10 of The Most Memorable Moments from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ 

December 19, 2021, marked the 20th anniversary of the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of Peter Jackson's adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved trilogy. With the highly anticipated Prime Video adaptation on the horizon, we're commemorating the anniversary with a series of essays and lists devoted to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

10 of The Most Memorable Moments from The Lord of the Rings

Fellowship of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, adapted after J.R.R Tolkien’s 1954 fantasy trilogy of the same name, premiered 20 years ago today.

It might be hard to imagine a time when a high budget fantasy movie or series wouldn’t be an instant success, as production studios, TV networks, and streaming platforms are now eager to get a piece of the literary fandoms who have the ability to generate big profits (Dune, Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, HBO’s Lovecraft Country, etc.)

However, The Fellowship was initially a big risk for studios to accept when director Peter Jackson was pitching it during the cusp of Y2K. The studio that eventually took the chance on the film was New Line Cinema. And luckily, their risk paid off as The Fellowship earned $316 million domestically and $898 million worldwide.

This kind of success allowed for the following two films in the trilogy to be massive hits as well. The third film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King even won all 11 Oscars it was nominated for in 2004, including Best Picture and Best Director. Now, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is cemented as cinematic masterpieces and loved by fans of many generations.

Thus, the twenty-year anniversary of The Lord of the Rings calls for a proper reflection (in no particular order) of the 10 most memorable moments that made this franchise so iconic.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

1. “Death is just another path.”

Gandalf Return the Jedi

Gandolf’s wisdom and guidance are what makes him such a beloved character to fans and to the other characters in the movies. In a film series with so much death and war and where our heroes are putting so much on the line in the name of liberation, Gandolf’s words to Pippin in this (extended) scene aren’t meant to just soothe him, but the audience as well.

The entire line goes, “Death is just another path. One we all must take.” What makes this line truly special is not only that it’s spoken so eloquently amidst the assault on Minas Tirith, but that it’s also relatable to anyone. After all, death is an inherent part of the human experience, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs. Therefore, this line is one that will leave you in awe long after hearing it for the first time.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

2. The Opening Battle of the Black Gate

Black Gate

What makes this scene so memorable, is undoubtedly Aragorn’s speech to his men before battle. As he rides on his horse, sword in hand and ready for a tough fight ahead, Aragorn encourages his men to fight creatures of the dark. However, his men are noticeably shaken.

My favorite line from his speech is when he senses his soldier’s fear and says, “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… This day we fight!” Aragorn’s words accompanied by the beautiful cinematography and inspirational music juxtaposed against the anxiety of the impending battle (for the soldiers and the audience) make for a scene viewers could never forget.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

3. “You shall not pass!”

Gandalf

The scene of Gandolf’s death in The Fellowship of the Ring was gut-wrenching, to say the least. Before his fall, Gandolf faces off with the mighty Balrog to protect Sam and Frodo and friends so they can carry out their journey.

However, it seems in the moment that the only way for Gandolf to do so successfully is by sacrificing himself and destroying the bridge he stands on so The Balrog cannot reach our heroes. This births one of the most iconic lines uttered in The Lord of the Rings franchise as Gandolf brings his staff down and shouts at The Balrog, “You shall not pass!”

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

4. Pippin’s Song

Pipin

Until this moment in Return of the Kings, Pippin was a character often used for comic relief. During his pledge of allegiance to Denethor, however, the audience has arguably never witnessed a more melancholy Pippin.

Afterward, Denethor bids Pippin sing him a song while he eats. Pippin’s song is heard over a slow-motion shot of Denethor's son, Faramir, as he attempts to retake the city of Osgiliath which has been occupied by Orcs, as requested by his father. Faramir was Pippin’s friend, making the scene of his futile efforts riding into battle and Pippin’s song even sadder.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

5. Battle of Helm's Deep

HelmsDeep

This battle of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was modeled after World War 1 bunkers, which was a war Tolkein served in. This battle sequence that took three months to film, is thought to be one of the greatest film battles of all time by fans and critics alike. It’s not only the technical accuracy of this battle that makes it so great but also the weight of the moment.

