayal of Frodo. He accuses Gollum of "sneaking" about, putting Gollum on the defensive and hardening his resolve to feed the hobbits to Shelob. In the movie, the dialogue is the same, but the scene is very different, as Sam has surprised Gollum disposing of the lembas. Sam's accusation thus seems more justified, and lacks the negative consequences of the original.
    • The mournful elegy Pippin sings to Denethor is actually adapted from Bilbo's cheerful walking song in the book. Some of the original lines are removed in the film version, but the only actual word change comes in the last line, which has been changed from an optimistic "Mist and twilight, cloud and shade, away shall fade! Away shall fade!" to a much more ominous "Mist and twilight, cloud and shade. All shall fade. All shall fade."
    • In the book, Éowyn says the line "Do you not know?" to Faramir, in order to let him know that she has fallen in love with him. In the movie, her relationship with Faramir is downplayed, and her feelings for Aragorn emphasised, so the line is kept the same, but said to Aragorn instead.
    • Sam's vision of the star over the Ephel Dúath shows up in the extended edition of the movies, but is given slightly different significance. In the book, the vision is a private experience of Sam's that gives him strength to continue the journey. In the movie, Sam points out the star in order to encourage Frodo, taking the focus off of Sam's inner struggle and shifting it to Frodo's need for support.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Frodo has lost his cloak and Mithril vest in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, leaving him shirtless. In the book the Orcs have stripped him completely naked. Which explains Sam's line about how "you can't go walking through Mordor in naught but your skin", which is quoted verbatim from the book.
  • Adaptational Self-Defence: In the book, Gollum bites the Ring off Frodo's finger, 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.
  • 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.
    • Theoden asks why he should help Gondor when Gondor did not help him. In the book, both Theoden and Denethor were well aware that the other could not help, because Rohan had Isengard at its throat and Gondor had Mordor. With the threat of Isengard gone, Theoden does not hesitate to ride to Gondor’s aid.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The final chapters of the books, the Scouring of the Shire, were removed entirely with the death of Saruman by Grima and Grima's own death moved to the confrontation at Isengard. Even if they were somewhat anti-climactic, they gave the book a darker vibe, one of Tolkien's recurrent themes. Specifically, they were meant to illustrate what war does to a beloved homeland.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: The largely unexplained backstory leaves quite a few of these:
    • Many who haven't read the books wonder why, if the ring was so evil, and Isildur wouldn't destroy it, Elrond didn't just grab it from him and destroy it himself, or even just push Isildur into the lava. In the books, no-one at that time is sure of exactly what the ring does, Elrond included; they have no idea that it's keeping Sauron alive. Isildur takes the ring as a memorial of their victory, and no-one really has any reason to oppose him doing so.
    • The issue of Aragorn as heir to the throne of Gondor. If Boromir can recognise the heir of Isildur simply from the name 'Aragorn', then why isn't he king already? In the books, the issue is far more complicated; while Aragorn is the only surviving heir, he's only distantly related to the old Kings of Gondor, and he also comes from a line that had previously been excluded from the Gondorian succession. The movies explained this as Aragorn himself being reluctant to become king, for fear of falling to petty evil the same way his ancestor Isildur did.
    • One issue that is routinely brought up as though it's a plot hole is "Why didn't the Fellowship just use the eagles and fly the One Ring to Mount Doom, then drop it in from the air?" There are a number of reasons in the books that explain why. The Eagles are forbidden by their creator from intervening directly in the War, so they won't shepherd the Ring themselves. They also would be just as likely to be tempted to take the Ring for themselves as any other sentient creature. The most obvious reason is that the whole point of the Fellowship is to avoid detection, and a flock of eagles would bring all of Sauron's forces down on their heads. For all these reasons, the Eagles are only free to arrive once the Ring is gone and Sauron is defeated. Another factor is that their power is greatly increased in the movies; while their arrival did turn the tide in the book it was the assembled armies of their entire race intervening (which had been established to be mustering much earlier), not just five guys.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Denethor gets a bit of Adaptational Villainy when he was simply Good is Not Nice in the book.
  • All Webbed Up: Frodo ends up being trapped and webbed up by Shelob after being lured to her lair by Gollum.
  • And This Is for...: Samwise Gamgee, the normally non-threatening gardener, even did this, dedicating Orc kills: "That's for Frodo! And that's for the Shire! And that's for my old Gaffer!"
  • Angelic Beauty: A rejected idea from the film was to have Sauron (who is basically a Fallen Angel only appearing as an Evil Overlord) appear in his fair form as Annatar to beguile Aragorn during the final battle at the gates of Mordor. This did result in some deleted footage, but was replaced with the Aragorn vs. Troll fight.
  • Armor Is Useless: Many scenes of the film show combatants of each side stabbing or slashing opponents straight through their heavy plate armor with swords, and armor never seems to actually deflect any hits. On a larger scale, the siege weapons attacking Minas Tirith easily shatter through the walls of the fortified city like they were constructed of unmortared bricks as opposed to being composed of solid stone.
    • Not to mention an Orc arrow piercing plate armor and chain mail during the battle in Osgiliath
  • Ascended Extra: Gothmog is a mix of this and Composite Character, as he takes the role that several different Orc commanders had in the book, and becomes the joint-leader of the attack on Minas Tirith.
  • Ascended Meme: Peter Jackson was aware of the fanbase surrounding Figwit and finally gave him some speaking lines.
  • Award-Bait Song: The film gave us a stellar Tear Jerker example: "Into the West". It won an Oscar.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The Return of the King was 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 moment of crowning when the new king turns to the hobbits and says "My friends, you bow to no one."
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work:
    • In the extended cut, what to do with Saruman is a bit of a problem for Théoden and the Fellowship. He resists coming quietly to be questioned and keeps trying to demoralize and otherwise destroy the heroes until Grima backstabs him after being kicked around one too many times.
    • The sudden presence of Gollum at Mount Doom means that Sam doesn't have to fight or even kill Frodo to complete the quest and destroy the Ring after Frodo succumbs to the Ring's temptation and refuses to destroy it himself, since someone is already handling the fight for him.
  • Badass Boast: Aragorn delivers one as he confronts the Army of the Dead:
    King of the Dead: The Dead do not suffer the living to pass.
    Aragorn: You will suffer me.
  • Battle Chant:
    • 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).
    • When Grond is revealed and Sauron's forces prepare to break the gates of Minas Tirith with it, they begin chanting its name repeatedly.
    • The Orcs marching forth out the Black Gates repeatedly chant, "Barad-dûr."
  • 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!"
    • And the biggest one during their Last Stand, "For Frodo."
