Every month we take a look at a movie on the Internet Movie Database’s List of the TOP 250 FILMS OF ALL-TIME. These are movies that transcend a simple “My Favorite Scene” column. These are movies that are hard to just pry five gems from, but we do and examine the film overall. We’re on our ninth installment in this series. Click on the links for The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Dark Knight, Pulp Fiction , Schindler’s List, 12 Angry Men, and The Good The Bad and The Ugly to check out previous installments.
With the release of the extended edition of Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson’s six-film Middle Earth saga has come to a completion. The end result, as a Tolkien die-hard, is a monument to the body of work the visionary fantasy writer created and some of the best films made in the last 25 years. The Lord of the RIngs is really an 11 hour film broken into three parts, but all three are grouped fairly closely on the Top 250, so we’ll get to examine them all starting with the capper: The Return of the King.
When I talk about any of the Middle Earth films, I’m referring to the extended edition because, despite Jackson’s dissembling, they’re the movies he always intended to release and are uniformly better than the theatrical cuts. Nowhere is this more true than with The Return of the King which, despite winning Best Picture, was made infinitely better by its extended cut, which does clock in at a whopping four and a half hours. It’s a wonderful end to one of the most epic tales in all of fiction (and if I hear anything about the “five million endings” I’ll reach through your screen and slap you unless you can tell me how you would have ended an 11 hour film better). With so many moments to choose from, this was one of the most difficult lists to narrow down, but these are my five favorite scenes from ROTK.
1. “A Far Green Country”
I’ve already written an entire column on this scene (click here), but this is my favorite scene in the entire trilogy. Some scenes come to have a personal impact on your life. No sermon, no Bible verse, no platitude has ever given me more comfort or peace about death than the description Gandalf gives to Pippin during the darkest hours of the siege of Minas Tirith. It’s a small scene in a huge film, but beautiful, wise and so perfectly acted by Ian McKellan and Billy Boyle. It’s no secret that I lost my wife last year, and I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve found comfort in these words.
2. “Ride of the Rohirrim”
This is so epic that it rivals the “Band of Brothers” speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. Arriving in the darkest moments of The Battle of Pelennor Fields, Theoden and the Riders of Rohan receive a speech from the ages from their king and thus begins the largest cavalry charge I’ve ever seen on film.
3. “I Can’t Carry It For You, But I Can Carry You”
This movie breaks my heart. There are some scenes that reduce me to tears (manly, stoic tears to be sure) every time. The genius of Tolkien’s story is that Frodo fails in his quest. He makes it to the finish line, but can’t go any further. Every time Sam says, “If I can’t carry it for you, then I’ll carry you” and hefts his friend on his shoulders to trudge the final leg to the Cracks of Doom, I lose it. That’s a friend for the ages: Samwise the Brave.
4. “I Am No Man”
Tolkien didn’t really invest a whole lot of time in female characters. Arwen’s role was significantly beefed up for LOTR and Tauriel had to be invented for The Hobbit films because, really, the only female characters Tolkien invested time in were Galadriel and Eowyn. Miranda Otto gets a fantastic scene, where she gets to take down the most evil creature in Middle Earth, save Sauron: The Witch King of Angmar. We’ve already seen him backhand Gandalf and kill Theoden, when Eowyn steps up, cuts the head off of his fell beast and shoves a sword straight through his evil face. It’s one of the loudest reactions I’ve ever heard from an audience watching a film. They went absolutely nuts and rightfully so.
5. “Pippin’s Song”
Billy Boyle, who plays Pippin, actually wrote this song which he sings tearfully to Denethor while intercut with Faramir’s suicide charge to try to retake Osgiliiath all to win his father’s approval. It’s one of Jackson’s most inspired scenes, the juxtaposition of this ethereal, beautiful song over shots of Denethor grotesquely stuffing himself and Faramir’s troop falling in battle is brilliantly directed.