The Moment: Bilbo opens the trilogy with a brief explanation of hobbiting ways, their likes and dislikes, and what makes them so special.
The Awesome: The extended version offers a welcome vision of bucolic loveliness, taking the time to explain just what is at stake for Frodo and friends, and stressing how remarkable it is that such quiet-loving creatures could be the ones to save Middle-earth.
The Green Dragon
The Moment: The hobbits return to the Green Dragon pub after their long adventure, only to find life pretty much unchanged, the residents of Hobbiton oblivious to their exploits. Just as they like it.
The Awesome: Okay, so there are too many endings, but even accepting that criticism, it’s still nice to see the story brought full circle. And Sam gets the girl as well!
The story continues
The Moment: The trailer for The Hobbit looks set to continue the brilliance of the original trilogy, with Martin Freeman stepping into Ian Holm’s shoes as Bilbo Baggins.
The Awesome: The trailer fills us with a wonderful sense of nostalgia for the Shire, and Middle-earth as a whole. 14 December can’t come soon enough…
The Moment: Saruman amasses his forces and sends them to Helm’s deep with the following words: “A new power is rising… its victory is at hand. This night, the land will be stained with the blood of Rohan. March to Helm’s Deep… leave none alive.”
The Awesome: The solitary tear that rolls down Wormtongue’s cheek is a nice touch, as he realises the full extent of Saruman’s evil.
The Moment: As the trilogy closes, the end credits roll, with each member of the cast’s name accompanied by a beautiful sketch of their character. A brilliant touch.
The Awesome: It’s a wonderfully celebratory way to close the series. We particularly like the fact that fallen hero Boromir also gets his due here.
The Moment: Aragorn dashes into the quarters of King Theoden to inform him that the beacons of Minas Tirith have been lit. “Gondor calls for aid,” he cries. Considering for just a moment, Thedon grits his teeth and replies, “and Rohan will answer.”
The Awesome: The petty quarrels of men are finally put aside, as Rohan and Gondor unite to take on Sauron.
The Moment: Legolas defies the laws of physics to mount Gimli’s horse in spectacular style. The boy has got some moves…
The Awesome: We know it’s a bit silly, but Legolas’s flash-harry antics never fail to raise a smile. Gimli can only dream of such showboating skills!
The Moment: Sam encourages Frodo to keep going at the end of The Two Towers , with the following spine-tingling monologue: “It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.”
The Awesome: Sam is the heart and soul of the trilogy, and this little speech sums up his stout-hearted bravery. Good man.
The Moment: In the extended cut of Fellowship, the hobbits come across the petrified statues of the trolls encountered by Bilbo on his adventure. Hopefully we’ll see them up and about in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey .
The Awesome: It’s a throwaway moment, but a nice call-back to the prequel story. One that Peter Jackson will now be able to revisit in more detail…
The Prancing Pony
The Moment: The Ringwraiths smash their way into the village of Bree, head to the Prancing Pony, and plunge their blades into four hobbit-shaped beds. Fortunately, Aragorn has formulated a cunning plan…
The Awesome: It’s a deft little switcheroo from Aragorn, and one that serves to alleviate a not inconsiderable degree of tension. Phew!
The Moment: Denethor turns on his son Faramir, who queries, “you wish now that our places had been exchanged… that I had died and Boromir had lived?” “Yes,” replies his father, “I wish that.” Cold.
The Awesome: John Noble’s performance as Denethor is supremely chilly, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his cruel rejection of Faramir.
The strength of men
The Moment: Elrond pours scorn upon Gandalf for suggesting that he put his faith in the strength of men. “The race of men is failing. The blood of Numenor is all but spent, its pride and dignity forgotten. It is because of men the ring survives. I was there Gandalf. I was there 3000 years ago, when Isildur took the ring. I was there the day the strength of men failed.”
The Awesome: It’s just a cracking bit of dialogue, delivered impeccably by Hugo Weaving.
Gandalf rides out
The Moment: As the Nazgul attack the retreating warriors of Osgiliath, Gandalf rides out to meet them, driving back the winged aggressors with the brilliant light of his staff.
