Peter Jackson's epic film trilogy, based off the classic Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkien, is renowned for staying true to the spirit of the novels - and maybe even enhancing them in some ways. Given the track record of book-to-film adaptations, that's impressive in its own right.
But the LOTR films are perhaps best known for their amazing battle scenes. These face-offs between our heroes and the Orcs of Sauron and Saruman keep the viewer on the edge of their seats. With their fast-paced action, well-choreographed stunts, and rich cinematography that superbly blends live-action with special effects, these are still some of the greatest battle scenes in film.
But which are the best of the best? Let's take a journey to Middle-earth as we explore the top 10 fights/battles of this epic trilogy.
10 Boromir And The Fellowship Vs The Uruk Hai
Boromir's younger brother Faramir tends to be portrayed in a more heroic and honorable light, following the conclusion of the LOTR trilogy. But despite Boromir's attempt to snag the Ring of Power, he goes out in a blaze of glory as he desperately fights off a horde of Saruman's Uruk Hai in pursuit of the Hobbits.
Though Aragorn swoops in to save the day after getting overwhelmed, it is Boromir who singlehandedly fends out waves of super-powered orcs. His valiant one-man defensive as he provides cover for Merry and Pippin shines as a defining moment of redemption for Boromir. There's a distinctly human element to this fight that connects with the viewer. Of course, we also get some stand out performances from Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn thrown into the mix.
9 Frodo And Sam Vs Gollum
Unlike most battle scenes throughout the LOTR trilogy that rely on visual spectacle and elaborate choreography, this climactic final scene of the third film is enthralling for different reasons. It uses raw emotion to captivate the audience, which is further intensified by the tremendously high stakes involved.
This animalistic wrestling match between Frodo, Sam, and the creature Gollum has the fate of the Ring, and thus, of humankind riding on it. The scene is particularly gruesome and intense - punctuated by the roaring pit of molten lava beneath our heroes, and a dismembered, bloody finger. The events that transpire continue to build up, leading to the epic climax that emphatically concludes this showdown.
8 Aragorn Vs Nazgul At Weathertop
Sure, Boromir may have gone up against a gaggle of Uruk Hai, but earlier in The Fellowship of the Ring, Aragorn managed to withstand an ambush of several fighters which are more ghouls than men. As these Wraiths close in on Frodo, all hope seems lost, until the ranger jumps in; sword in one hand, and a flaming torch in the other.
The ranger's dual-wielding of these two weapons makes for a uniquely fun skirmish, as we watch him ignite the apparently highly flammable Wringraiths cloaks. The glow of the flames in the vast darkness makes for a cool visual experience; one which is over all too soon.
7 Riders Of Rohan Vs Warg Riders
While this battle tends to get overshadowed by the far more bombastic Battle of Helms Deep, this skirmish on the hilly plains of Rohan is exciting to watch for its own reasons. As it's basically a battle of cavalry exclusively, there's a thrilling sense of fast-paced action that keeps the viewer engaged.
The initial charge of the Rohirrim literally clashing head-on with Sauruman's band of beastly Warg Riders marks an impactful way to kick off the scene. Things then devolve into chaos, as riders from both sides swiftly gallop all over the place, slashing and bashing eachother off their beasts.
6 Eowyn Vs The Witch King Of Angmar
This scene is unique in that it's essentially a smaller fight amongst a far grander battle sequence. Though it still manages to provide plenty of thrills on its own merit. The David vs Goliath nature of Eowyn - who hasn't seen much practice in battle - going up against the seemingly "unkillable" Wraith King sets the stage for a dramatic showdown.
As the camera focuses on the absurdly huge spiked mace of Angmar, and he flails it around like a massive wrecking ball, it seems that the shieldmaiden of Rohan has little hope of survival. She gets some assistance from Merry, stabbing him from behind, though her courageous act and ability to hold her ground to save her King is an admirable moment for her character. These traits, along with her awesome line, "I am no man," to close it out, make this a powerful and entertaining face-off.
5 Ents Vs Isengard
Given that most battles in LOTR have our heroes outnumbered and/or outmatched, it's quite satisfying to see the side we're rooting for have the upper hand in strength for once. This scene is a truly epic way to close out The Two Towers.
It's a visual treat to watch as Treebeard and his army of Ent trees tear apart Saruman's city of Isengard, especially after witnessing fields of Treebeard's dismembered tree companions. The monstrous waters of the dam washing over the smoking industrial city as orcs get consumed is a satisfying spectacle indeed.
4 The Fellowship Vs Goblins Of Moria
This magnificent battle sequence feels almost as much like a rite of passage as it does a fight. After an hour of build-up and a somewhat subdued sequence of events in The Shire, Bree, and Rivendale, we finally get to see the entire Fellowship tangle with some orcs - well, technically "goblins," but hey, semantics...
The scene provides an eerie, claustrophobia-inducing backdrop that makes it all the more dramatic, as our outnumbered heroes scramble to ward off goblins and trolls. The diversity of the cool weaponry coupled with the chaotic nature of the skirmish makes for a thrilling showdown.
3 Final Battle At The Black Gate
After being nearly wiped off the map by the forces of Sauron, our heroes gather the armies of Gondor and Rohan for an epic final showdown. It's a glorious last stand for humankind of Middle-earth, which serves as the diversion Frodo and Sam need to bring the Ring of Power the remainder of the way into Mount Doom.
It's awesome to see Aragorn (unofficially at this point) assume the mantle as King, as he leads the charge into battle, and to see the two bastions of free humanity, Gondor, and Rohan, united in the fight. This is both a captivatingly thrilling and emotional scene, wrought with magnificent special effects, awesome action, and a rich musical score by Howard Shore to top it off.
2 Battle Of Helms Deep
The iconic Battle of Helms Deep near the end of The Two Towers might be one of the coolest, most memorable standoffs in cinema. The handful of scenes that comprise the grueling, intense face-off between the few hundred Rohan fighters and the Saruman's 10,000 Uruk Hai are all thrilling in their own way. Each scene showcases a different aspect of the elaborate and unique structure of Helms Deep, making the Fortress feel like a character itself.
This battle sequence has just about everything - cool visual effects, sword fighting action, emotional deaths, and even a Michael Bay-style explosion. Peter Jackson's creative liberties in adding elven archers to the fight adds tons of visual eye candy with the constant flurries of arrows striking down waves of orcs.
1 Battle For Minas Tirith
This is it - the battle that's so epic it actually helped to redefine cinema - and spawned films clearly inspired by it, such as Kingdom of Heaven and Troy. Return of the King marks a magnificent conclusion to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it's largely thanks to enduring scenes like this.
Despite being over 15 years old, the masterful visual craftsmanship and rich amount of realistic detail have still rarely been matched in movies. The scene is absolutely brimming with excitement and a variety of fights, all of which are uniquely enthralling. From the goosebump-inducing charge of the huge Rohirrim army to the massive Mumakill fight, this monster of a battle pummels you with exciting action.