The defenders of Rohirrim suffer heavy losses against the Saruman’s Uruk-hai as they hold the fort through the night. That is until dawn when Gandalf arrives with 2,000 riders led by Éomer, who turn the tide of the battle and rout Saruman's forces. Not to mention, Aragorn, a man, is leading a unit of elves, showing his leadership transcends race and nations. This gripping battle is one no fan of Lord of the Rings could ever forget.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

6. “I am no man.”

Eowyn

Another iconic line from the franchise, accompanied by a stunning shot of Eowyn shoving her sword into the Witch King of Angmar in Return of the Kings. It’s said amongst fans that Eowyn has some of the best character development in the series. Most of the time she’s fearful but she lets her moral duty to fight lead her to battle.

In this scene, she’s avenging her father against the Witch King in full-bodied armor that additionally covers her face; so she looks like the other men she rode into battle with. Just when he thinks he’s bested her, the Witch King states, “You fool. No man can kill me.” Which makes her “I am no man” line all the more satisfying as she removes her helmet before delivering the final blow into the Witch King’s ghostly helmet.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

7. The Nazgûl’s First Onscreen Appearance 

Nazgul

A creature of death and desire, a Nazgûl is one of Tolkein’s scariest creations. The entities are first seen in The Fellowship. While Sam, Frodo, Mary, and Pippin are journeying toward Cirith Ungol, they encounter a Dark Rider who seeks The Ring. These terrifying creatures can and will kill in an instant if you stand in their path, making the gang’s encounters with them just as their journey is beginning all the more frightening.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

8. Aragorn Summons the Dead

Aragorn

In the War of the Ring, Isildur's Heir, Aragorn, summons the dead to fight to fulfill their oath and be free. This moment alone is memorable for the visual of an unstoppable ghost army, commanded by Aragorn, charging at mortal creatures. What other fantasy film franchise had this kind of CGI in 2003?

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

9. Théoden’s Speech Before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields 

Theoden

The beautiful cinematography of the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings is part of what makes the franchise so great. However, in the battle of Pelennor Fields, it’s Théoden’s opening speech that makes this particular scene so memorable.

Before charging at the opposing forces (that outnumber him and his soldiers) with brute force Théoden says, “Forth, and fear no darkness. Arise riders of Théoden…Spears shall be shaken. Shields shall be splintered. A sword day. A red day. Ere the sun rises!” If that isn’t a proper speech to send your soldiers to battle then I don’t know what is.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

10. The Destruction of The Ring

The RIng

In saving the best for last, one simply cannot make a list of Lord of the Rings’ most memorable moments without mentioning the destruction of The Ring that wreaked so much havoc. In Return of the King, Sam and Frodo’s journey comes to an end as Frodo and Gollum fight atop Mount Doom over possession of The Ring.

There’s a lot riding on this climactic fight, as the destruction of The Ring means the two heroes can save the lands of middle earth from the Scourge of Sauron. Not to mention the chilling clip of Gollum’s descent off Mount Doom into a river of lava as he eerily and gleefully holds The Ring that’s caused his inevitable downfall.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

Final Thoughts

Lord of the Rings

Alas, it was difficult to choose just 10 moments across three hours long films, but somehow I managed (hold your applause, please). Though, if you didn’t see your favorite scene(s) mentioned, don’t worry. The movies themselves are certified masterpieces, full of fantastic and awe-inspiring moments that are worth a rewatch on this special anniversary.

Or, if you decide to watch the movies for the first time (which I encourage) keep this list in mind and see if your consideration of memorable moments matches mine!

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

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Image Credit: Amazon Studios. 

This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

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Ebony Purks is a graduate student at the University of Incarnate Word working toward getting her Master’s degree in communications. She is also a freelance writer, interested in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health; especially examining the many intersections between those subjects.