The Awesome: Gandalf to the rescue, not for the first or indeed the last time. Never gets old though, does it?
The Dead Marshes
The Moment: Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes, where the corpses of long dead warriors linger ghoulishly below the surface…
The Awesome: It’s a pleasingly macabre sequence, made all the creepier by Gollum’s glee at the hobbits’ discomfort. “Careful now,” he sneers, “or hobbits go down to join the dead ones, and light little candles of their own.”
The Moment: Pippin sings to Denethor, as Faramir leads the men of Gondor into battle. A beautiful moment of peace amid the bombast of battle.
The Awesome: Billy Boyd has got a belting voice, and his performance is a beautiful counterpoint to the mayhem of the battlefield.
Legolas vs. Oliphaunt
The Moment: Legolas scales a marauding Oliphaunt, dispatching its riders before planting an arrow in its brain and sliding down its trunk to safety. Pretty smooth…
The Awesome: “That still only counts as one,” rages Gimli, putting the finishing touch on an excellent set-piece.
The Moment: Aragorn returns to Helm’s Deep, slinging open the wooden doors and swaggering to the aid of King Theoden.
The Awesome: The prodigal son returns, and in some style as well. The fantasy equivalent of a gunslinger bringing conversation in the local saloon to an abrupt halt.
The Moment: Bilbo and the rest of the Shire make merry at the old hobbit’s birthday celebrations, with a host of spectacular fireworks laid on by Gandalf.
The Awesome: The scene in which the dragon firework is launched by Merry and Pippin is more spectacular than most common or garden action sequences! Magical stuff.
The Moment: Gandalf reassures Pippin that death is not something to be feared: “The journey doesn’t end here,” he begins. “Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass... And then you see it… White shores... and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
The Awesome: Billy Boyd and Ian McKellen share a number of moving scenes in Return Of The King , and this is the pick of the bunch. McKellen really knows how to make Tolkien’s words sing.
The Moment: The magnificent Lady of Lothlorien bestows a selection of gifts upon the Fellowship. Poor Gimli is quite star-struck however, asking only for the opportunity to look upon Galadriel one last time, “for she is more fair than all the jewels beneath the earth.”
The Awesome: It’s nice to see Galadriel get a little more exposure in the extended cut, and in fairness to Gimli, she really does look radiant here!
Smeagol vs. Deagol
The Moment: Andy Serkis finally gets his face on screen, in the surprisingly brutal tussle between Smeagol and Deagol. The ring of power always corrupts, you know…
The Awesome: It’s a shocking start to the third film, and a scene that reminds the viewer just how bound to the ring Gollum has become…
The Moment: As the Fellowship journey into the Mines of Moria, Gandalf informs Frodo that they are being followed, a pair of beady eyes glimmering in the darkness…
The Awesome: We love the ensuing exchange between Frodo and Gandalf… “It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance,” says Frodo, hotly. “Pity?” replies Gandalf. “It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand.”
The Moment: The unhinged Denethor prepares a blazing funeral pyre for himself and son Faramir, until Gandalf and Pippin intervene. Nothing will stop the Steward of Gondor taking his own life however, even if his son must be spared…
The Awesome: As exits go, setting yourself on fire and jumping from a great height into a crowded battlefield is a pretty spectacular option!
The Mouth of Sauron
The Moment: The Black Gate opens to reveal the Mouth of Sauron, a hideous emissary who throws Frodo’s Mithril vest at a horrified Gandalf. Aragorn isn’t best pleased, and promptly lops off the ambassador’s head. “I guess that concludes negotiations,” quips Gimli.
The Awesome: Cut from the final film, the Mouth of Sauron is a truly unsettling proposition. Gruesome in the extreme…
The Moment: Gimli entreats Aragorn to toss him into the fray at Helm’s deep, only requesting that Legolas be kept in the dark about it.
The Awesome: Gimli and Aragorn launch themselves into a crowd of orcs about 50-strong. That’s heroism for you!