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: You have the siege of Minas Tirith, the Pelennor fields, and the Black Gate. We also get to see more of the Battle of Osgiliath, ending with the forces of Gondor being utterly routed.
  • Big "NO!": The film has three of them:
    • Éomer gets in a good one when he finds Éowyn's body on the battlefield.
    • Right at the climax, 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 Sauron to his presence.
    • Yet another 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 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Quite possibly the best example of this trope in high fantasy, along with its overlapping with Earn Your Happy Ending: After much hardship, sacrifice, and perseverance at ever-surmounting odds, the One Ring is destroyed, Sauron vanquished, and a whole new era of peace and happiness is ushered in. The Fellowship is reunited, Aragorn is made King of Gondor, and the four Hobbits return home as revered heroes. However, the War of the Ring brought much devastation to Middle-earth that will take years to rebuild and countless lives were lost in all the conflict. The time of magic, the Elves, and the Maiar in Middle-earth ceases as Men begin to rule. But the biggest toll is seen in poor Frodo as he has been both physically and emotionally scarred by the Quest. He could never go back to living a life of peace and innocence in the Shire. Thus, he accepts the Valar's invitation to sail into the West, much to the heartbreak of his best friends Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
  • Body-Count Competition: Gimli and Legolas have one in the battle of Minas Tirith. Even after Legolas takes down the war beast, Gimli says it still only counts as one.
  • Butt-Dialing Mordor: Pippin tries to use the Palantir and unintentionally ends up getting face time with Sauron himself.
  • Butterfly of Transformation: The white moth that brings giant eagles to the rescue when the Gondor army is at the gates of Mordor. (Only appears in the Jackson films, not the book).
  • Calm Before the Storm: There is a scene where Pippin and Gandalf are on the precipice of Minas Tirith looking at the gathering clouds over Mordor, while Gandalf explains the forces that are being arrayed against them. Then they see the beacon marking the advance of the Orc armies and realize the war is upon them.
  • Cassandra Truth: One scene has Sam knowing about Smeagol/Gollum and tries to warn Frodo.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Aragorn had one of these. In fairness, he pulls a knife in the same motion, and has probably trained himself to do this every time he's suddenly awoken.
  • The Cavalry: Three in a row occur during the Siege of Minas Tirith:
    • First: Gondor Calls for Aid. Rohan "answers" with 6,000 Rohirrim.
    • Second: About 20 Mumakil show up to reinforce the then-routed orcs.
    • Finally: Aragorn shows up with the "Dead Men of Dunharrow"; an army of undead, ghostly soldiers numbering roughly 50,000.
  • Cavalry 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 and help defeat the Corsairs of Umbar. In the film, they are the cavalry.
  • 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 this 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).
    • 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.
  • Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb: When Frodo and Sam are following Gollum to Shelob's lair.
  • Collapsing Lair: Barad-dûr, when Sauron is finally defeated. See Keystone Army.
  • Colour Wash:
    • Especially noticeable in day-for-night scenes. There's even a scene 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 colours.
  • 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. Lampshaded by John Rhys-Davies in the DVD commentary.
      John: There you have your old pyroclastic lava flow, not a good thing to be... err... in. Added to which there may be a little bit of sulfur there and not too much oxygen.
    • When Gollum and The One Ring fall into the Crack of Doom, neither show any signs of burning even when Gollum gets completely submerged.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Sam also stabs an orc from behind with Sting when he rescues Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol.
  • Cool Mask: The Witch-King spiky, crowned helmet, which immediately sets him apart from the other Nazgul.
  • Creator Cameo:
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Siege of Minas Tirith looks like it's going to end in favor of the orcs. Then the Dead Men of Dunharrow, within seconds of arriving, proceed to steamroll the orcs outside the city like a spectral tsunami, then flood through the city and clear out the entire place just as fast, leading to the near-total loss of the orcs' forces. Peter Jackson described the use of the Dead Men as a Deus ex Machina unique to the adaptation, since in the book they only fight the Corsairs in the south.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion:
    • While the Rohirrim's battle against the Haradrim outside Minas Tirith is nearly this, as the Mumakil the Haradrim ride are basically unstoppable juggernauts that impale, crush, and swat horsemen away with impunity, the Rohirrim give a good accounting of themselves, managing to bring down a number of Mumakil by taking advantage of their greater numbers and maneuverability, though it still takes the Army of the Dead to tip the scales in Middle-earth's favor.
    • Nearly all of the battles of the soldiers of Gondor against the forces of Mordor. When the trolls break through the gate of Minas Tirith the soldiers manage to kill at least one troll and in this video you can see at least one soldier who spears down an Orc.

    Tropes D – I 
  • Death by Adaptation: The Mouth of Sauron, whose fate is unknown in the books, gets beheaded by Aragorn after showing Frodo's mithril coat and taunting the heroes about his supposed torture.
  • Death from Above: A triple villainous example;
    • As the garrison at osgiliath desperately ride for the safety of Minas Tirith, three Nazgul maintain a pursuit from the air making repeated attacks to pick off soldiers and their horses until Gandalf rides in to drive them off.
    • Then, in the opening minutes of the assault on Minas Tirith as the trebuchet's on the walls are really starting to get into it and throwing a lot of very big rocks into the face of the Ork army, The Nine make their grand entrance in their full force by flying down and destroying all the emplacements in a matter of seconds.
    • The remaining Nazgul at the Black Gate were diving in to engage the host of the West once more, but it was subverted and played straight by the Eagles diving on them from above and engaging them in an all-out air-to-air battle.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: ''Dies Irae" is heard as Gollum is leading Sam and Frodo up the cliffs near Minas Morgul and the armies of Mordor begin marching forth against Gondor.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Defied. Saruman tries to use this trope as a trick when he offers Théoden and the Fellowship a peace council after the Ents corner him in Orthanc. As in the book, Théoden calls bullshit on it.
  • Demoted to Extra: Cirdan the Shipwright, one of the greatest and most ancient of all the elves is reduced to silently standing in the background at the Grey Havens, never once making his presence known.
  • 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.
  • Deus ex Machina: The eagles show up in the final battle to keep the ring wraiths at bay, and also to fly Frodo and Sam away from the erupting Mt Doom. This has led many a fan to wonder why none of the Fellowship flew on the eagles to Mordor in the first place.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation:
    • The omission of the Scouring of the Shire led to Saruman and Grima's deaths being changed. In the book, Grima slashes Saruman's throat and is then killed by archers. In the film, he stabs him in the back and is then killed by Legolas. Saruman then falls from his tower onto a spiked waterwheel.
