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Movie Review: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" Extended Edition (2004)

Updated on March 29, 2021
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Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.


Quick Info

Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: New Line Cinema/Warner Brothers Studios
Release Date: December 14, 2004, for the DVD, August 28, 2012, for the Blu-Ray
Runtime: 250 minutes
Availability: On 4K blu-ray, blu-ray, and DVD, check your local retailer or buy online on Amazon, streaming on HBOMax

Story Summary

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition is the longer version of the theatrical version of the movie from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Frodo and Sam are taking the path of Cirith Ungol to get into Mordor while the other members of the Fellowship set out to protect the city of Minas Tirith, with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli take the Paths of the Dead and Gandalf and Pippin ride to Minas Tirith to speak to the Steward Denethor and convince him to ask Rohan for aid against Mordor.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Trailer

A Spectacular Ending to an Amazing Story!

This movie had a lot riding on it. It has to bring everything together and end on a high note. Considering how critically acclaimed and loved by audiences the previous films were.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King delivered on being the best of the trilogy. The story ended in a spectacular fashion that Peter Jackson definitely delivered on.

The extended edition shows the fate of Saruman the White and it was completely cut from the theatrical version of the movie. If you want to see his fate you have to watch the extended version of the movie. Peter Jackson changed his fate compared to the books because he cut the Scouring of the Shire, due to the fact that it would drag out the ending, which was long enough already.

The story came to a well-deserved conclusion. Although it’s not the happiest ending, it is faithful to the book and it followed the book for the most part.


The Cinematography and Visual Effects Are Amazing!

The cinematography for the movie is amazing, showing off New Zealand’s gorgeous landscapes with spectacular camera work. The scenery is breathtaking and astonishing to look at.

The visual effects are also amazing. There’s a nice mix of CGI and practical effects, and yes, people like to say that “practical effects” are better, but if you’re not overthinking what’s CGI and what is “real” then the move’s doing its job with storytelling.

Some of the CGI does look dated, but the visuals are still stunning and beautiful to look at.

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The Acting Was Amazing!

The acting in this movie is superb. The actors are all amazing and did a spectacular job. Elijah Wood was excellent as Frodo Baggins. He gave his best performance between all three movies in Return of the King. He was great portraying Frodo’s range of emotions in the film.

Sean Astin did a fantastic job as Samwise Gamegee. Sean’s performance was truly amazing. He embodied Samwise Gamgee and he was great in this role.

Dominic Monahan did a great job as Meriadoc Brandybuck. He wasn’t the comic relief in this movie as much as all the characters are being serious in this part of the trilogy and he did a great job too. He gave his best performance for this character in this film.

Billy Boyd was great as Pippin. Not only was he great in this role, but he got to sing a capella for this movie, and it’s one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. He was also great for the humorous scenes he was in as well.

David Wenham was great as Faramir too. He has a larger role in this film which I really enjoyed. The extended edition did show his interaction with Éowin but it was very brief compared to the book where they had a long and very nice conversation.

John Noble was great as Denethor, and although I don’t like the changes to the character, he still did an excellent job portraying the character. He is a great actor and he’s been in the Sleepy Hollow series recently. But with Denethor, he made the character memorable.

Ian McKellen did a wonderful job as Gandalf the White. He was great as the White Wizard and he was fantastic to watch on screen. He brought so much to Gandalf as a character and I loved him in this film.

The late Christopher Lee was fantastic as Saruman the White. He was an amazing actor and he did an incredible job in this role. He portrayed Saruman so well and spoke Tolkien’s dialogue with excellence and you can tell that he loved Tolkien’s books too.

Viggo Mortensen was amazing as Aragorn son of Arathorn. He did a great job in this movie and he became a household name because of these movies, and while he hasn’t really been in a big-name blockbuster movie lately, everyone will remember him for his role in this film.

Bernard Hill was great as King Théoden, King of Rohan. He did a brilliant job in this role and I loved his performance in this film. I loved his role in this movie and he was fantastic.

The cast was amazing and did a fantastic job. It was the perfect ensemble of actors and I enjoyed watching them on screen. Everyone put their all into their performances and it was an amazing experience.


