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3. Theoden and Gandalf leading the Rohirrim at Helm’s Deep. The two rides, as a pincer movement, are possibly my favorite war scene ever. Gandalf and Eomer’s appearance atop the crest just as the sun rises is The Two Tower’s most iconic moment, and their charge down the hill and leaping into the orcs’ spears is glorious. Just as impressive, although often overlooked, is Theoden and Aragorn’s charge out of the citadel and down the rampart, sweeping orcs aside. After the desperation of the previous night’s hopeless battle, one cannot help but cheer as sure defeat turns into unexpected victory.
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4. Destruction of the Ring. The story’s most important moment, done perfectly in terms of pacing and made all the more poignant by both Gollum’s doom and Frodo deciding whether he wants to live any longer.
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5. Gandalf freeing Theoden from Saruman’s control. There are several things I love in this scene, but I especially love it first and foremost as a fantastic use of magic simply as a battle of minds between Gandalf and Saruman.
Other highlights include the reveal of Gandalf, as seen here, Wormtongue complaining about Gandalf having his staff (I find it darkly humorous), Wormtongue’s whispering in Theoden’s ear (actually, Brad Dourif is such an excellent actor, he can steal a scene even from Ian McKellan!), the look of shock and/or surprise on Christopher Lee’s face when Saruman is defeated, and Bernard Hill’s moments of regaining his sanity. This is one of those scenes I’ve watched three or four times in a row to relish both the story and the actors’ performances, much like hitting replay when I hear a song I really enjoy.
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6. Killing the cave troll. What sets this fight apart from all the others in the trilogy is Peter Jackson’s decision to make the troll a sympathetic enemy. Even though you know the troll has to die, you feel sorry for it, knowing it’s no more than a slave the orcs have abused and forced to do their dirty work. The Foley techniques used for the troll’s howls both pre and post its mortal wounding are crucial to making this the highlight of the first film for me. The scene also features Legolas’s first acrobatic move (running up the chain), some well-delivered lines from Sean Bean (“They have a cave troll!”) and John Rhys-Davies (“Let them come. There is one Dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!”), and the hobbits realizing they have to fight and kill to stay alive.
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#7. Galadriel refuses the ring. There are few stories where a major character is an inanimate object, and the One Ring in Lord of the Rings is possibly the best. There are many very good moments of characters either refusing the ring or trying to claim it. Cate Blanchett’s performance as Galadriel, however, is spectacular. This video includes the entire scene at the Mirror of Galadriel with Frodo, with her key moment beginning at about 2:57.
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8. Theoden’s call to battle. Bernard Hill came up with most of his speech on his own. Stirring! Of course, the horse charge that follows is pretty good, too! Especially when they run down orcs. Click to watch the video.
I also love the moment when Eowyn whispers “Courage” to Merry.
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View #8 here
9. Gandalf’s speech to Frodo in Moria. Not simply for the “All we have to decide” line, which seems to be the one most remembered, but for his line about Bilbo’s pity and compassion, both of which are all easily forgotten in our time as well as Frodo’s.
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