    • As in the book, Gollum dies while falling into Mount Doom with the Ring, but under slightly different circumstances. In the book he trips and falls over the precipice while rejoicing at having re-taken possession of the Ring. This was found to be too anti-climactic when put to film as it reduced the protagonist to a passive observer of the action. Instead, Frodo, still in the enthrall of the Ring, tries to wrest it from Gollum, resulting in both of them falling over the precipice, but Frodo manages to grab the ledge and Sam pulls him back up.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The battle of Cirith Ungol. Orcs Shagrat and Gorbag get into an argument over who should get Frodo's mithril shirt - Gorbag wants to take it to Sauron, but Shagrat wants it for himself. They start brawling, and Shagrat shoves Gorbag down to the floor below, inciting the orcs there to kill Gorbag for trying to knife him. Gorbag defends himself and drop-kicks an orc out of a window, killing him. As the orcs below start looting the dead orc, one of them gets shoved aside, which gets him angry enough to grab a drumstick and start beating the other orcs with it. A fight breaks out on this level too as more orcs join the brawl, using whatever they have on hand - knives, maces, even heavy rocks - to brutally murder each other. By the time Sam arrives, the tower is seemingly littered with dead bodies, all caused by one mithril shirt.
  • Disney Death: Alongside Frodo's examples from the book that made it into the film, we also have Gollum's 'death' right after going through Shelob's tunnel.
  • Disney Villain Death: Alongside examples from the book, we also have a couple unique to the films, those being Saruman's (uncut version only) and Denethor's deaths. Though it should be noted that unlike most versions of this trope, we actually see the result of Saruman's fall.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Saruman really shouldn't have mistreated Wormtongue the way he did, (at least in the extended edition).
  • 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.
  • Draw Aggro: The Battle of the Black Gate, which would likely have ended very badly for the heroes' army if not for the Ring's sudden destruction, is explicitly a distraction maneuver. Frodo needs the way clear so he can reach Mount Doom, and if Sauron suspects Aragorn has the Ring and is coming to attack him, he'll shift his focus from guarding his domain to wiping out the prospective new Dark Lord. Aragorn and his friends admit that at this point they have no way whatsoever to even know if Frodo and Sam are still alive, and stake everything on the astronomically slim chance that they are.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • The look we see in Frodo's eyes as he hangs over the edge, feeling all too tempted to give into despair. Thankfully, through Sam's loyalty and love, Frodo grabs his hand and subverts this trope.
    • Denethor attempts a murder-suicide with his son Faramir (who's unconscious and thus cannot defend himself) after he completely loses hope and his mind.
  • Drums of War: As Sauron's army prepares to use the battering ram Grond to break the gates of Minas Tirith, a strong drum-beat underlies their war chant.
  • Eager Rookie: Merry and Éowyn both want to join the battle of Minas Tirith but have to sneak in with the rest of the Rohirrim, since them joining the fight is met with disapproval from the others due to being a hobbit and a woman, respectively. Éowyn at least has some battle training.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Much of the heroes' land has been pillaged; many good people are dead, and poor Frodo will never be the same. However, Sauron and most of his forces are out of the picture, the survivors (including most of the Fellowship) can rebuild things, and it's hinted that Frodo will ultimately find some measure of peace, even if he has to leave Middle-Earth to do it.
  • End of an Age: The destruction of the One Ring and the Second Defeat of Sauron marked the end of the Age of Elves and of magic in Middle-earth; the Third Age. In turn, it would give rise to the Fourth Age, which would become known as the Age of Men.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 Versus Evil: The ghost army, consisting of undead murderers, traitors and mercenaries, versus the army of Mordor, consisting of orcs, trolls and evil men. While the ghost army is technically fighting on the side of the good guys, the ghosts themselves are most definitely not good guys.
  • Evolutionary Retcon: By this entry, Peter Jackson had decided he wasn't a fan of the "witch noses" on certain orcs in the previous films. As a result, none of Return of the King's orcs sported long, pointy noses. Possibly justified in-universe in that most of the orcs we see in the first two films are from either Moria or Isengard, whereas those in ROTK are almost exclusively of Mordor stock. It's not inconceivable that there may be some regional variation in appearance.
  • Exact Words: Legends goes that no man can kill the Witch-King, something he gloatingly brings up as he grabs Éowyn in a chokehold. Merry, a hobbit, fatally distracts him by stabbing him in the knee and Éowyn, a human woman, retorts that she isn't a man before stabbing him in the head.
  • Eyes Never Lie: "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.
  • Fade to White: Peter Jackson enjoys doing this, especially at the end.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Denethor orders Faramir to lead one last assault on Osgiliath, disregarding Faramir's warnings about how that would be a bad idea while guilting him for not being Denethor's favourite son. The charge on Osgiliath ends with nearly every Gondor knight slain, as the flat terrain they're crossing made them easy pickings for the orc archers.
  • Fake Food: According to John Rhys-Davies on the cast commentary, the substance used for beer was "apple juice mixed with cola, or something disgusting".
  • Fantastic Light Source: Gandalf's staff and Galadriel's phial that contains liquid starlight and helps Frodo and Sam escape Shelob's lair.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
  • Fingore: Struggling with an invisible Frodo for the One Ring, Gollum bites his index and cut it with his teeth, leaving Frodo with a bloody, shortened finger.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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.
    • The first scene involving humans takes place in Theoden's halls, with him toasting the "victorious dead". It's a literal force of the dead that wins the day at the siege of Minas Tirith.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • In the first few frames of the movie, while Sméagol is holding and watching a worm, the worm is coiled like a ring.
    • The extended palantir scene with Aragorn and Sauron very briefly shows Sauron holding the palantir in his armoured form, implying that he has returned to a humanoid form.
    • When the armies of Mordor break down the gates to Minas Tirith, some Easterling soldiers can be glimpsed among the orcs.
    • While Frodo is writing in the Red Book, the pages shown mention events from the books including Sam becoming Mayor and Gimli becoming Lord of the Glittering Caves.
  • Ghastly Ghost: The Army of the Dead, which consists of green, intangible ghosts whose faces look like living corpses. They are first hostile, but Aragorn shows them the sword that proves he's the heir to the throne of Gondor and promises to release them once they fulfilled their oath by joining him for the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
  • Giant Spider: Peter Jackson applied his actual arachnophobia to full useinvoked to make Shelob as horrible as possible. Strangely, Shelob had a stinger in her belly, and a gaping mouth instead of actual spider fangs. Justified in that she is meant to be an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Trope Namer. Denethor refused to light the signal fires due to a combination of bad blood between Gondor and Rohan, and due to a misguided notion that Gondor needed no aid (Denethor being under the influence of Sauron affected his decision making somewhat). Pippin manages to sneak into one of the towers and lights the fire himself. Théoden, when the subject was first broached by Aragorn, was bitter over Gondor not sending any help to Rohan during their devastating fight... when he actually gets the call, though, he personally leads The Cavalry.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Several.
