Just over 15 years ago, Peter Jackson crafted a series of films based on a book trilogy that he had loved as a child: “The Lord of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien. In creating this world, bringing it to life, he realized not only his own vision, but the dream of many a fanboy around the globe. One of the finest book-to-movie adaptations of all time, the series has gained international acclaim over the years, with “Return of the King” winning eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. As most people know, that is a practically unheard of feat for a genre film.
Although there are numerous scenes that deserve recognition, far more than are listed in this article, these are the ones that held not only the best fight choreography, but the most emotional weight as well. So come along with us as we remember the most badass moments in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
15. SAM SHOULDERS THE BURDEN
While this may not be considered “badass,” it was surely one of the more emotional moments in the already emotionally-heavy “Return of the King.” Already through the course of the film, Frodo had been manipulated by Gollum into leaving Sam behind, to the point of sending him home. But Sam, refusing to give up on Frodo and knowing that he’s in danger, follows and does end up saving his life.
On their final stretch up the mountain, the Ring weakens Frodo, and Sam, who desperately wants their quest to be finished — especially now that they’re so close to completing it — tells Frodo, “I can’t carry it for you. But I can carry you.” He then gathers his weakened friend into his arms and continues to walk up the fiery mountain. While not a sword fight or a comparatively amazing feat, it shows how much Sam’s character changed through the series, how brave he’d become and how far he’d come from being the gardener back in the shire.
14. ARAGORN SHUTS THE MOUTH OF SAURON
This scene is a short addition to “Return of the King” after the initial theatrical release, added only to the Extended Version that most “Lord of the Rings” fans have watched at some point, even while some others continue to prefer the theatrical versions.
At this point in the final film, Aragorn has accepted his role as the King of Gondor (although he has yet to be crowned), and has led the remaining men in Gondor and Rohan’s armies to march on the Black Gate of Mordor in a last ditch effort to give Frodo and Sam a chance to destroy the One Ring. But before the battle can begin, Sauron sends his servant, only ever referred to as the “Mouth of Sauron,” to speak with him. After spinning a story that tells the Fellowship that Frodo is dead and how painful it had been, Aragorn beheads him with a swift stroke of his sword. “I do not believe it. I will not!” he claims before he leads the others into battle.
13. SAMWISE THE SPIDER SLAYER
It can be debated for ages which Hobbit is the bravest. Is it Frodo, for offering to carry the Ring to Mordor? Maybe. Or is it Sam, who stuck by his side, no matter what? Sam, who killed the spider Shelob to save his best friend’s life. We can all agree that giant spiders are terrifying (anyone reading this from Australia?), but here’s a Hobbit — maybe no more than 3 foot 5 inches — slaughtering a terrifying creature to protect his friend. This was a friend, remember, who had, not that long ago, told him to make his way back home.
Samwise Gamgee’s loyalty is unwavering, and through the course of the trilogy, the only things he ever wanted was to keep Frodo safe and to keep him on his quest. Also, seeing this character grow and change from a meek gardener to the type of hero that can kill a giant spider is pretty damn badass in and of itself.
12. ARWEN WRINGS THE WRAITHS
Perhaps one of the biggest changes between the book series and the film series was the inclusion of Arwen as the rider who saves Frodo (it is a male called Glorfindel in the books). That change notwithstanding, this was a particularly cool moment because, despite how gentle Arwen seems in the rest of the series, and how most of her story arc involves her romance with Aragorn, it shows how much of a badass she can be.
She’s the daughter of Elrond, remember, and she was trained to use a sword, trained to fight. This scene even goes to show how powerful she is when it comes to Elvish magic. Frodo would have died right there if not for her, and it’s even mentioned that she’s a faster rider than Aragorn, who’s probably one of the best fighters in all of Middle-Earth. It’s also cool that there’s this open display of girl power, in a society where something like that wasn’t exactly prevalent.
11. THE THEODEN THROWDOWN
There are multiple confrontations between Gandalf and his mentor-turned-friend-turned-enemy, Saruman, but this one deserves a particular mention because it is the first confrontation between Saruman and Gandalf the White. Before this point, Saruman had gained a strong measure of control over the realm of Rohan by poisoning the mind of Théoden, Rohan’s king — it was a hold, however, that would prove to be his undoing.
When Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli arrive, Théoden is wasting away while his people are dying and Orcs are roaming his lands freely. Choreographically, the scene is beautifully crafted, with Aragorn and Legolas freeing the way for Gandalf to step forward and heal the king. There’s also this great moment where Saruman (through Théoden) taunts at his old protege, saying, “You have no power here, Gandalf the Grey.” That’s when Gandalf pulls his cloak away to reveal the shining white garb that was hiding beneath it. Again, it’s not badass because it’s a battle scene, but it definitely shows the sort of power that a Wizard in Middle-Earth has; especially Gandalf in his final form.
