Dragons, Wargs, and Orcs! Oh my! 20 years later Peter Jackson’s uncanny adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is still the best book adaptation, (Yep! Including Harry Potter. I said it.) and somehow the CGI in these films is still better than most of what comes out today.
I’ll repeat, it’s been 20 YEARS!
I am so glad that I live in 2022 and can stream the trilogy back to back because I could not get enough of the extended editions. Lasting roughly 4 hours each movie, these adaptations are immensely overpowered compared to the theatrical editions. I had never seen them before this binge, but I will never watch the theatrical editions again! There are a trillion good scenes and not a dull moment in the (just under) 12 hours of film. Since I can’t attach every scene, these are my top 10 favorites from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
10. Smeagol is Gollum (The Return of the King)
This opening scene has always been one of my favorite scenes and a great way to kick off the epic finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. All of Smeagol's scenes always impressed me from the CGI to the voice. The performance Andy Serkis commits with not only his voice acting but his motion capture acting is one of the most impressive feats of his career and changed the profession forever.
9. Attack of the Wargs (The Two Towers)
I am so fascinated with horse warfare, so to see a version of that which included a giant hyena-type creature (Wargs) was instantly intriguing. The Orcs look particularly fierce upon their big war dogs and the Wargs even commit a few gruesome murders themself, giving the Orcs a slight advantage over man’s horses.
8. Shelob (The Return of the King)
Giant-spiders? No, thank you. This scene is both terrifying and mesmerizing. I found myself wanting to look away, meanwhile unable to unglue my eyes from the screen. Shelob likes to, as the Orcs would say, “ jabs him with her sting, and he goes as limp as a bonefish. Then she has her way with them. That’s how she likes to feed. Fresh blood.”
7. March of the War Oliphaunts (The Return of the King)
No Mûmakil (aka Oliphaunts) were hurt in the filming of this scene! However, it looks so real I could've been fooled. As if the battle for Condor wasn’t intense enough, giant war elephants join the assault. A glimpse of the beasts was shown before, but it was amazing to finally see the Oliphants in action. Although, they don’t last long.
6. Isengard’s Forgery (The Fellowship of the Ring)
While weapons are forged deep in the fiery lava of Mount Doom, Orcs are birthed in the depths of the caverns of Isengard. A new larger, stronger, and much more terrifying Orc is revealed. The Urak-Hai. I am amazed each time I watch this scene at how well Peter Jackson was able to bring J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination to life and capture the truly horrific nature of Orcs. It goes to show: prosthetics over CGI. When I hear the Lord of the Rings, this is the scene I picture in my mind.
5. “You Shall Not Pass” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Following the intense battle in Moria, this iconic scene from the trilogy is one of the saddest. Gandalf the Grey is lost as we know him in a battle with the Balrog, ending in their shared fate. This is a perfect example of the GCI being superior in these movies to current-day movies.
4. Army of the Dead (The Return of the King)
With not enough warriors left in Middle Earth to fight off Sauron's army, where else would the Fellowship turn but the dead? A collection of thieves' and murderers’ lost souls, known as Oathbreakers, do what they can to redeem themselves as they follow the one true King into battle.
3. Moria (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Before the fellowship even entered the underground labyrinth of Moria, they had their work cut out for them. The Watcher in the Water preys on them as the doors open, which is an epic scene itself. However, the intense, perfectly choreographed battle that commences after entering is precisely what I imagine when I think of a fantasy battle.
2. The Battle of Hornburg “So it Begins” (The Two Towers)
The battle for Hornburg is not just one scene, but basically the last 2 hours of the movie. I probably could've made a top 10 list just from different sequences of this one battle, but my favorite scene from the battle of Hornburg is the beginning. As bodies fly, Legolas and Gimli count off each kill in a bit of sport. There is something about comic relief amongst a gruesome battle to remind us to just enjoy the movie.
1. The Last Stand "For Frodo" (The Return of the King)
The final battle at the gates of Mordor commences as Frodo approaches the peak of Mount Doom. Fellbeasts (Dragons) swoop in the sky and are met by Eagles, while swords clash as the remainder of the Army of the West distracts the remainder of Sauron's army. From the moment I started the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I had been waiting to see this scene! It is visually stunning if nothing else.