The Lord of the Rings movies are based on a novel of the same name by J. R. R. Tolkien. A sequel to Tolkien's earlier novel (The Hobbit), The Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes from 1954 to 1955. It was made into a very successful live-action feature film trilogy (2001-2003) by director Peter Jackson.
The first voice we hear in The Fellowship of the Ring is Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). Originally the prologue was to be narrated by Frodo (Elijah Wood), but since his character didn't really have much to do with the opening sequence it just didn't feel right. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) took over narration duties, actually recording a version of the prologue, but the producers still felt that this was the wrong character for the part. Finally, it was decided to let Galadriel narrate the prologue as this would emphasize the timelessness of the elves. Originally, New Line Cinema had insisted on limiting the prologue to two minutes; but in the final film, it lasts for seven and a half.
As they travel towards Mordor, the Fellowship of the Ring attempts to cross the Misty Mountains, but they are forced by a deadly blizzard to take a more sheltered path and make the dangerous journey underground through the mines of Moria. Khazad-dum, once the greatest of the Dwarf realms in Middle-earth, was carved out of solid rock over the course of countless centuries. But an ancient evil known as a Balrog was awakened in its depths and drove the dwarves from their home. The halls of Khazad-dum were eventually overrun by orcs and other foul creatures and it became known as Moria or the Black Chasm. As the Fellowship nears the end of its journey through the mines of Moria, they are attacked by the Balrog. In order to buy the others time to escape, Gandalf engages the Balrog in battle. Although he dies during the course of the battle, Gandalf's life is later restored and he is returned to Middle-earth to complete his task.
In The Two Towers, Pippin and Merry escape from their Orc captors only to be captured by an Ent named Treebeard in Fangorn Forest. Although Treebeard crushes the lone Orc who is pursuing them, he still mistakes the two hobbits for "little orcs" and announces his intention to ask the White Wizard for advice on what to do with them. Fortunately for Pippin and Merry, the "White Wizard" turns out to be a resurrected Gandalf -- not the evil Saruman.
In The Two Towers, Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) is the wizard Saruman's spy in Rohan. An advisor to King Theoden, Grima's task is to keep Rohan weak, and through his manipulations, Saruman is able to cast a deadly spell on Theoden, sapping his will and reducing him to nothing more than a pawn whom Grima can easily control. When the Fellowship arrives in Edoras, the capital of Rohan, Gandalf uses his magic to liberate the bewitched ruler from Saruman's control.
Stuart Townsend was originally cast as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but after several days of shooting director Peter Jackson realized that an older actor was needed for the part. Citing "creative differences," Townsend was released from the project and replaced by Viggo Mortensen who had never even auditioned for the role.
In The Return of the King, Eowyn, the niece of King Theoden, desperately longs to fight with her kinsmen, but being a woman she is told to stay behind and look after the kingdom. She disobeys, however, and rides into battle disguised as a man. As the battle rages, King Theoden is struck down by the Witch King, the most powerful of the nine Ring Wraiths and the most dreadful of Sauron's servants. When Eowyn rushes to her uncle's defense, the Witch King arrogantly orders her out of the way and warns that she is helpless against him for it has been foretold that he will not fall by the hand of man. Eowyn reveals that she is not a man and bravely attacks the Witch King. With the help of a Hobbit, Merry, who had also been warned to stay out of the battle, Eowyn is able to defeat the Witch King, plunging her sword into the space where his face should be. His crown and mantle fall empty to the ground, and the Witch King is no more.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) has a crush on Rosie Cotton (Sarah McLeod), a barmaid at the Green Dragon pub, but he is too shy to talk to her. In The Return of the King, after he returns to the Shire, Sam, emboldened by his adventures, approaches Rosie and soon they are happily married.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy won a total of seventeen Academy Awards: four for The Fellowship of the Ring, two for The Two Towers, and eleven for The Return of the King. The Return of the King won every Oscar for which it was nominated, including Best Picture, and tied Titanic (1997) and Ben-Hur (1959) for the most Oscars awarded to one film.