10. THE ENTS GO MARCHING
We’re introduced to the Ents through Treebeard, who rescues Merry and Pippin from the Urûk-Hai — basically orc super soldiers — at the beginning of “The Two Towers.” The Ents have been around Middle-Earth just about as long as the Wizards have, and if they were to join the war, it would significantly turn the tide. The Hobbits realize this fairly quickly, and although the Ents decide not to go to war because it is not their fight, Treebeard changes his tune once he realizes that Saruman has torn down a part of his home, Fangorn Forest.
Visually, the Last March of the Ents is stunning. The music that plays while they march towards Isengard to take care of Saruman is perhaps some of the best in the series (which is really saying something), and certainly one of the most thrilling. It’s a scene that you should definitely not miss, or lose in the sea of other great moments. Also, watch for the one Ent that the Orcs have lit on fire; once the dam breaks, he rushes into the water so he doesn’t burn to the ground. Pretty smart… for a tree.
9. ARAGORN RINGS THE WRAITHS’ BELLS
Up until this point, we haven’t seen much of a fight except for the prologue scenes involving Elrond and Isildur, and the failure to destroy the One Ring. We’ve seen Frodo and the other Hobbits escape from the Ringwraiths in a terrifying, suspenseful sequence, but aside from that, it’s been relatively peaceful – taking in the sights of Hobbiton and of the land slightly beyond the Shire, on the way to Rivendell.
But when they are found on Weathertop (because some hungry Hobbits decided to start a fire), and Frodo is stabbed by the Morgul-blade, Aragorn brings out some serious skills; it’s the first time we really get to see him fight. Before, it had been simple trickery. This time, it’s one impressive fight, taking on nine of these essentially undead warriors, lighting them on fire and everything. That one part is particularly cool, when the Ringwraiths are basically scattering, but there’s one left, who just turns slightly, and Aragorn gives this smirk – then hurls the flaming torch right at him. That was just awesome, and it’s only the first of many cool moves we get to see from him.
8. SORCERER SLOBBERKNOCKER
“I must see the Head of my Order. He is both wise and powerful. Trust me, Frodo. He’ll know what to do.” Upon visiting his old friend Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey did not receive the answers he expected (or hoped) to find. Instead, he found that the Head of his Order had been corrupted by Sauron, the evil owner of the One Ring, who is trying to gain power to conquer the world. Sauron also happens to be the very fiend that Gandalf wants to destroy.
At first, Saruman tries to convince Gandalf to see his point of view, to join with him… but once it becomes clear that there will be no persuasion, he doesn’t allow him to leave. As a stronger Wizard, Saruman does defeat Gandalf, but the fight itself is a (literal) blast to watch. Of course, it may not be so much fun for Ian McKellen fans to watch him get bloodied up by Christopher Lee (RIP), but it’s a fantastic scene and a great fight. Luckily, the Eagles come to take Gandalf away, so he ends up safe in the end.
7. LURTZ GETS HURT
The last scene of the whole Urûk-Hai sequence at the end of “The Fellowship of the Ring” is nothing short of spectacular. Not only does it show the dedication Aragorn has to the members of his Fellowship — in the way he knocks Lurtz out of the way before he can put an arrow through Boromir’s skull — but it shows a brilliantly aggressive and almost primitive style of fighting. If it wasn’t obvious, Lurtz is the first leader of the Urûk-Hai, who only finally dies when Aragorn slices off his head.
There is so much badassery in this scene, it’s almost hard to touch upon everything. However, there’s one particular moment where Aragorn has stabbed Lurtz with his Elvish hunting knife, and Lurtz just pulls it out and hurls it at him. In response, Aragorn ducks and knocks the knife away with a wave of his sword, like he was swinging a baseball bat. This little exchange shows the badass in both these boys, ramping up each of their cool factors to crazy levels.
6. THE BALROG BEATDOWN
As the only scene on this list that is shown in both “The Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Two Towers,” the best thing about this fight is that it is visually stunning. Even the second part of it, which is more or less a nightmare Frodo has in the beginning — and then later as a memory of Gandalf’s — was beautifully done and a feast for the eyes. In general it is scenes like this that make “The Lord of the Rings” such an amazing, stunning series, even after 15 years.
Being a wizard, Gandalf is of course extremely powerful. Looks can be deceiving, after all — which is basically a thesis for this entire story. But here’s this old man, fighting a being of immense power, that’s about 10 (or more!) times his size. And yet, he keeps getting up, he keeps fighting, and he beats this thing down until it’s destroyed. That may have destroyed any lesser man in the process, but not Gandalf: he came back! That’s not even mentioning how impacting Gandalf’s death was in “The Fellowship of the Ring” — definitely powerful and a total tear-jerker.
