Top 10 Helm’s Deep Moments in LOTR: The Two Towers

Helm’s Deep is arguably the most iconic battle in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is also the longest battle in film history. With its high stakes, turning tides, and heartening moments of triumph, it is no wonder that the battle continues to thrill two decades later.

In honor of the twentieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers theatrical release, here are our top 10 moments at Helm’s Deep.

10. Aragorn’s Return

As the people of Rohan prepare for Saruman’s onslaught of Uruk-hai, