Reviews - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

Taglines: This Christmas the journey ends.

Director: Peter Jackson

Writers: J.R.R. Tolkien, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, ...

Stars: Noel Appleby, Alexandra Astin, Sean Astin, David Aston, ...

The final confrontation between the forces of good and evil fighting for control of the future of Middle-earth. Hobbits Frodo and Sam reach Mordor in their quest to destroy the "one ring", while Aragorn leads the forces of good against Sauron's evil army at the stone city of Minas Tirith.

100 | Lisa Schwarzbaum

The conclusion of Peter Jackson's masterwork is passionate and literate, detailed and expansive, and it's conceived with a risk-taking flair for old-fashioned movie magic at its most precious.
Read More: Entertainment Weekly

100 | David Hunter

An epic success and a history-making production that finishes with a masterfully entertaining final installment.
Read More: The Hollywood Reporter

100 | David Ansen

The second installment was better than the first, and this one is best of all. It has spectacular action scenes and imaginary creatures, and it’s by far the most moving chapter. The performances have deepened.
Read More: Newsweek

100 | Richard Corliss

The second half of the film elevates all the story elements to Beethovenian crescendo. Here is an epic with literature's depth and opera's splendor -- and one that could be achieved only in movies. What could be more terrific?
Read More: Time

100 | Todd McCarthy

Represents that filmmaking rarity -- a third part of a trilogy that is decisively the best of the lot. With epic conflict, staggering battles, striking landscapes and effects, and resolved character arcs all leading to a dramatic conclusion to more than nine hours of masterful storytelling.
Read More: Variety

100 | Alan Morrison

Those who have walked beside these heroes every step of the way on such a long journey deserve the emotional pay-off as well as the action peaks, and they will be genuinely touched as the final credits roll.
Read More: Empire

100 | James Berardinelli

Labeling this as a "movie" is almost an injustice. This is an experience of epic scope and grandeur, amazing emotional power, and relentless momentum.
Read More: ReelViews

100 | Peter Rainer

Jackson is rare among the makers of epic movies in that he knows how to do the small stuff, too. The Return of the King has “heart”--how else could it pump out all that blood?
Read More: New York Magazine (Vulture)

100 | Jack Mathews

The most emotionally satisfying because, in addition to having both more intimate drama and more spectacular battles, it resolves all of the issues raised before.
Read More: New York Daily News

100 | Lou Lumenick

A majestic conclusion to a nine-plus-hours epic that stirs the heart, mind and soul as few films ever have.
Read More: New York Post

100 | Michael Wilmington

Like all great fantasies and epics, this one leaves you with the sense that its wonders are real, its dreams are palpable.
Read More: Chicago Tribune

100 | Claudia Puig

As good as each individual movie is, the third film vaults the work into the stratosphere of classic movies. Key characters are enhanced, new civilizations visited and battles fought more intensely, while feelings and motivations are plumbed more deeply and movingly.
Read More: USA Today

100 | Kenneth Turan

As completely real on the psychological level as its up-to-the-moment visual effects have on the physical.
Read More: Los Angeles Times

100 | A.O. Scott

It's been a long time since a commercially oriented film with the scale of "King" ended with such an enduring and heartbreaking coda.
Read More: The New York Times

100 | David Edelstein

It might be the cinema's most astonishing holy war film. The Lord of the Rings took seven years and an army of gifted artists to execute, and the striving of its makers is in every splendid frame. It's more than a movie--it's a gift.
Read More: Slate

100 | Lawrence Toppman

Jackson had the vision, persistence, insight and patience for this mighty job, plus the smarts to shape stage veterans and overlooked film actors into a seamless cast. He's made himself as immortal as a movie director can be.
Read More: Charlotte Observer

100 | Rene Rodriguez

Feels like a miracle, a movie that exceeds even the most formidable expectations without straying from its singular path. All hail this King.
Read More: Miami Herald

100 | Michael Sragow

It rises, all on its own, to the realm of masterwork.
Read More: Baltimore Sun

100 | Glenn Kenny

A phantasmagorical slab of epic entertainment that satisfies on every conceivable level.
Read More: Premiere

