The Return of the King
The Return of the King is the third and final movie in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It opens with the story of Sméagol, and we learn how he got hold of the One Ring and how he slowly became the creature Gollum. Back in the present he awakens Sam and Frodo and they continue their exhausting travel towards Mordor.
Across the land of Rohan, outside Isengard, the two young hobbits are celebrating. Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, King Théoden, Éomer and Gamling find Merry and Pippin, and they learn that the Ents destroyed Isengard. Treebeard is now in control of the tower Orthanc, where Saruman and Gríma are captured. Saruman appears on the top of Orthanc and reveals his palantír. He then tries to destroy Gandalf, but fails. Instead Gandalf breaks his staff which also rids him of his power. Gríma shows up and stabs Saruman in the back. Legolas quickly shoots Gríma with an arrow, but it is too late. Saruman falls off his tower and is pierced on a toothed wheel. As the wheel starts to turn from his weight, the palantír falls out of his sleeve and into the water. Pippin spots it and decides to pick it up. Gandalf realizes the danger of this and quickly takes the palantír away from Pippin. But it is already too late, Pippin is determined to take another look at the stone.
The group rides back to Edoras to celebrate their victory at Helm's Deep and to remember those who fell there. It's a joyous evening. Merry and Pippin are dancing and singing, and Gimli challenges Legolas to a drinking game. Later that night when they have gone to sleep, Pippin steals the palantír from Gandalf. He sees the fiery eye of Sauron in it and is nearly killed by its power. Legolas, who is standing outside with Aragorn, notice the force that is coming from the stone, and they rush in. Aragorn takes the stone away from Pippin, but it is too powerful even for him. Gandalf wakes up and quickly covers it. He rushes to help Pippin, who tells him that he saw a vision of the white tree in Minas Tirith on fire. Gandalf decides to ride to the city and bring Pippin, who is now in danger, with him.
At the same time, Sam wakes up just in time to hear Gollum's plans of killing them and steal the ring. He attacks Gollum, but is stopped by Frodo who doesn't believe what he says. As Frodo walks off, Gollum turns to smile evilly at Sam, showing him that he is indeed right to not trust him.
As Arwen is about to leave Middle-Earth for immortal life, she has a vision of her and Aragorn's son. She quickly rides back to Rivendell to confront her father Elrond, who told her there is nothing left for her in this world but death. If she leaves now she will regret it forever, and asks her father to reforge the sword Narsil, which will help Aragorn regain his position as king.
Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith, and visits Denethor, the Steward of Gondor. He is heartbroken after learning about his son's death. Pippin, who has been told not to speak, offers his service to the Steward in payment of Boromir's death, who died defending Merry and him. He quickly realizes his mistake when Denethor reveals his anger towards Aragorn because he is scared of losing his power. Gandalf and Pippin storms out. Back in their room they see the stormy skies above Mordor, and Gandalf knows that this is the deep breath before the plunge.
Gollum leads Frodo and Sam to Cirith Ungol, the secret stairs into Mordor. While they're watching, a giant beam of light erupts from the dead city of Minas Morgul, as the Witch King flies out. A giant army of orcs marches out as Frodo, Sam and Gollum begin climbing the stairs.
Back in Minas Tirith, Gandalf gives Pippin an important task to do. He climbs up to the Beacon of Gondor and lights it. Beacons all across the country are lit, and back in Rohan Aragorn sees it. He rushes in to tell Théoden about Gondor's call for aid, who then decides that Rohan will answer. While the men are getting ready to ride off, Merry offers his services to King Théoden, who gladly accepts it.
In Osgiliath, Faramir and his men are attacked by orcs, and they lose the battle. They escape and on their way across the Pelennor Fields Gandalf rides to help them. Safely inside the city gates, Faramir tells Gandalf that he saw Frodo and Sam just a few days earlier and gives the wizard hope once again. Denethor is not pleased that Faramir fled, and orders him to go back and retake Osgiliath. Faramir knows that it will lead to the death of all of his men, but agrees to please his father.
In the stairs of Cirith Ungol, Gollum tells Frodo that Sam will try to steal the ring from him. While the hobbits are sleeping, Gollum sprinkles crumbs from the Lembas bread on Sam, and tosses the remaining food away. When Sam wakes up he notices that the food is missing, and Gollum points out that he has crumbs on his cloak. Sam, who knows he hasn't done anything wrong, beats Gollum and accuses him of doing it. Frodo stops them, but being as weak as he is he nearly collapses. Sam wants to help him, and asks to carry the ring a little bit for him. This triggers Frodo's doubt and he sends Sam away while continuing alone with Gollum.