    • Theoden dies on the battlefield, satisfied that he could die a warrior's death and reclaim the honour that Saruman took from him. He's also happy that the last thing he saw was his beloved niece alive and well.
    • At the very end, anyone who takes the ship to the Undying Lands is shown in a much warmer light. Elrond looks relieved that he can finally ascend, the aged Bilbo shows a spark of his youthfulness, Gandalf's final words to the hobbits aren't the doom-and-gloom that he'd grown into the habit of giving and Frodo loses all signs of trauma.
  • Grand Finale: Brings the film trilogy to an epic closure.
  • 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, 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. The fighting around Gondor is a sideshow by comparison to the scale of the attacks on Erebor and Mirkwood.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Déagol's death.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The shrieking of the Ringwraiths terrifies the Gondorian soldiers.
  • 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 Darkness:
    • The night battle at Osgiliath are shown in a blue tint. It is a retreating battle in which both sides tried to ambush the other, no one has torches lit, but the orcs in the boats stay low, and the Gondorians took cover in the broken urban landscape
    • The lair of Shelob is fairly well-lit despite being depicted in the book as pitch black, (we are told she "secretes" darkness), but here the audience has to see. Frodo does run right into a web he should have been able to clearly see, so apparently the lair is lit in our view, but not in his.
  • Hollywood Tactics:
    • The next Rohirrim cavalry charge, head-on at the giant Mumakil while swatting at their legs, goes exactly as one would expect. However, this was due more to real-life considerations than artistic license. According to the DVD commentaries, going by the book — shooting the Mumakil in the eyes — was deemed too gruesome and reminiscent of animal cruelty toward real elephants to be filmed.
    • An intentional example. Faramir is forced to make an unsupported cavalry charge across open ground against a fortified position. Also, said position is an urban environment with lots of rubble in the streets that would handily take away all of a horse's speed and maneuverability. This goes about as poorly as one can expect and was meant to display Denethor's failing sanity.
    • In the battle before the gates of Mordor, the heavily outnumbered and surrounded Army of the West break ranks and charge into the enemy, whereas in the book they hold their formations on higher ground and let the enemy come to them. Also, in the film version they arrive on war horses but inexplicably dismount and attack on foot.
    • When the main gate is destroyed by Grond, there are calls to "Get the women and children to safety!". Not explained is why the non-combatants weren't already in the more secured areas. The book makes it clearer that the city has multiple rings of defense that the defenders gradually fall back to, so it makes no sense why there is anyone but soldiers in the lower levels.
    • Many of the commands uttered by leaders of the armies fall into Captain Obvious territory, especially those of the Witch-King and Gothmog who take the time to issue orders like "Leave none left alive!".
  • Home Sweet Home:
    • The Hobbits were naturally happy to be back home in the Shire after spending many long months away from it.
    • Subverted with Frodo, who just couldn't get over the psychological scars he had endured. Hence why he felt so out of place despite being back home.
    • Played straight with Sam as he walks back to his home and family after parting with Frodo at the Grey Havens, albeit bittersweetly.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Faramir and Éowyn, as the book chapter of them meeting and falling in love over time was cut, though it was restored in the extended edition.
  • 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 Mumakil arrive.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: When Frodo looks as though he might allow himself to fall into the lava in Mt. Doom, Sam sharply yells, "Don't you let go!" Frodo listens, and just manages to grab Sam's hand.
  • 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 Lied: In the extended edition.
    Gollum: Mustn't go that way. Mustn't hurt the Precious.
    Frodo: But you swore! You swore on the Precious! Sméagol promised!
    Gollum: Sméagol lied.
  • I Like Those Odds:
    Gimli: Certainty of death, small chance of success... What are we waiting for?
  • Iconic Sequel Song: While the motif for Minas Tirith is some of the most recognizable parts of the series' score, it first appears in The Return of the King.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Saruman dies in the extended version by getting stabbed, falling off the tower of Isengard and onto a spiky wheel of a machine. For bonus symbolism points, the wheel then shifts because of his weight and turns until Saruman is on the bottom, hidden beneath the pool of water.
    Treebeard: The filth of Saruman is washing away.
  • Interscene Diegetic: While Pippin is singing for Denethor, the scene cuts to Faramir and his soldiers.
  • In Vino Veritas: At the end, 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: Shortly after Pippin swears allegiance to Steward Denethor, Gandalf reacts to the situation with derision ("Perigrin Took, Guard of the Citadel..."). Later, during the battle in the city, Pippin then kills an Orc that was about to attack an unaware Gandalf. When Gandalf realizes what had just happened, he utters a far more sincere "Guard of the Citadel, indeed!"
  • It Has Been an Honour: 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.

    Tropes J – P 
  • Jabba Table Manners: Denethor messily gobbling down his dinner as he apathetically sends his youngest son to his death.
  • Jump Scare: Gollum talking to himself about getting the Ring back wakes up Sam, who pounces on him from behind in a rage. Gollum doesn't even get the advantage of being forewarned by his reflection because he splashed a stone into the water while gloating.
  • Karmic Death:
    • In the extended edition, Saruman is stabbed in the back by Gríma Wormtongue after one too many abuses from the wizard, especially after Wormtongue hears how Saruman will never let him free.
    • The One Ring ends up being accidentally destroyed by Gollum, who was the longest Ring-Bearer save for Sauron himself and the one who suffered the most from its corruption. Even more ironic is that its destruction is the result of a selfish conflict between two Ring bearers trying to save the ring for themselves.
    • Sauron had expected his potential downfall to be from Elves, Men or Wizards using the One Ring's great power against him, but never the little, insignificant race of Hobbits sneaking into Mount Doom to get rid of the One Ring. The great Dark Lord is ultimately laid low by three Hobbits beneath his notice.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: Trope Namer. Aragorn and a courtyard full of people bow to the hobbits during his own coronation.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: With his troops exhausted from fighting all night long and fresh waves of Orcs pouring into the city all the time, Faramir ultimately has to give up the battle for Osgiliath and order the survivors to fall back.
    Madril: We can't hold them. The city is lost.
    Faramir: Tell the men to break cover. We ride for Minas Tirith!
  • Kubrick Stare: At the climax, Frodo gives off a crazed Kubrick Stare to Sam at Mount Doom before putting the Ring on.
