The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Movie Review

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Version: Extended Cut.
Rated: PG-13.
Director: Peter Jackson.
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson.
Release Date: 2003.
Runtime: 4h11Min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy.
Cast: Noel Appleby, Ali Astin, Sean Astin, David Aston, John Bach, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, and many more!
Budget: $94 Million.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Previously in The Lord of the Rings:
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).

Hope is the only eternal weapon against defeat in the midst of uncertainty, at the sight of an overwhelming force of evil, and at the thought of absolute calamity. Disregarding the burden upon all’s shoulders to be resilient in the face of adversity, the pressure to succeed alone is enough to knock the life out of one’s body, to exponentially multiply the weight of the world upon one’s psyche, and to unfathomably torment one’s soul into oblivion, some still manage to look further than their own two feet and notice an iota of hope shining away at the end of the tunnel. That alone suffices to fight, to try and overcome all challenges laid bare before them, and to believe that even in a world where evil roams land, sea, and air, good can still prevail. The third and final movie in director Peter Jackson’s live-action movie adaptation of legendary writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic epic fantasy story delivers the monumental finale where good and evil face off in a battle where all now face a point of no return.

What is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) about? Obtaining Saruman’s palantír in Isengard, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry, and Pippin return to Edoras to celebrate their victory at Helm’s Deep. Upon new revelations, Gandalf and Pippin ride to the capital city of Minas Tirith to warn Gondor’s steward Denethor of Sauron’s plan to destroy the city. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam race against time as they’re guided by the wretched Gollum, utterly unaware of his own twisted plans, into the heart of Mordor, slowly getting closer to Mount Doom and hopefully destroying the One Ring once and for all. What follows is the legendary War of the Ring, as the army of Minas Tirith attempts to fight off the orcs, the Witch-king of Angmar, and the Nazgûl, awaiting the help from Rohan, but also the return of Gondor’s true king who sets off on a journey of his own where life meets death.

(c) IMDb.

All great things must come to an end. Marvelously adapting the final part in writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved classic, this phenomenal movie maintains the incredible pacing so far into the trilogy and continues to build the lingering tension born from the idea of an impending war, a devastating battle, unlike anything Middle-earth has seen in countless years so far. Having barely had the chance to bask in their recent victories or to find respite in a journey that seemed to never end, these heroes now channel their most virtuous beliefs into doing what needs to be done if the rest of the world is to survive. Their unprecedented sense of heroism, determination, and friendship leads them into uncharted territory, putting upon them an absurd toll on both their mind and body. Full of extraordinary and capital moments, sure to squeeze out cathartic and heroic cries out of viewers, while also bringing many of these heroes’ character development to a close in an astonishing fashion, this movie, especially in the extended cut, successfully captures and portrays an emotional denouement well into the credits.

Just like in the previous movies, the dread of what Middle-earth will soon face is often felt in the characters as they take hold of the proverbial reigns and set off into the unknown hoping that they’ll succeed in making the cogs of destiny turn in their favour. In particular, Aragorn’s plight is a wonderful tale worthy of legends, finally convinced to embrace the identity he has so far always avoided. A personal favourite, Sam’s character also makes for such a poignant adventure as he embodies the ultimate friend and the real hero alongside the psychologically tortured Frodo and the sneaky Gollum. Ultimately, all heroes find themselves at a noble juncture where their actions speak louder than their words, showcasing how good can still triumph over evil, even when the odds are against everyone. Director Peter Jackson wonderfully structures this third installment in such a fashion that viewers have no other choice but to witness the greatness of common folk (except Gandalf, of course) striving toward peace and victory in their own mortal way.

(c) Den of Geek.

Once more, the visual effects and epic scope of this movie franchise are masterfully rendered on the big screen. Meticulously accompanied by the legendary score composed by Howard Shore, the movie presents each of its set pieces with an attention to detail that remains unrivaled in live-action fantasy movies, as it beautifully captures the tone and intensity of the story’s action and emotional beats. The sheer breadth of director Peter Jackson’s vision magnificently crystalized through this movie is simply everything a Tolkien fan could ask for and delivers the full weight of his picture with skill and prowess, allowing all viewers to embrace this thoroughly satisfactory finale, uncontestably making this the best live-action trilogy to have ever been made yet, that is, maybe, until Paddington 3 sees the light of day. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time for all to watch, rewatch, and adore this trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) is an unparalleled epic fantasy adventure masterfully bringing forth the finale in the war against evil as heroes face despair and raise to the challenge with uncontestable courage and resolution.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) is available for purchase and on select streaming services. A 20th Anniversary Re-release of the extended cut will be shown in select theaters on April 13th and April 19th, 2023.

Have you read The Lord of the Rings?
Have you seen The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)? Will you?
What did you think about it?
Share your thoughts with me!


36 thoughts on “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Movie Review

  1. Lovely review! This final part of the trilogy does indeed reach epic proportions and I totally share your appreciation of the wonderful blending of scenes and musical score, that here reaches some of its higher peaks, particularly in the sections where the fires are lit, where Narsil is reforged and where the Rohirrim ride against the hordes around Minas Tirith. Every time I see those scenes I feel the same emotion as the first time….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maddalena! That moment when they sneakily lit up the fires was amazing! The sequence, the music, the roar of hope! Narsil being reforged and Aragorn going down the Path of the Dead with his loyal friends was fantastic too. And of course, that battle at Minas Tirith!!! Oh man, I’m going through all kinds of emotions just writing this up! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you enjoyed the trilogy so much. I’m really looking forward to getting on with the second movie once I’ve finished the book. I thought the first was a really close adaptation so am curious as to how the others play out.

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  3. These really were a work of art, wonderfully adapted from another work of art. It’s been many years since I’ve watched them and I do hope to do a rewatch one day, though I doubt it’ll be anywhere near as awesome as was yours with all that wonderful themed food. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Epic indeed! I love these movies and have watched all three several times. Don’t know which one is my favourite, the first is perhaps strongest on characters (which I love), the second have impressive battle scenes and the third is a combination.

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  5. I would say, in terms of overall quality, the first LOTR movie is the best. Two Towers is actually my personal favourite of the three. Return of the King however contains the best individual moments, and is the most emotionally satisfying. Even with its faults, Return of the King is still a very good movie, and 20 years later (crazy to think it first released in 2003), it still stands up very well in every way that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is crazy that it has been 20 years since its release! And yet, it’s still as good as it was when it was first released. I personally consider the first movie the best, but, book-wise, I consider The Two Towers as the best. I wonder when they’ll dare reboot these despite the infinite amount of love it still gets today.


      1. Considering how good the movies are, I don’t think it would ever be a good idea to remake the trilogy in movie form. Maybe a TV series that’s closer to the books, showing some of the battles and characters the movies didn’t have time for, but even then you’d need the right creative team to pull it off.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s quite amazing how there are so many ‘favorite’ characters in this trilogy. Some of my friends were Frodo fans, some of Legolas, Gimli, etc. But while they had their own goals in mind, they worked perfectly together to achieve the greater good. Each one of them was crucial to the story.

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