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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today 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.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly 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.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    An epic success and a history-making production that finishes with a masterfully entertaining final installment.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    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.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Wilmington

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

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  • See all The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

Outstanding, but much violence and scariness.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that violence in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King includes countless battle casualties with death by arrows, spears, swords, monster-stomping, fatal plunges, and explosions. Horses as well as elephant-like beasts are killed violently (sure, sure, they're CGI). There is quite a lot of glorification of bladed weaponry, as well as nightmarish imagery of ghoulish creatures, including a zombie-like ghost army and a hideous giant spider. Heroic characters smoke, drink, and get drunk. The story starts right where the previous Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers left off. Viewers not familiar with the first film (or J.R.R. Tolkien's novels) will be very confused. Not only is this Oscar winner a long movie, the DVD "Special edition" is even longer.

  • Families can talk about why they think Frodo was charged with carrying the ring.
  • You can also talk about the modern-day parallels to these stories, since Tolkien wrote the books as parables. How are Tolkien's parables different from those of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien's longtime friend and colleague?
  • How do you think the movie adaptations compare with Tolkien's books?

The good stuff
  • message true4

    Messages: Powerful message of friendship among the Hobbits and the other allies (including different species). The seemingly meek Hobbits earn Middle-Earth-wide respect through battle and heroism. Theme throughout of sacrifice made in an immense struggle, including fighting against presumably impossible odds and overwhelming numbers, and trying to be brave against inevitable death.

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: Heroes are valiant types who combat evil even when everything looks hopeless. A sword-wielding princess is a strong female warrior, even though males (like her kingly father) try to discourage her from fighting. On the other hand, there's a subplot acknowledgment that not all royalty behaves royally; an aristocratic regent mistreats his younger son to the point of nearly causing the character's death. And just as in the Tolkien novels, a foreign army who are the only nonwhite, non-Celtic-type races are on the side of the bad guys.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: Violence is savage and intense for a PG-13. Thousands of creatures and humans are speared, slashed, hit fatally with arrows, crushed, decapitated, impaled on large spikes, and in the opening scene, painfully strangled to death. There's a catapult-shower of severed human heads, venom-stings from a monster spider, and characters burning to death. A key character's finger is bitten off.

  • sex false1

    Sex: Mild romance.

  • language false0

    Language: Not an issue

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: Hard to ignore the original Tolkien books, not to mention a plethora of video games, movie tie-in action figures, role-playing games, plus the movie sequels and other existing adaptations.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Joyous drinking to the point of inebriation in a celebration. Pipe smoking.