  • Lava Pot Volcano: The heart of Mount Doom is a chasm filled with roiling, smoking, roaring lava, in which Sauron forged the Ring and into which it must be cast again. In the book, it's just a "crack of fire", contents not clearly specified.
  • Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid: Gollum sinking into the lava. Lava may be molten rock, but it is still rock, and quite capable of floating very dense items. There are several reasons for this: it would have been too gruesome to show Gollum blow up or burst into flames, audiences might expect lava to behave like any other hot liquid, or it might be simply chalked up to Rule of Cool (since the purpose of the shot is to show that even to the last, all Gollum cares about is the Ring).
  • Least Is First: The first one to charge at the armies of Sauron at the gates of Mordor is Aragorn, actually, but Merry and Pippin (whom everyone overlooks for being hobbits) are the first to follow him.
  • Leave No Survivors: In the film, The Witch-King tells his minions to kill everyone in Minas Tirith.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: A number of Internet parodies compared this to Aragorn's final charge. The Rohirrim at Pellenor Fields also experience this; Theoden's Death Seeker attitude has gotten to them so much that they'll charge a line of Mumakil without hesitation.
  • Leitmotif upon Death: When the One Ring is destroyed and Sauron's power in the physical world begins to dissipate for good, the Leitmotif which characterized Mordor throughout the movie trilogy plays but flipped from minor to major, making the formerly-dark music instead sound triumphant and uplifting as Sauron's evil leaves Mordor and Middle-earth for good.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron causes an earthquake that kills the remainder of the evil army at the Black Gate while leaving Aragorn and his army unharmed. This was invented for the film, since in the book the orcs spend several hours fleeing and fighting amongst themselves before being finished off.
  • The Magic Goes Away: With the One Ring destroyed, it is not only Sauron's dark sorcery that is diminished but much of the magic that remained in Middle-earth. The Three Elvish Rings lose what power they had left as a result of this. What little magic remained with the Elves and Gandalf are carried off with them to Valinor.
  • Man Hug: Frodo and Sam tearfully hug each other after the Ring is destroyed and they scramble to safety after Mount Doom explodes.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: Variant. Gollum talks to his reflection in a pool to converse with his alter-ego Sméagol. The camera switches back-and-forth between Gollum himself and his reflection to represent the two different personas.
  • Man on Fire: After Denethor becomes convinced that Faramir is dead (he isn't) and goes mad(der) with grief, he orders his men to prepare a pyre so that the two can burn together. Thanks to Pippin, Gandalf arrives just in time to save Faramir's life, but during the struggle Denethor is knocked into the burning pyre. He has enough seconds of lucidity to see Faramir open his eyes before he is consumed by the fire, after which he runs off screaming and falls off the cliff overlooking the city.
  • Manly Tears: Sam and Frodo share this a lot in Mordor. Similarly, Gandalf's eyes tear up at the sight of Barad-dûr collapsing and Sauron disappearing.
  • 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.
  • Mickey Mousing: The music matches the marching and chanting of Orcs as they drag the battering ram, Grond, towards the gate of Minas Tirith.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Frodo has one 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.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Faramir knows that it's hopeless and suicidal to try to reclaim Osgiliath, but he nonetheless obeys Denethor's command because of his profound sense of duty.
    Gandalf: Your father's will has turned to madness. Do not throw away your life so rashly.
    Faramir: Where does my allegiance lie if not here? This is the city of the Men of Númenor. I will gladly give my life to defend her beauty, her memory, her wisdom.
  • Negatives as a Positive: At Elrond's urging, Aragorn seeks to travel the Dwimorberg Pass to seek an army of the dead. Gimli stands before him, and Aragorn tells him he's not coming with. Cue Legolas saying, "Have you learned nothing about the stubbornness of Dwarves?"
  • Never Found the Body: Gollum on the Stairs.
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!: 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, Rivals!: How the Ring gets destroyed. After Gollum wrests the ring from Frodo, Frodo tries to take it back. The result is that Gollum falls into Mt. Doom, still clutching the ring.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Sauron's attempt to torment Pippin compels Gandalf to take him to Minas Tirith to draw attention away from Rohan. When they get to Minas Tirith, Pippin lights the beacons that signal Rohan to come to Gondor's aid with the added benefit of Aragorn gaining an undead army, resulting in most of Sauron's forces slain, including the Witch-King. Not only that, but Pippin spotting signs of life in Faramir means that the line of stewards didn't come to an end. If Sauron has just left Pippin alone, Minas Tirith would have gone down in no time at all.
  • Nightmare Face: The Psychotic Smirk that Frodo displays when he finally submits to the Ring. Similar to the flashback with Isildur in film one.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Elijah Wood revealed on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast that Gothmog's design was based on Harvey Weinstein.
    One of the orc masks –- and I remember this vividly -– was designed to look like Harvey Weinstein as a sort of a fuck you. I think that is OK to talk about now, the guy is fucking incarcerated. Fuck him.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Sam starts gives giving this to Gollum after being accused of having eaten the Lembas bread. Though, Frodo intervenes before it could get really ugly.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: Sam attacks Shelob to save Frodo and successfully drives her back into her lair, but when he tears the webbing away, Frodo's pale face and utter unresponsiveness makes him look corpselike. Sam sobs as he hugs him, convinced he didn't get there in time. Then an orc reveals that Shelob likes to paralyse her prey rather than kill them before mealtime, letting Sam know Frodo is still alive.
  • 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. However, the extended edition has a scene with the palantir where Aragorn fleetingly glimpses Sauron in his armoured form holding the palantir - implying that he has a humanoid form.
  • Oh, Crap!: The film features many examples.
    • Bernard Hill as King Théoden does a series of great Oh Crap faces:
      • 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 Mumakil 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.
    • The huge orc army gets their Oh Crap moment as the Rohirrim charge, completely ignoring the arrows and spears (slightly) thinning out their numbers. Gothmog in particular gets a close-up of his face turning from a confident grin to wide-eyed fear when he realizes the thousands of screaming madmen on horseback aren't even slowing down.
    • When Gandalf gives 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's expression can only be described as 'Ohh, shit'.
    • The whole Battle of Minas Tirith is really 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 Mumakil. 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.
    • Éowyn at the battle of the Pelennor Fields when the Witch King, somewhat pissed at Éowyn for killing his fell beast, turns to face her and she sees that he is wielding a flail whose spike-ridden head is bigger than her torso.
    • A subversion when Aragorn recruits the Army of the Dead. The opposing forces get their Oh Crap when Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn get off the boats and charge at them. They have their reaction BEFORE seeing that these three dudes brought an army of ghosts with them, at which point they simply panic. Similarly:
      Corsair: Boarded?! By you and whose army?
      Aragorn: This army.