Back in Minas Tirith, Faramir and his men ride off to Osgiliath, while Pippin is left alone with Denethor who asks him if he can sing. While Pippin sings a beautiful and sad song, the riders are slain by the orc archers.
As the riders of Rohan are setting up a camp, Théoden realizes that too few men have shown up. Éowyn helps Merry with his new armour, and sends him off to get his sword sharpened. After sending Merry off, Éomer tells her she shouldn't encourage him, and she answers that he shouldn't doubt him. She asks why he shouldn't be allowed to fight for those he loves, clearly also talking about herself. Later that night Aragorn is called to the King's tent, where Elrond wants to see him. He presents the sword Anduril, and tells him to take the path through the mountain and find the dead. They will answer to the king of Gondor alone, and Aragorn knows they need more men in the fight against Sauron. Along with Legolas and Gimli he rides off in the night, leaving a group of scared and frustrated men behind, men who feel they have lost their leader and thus their hope. The men takes off in the morning.
Inside a cave in the mountain, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli meet the King of the Dead and his army. The king laugh when Aragorn asks him to fight for him, and takes a step forward to kill Aragorn. Their swords meet with a high ring of metal, and the ghost king looks at Aragorn in disbelief. Aragorn grabs him and asks him again, but the king and his army disappears, and the whole cave collapses. Outside Aragorn spots the black ships, and we can see the despair in his face. As he falls down on his knees, the ghost king appears from the mountain and tells him they will fight.
Faramir is the only survivor from the hopeless battle, and his body is dragged behind a horse as he arrives in Minas Tirith. The orc army catapult the heads of the dead men into the city, spreading fear and panic. Pippin sees that Faramir is still alive, but Denethor refuses to listen and despairs, commanding his armies to flee for their lives. Gandalf quickly takes over the command and orders everyone back to their posts.
Gollum and Frodo arrive at the tunnel. Frodo doesn't want to enter, but Gollum tells him there is no other way. Inside the caves Gollum disappears, and Frodo is left alone in a place filled with skeletons and giant spider webs. He panics and falls, when he remembers the light of Eärendil that Galadriel gave him. It lights up the whole cave, and Frodo sees Shelob, a giant spider, coming towards him. He runs for his life out of the cave, where Gollum attacks him. During their fight Gollum falls over a cliff. Frodo is exhausted when Galadriel appears in a vision and encourages him to complete his task. Frodo continues alone.
The battle has begun outside Minas Tirith, and Denethor plans on burning Faramir and himself instead of dying in battle. Pippin tries to tell him that Faramir is still alive, but Denethor won't listen and throws him out. At the same time the orcs have breached through the front gate, and giant trolls run in to attack the men.
Outside Shelob's Lair Frodo is on his way to Mordor, when she sneaks up behind him. Frodo gets stung, and she spins a thick web around him. Sam arrives before she is finished and manages to fight her off after a while. He fears it's too late, and when he sees the sword Sting glow blue he has to leave Frodo behind. The orcs see Frodo, and Sam hears them say he really isn't dead. They pick him up and carry him back to the tower.
Pippin fears for Faramir's life and runs to find Gandalf. They ride back, but are stopped by the Witch King on their way, who breaks Gandalf's staff. At that moment the Riders of Rohan appear in the horizont, and the Witch King flies off again.
On the battlefield King Théoden calls out to his riders to fight for their lives. They ride into the massive groups of orcs without fear, killing them as they go.
Gandalf and Pippin arrive just in time to see Denethor and Faramir soaked in oil, ready to be set on fire. Pippin jumps from Shadowfax the Horse onto the pyre, pushes Faramir over the edge and saves him from the fire. Shadowfax rears up and knocks Denethor back into the fire. Denethor sees Faramir open his eyes before he is completely engulfed in flames, and proceeds to run out off the room and jump off the highest level in Minas Tirith to his death.
As the Rohirrim are starting to win the battle, 20 giant Mûmakil arrive at the Pelennor Fields. They're terrifying, with barbed wire wrapped around their enormous tusks. They run into the group of riders and tosses them around like they are nothing. Inside the castle Gandalf tells Pippin about death, and he realizes it's not as bad as it sounds. Outside, Théoden is attacked by the Witch King and his flying beast. Éowyn arrives in time to kill both the beast and the Nazgûl, with help from Merry.
