It’s been almost 19 years since Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King graced theater screens. The movie (and trilogy) forever changed the way people look at cinema, setting high standards for book-to-movie adaptations.
Return of the King was a monumental film, both literally and figuratively. It has a three-hour theatrical runtime, while the extended edition boasts four hours. Despite this, Return of the King keeps audiences’ eyes glued to the screen. Its masterful storytelling and amazing battle sequences rightfully earned its 11 Oscar wins.
Within The Return of the King‘s lengthy story, though, there are more than a few times that the audience is hit with some pretty heavy emotions. So, today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane and looking at five moments from Return of the King that still make us emotional all these years later.
1. Éomer finds Éowyn after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields
This moment with Karl Urban as Éomer is underrated. In fact, Karl Urban in Lord of the Rings is underrated, period. He doesn’t get enough credit for how fantastic he was in the series, and this particular scene solidifies it for me.
The scream of pure anguish Éomer lets out in this scene when he finds Éowyn lying amidst the dead and dying after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is absolutely gut-wrenching. It never fails to make me tear up each time I watch Return of the King. Even just looking at that image gets me. Hats off to you, Karl Urban. You’re a legend.
2. “For Frodo.”
Speaking of legends, let’s talk about THE Viggo Mortensen in this iconic scene. This moment in Return of the King is really special, because it hits the audience with so many different emotions.
Viggo Mortensen’s delivery of “For Frodo,” is perfect— it’s full of hope, determination, and love for his friend. It makes me want to stand up and cheer, charge out and face an entire army of orcs, and sob uncontrollably, all at the same time. Any moment in a film that can have that kind of effect on someone is something truly special, and I don’t think anyone could have delivered it better than Viggo Mortensen.
3. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
We’ve said it before, but I’m just gonna say it again a little louder, for the people in the back: SAMWISE GAMGEE IS THE REAL MVP.
This scene is one of the most emotional, chill-inducing scenes in the entire film. Hell, in the history of cinema, I would argue. Sean Astin’s delivery is perfect, and watching Sam find the courage and strength to pick up his friend and literally carry him up the mountain is a testament to their friendship, love, and loyalty to each other.
4. “You bow to no one.”
The Ring is destroyed, Middle-earth is saved, Frodo and Sam survived Mount Doom, and Aragorn has taken his rightful place as King. All is well. There should be no more tears, right? WRONG.
Everyone is celebrating Aragorn being crowned King, but then he turns around and hits us with that “My friends, you bow to no one,” and then all Hell breaks loose. And by “Hell,” I mean my tears start flowing again, double-time.
Because in the end, while Aragorn has finally taken his place as King, this story is about the courage of Hobbits, those “unlikely creatures.” Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are the true heroes of this trilogy, and Aragorn makes sure we all remember that.
If you don’t cry when everyone kneels for the Hobbits, you might be a robot. Don’t worry though, I’ll cry enough for the both of us.
5. Frodo’s departure
Just when you think you’re out of the woods, Peter Jackson hits you with yet another tear-jerker. Frodo surprises everyone by revealing he’s going with Bilbo to the Undying Lands with the elves. His emotional goodbyes to Sam, Merry, and Pippin are a sucker punch to the heart.
It’s also even more emotional when you think about the fact that Sam is now going to live the rest of his life in the Shire without Frodo. After everything they’ve been through together, you can’t not get choked up at this scene.
And there you have it. I could argue the entire 3+ hour film (four, if you’re watching the extended edition like me) is one giant crying fest, but then this would be a pretty long piece. Alas, I had to narrow it down to five key moments.
Are there any moments I didn’t mention that never fail to make your eyes well up? Let us know on social media! While you’re at it, make sure to take a peek at our other looks back on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.