Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen
Plot: 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
The dead oliphaunt carcass used in this film is reportedly the largest prop ever built for a motion picture. According to members of the prop department, director Peter Jackson still thought it could have been bigger.
Peter Jackson is arachnophobic and based the Shelob design on the types of spiders he feared the most.
Each of the cast members was given a gift on their last day of shooting, usually a prop that was significant to their roles. Miranda Otto received one of Eowyn's dresses and her sword, Liv Tyler received Arwen's "dying dress", Orlando Bloom got one of Legolas' bows. Andy Serkis and Elijah Wood were each given prop rings by director Peter Jackson used in the movie. They both thought they had the only one.
Fans of the film often speculate why the characters didn't just fly on the giant eagles into Mordor and drop the ring into Mount Doom. This is not, in fact, a plot hole. This was explained in the book but the film makers didn't think there would have been a need to because they felt it was obvious why they didn't do this. The eye of Sauron would have been a major obstacle.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy became the most nominated film series in Academy Award history with 30 nominations, surpassing both the Godfather trilogy (28) and the Star Wars franchise (21).
According to a magazine article, Peter Jackson hated the Army of the Dead, thinking it was too unbelievable. He kept it in the script because he did not wish to disappoint diehard fans of the book trilogy.
Elijah Wood was wrapped in a latex-like material that represented Shelob's webbing. On the DVD, he jokes that it is like being encased in the world's largest condom.
In every installment of the trilogy, one character says the subtitle of the film. In Fellowship during the council scene Elrond refers to the nine as the "Fellowship of the Ring"; in the Two Towers it's Saruman who says "The Two Towers" during a voiceover; and finally in this film, Gandalf tells the steward of Gondor that he cannot deny the Return of the King.
Bret McKenzie had a silent cameo as an elf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). His attractive character was noticed by female fans, who dubbed him "Figwit" (short for "Frodo is great...who is THAT?!?"). His celebrity on the Internet was such that Peter Jackson (who has informally accepted the use of the name), brought him back in this film as Arwen's escort, with two script dialogue lines.
The only film to win more than 10 Academy Awards without receiving a single acting nomination.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) were filmed simultaneously.
The movie tied with Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997) to win the most Oscars (11) in a single year. It is however the only film of the three to win every single award it was nominated for.
At 35 letters "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" has the longest title of any Best Picture Oscar winner in history. It surpasses the record previously held by Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) which has 26. It also set the record for the number of words in a Best Picture title, with 10.
Even though Saruman's demise appears in the Special Extended Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Christopher Lee was (and still is) "not amused" that his character was cut from the theatrical release. In an interview done after the release of the Extended Edition, he acknowledged that the makers gave him several arguments for trimming the scene (pacing and time constraints), but in his opinion, none of them justified omitting such an important narrative element. As a result, Lee and Peter Jackson had a brief falling out. Lee eventually agreed to appear in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and asked Jackson if his scenes had been cut when he was invited to the premiere.
The last shot of principal photography was when the newly-crowned Aragorn bows to the four Hobbits. Although Viggo Mortensen did not need to be on set for that day, he nevertheless insisted on attending. He didn't have a crown (it wasn't necessary - he wasn't being filmed) so he fashioned one out of paper. With each successive take, the crown was becoming more ornate and sillier as crew members kept decorating it, so the four actors playing the Hobbits often had difficulty suppressing their giggles.
Where Frodo is stabbed by Shelob's stinger, Elijah Wood was actually stabbed with a prop one. On the Extended DVD Commentary, he and Sean Astin comment that it was not only very, very painful, but had actually done damage to the point that Wood had to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. Astin (on the Commentary track) jokes that they used appendicitis as the excuse, but wonder if that event is what (ironically) caused Wood's actual episode of appendicitis later on (2003).
When filming the scene "The Sacrifice of Faramir" David Wenham's horse became excited and ran away with him. A professional rider had to chase the horse and stop it.
Special care was taken to make sure that the destruction of Sauron's tower of Barad-dûr did not resemble the destruction of the World Trade Center. For this reason, it disintegrates from the ground up, and the sound was made from breaking glass, so that it would not sound or look as if it were exploding.
Scenes were shot that involved Aragorn tackling a physical manifestation of Sauron one-on-one while outside the Black Gate. In the scene, Sauron would have appeared even taller than the Sauron seen at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring. Once footage was reviewed, however, it was decided that to include this scene would pervert Tolkien's ideas, and also distracted too much from the climax of Frodo and Sam's storyline. Footage from the fight was reused in other ways: Aragorn would originally step forward and see an image of Sauron in his original, Elvish-like appearance; this was changed to Aragorn gazing at the Eye of Sauron, beckoning to him from atop the tower of Barad-dûr. Aragorn's charge towards the Black Gate was to take him into a heated sword-fight with the real, armor-clad Sauron. A large troll was digitally imposed over the stuntman playing Sauron. The temp work on this scene can be seen on the third disc of the Return of the King Extended Edition DVD.
Ian McKellen's first day of shooting on the trilogy was Gandalf's first scene, arriving in Hobbiton. His second day of shooting was Gandalf's final scene of the film, at the Gray Havens.