5. THE (NOT SO) EVIL DEAD
Okay, so Aragorn’s basically this guy who spent his whole life running from his destiny, despite having been raised for it his whole life. He doesn’t want the power to wield the sword, he doesn’t want to be the King, he just wants to be a Ranger. Well, when Elrond re-forges the sword of Elendil and brings it out to him, it basically forces him to become the person he was born to be. He remains reluctant, but he begins to realize that if they don’t use every option on the table, they could very well lose this war, and all of Middle-Earth would be covered in shadow.
This brings him to walk the infamous Path of the Dead, and with the sword once held by Elendil, commands the dead to fight for them, to reclaim their honor. At first they refuse. In fact, they even try to kill Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. Eventually they are forced to agree to fight for Aragorn, as is their duty. They are, of course, a large part of why our heroes won back the Pelennor Fields. You haven’t seen cool until you see a green cloud of ghosts wipe out an entire field of Orcs and Oliphants.
4. HELM’S DEEP IMPACT
Okay, for real? Let’s talk about Helm’s Deep for a minute. This is basically an impenetrable fortress, and if it wasn’t for Grima Wormtongue, Saruman wouldn’t have had any idea how to crush it to pieces (yeah, thanks for that, Aragorn). Just before Urûk-Hai completely siege its previously-thought-impenetrable gates, in the very last minute, Gandalf appears with the Riders of Rohan and drive the rest of their enemies away. This is basically the ultimate scene of good driving away evil, and it’s wonderful in every way — especially if you take Samwise Gamgee’s voiceover during some of those moments.
This is the one scene in this article that doesn’t exactly focus on a specific character’s abilities or certain single moments, but the successful cinematic adaptation of the battle as a whole, because Helm’s Deep was so wonderfully crafted as a sequence. From the boys and old men being drawn away from their families to fight, to Haldir and the Elves of Lorien that come to aid them, even to Legolas and Gimli’s competition; it was incredibly well done from start to finish, and there is no way to focus on just one scene from that whole arc.
3. LEGOLAS LEAVES AN OLIPHANT LEGLESS
This scene is, quite simply, awesome. Sure, it’s almost all special effects, but that doesn’t at all dim the fact that this one scene made Legolas the most badass character in the entire series. (Or, really, at least for 20 minutes before someone else did something amazing.) So they’re on Pelennor Fields, they’re fighting the “wicked” men that Sauron had basically hired to work for him, and Aragorn just yells for Legolas to take down the Oliphant (basically a Woolly Mammoth without the wool… and evil?). And like it’s no big deal, Legolas takes the thing down.
To be fair, he’s an Elf, so he’s got these gifts that the others don’t. He can see things from miles away, he’s extremely light on his feet, and it’s like he never even gets dirty. But the fact that he takes down an entire Oliphant by himself and skates down its trunk as the thing crashes to the ground, looking like he’s barely broken a sweat… well, if that’s not badass, nothing is.
2. ÉOWYN FOR THE WIN
This one was very nearly number one, purely on merit. Éowyn is such a multi-faceted character. She’s seen as a grieving cousin, a soldier and as a woman who wants to be so much more than is expected of her. That’s quite an honorable thing. Éowyn sneaks into battle dressed as a man and ends up taking out the most deadly enemy they would face in the field. An enemy that they say no living man can kill… which is a very important turn of phrase.
See, that was a good thing for Éowyn, because apparently the Witch-King didn’t think about loopholes. While no man could beat him, he could be taken down by a woman. Because why would a woman ever be on the battlefield, right haters? Éowyn is quite the role model for young women; she teaches them to be fierce, to be loyal and to not let anyone stop them from doing what they want to do, to be who they want to be. Including a hero. Aside from that, her bravery is just astounding and how is this scene not badass?
1. BOROMIR’S LAST STAND
At last, we’ve come to the end. Number one and the award for the most badass scene goes to Boromir and the three arrows he takes to protect Merry and Pippin from the Urûk-Hai. Boromir himself is a fascinating character study because he is so easily tempted by the Ring, and does go so far as to attempt to take it from Frodo. Even with his dying breath, he admits his weakness to Aragorn. Boromir was basically a good man, if led a little astray by a weapon that was messing with his mind.
Although Boromir was not the first character to die and his moment came at the end of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” it’s just amazing that despite how many times he was struck, he kept getting up, he kept fighting… until he just couldn’t any longer. Not only is that admirable, it shows how strong of a character and how good of a fighter he was. He did, at least, manage to take many an Urûk-Hai down with him. That’s got to count for something.
What LOTR moment do you think was most badass? Let us know in the comments!
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