The black ships arrive at the battlefield, and Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and the Dead Army overwhelm the orcs. Legolas kills an oliphaunt on his own while the ghost army kills the remaining orcs in Minas Tirith. The battle on the Pelennor Fields has been won, and Aragorn keeps his promise and releases the dead. However, it's too late for Théoden, who dies in Éowyn's arms.
Inside Minas Tirith, Aragorn heals Éowyn's wounds. She is staying in the Houses of Healing along with Faramir, and this is where they first meet and develop their relationship. Outside Pippin is still desperately searching for his friend, and late that evening he finds Merry, and tells him he's going to look after him.
Frodo awakens inside the orc tower in Mordor, half naked and with his hands bound. Sam enters the tower and rescues him. He tells Frodo he took care of the Ring, and gives it back to his master, although a little reluctant. They dress in orc armour and take off once again.
In Minas Tirith Gandalf is afraid he has sent Frodo to his death. Aragorn suggest that they march to the Black Gate of Mordor, to distract Sauron from the two little hobbits inside his land. Gandalf fears that Sauron will not fall for the bait. Aragorn reveals himself to Sauron through the palantír, in hope that he will send his orcs out of Mordor.
The plan works, and the orcs march out to the front gates. Frodo and Sam ends up in the middle of a group in their orc armours. They barely manage to escape, and are now able to walk freely across the plains of Mordor. They throw away everything they don't need, and continue towards Mount Doom with no water and no strength left.
The Black Gate of Mordor opens, and the Mouth of Sauron appears. He claims they have caught Frodo, but doesn't get the chance to say much more before Aragorn cuts his head off. The gates open wider, and thousands of orcs surrounds the small group of men. They battle while Frodo and Sam climb up Mount Doom. Gollum reappears and attacks them. Gathering his last strength, Frodo takes the chance to run into the mountain. He stands on the edge, ready to drop the Ring, but is hesitant. As Sam enters he claims the Ring as his own and puts it on.
Gollum sneaks behind Sam and hits him with a stone. He can see Frodo's footsteps, and jumps onto the invisible figure. He bites off Frodo's finger with the Ring, and is overjoyed that the Ring is finally back in his hands. Frodo attacks him again, and they both fall off the cliff. Frodo manages to hold on while Gollum and the Ring fall into the lava. Sam pulls Frodo up as the ring melts and disappears. Sauron's tower begins to collapse while Mount Doom erupts, with lava flooding the plains around it. Frodo and Sam survives by jumping onto a giant boulder, but has nowhere to go. The eagles, led by Gandalf, flies to rescue the two hobbits.
Frodo wakes up and sees Gandalf standing by his side. They both break out in laughter, and Merry and Pippin enters the room. They jump onto Frodo's bed as Gimli and Legolas appears in the doorway, followed by Aragorn. The last to enter is Sam. He and Frodo look at each other, their faces are filled with emotions and understanding - they don't have to say anything to each other.
Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor by Gandalf, with all his friends there. As he walks down to greet the people, Legolas arrives with Arwen. It's an emotional meeting between the King and the elf, and they throw themselves into each other's arms. As the two walk through the crowd, they see the four hobbits, who bow to show their respect. At this point Aragorn tells them that they bow to no one, and bows down himself along with Arwen. The rest of the crowd follows, leaving the hobbits overwhelmed with feelings.
The fourth age of Middle-Earth begins. The Hobbits return to the Shire, which is exactly the same as when they left. They all have a drink at the pub, and none of them say anything, they don't have to. Sam sees Rosie, and finally dares to go up to her. They're married shortly after, and Sam finally gets the love of his life.
Frodo continues Bilbo's book, and writes about his own adventures. The Shire has been saved, but he hasn't healed from the experience. The hobbits join Bilbo and Gandalf on their journey to the shores, where they are joining the elves on the last ship to leave Middle-Earth. It's a heart-breaking goodbye when Frodo tells the other hobbits that he will be joining Bilbo and Gandalf. He hands Sam his book and tells him the last pages are for him, and boards the ship, smiling to the remaining hobbits. The ship sails into the white horizont and disappears. Sam returns to the Shire to his wife and two children, and this is where the story ends.