Words of wisdom
The Moment: Boromir comforts Frodo in the woods of Lothlorien. “Gandalf’s death was not in vain. Nor would he have you give up hope. You carry a heavy burden, Frodo — don’t carry the weight of the dead.”
The Awesome: We see Boromir act less than valiantly around Frodo on a number of occasions, but in this instance, his only thoughts are for the hobbit’s peace of mind. A welcome scene, in its willingness to paint Boromir in a more favourable light.
I am no man
The Moment: Eowyn confronts the fearsome Witch King, beheading his winged steed before seeing to the rider himself. “No man can kill me,” snarls Sauron’s minion. “I am no man,” replies Eowyn.
The Awesome: Eowyn doesn’t muck about, jamming her sword straight into the Witch King’s face. Nice assist from Merry, too.
Saruman vs. Gandalf
The Moment: Saruman reveals that he has allied himself with Sauron, provoking a right royal dust-up with his old friend Gandalf.
The Awesome: Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen throw themselves into this fight scene like a pair of twenty-year-olds! Somehow, their advancing years serve only to make this scene feel more brutal…
The black rider
The Moment: One of the Ringwraiths makes its presence felt, scaring the hobbits half to death as they cower for shelter under a well-placed log.
The Awesome: The Ringwraiths are bloody terrifying, what with their hooded faces and demonic steeds. Its an unbearably tense introduction to the first film’s chief antagonists…
The Council of Elrond
The Moment: Old wounds reopen between the various races present at the Council Of Elrond, with the bickering only subsiding when Frodo steps up to the plate and volunteers to take the ring to Mount Doom.
The Awesome: Gandalf’s reaction to Frodo’s bravery is priceless, the venerable wizard wincing at the huge burden to be placed upon the halfling.
The Moment: Gandalf the Grey makes his bow, informing Frodo that, “a wizard is never late Frodo Baggins… nor is he early… he arrives precisely when he means to!”
The Awesome: Ian McKellen’s twinkly-eyed brilliance is in full effect from the word go. Note his faux-innocence at the notion he has been branded a “disturber of the peace”…
Come and claim him
The Moment: Arwen heads with Frodo to Rivendell, a posse of Ringwraiths on her tail. As she reaches a river crossing, she sends the black riders flying with a bit of Elvish magic…
The Awesome: Liv Tyler shows she can chuck out a one-liner with the best of them, taunting her pursuers with, “If you want him, come and claim him.”
The legend of the ring
The Moment: The Fellowship Of The Ring starts in spectacular style, telling the story of the ring of power and its passage from Sauron to Isildur to Bilbo.
The Awesome: Now that is how you kick off a fantasy epic. Only a couple of minutes in, and we’ve already been treated to one of the most jaw-dropping battle sequences in celluloid history.
Stupid fat hobbit!
The Moment: Sam cooks up a delicious rabbit stew, much to the chagrin of Gollum. So ensues a culinary debate, in which Gollum turns his nose up at Sam’s longing for fish and chips. “Give it to us raw and wriggling,” he hisses, “you keep nasty chips!”
The Awesome: The dynamic between Sam and Gollum is racked with tension for much of The Two Towers , but it’s also the source of some of the film’s more humorous moments too!
The Moment: Aragorn is finally crowned King of Gondor, with Arwen on his arm as Queen. A happy ending at long last.
The Awesome: After three films worth of breathless carnage, the audience has earned this pay-off. Sealed with a kiss!
Honouring the hobbits
The Moment: Following swiftly on from the coronation comes Aragorn’s honouring of his Halfling friends. “My friends,” he says, as the Hobbits kneel before him, “you bow to noone.” And with that, the King of Gondor sinks to his knees in tribute to the four most unlikely heroes ever seen to walk Middle-earth.
The Awesome: Well they deserve it, don’t they? Despite the trouble caused by Pippin along the way...
The Moment: A swarm of orcs force their way into the tomb of Balin, accompanied by a hulking cave troll. One hell of a battle ensues…
The Awesome: Chained and ill-used by its masters, the troll is a surprisingly sympathetic figure, particularly when blundering round in its death throws. It’s testament to the magic of Peter Jackson that audiences feel sorry for the monster that nearly killed off the hero just seconds earlier.
