Lord of the Rings Return of the King, Elijah Wood as Frodo

Time For a ‘Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy Rewatch Ahead of Its 20th Anniversary

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King turns 20 years old this year. It was released in December 2003 to the same critical acclaim as its predecessors and cemented Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy—based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien—as one of the greatest cinematic trilogies of all time.

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So you know what? It’s time for a rewatch. Curl up in front of the fire, Hobbit-style, and put on all three movies in order. Don’t forget to dig out your Extended Editions if you want to have the full experience!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Arwen (Liv Tyler) in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (New Line Cinema)
(New Line Cinema)

This is where it all began. Here, young Hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) inherits a gold ring from his uncle, Bilbo, but this ring spells doom for all of Middle-Earth. Frodo must destroy it, and he’s going to need help from Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves alike—a fellowship, if you will.

I cannot even begin to describe the impact this movie had on me when it first came out. It blew my mind. I saw a whole new Lord of the Rings fandom spring up online and even at my high school! Everyone wanted to talk about either the deeper themes of the story or about how smoking hot Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn was—in many cases, both.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (New Line Cinema)
(New Line Cinema)

Could lightning strike twice for The Lord of the Rings franchise? Yes, it absolutely could. The Two Towers came out one year after Fellowship because director Peter Jackson had chosen to film the whole trilogy back-to-back. A wise decision, in the end, because LOTR fans simply couldn’t wait.

The Two Towers saw Frodo and Sam continue their journey to Mount Doom and meet the duplicitous Gollum, an incredible CGI creation brought to life by actor Andy Serkis and the team at Wētā Digital. Meanwhile, Aragorn continues on his journey to realizing his destiny as king, and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) encounter the Ents of Fangorn Forest.

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

(not in order) Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee, Pippin Took, & Merry Brandybuck in Return of the King. Image: New Line Cinema.
(New Line Cinema)

The conclusion to The Lord of the Rings trilogy rightfully swept the board at the 76th Academy Awards. It took home Best Picture, Best Director (for Peter Jackson), Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score (for Howard Shore), and Best Adapted Screenplay, among others. The cast and crew went home with a massive eleven Oscars in total. It still holds the record, along with Titanic and Ben-Hur, for most Academy Awards.

It’s a stunning movie, one that fully captures the width and depth of Tolkien’s epic universe. And man, does it pack an emotional punch. When you reach Frodo’s last goodbye to his friends, you’ll be crying like a baby. Bring a big pack of tissues with you for your rewatch.

(featured image: New Line Cinema)


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Author
Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.