Oscar Review: The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King (2003)

While not receiving the most nominations ever – even falling 2 shy of the film that captured the first part of the story – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is tied with Ben-Hur and Titanic with the most wins (11), taking home an Oscar for every category in which it was nominated; it is a feat only accomplished 4 other times with the films Gigi (9), The Last Emperor (9), It Happened One Night (5), and The Matrix (4).

It is the culmination of Tolkien’s adventure trilogy about a fellowship of hobbits, dwarves, men, and elves and their quest to reach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are making their way to Mordor along with their guide Gollum/Smeagol (Andy Serkis) trying to keep under the radar of Sauron’s all-seeing eye. Meanwhile the rest of the fellowship are actively engaged in the battle for Middle Earth as the army of Orcs marches on.

Aided by Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) comes to terms with who he is destined to be as he fights on for the freedom of all. Overcoming tremendous odds, using their passion for what is good and right, and struggling for something greater than themselves, the fellowship stays strong in the midst of such and overwhelming situation.

Despite Gollum’s efforts, Sam and Frodo continue on, ever deeper into dangerous territory yet ever closer to their goal, testing their will, and their friendship, at every turn.
*****
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a big undertaking that would have seemed impossible at any other point in film history given the need for the huge amounts of CGI, the large cast of extras, and just the scope of the film.

Though not nominated for any acting awards – due to the amazing performances in other films that year – it is no wonder that The Return of the King walked away with so many Oscars.

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director (Peter Jackson)
  • Art Direction
  • Costume Design
  • Makeup
  • Original Music (Howard Shore)
  • Original Song – “Into the West”
  • Sound Mixing
  • Visual Effects
    and
  • Adapted Screenplay

For such an ambitious film, with so many details and such high expectations from not only the audience but the filmmakers themselves, The Return of the King was certainly worthy of its honors. Though many great films were nominated in 2003 – Lost in Translation, Mystic River, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Seabiscuit – I think because it capped off such an innovative, epic trilogy of great movies, there is no doubt that this installment deserved to be named the Best Picture of the year.

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