A lot of additional footage was added in the Lord of the Rings extended editions, much of which answer lingering questions. One year after the theatrical releases of each movie, an extended version would be released on home video. The extended editions added tons of new footage to the three movies, which brings the runtime of the trilogy up from 9 hours and 3 minutes to 11 hours and 36 minutes. The new footage consisted of deleted scenes as well as longer versions of scenes that were already in the movie. Sometimes, the extended editions would provide just an extra line of dialogue or two, and in some situations it would be an entire conversation that adds a whole new layer to a character.
The Lord of the Rings movies are known for their massive, star-studded casts. Each of the three movies is loaded with characters from various factions in Middle-earth. Due to the number of characters featured in the trilogy, several of them don't end up getting their fair share of screen-time. Many get short-handed in the theatrical cuts, especially when their stories aren't central to the plot. But the extended editions show that some of these characters actually did get their due.
Peter Jackson, who directed all three films, has stated that he prefers the theatrical versions, since the extended editions are mostly put together for the benefit of the fans who want to see everything that was left out of the final cut. Also, it lets viewers see moments from the books that were ultimately determined to be unnecessary for the live-action version of the story. Perhaps the biggest reason why there's so much extra content in the extended editions is because each film is at least three hours long, and that's without the deleted material. Here's what was added in the Lord of the Rings extended additions.
The Fellowship Of The Ring
The extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring adds 30 extra minutes to the movie's runtime. A good bit of this footage is compiled of minor scenes that set up future plot points that won't be important until later installments, such as the moment where Aragorn (Vigo Mortensen) is spotted singing a love song that mirrors his relationship with Arwen (Liv Tyler). Another is one in which Aragorn visits his mother's gravestone, with Elrond trying to convince him to become the new King of Gondor.
Several scenes tacked on at the beginning shed new light on the Hobbits and help to introduce the main characters, particularly Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin). Sam's relationship with the woman he'll eventually marry is explored to some degree. Also, these scenes allow viewers to learn more about the Hobbits in general.
A key scene included in the extended edition involves Frodo, Sam, and the Wood Elves. Frodo and Sam are camping when they see Wood Elves leaving for the Undying Lands so that they can live forever. The most important aspect of this scene is that it comes directly from the books. Another noteworthy scene comes when Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) hands out gifts to the Fellowship of the Ring. Seeing them receive their new weapons, like Legolas' bow, isn't essential to the plot, but is still a neat addition, since it gives audiences a chance to learn more about the main characters' magical items.
The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has even more additional footage in the extended edition than the one for The Fellowship of the Ring. The extended addition boosts its theatrical runtime from 179 minutes to 223 minutes. This version adds a bit more to the scenes with Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and their encounter with the Ent, Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies). Earlier in the film, though, when the Uruk-hai were taking the two Hobbits to Saruman, Merry seemed ill, so Pippin begged them give him water. Instead, the Uruk-hai gave him some of their booze and laughed it off.
Interestingly, much of Saruman's plan for attacking Helm's Deep was left on the cutting room floor, including the decision to burn the forest of Fangorn, encourage the villagers to attack Rohan, and build a dam (the same one the Ents destroy in the end). One particular deleted scene that's present in the extended edition is a flashback that answers a few questions about the motives of Faramir (David Fenham), and provides a look at his relationship with Boromir (Sean Bean) for the first time. Boromir died prior to Faramir's first appearance, so the flashback allows them to appear in the same scene. It's here that we learn that their father, Denethor (John Noble), prefers Boromir over Faramir.
A scene with Aragorn reveals a few personal details about his character that are in the book but aren't directly addressed in the theatrical versions of the movie. Aragorn is said to be 87, and this fact helps to explain how Aragorn is such an experienced warrior. Knowing this gives the viewer a better understanding of the character. Furthermore, King Theoden's son was given a proper funeral in the extended edition; in the theatrical version, the film cuts to Theoden mourning Theodred after asking where he was.
The Return Of The King
With 51 minutes of extra footage, the extended edition for the third and final film in the trilogy adds on almost an hour's worth of new content. This brings The Return of the King's total runtime to 4 hours and 11 minutes. The fact that the movie was already 3 hours and 20 minutes long explains why so much had to be cut, even though many of them feel like they belonged in the theatrical version. Among the changes were longer battle scenes at Helm's Deep and Isengard. The extended edition gives Eomer (Karl Urban) one of his best scenes in the entire trilogy. A deleted scene shows Eomer's horror as he reacts to finding his sister Eowyn (Miranda Otto) lying on the battlefield.
Another example of a major character missing out on their most important scene in the theatrical cut is Saruman (Christopher Lee). Saruman is an antagonist in Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, but is for the most part overlooked in The Return of the King. The theatrical cut doesn't end Saruman's story. The extended edition, on the other hand, includes Saruman's death scene. Saruman dies after being off pushed a balcony, where he is impaled by a spiked wheel. But before this, when the heroes along with the Rohirrim were pushing Saruman's orc army back, the orcs fled into the forest and were believed to have been killed by the Ents inside, judging by their screams.
One character was cut completely from the original version: the Mouth of Sauron (Bruce Spence). The Mouth of Sauron is a disfigured creature with an unsettling appearance. He lies and tells the heroes that Frodo is dead, but Aragorn isn't fooled and chops off his head. Some argue that this moment was out-of-character for Aragorn. Jackson claims that the scene was cut because it lacked effect. One of the best scenes that was cut from the theatrical version was Gandalf fighting the Witch King. Gandalf was losing the fight, but the sound of the horn distracted the Witch King enough for him to leave without killing the wizard.
Other scenes in the Return of the King extended edition give various characters and storylines a chance to breathe and offer further explanation. For instance, Eowyn and Faramir's romance is given some screen-time. Also, it's shown how Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli take the Black Ships, what happens after they convince the oathbreakers to help them, and how Aragorn's mind wins over Sauron when he holds the Palantir. Every movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy received many more scenes in their extended editions, but Return of the King easily had the most to gain.