The Music Is Fantastic!

The music score by Howard Shore is wonderful; it just brings the movie together perfectly. The music is beautiful and embodies film. The score is beautiful and moving.

The soundtrack is one of my favorites and it enhances the experience you have when watching the film. It’s a wonderful soundtrack that is worth having on CD, or your iPod. It’s one of my favorite movie soundtracks.

'The Steward of Gondor" by Howard Shore:

The Changes in the Movie Were Annoying

Although there are some irritating changes, Frodo sending Sam away never happened in the book. Golllum was never able to make Sam leave Frodo in the book. This conflict was completely unnecessary drama for the film.

Tying Arwen’s fate to the Ring was never in the book. This was all made up for the movie so she could be in the film more. It’s also a very dumb idea because it’s needless drama.

Denethor’s character was changed to just be crazy when in the book Denethor is crazy but he’s much more dignified. He also had a better death in the book than in the movie.


The Film Is Four Hours Long, So It’s a Big Commitment

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King extended edition is a long movie. The original theatrical cut was also a long movie. It is a big time commitment to watch these films, but it is worth it.

I split up the film into two parts, I watched in two-and-a-half hour segments. It was a lot easier to take in, but it still took me awhile to finish it. I recommend you split the movie in half unless you do have enough time to watch it in one sitting.

The Special Features Are Fantastic!

The special features for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King extended edition are amazing. While the behind-the-scenes feature is incredible, there are also special features about Cameron Duncan a young filmmaker who was a friend of Peter Jackson who passed away from bone cancer before The Return of the King was finished filming.

Not only will you see interesting documentaries about the making of the film, but you’ll see a wonderful tribute to their friend Cameron Duncan along with his short films.


This movie is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and blood, it is recommended for ages 13 and up.


The 4k Blu-Ray Fixed the Blu-Ray's Video Issues

From what I've seen of customer reviews for The Lord of the Rings blu-ray release that there were some color issues during some scenes in the films and I have seen video reviews on YouTube that said the 4K blu-ray release fixed the weird green tint that showed up in some scenes of the first movie, but there might be coloring errors in the other releases that have been corrected for the newest release of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

This Is My Favorite Movie Trilogy

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite movie trilogy. I love all three films and these will always hold a special place in my heart. I love the writing, the acting, the music. There’s just so much in these movies that I always enjoy them every time I watch them.

These aren’t just critically acclaimed movies, they mean a lot to fans of the books. While they aren’t the perfect adaptation of the books they still convey the spirit of the books and Tolkien has gained new readers because of these movies.

I will always love these movies and I try to watch them every year or so, they always bring back good memories of when I saw them in the movie theater a long time ago. They’re worth the time and money!

Quick Summary

What Works:
What Doesn't Work:
Great story, characters, and world-building
Arwen's connection to the Ring
Great visual effects
Sam leaving Frodo never happened in the book
Great acting
Simplistic depiction of Denethor
Amazing soundtrack

Final Rating: A+

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is an excellent fantasy film that captures the essence of the books and is enjoyable for any fan of movies and Tolkien’s books. It’s one of my favorite movies and I watch it every year.

I love a good fantasy story and this movie is my favorite fantasy film. It’s got everything I love about fantasy. It’s got wonderful characters; it’s a well-written story with an amazing music soundtrack and stunning visual effects and superb acting.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite fantasy trilogy and my favorite films. I will always love the story they told. Just like I love the books that the films are adapting.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition is streaming on HBOMax in celebration of The Lord of the Rings turning 20 years old, so if you have a subscription to the service, watch this film because it's also remastered in 4K HD.

They are films that belong in your 4K blu-ray, blu-ray, digital, or DVD collection. It is a wonderful film trilogy and if you love fantasy movies you’ll definitely enjoy it. It is my favorite movie trilogy. I enjoy watching the movies and they’re really special, especially since they introduced me to the fantasy genre, not that I didn’t enjoy fantasy before, but The Lord of the Rings really made me love the genre.

My Rating:

5 stars for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2004)

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