The Moment: As Frodo is about to pitch the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, Gollum makes one last grab for his precious. He eventually manages to get hold of it, but not before losing his balance and plunging to a fiery end…
The Awesome: At long last the ring is destroyed, taking poor old Gollum with it. It was meant to be, really…
Give them a moment
The Moment: The trilogy delivers its first emotional hammer-blow, as Gandalf the Grey is claimed by the flailing whip of the fallen Balrog. Cue much heartbreak amid the snow-capped mountain-tops.
The Awesome: Boromir speaks for all of us when he beseeches Aragorn to, “give them a moment, for pity’s sake.” Not a dry eye in the house…
The Moment: The Ents come to get some revenge on Saruman, attacking Isengaard with all their might. Payback’s a bitch.
The Awesome: Finally, the pondourous Ents get in on the action. We particularly like the bit when the one that’s been set ablaze dives into the cooling waters of the burst dam.
Lean on me
The Moment: With Frodo greatly weakened by the journey to Mount Doom, Sam is forced to take matters into his own hands. “I can’t carry it for you,” he cries, “but I can carry you.” And with that, he throws his friend over his shoulder, and begins the agonising climb to the summit.
The Awesome: Sam really is a bit of a hero, isn’t he? Just about as capable a gardener as ever we’ve encountered!
The Moment: Aragorn battles the Uruk-hai leader, Lurtz, finally seeing off Saruman’s leftenant with a well-aimed swing of his broadsword. Off with his head!
The Awesome: Aragorn might turn him over eventually, but Lurtz is quite the warrior. Special mention must go to the deleted scene in which he licks his own blood off Aragorn’s knife. Nasty.
The Moment: Frodo finds himself being stalked by something big, dark and hairy… it’s only a giant spider, isn’t it? Yikes…
The Awesome: The way Peter Jackson teases Shelob’s big reveal is masterfully done. Cue mass squirming in the multiplex.
Lighting the beacons
The Moment: Pippin lights the beacon at Minas Tirith, setting off a chain-reaction of beacon-lighting across Middle-earth.
The Awesome: It’s a truly majestic sequence. As Gandalf murmurs to himself, “hope is kindled.”
Rallying the troops
The Moment: Aragorn gets his speech on at the Black Gate of Mordor: “Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. 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. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, men of the West!”
The Awesome: Read it through again. Need we say more?
My captain, my king
The Moment: Boromir makes amends with Aragorn as he slips into the hereafter. “I would have followed you my brother,” he says. “My captain… my king.”
The Awesome: The chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean is absolutely electric in one of the most emotionally charged scenes of the trilogy. As death scenes go, this one takes some beating.
The Moment: Jackson shines a light on Gollum’s schizophrenic nature by showing him arguing with himself over whether or not to betray Frodo.
The Awesome: Credit must go to Andy Serkis for his skilled portrayal of both sides of the coin. Poor old Smeagol, he’s still in there somewhere…
The Moment: King Theoden leads the Rohirrim into battle upon the sweeping plain of Pellenor Fields, coming to the aid of Minas Tirith at the pivotal moment.
The Awesome: Theoden really gets the goosebumps going with his rallying cry: “Ride now! Ride! Ride for ruin… and the world’s ending! Death! Death! DEAATTTTTHH!”
You shall not pass
The Moment: Gandalf faces down the infernal Balrog, warding it off with a swish of his staff and the immortal war-cry, “You shall not pass!”
The Awesome: This is the first time we see Gandalf in full-on badass mode, and it’s quite the spectacle. If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, you’re probably dead.
Look to the East
The Moment: Just as the Battle of Helm’s Deep looks lost, Aragorn remembers Gandalf’s promise to arrive at first light on the fifth day. Sure enough, the white wizard is as good as his word and leads the Rohirrim into battle through a burst of brilliant white light.
The Awesome: Gandalf single-handedly turns the tide in one of the trilogy’s most chest-beatingly awesome action sequences.