    • Merry, Aragorn and Gandalf's faces turn from triumph to horror when they see Mt. Doom implode, realising Frodo and Sam are still 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 is destroyed.
    • The Eye of Sauron delivers a spectacular one when the One Ring is finally melted.
    • Also implied when Sauron suddenly realizes that the ring is inside Mt. Doom, one step away from being destroyed. The Eye instantly turns towards Mt. Doom, and the Nazgul are immediately pulled from battle to try and keep Frodo from fulfilling his task. ("As Frodo put on the Ring... the Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him... and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him...")
  • Offscreen Rebuilding: Minas Tirith looks spiffy when Aragorn is crowned at the end.
  • Off with His Head!: Done notably to the Mouth of Sauron instead of the Death Glare from the book.
  • Once More, with Clarity: A very subtle one, but the Fellowship implied that Sméagol was the one whom the Ring "ensnared" when he grabbed it from the riverbed. This film 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Pippin steals and looks into the Palantir and is subsequently Mind Raped by Sauron, Gandalf starts with his usual "fool of a Took!" scolding just before he sees Pip is utterly catatonic. Gandalf's whole demeanor changes to one of care and concern.
  • Opening Monologue: Given by Gollum during his descent into madness.
  • 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 Favouritism: Denethor clearly favoured Boromir over Faramir, going so far as to admit that he wished that Boromir were still alive and Faramir were dead.
  • Pillar of Light: Minas Morgul produces one, shooting a gigantic, green pillar of light into the sky moments before disgorging a horde of orcs led by the Nazgûl. The book tells us that this particular pillar is produced in response to one from Barad-dûr. The exchange is essentially Sauron (at Barad-dûr) asking "Are you ready?" and the Witch-King at Minas Morgul replying "Yes!"
  • Please Wake Up:
    • In the extended edition, Éomer rushes screaming to Éowyn's side and shakes her. It's actually quite effective; Éomer is usually The Stoic, seeing him screaming wordlessly in grief is downright shaking.
    • After successfully beating Shelob off him, Sam rushes to Frodo and tears off the webbing over his face, only for the other hobbit to remain unresponsive. With an increasingly broken voice, Sam begs his friend/master not to leave him, only to break down in tears as he concludes he was too late. Luckily, it turns out Shelob's venom just induces very deep unconsciousness.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Inverted. Just when he needs him most, Frodo sends Sam away due to Gollum's ploy. Moments later he's paralysed by Shelob. Luckily, The Power of Friendship prevails.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • He wanted to move Shelob to this movie because anything was going to pale next to Helm's Deep, and that left Frodo and Sam completely out of (action-y) danger for the entire movie. There had to be a threat, and poor Faramir got drafted.
    • When Tolkien commented on ideas for a film version by Forest J. Ackerman, he said they should probably skip the Hornburg entirely so that the final battle would look that much more impressive. (We're all glad the filmmakers didn't take him up on that.)
    • Postponing his acquisition of Andúril to the film gave Aragorn greater credibility as a ranger earlier on, as he got to demonstrate his knife skills more. Having him leave Narsil's shards in Rivendell also avoided the visible incongruity of a trained survivalist, who needs to travel light, hauling a priceless historical artifact all over the wilderness with him.
    • In the books, there's a lot of random elves who show up, do one incredibly plot-crucial thing, and are never seen again. Most of their jobs went to Arwen, so she'd have something to do to make the audience actually give a damn about her. Elrond got the rest. And then later completely turned on its head when Arwen was to be added to the Battle of the Hornburg before Peter Jackson decided it would be too much, which led to another elf getting a one-off: Haldir. Unfortunately, he dies in the films, while in the books his fate is undetermined.
    • Merry instantly recognizes Éowyn when she is disguised as a Rohirrim soldier. This is because it would have been impossible to make Miranda Otto look like a man without it looking silly, and for Merry to not realise it was her until she takes off her helmet (as happens in the book) would have made him look like an idiot.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Courtesy of Gimli.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Éowyn says "I am no man!" before stabbing the Witch-King in the face (after he said "No man can kill me!").
  • Prohibited Hero Saves the Day: Much as in the book, heroes who were told or asked to stay at home and out of harms way are integral to the defeat of Sauron and his forces.
    • The hobbits are frequently encouraged to return to the Shire and let others take responsibility for the Ring. All four of them prove to be vital to the quest in different ways.
    • Éowyn is left behind to care for Edoras despite her request to accompany her uncle the king while the Rohirrim men march to war, but comes along in disguise anyway and defeats the Witch-King, who could not have been felled by a man.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Pretty... Little... Fly... Why... Does it... Cry?... Caught... In a web... Soon... You'll be... EATEN!"
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Gandalf initially believes the Battle of the Pellenor Fields to be this. Sauron may have been defeated, but Gondor and Rohan suffered heavy losses, and there are more troops gathering in Mordor, meaning it's only a matter of time before Frodo is caught and the Ring is retrieved. Luckily, it's subverted when Aragorn comes up with a plan to muster the remaining forces to draw Sauron's eye and soldiers away from Mordor, giving Frodo a better chance to reach Mount Doom.

    Tropes Q – Z 
  • Radial Ass Kicking: Happens on an even larger scale, at the siege of the Black Gate.
  • Rays from Heaven: These are used when Gandalf the White arrives at Minas Tirith and incidentally rescues Faramir from a dark Nazgûl attack. It's especially symbolic because the clouds were literally sent from Mordor to aid the forces of darkness.
  • Red Shirt Army: While the Rohirrim get their time to shine, the Gondorian soldiers seem only present to futilely fail at opposing the orcs invading their city and being cut down in large numbers, a single average orc often shown killing multiple Gondorians with ease.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Frodo is Not Really Dead. Faramir is Not Really Dead.
  • Ridiculously Difficult Route:
    • 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. This is invoked by Gollum, who claims it is a better route but is actually trying to get them killed so he can steal the ring back.
    • 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...
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Before the siege of the Black Gate.
      "Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, stand! Men of the West!"
    • Just before the charge of the Rohirrim. Bernard Hill said that the tipping of the spears with his sword was his idea.
      "Forth, and fear no darkness! Arise! Arise, Riders of Theoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day! A red day! Ere the sun rises! Ride now! Ride now! Ride! Ride to ruin and the world's ending!DEEEAAATH!"
  • Rule of Cool: 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:
    • 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."
  • 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.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Éowyn still dresses up as a knight, but Merry catches on immediately in the films (but doesn't mind since she's still giving him the chance to go to battle), while the Witch King gets this trope full on before Éowyn strikes the killing blow.
    Witch King: You fool! No man can kill me!