100 | Shawn Levy

From the acting to the special effects to the landscapes to the cinematography, editing and music, to the details of decor, wardrobe and armaments, we never once feel that we are in anything but the hands of an absolute master of the medium.
Read More: Portland Oregonian

100 | William Arnold

First and foremost, it soars because its grand design and numerous story problems were worked out half a century ago by a guy named Tolkien, and Jackson was smart enough to realize this.
Read More: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

100 | Desson Thomson

This movie is not only a thrilling experience, it closes the book on a truly satisfying trilogy.
Read More: Washington Post

100 | Gregory Weinkauf

This film is a miracle, an extravaganza equal to its predecessors and in some ways more stunning. It is a profound testament to the extraordinary power of moving images and sound.
Read More: Dallas Observer

100 | Scott Foundas

The deep satisfaction of The Return of the King is in surrendering ourselves to the finale, in letting Jackson's superb storytelling (with due credit to co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) surround us like a blazing campfire tale -- which it does, gloriously.
Read More: L.A. Weekly

100 | Andrea Gronvall

Ties everything together with a dazzling synthesis of pagan animism, heroic quest mythology, orientalism, Pre-Raphaelite imagery, 1950s sci-fi creature features, and Hollywood war epics.
Read More: Chicago Reader


The invisible wizard Peter Jackson makes use of every scene to show us the meaning of magnificence. Never has a filmmaker aimed higher, or achieved more.

90 | Stephen Hunter

Then, finally, there are the endings, all six of them...For us outsiders, it seems like too much of a good thing...But all those are minor rants: The big fact is that The Return of the King puts you there at Waterloo, or Thermopylae or the Bulge, any desperate place where men ran low on blood and iron and ammo, but not on courage.
Read More: Washington Post

90 | Keith Phipps

All in all, it's a fitting conclusion to the series, and yet there are disappointments built in. For one, Jackson has opted not to film Tolkien's downbeat "Scouring Of The Shire" epilogue.
Read More: The A.V. Club

90 | Andrew O'Hehir

I love Jackson's "Rings" saga despite his propensity for whimsical animation whenever he tries to strike a chord of dread or menace.
Read More:

88 | Ty Burr

Yet what I felt when the lights came up at the end of this visionary, titanic, relentless experience was something different: a strange relief that it was, at last, over.
Read More: Boston Globe

88 | Roger Ebert

There is little enough psychological depth anywhere in the films, actually, and they exist mostly as surface, gesture, archetype and spectacle. They do that magnificently well, but one feels at the end that nothing actual and human has been at stake.
Read More: Chicago Sun-Times

88 | Peter Travers

This is a film in which ideas resonate as well as action. Gandalf’s words to Pippin about death have a muscular poetry.
Read More: Rolling Stone

80 | J. Hoberman

In short, this Krakatoa is at once exhausting and riveting. It's a technological marvel, and for those not with the program, a bit of a bore.
Read More: Village Voice

78 | Marc Savlov

It’s odd and unfortunate, however, that The Return of the King just barely misses the eye-misting emotional wallop of the series’ previous installment, The Two Towers, which had a lyrical subtlety underpinning the vast vistas of growing chaos (and Christopher Lee hardly hurt matters) and hobbits-in-peril.
Read More: Austin Chronicle

75 | Mick LaSalle

Though an estimable success overall, The Return of the King has several scenes too many and too great a concentration on battles.
Read More: San Francisco Chronicle

75 | Steven Rea

The Return of the King is too long...The various story lines...come together in stilted, episodic ways. The narrative is less-than-seamless.
Read More: Philadelphia Inquirer

75 | Liam Lacey

The [final] battle is vast, and undoubtedly required thousands of hours of matching puppetry, robotics and computer code, but it is not without tedium.
Read More: The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

70 | Maitland McDonagh

Despite its length, the film only starts feeling as long at the end -- or, more correctly, ends. Serious fans of the novels will be prepared for the serial codicils, but the uninitiated are likely to think the film is over several times before it actually is.
Read More: TV Guide Magazine

70 | Kevin Carr

If The Return of the King was 2 1/2 hours long, it would have rocked. It would have been better than The Two Towers, which is the best film in the series.
Read More: Film Threat

50 | David Sterritt

Add a lot of dull acting -- except Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis -- and you have an uneven movie with yawns aplenty.
Read More: Christian Science Monitor