The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a 2003 high fantasy film directed by Peter Jackson based on the second and third volumes of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It is the third and final installment in The Lord of the Rings series, following The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and The Two Towers (2002).
As the Dark Lord Sauron (Sala Baker) launches the final stages of his conquest of Middle-earth, Gandalf the White (Ian McKellen) and King Théoden of Rohan (Bernard Hill) rally their forces to help defend Gondor's capital Minas Tirith from the looming threat, while Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) finally claims the throne of Gondor and, with the aid of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), summons the Army of the Dead to help him defeat Sauron. Still, it comes down to the Hobbits Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), to bear the burden of Sauron's One Ring and deal with the treachery of Gollum (Andy Serkis). After a long journey, they arrive in the land of Mordor, seeking to destroy the Ring in the place in which Sauron created it: the volcanic fires of Mount Doom.
Released on 17 December 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King received rave reviews and universal acclaim, and became one of the greatest critical and box-office successes of all time. It was only the second film to gross $1 billion worldwide ($1.12 billion), becoming the highest grossing film released by New Line Cinema, as well as the biggest financial success for Time Warner in general, until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($1.31 billion) surpassed The Return of the King 's final gross in 2011. The film was the highest-grossing film of 2003 and, by the end of its theatrical run, the second highest-grossing film in history. As of October 2015, it is the twelfth highest-grossing film in history.
At the 76th Academy Awards, it won all 11 Academy Awards for which it was nominated, therefore holding the record for highest Oscar sweep. The wins included the awards for Best Picture, the first and only time a fantasy film has done so; it was also the second sequel to win a Best Picture Oscar (following The Godfather Part II) and Best Director. The film jointly holds the record for the largest number of Academy Awards won with Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997).
Gandalf leads Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and King Théoden to Isengard where they reunite with Merry and Pippin, who helped the Ents destroy Saruman’s forces. With Saruman himself defeated, Gandalf retrieves Saruman’s palantír which is viewed by a curious Pippin, allowing Sauron to attack the Hobbit’s mind. Gandalf deduces Sauron will attack Gondor’s capital Minas Tirith, riding there with Pippin. They meet Lord Denethor, steward of Gondor, and Boromir’s father. Pippin declares his service to Denethor after Boromir died protecting him.