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Film / The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
aka: The Return Of The King

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"For Frodo."
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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the final film of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The film notably won 11 out of 11 Oscars including Best Picture, tying the record with Titanic (1997) and Ben-Hur.

Frodo, Sam and Gollum are headed towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring once and for all. The other remaining members of the Fellowship fight Sauron's forces at Gondor as they patiently wait for Frodo to destroy the ring.

Previews: Trailer.


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The film provides examples of:

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     A through 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 defense. No one stops Gandalf from doing this, and everyone immediately starts following Gandalf's orders.
  • 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.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Prince Imrahil is omitted. His role in the book supporting Gandalf's defense 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. His 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.)
  • 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 four of them.
  • 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 Defense: 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.
  • 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.
  • Adaptation Distillation: 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, 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 four guys.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Denethor gets a bit of Adaptational Villainy when he was simply Good Is Not Nice in the book.
  • Adult Fear: The beginning has Sméagol kill Déagol over the Ring. What if the friend you trusted most easily turned on you over one little trinket?
  • 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.
  • 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 was nominated for an Oscar and won.
  • 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 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.
  • 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).
  • Battlecry: 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:
    • Eomer gets in a good one when he finds Eowyn's body on the battlefield.
    • 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 Sauron 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Cassandra Truth: One scene has Sam knowing about Smeagol/Gollum and tries to warn Frodo. Ironically, Frodo is played by Elijah Wood, who himself was on the other end, the warning end, in 1993's "THE GOOD SON"! [Sean Astin plays Sam here. He's also connected to a trope, in a way, thru his mother being Patty Duke, aka Patty and Cathy Lane, by being opposite a split-personality villian in disguise, Smeagol/Gollum!)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Color 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 colors.
  • 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: Jackson, Acevedo, Weta Workshop head Richard Taylor, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, and co-producer Rick Porras play the Corsairs of Umbar. Jackson's Corsair is shot by Legolas, and the rest are killed by a cannonball.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Army of the Dead vs. Forces of Sauron, unlike the book, which describes it as a long day of battle.
  • 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.

     D through I 
  • Death by Adaptation: The Mouth of Sauron, whose fate is unknown in the books.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eager Rookie: Merry and Eowyn 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. Eowyn at least has some battle training.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: A very heavy price is paid for their victory. Poor Frodo will never be the same.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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:
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Theoden and Aragorn do this at the climax of the Battle of the Hornburg, riding out of the gates and scattering the orcs on the bridge.
  • 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.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The extended palantir scene with Aragorn and Sauron very briefly shows Sauron holding the palantir in his armored form, implying that he has returned to a humanoid form.
  • 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: 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.
  • Grand Finale: Of the film trilogy.
  • 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.
  • 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 Oliphaunts 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 Oliphaunts 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.
  • 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, but 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 Oliphaunts arrive.
  • 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 Honor: 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.

     J through P 
  • Jabba Table Manners: Denethor messily gobbling down his dinner as he apathetically sends his youngest son to his death.
  • 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, Frodo gives off a crazed Kubrick Stare to Sam at Mount Doom before putting the Ring on.
  • 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.
  • Man Hug: Frodo and Sam tearfully hug each other after Sam risks drowning to accompany Frodo to Mordor.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: When Gollum talks to Sméagol, it's via some variation on this mechanism. (Most noticeable in this film.)
  • Manly Tears: Sam and Frodo share this a lot in Mordor.
  • Man on Fire: The Steward of Gondor and nearly Faramir.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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-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.
  • 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 armored 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 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.
    • 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 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.
    • Eowyn at the battle of the Pelennor Fields when the Witch King, somewhat pissed at Eowyn 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.
  • Offscreen Rebuilding:
    • Minas Tirith looks spiffy when Aragorn is crowned at the end.
    • Aragorn himself does too. He Cleans Up Nicely.
  • 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.
  • 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 Favoritism: Denethor clearly favored Boromir over Faramir, going so far as to admit that he wished that Boromir were still alive and Faramir were dead.
  • 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.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • The Osgiliath detour even gets a subtle nod in Sam's speech:
      Sam: By rights we shouldn't even be here!
    • 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 recognises Eowyn 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-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.
    • Eowyn 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!"
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     Q through 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
      "But it is not this day!"
    • 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!"
  • 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: Eowyn 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 Eowyn 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.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The troll, that Aragorn was fighting at the end runs away when Barad-dûr is exploding.
  • The Siege: The battle of Osgiliath and Minas Tirith. Ogsgiliath is the only battle the heroes lose.
  • 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.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Pippin's song.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Eowyn, who at first has some feelings for Aragorn, but later ends up falling in love with Faramir.
  • 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.
  • Storming the Castle: Sam storms the Tower of Cirith Ungol to free Frodo.
  • 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.
    • Faramir attempts to beseige Osgiliath after losing it to the orcs, but ends up losing as the Sole Survivor.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Downplayed as 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.
  • 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 Eowyn. 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Undeath Always Ends: During the Battle of Minas Tirith, Eowyn manages to kill the Witch-King, a disembodied spirit occupying a human suit of armor 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.
  • Vertigo Effect: Used by Peter Jackson in Frodo's first look into Shelob's lair.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Invoked:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Sam: Let him go, you filth. Let him go! You will not touch him again!

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

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