    Eowyn: I am no man!
  • Saved by the Platform Below: In the climax, when Frodo and Gollum wrestle for the Ring, they both fall off the cliff towards the fiery pits of Mount Doom. While Gollum, along with the Ring, falls into the lava and dies, Frodo manages to grab a ledge so that Sam can pull him up and save him.
  • Scenery-Based Societal Barometer: The White Tree of Gondor serves as a reflection of how the kingdom is currently faring. At present, with Denethor's leadership failing and Sauron's forces invading Gondor, the tree is dead and skeletal; in Pippin's vision, he sees the tree on fire - a sure sign that Minas Tirith itself is in danger - prompting Gandalf to journey there as quickly as possible; when Aragorn arrives to save the day, a single flower sprouts from the tree. In the end, with Sauron dead, Aragorn on the throne and the land finally at peace, the tree is alive and in full bloom.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The troll that Aragorn was fighting at the end runs away when Barad-dûr is exploding.
  • Self-Destructive Charge: One performed by an army rather than an individual when Theoden orders the Rohirrim army to charge the oncoming Mumakil head-on. He knows they'll take absolutely horrific casualties from the titanic beasts (and they do), but he also knows they have to be brought down.
    • Earlier, Denethor ordered Faramir and a score of Gondor knights to charge on Osgiliath and reclaim it from the orcs. The journey to Osgiliath means crossing the plains of the Pelennor, which leaves them sitting ducks for an archery assault.
  • The Siege: The battle of Osgiliath and Minas Tirith. Osgiliath is the only battle the heroes lose.
  • Simple Solution Won't Work: Following the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Gandalf states that Sauron will be regrouping in Mordor after his defeat. Gimli suggests just letting him rot there, and Gandalf replies that his remaining armies of orcs are now standing between Frodo and Mount Doom. This leads to the plan to march on the Black Gate to draw Sauron's attention away—a plan that means certain defeat for the armies of Men if Frodo fails to get through.
  • Shout-Out: The undead army that Aragorn recruits are glowing green ghosts that are so old even their spirit forms have decayed. Peter Jackson had similar ghosts in The Frighteners.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • Aragorn's response to the Mouth of Sauron's taunts is to cut his head off.
    • Gandalf delivers an epic and hilarious one to Denethor after the Steward starts ranting about the hopelessness of the coming battle, knocking him out with a tap on the head before ordering the soldiers to return to their posts.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Éowyn, who at first has some feelings for Aragorn, but later ends up falling in love with Faramir.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: Denethor appears to be more interested in eating his chicken and tomatoes than he is in Faramir's safety.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Pippin's song.
  • Spare to the Throne: More precisely Spare to the Stewardship of Gondor. Being the second son of Denethor, Faramir did not expect to inherit his father's title, but that's exactly what happened because his older brother Boromir had died, and Denethor committed suicide.
  • Spit Take: Gimli's immediate reaction to Aragorn's decision to march directly on the Black Gate is to cough up the smoke from his pipe.
  • Start of Darkness: Sméagol's is shown in flashback as the intro. He was just a shy Hobbit who became entranced by the One Ring and murdered his friend Deagol over it, leading to his banishment and degradation into the creature Gollum.
  • Stay in the Kitchen:
    • Éomer and Éowyn get into an argument about Merry's decision to participate in the war, which quickly turns into a thinly-veiled argument about Éowyn's wish to fight. Éomer goes into chilling detail about the sorts of things that happen in war and says that anyone who flees from that would be right to do so.
      Éomer: War is the province of men.
    • When the battle is won, Éomer finds out in the most shocking way that Éowyn did indeed join and was nearly killed alongside their uncle. Éomer's sudden and uncharacteristic outburst of grief makes it clear that his earlier attitude was driven not out of sexism, but to protect what little family he had left.
  • Stock Scream: We get two fairly pronounced Wilhelm Screams in this film.
  • Storming the Castle:
    • Sam storms the Tower of Cirith Ungol to free Frodo.
    • Faramir attempts to besiege Osgiliath after losing it to the orcs, but ends up losing as the Sole Survivor.
  • 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.
  • Suicide Mission:
    • It's never explicitly called this, but Faramir's cavalry charge on Osgiliath is treated as such by everyone not named Denethor. It's to the point the entire scene where the riders are making their way to the gate is playing the somber and sad music as the people of Gondor throw flowers and reeds along the path of the horses in despair, all while Gandalf tries to talk Faramir down from the mad mission.
    • Frodo & Sam’s quest to destroy the One Ring becomes this as it progresses. At the start the two hobbits, especially Sam, are fairly optimistic about their chances, with Sam even remarking that he rationed their bread for their journey home. However, they begin to face many difficulties that dwindle their supplies, such as Gollum throwing the bread away, the encounter with Shelob, and Frodo’s capture by the Orcs. During their final trek to Mount Doom, they finish drinking the last of their water. Frodo remarks how there isn’t any more for the return journey, to which Sam responds that there likely won’t be one, before they press forward.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Downplayed as Éowyn's disguise worked only worked as long as nobody 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.
  • Symbolic Blood: Faramir's hopeless charge against orc-held Osgiliath is juxtaposed with the image of King Denethor devouring tomatoes. When the orcs finally fire upon Faramir, the scene cuts to a close-up of tomato juice dripping from Denethor's lips, a visual metaphor for the bloodshed.
  • Take the Wheel: In a medieval variation, Éowyn makes Merry take her horse's reins mid-battle.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • After seeing how the battle is lost, himself wounded, and the Witch King no more, Gothmog tries to kill an injured Éowyn. Thankfully, Aragorn and Gimli arrive just in time to take him down.
    • Even the One Ring, using its influence, tries to make an extremely weakened Frodo give into despair and fall into the magma with it. But thanks to Sam, Frodo still had a little bit of strength left in him.
    • Finally, there is the death of Sauron, in which he explodes for the second time, and in doing so, takes much of Mordor and his followers with him.
  • Tap on the Head: In Mount Doom Gollum knocks out Sam with a rock to the back of Sam's head. Sam comes to not apparently any worse for wear shortly thereafter.
  • A Thicket of Spears: The Mordor-orcs besieging Minas Tirith try to meet the charge of the Rohirrim with a line of pike-orcs backed by archers. As at Helm's Deep, however, the Rohirrim scare the hell out of the orcs, and the line collapses as many of them turn and run.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: 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.
  • Title Drop: "Authority is not given to you to deny the Return of the King, Steward!"
  • Took a Level in Badass: Merry and Pippin go from constantly running away and hiding to fighting orcs head-on and winning.
    Gandalf: [to Pippin] Guard of the Citadel indeed!
  • Touch the Intangible: Aragorn parries an attack from the leader of the Army of the Dead with Anduril, though this has more to do with Aragorn's (and Anduril's) connection to the one who laid the ghosts' curse than anything else.
  • Tragic Hero:
    • Boromir's and Faramir's father, steward Denethor, who's shown to be a gruff but kind man with the good of Gondor at his heart, but succumbs to Sauron's mind tricks that feed off his growing feeling of hopelessness, as well as his fear for his two sons and his people. In the behind the scenes materials, John Noble described Denethor as a tragic figure in the vein of King Lear.
  • Triumphant Reprise: When Barad-dûr is collapsing and Sauron's spirit is perishing forever due to the Ring's destruction, a reprise of the Mordor leitmotif plays: slowed down and with the minor key switched for a major key, which makes the dreadful and foreboding theme music of the land of all evil where the ultimate lord of oppression and misery resides instead sound awestruck and triumphant as good and freedom finally prevail after everything that's happened over three movies.
  • True Companions:
    • It's pretty clear the Fellowship become this by the end of the film. Frodo even refers to the Fellowship as "eternally bound by friendship and love" at least in the films.
    • This extends to the actors playing them as well, as they grew close during filming. They even got matching tattoos which read "nine" in Elvish, though John Rhys-Davies has sent his scale double in his place.
  • Trying Not to Cry: Faramir's eyes redden and are visibly wet after his father Denethor tells him he wishes that he was dead instead of Boromir.
  • Undeath Always Ends: During the Battle of Minas Tirith, Éowyn manages to kill the Witch-King, a disembodied spirit occupying a human suit of armour who used to be a mortal man, presumably destroying him for good.
  • Unexplained Recovery: We last see Gollum falling off the cliffs around Shelob's Lair (and from the looks of it, it would be a deadly fall). At the climax, we then see him again up on Mt. Doom, somehow having miraculously survived his fall. Perhaps being under the influence of the Ring for as long as he has been had given him a Made of Iron perk. Or he just got lucky.
  • Urban Warfare: The Battle of Osgiliath is a rare medieval fantasy example, with the orcs and Gondorian soldiers fighting each other in brutal close quarters combat amidst the ruins of the city while the Nazgul fly overhead on their fell beasts killing any human soldiers that dare expose themselves. This also happens in Minas Tirith after the orcs breach the main gate using Grond. In both cases the orcs are able to utterly overwhelm their opposition.
  • Vertical Power Play: Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, is having a confrontation with Gandalf and Pippin, while he sits on his throne, embittered over the death of his son Boromir. The proud and stubborn Denethor rejects Gandalf's advice to ask for help from the neighbouring kingdom of Rohan, because Rohan is currently allied with Aragorn, the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor, and therefore, in Denethor's mind, Gandalf is trying to supplant him. When Gandalf sternly rebukes that Denethor has no authority to deny the return of the king, the furious Steward stands up, using the elevated position of his throne platform to make himself seem taller, and snarls back, "The rule of Gondor is MINE! And no other's!!" However, after a frustrated Gandalf leaves the room, Denethor slumps brokenly back into his throne, showing how, for all his bark, Denethor doesn't have much bite.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used by Peter Jackson in Frodo's first look into Shelob's lair.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • After hearing from Frodo that he intends to destroy the Ring, Gollum and Sméagol spend the remainder of the movie in a state of unrelenting rage, fighting more ravenously than before and foregoing any more attempts at manipulation as it's become clear they are in very real danger of losing the Precious forever.
    • The Eye of Sauron takes on a notably panicked look when he realizes the Ring is in the depths of Mount Doom and his defeat is horrifyingly close at hand. He becomes even more fearful when the Ring is destroyed; the flames in his Eye intensify, and all the organ can do is twitch around uncontrollably while Barad-dûr crumbles beneath it.
  • Wham Line: At the very end of the film, when Frodo, Sam, Merry, & Pippin travel to the Grey Havens to accompany Bilbo & Gandalf as they depart with the Elves on the Last Ship to leave Middle Earth. After Bilbo boards, Gandalf says one final goodbye to hobbits, lamenting how their Fellowship has come to its end, before walking to the ship, with Frodo looking uneasy. Before boarding, Gandalf turns around and says one last thing that the other three hobbits were not expecting:
    Gandalf: "It is time, Frodo."
    Sam: [To Frodo] "What does he mean?"
    Frodo: "We set out to save the Shire, Sam. And it has been saved... but not for me."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Saruman and Wormtongue's unexplained disappearance in the theatrical cut. Rectified in the extended cut where the latter stabs the former in the back before getting shot by Legolas.
    • Gimli and Legolas are also subject to this to a lesser extent at the end. While the fates of the rest of the fellowship are shown, they are left out of the epilogue. Perhaps due to its already considerable length, brief scenes of Gimli in the Glittering Caves and Legolas wandering the woods of Lorien were deleted.
    • Shagrat is not seen after ordering Gorbag killed, and, in the extended cut, leaving with the mithril coat. Also in the extended cut, the Mouth of Sauron has the mithril coat, implying that, despite having originally intended to take it for himself, Shagrat gave it to Sauron, likely to try to avoid punishment for causing the civil war between the orcs through his greed. It is unclear whether he was killed by Sauron anyway, whether he fought in the battle at the Black Gate, or whether he eventually died following the Ring's destruction.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Invoked; they specifically avoided having the mûmakil use their trunks as "hands" as well as certain other behaviours that might make the audience identify them too closely with Real Life elephants.
  • You and What Army?: A corsair captain makes the mistake of asking Aragorn this. The answer, of course, is the Cavalry of the Dead.
  • You Leave Him Alone!: Samwise Gamgee to Shelob. As Shelob is webbing up the unconscious Frodo, preparing to eat him alive, Sam arrives in full Roaring Rampage of Rescue mode, wielding a sword and Galadriel's phial, and ferociously demands she release his friend.
    Sam: Let him go, you filth. Let him go! You will not touch him again!
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Faramir knows he's The Unfavorite compared to his dead, brawnier brother Boromir, but really gets the message when his father sends him on a suicide mission to retake Osgiliath.
    Faramir: You wish now that our places had been exchanged. That I had died and Boromir had lived.
    Denethor: ...Yes. I wish that.

♫ And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West. ♫

Alternative Title(s): Return Of The King, The Return Of The King

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I am no man.

The Witch-King of Angmar proclaims that no "man" can kill him, not realizing that he's up against Eowyn, daughter of Eomund, a shieldmaiden, and Meriadoc Brandybuck, a hobbit.

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5 (44 votes)

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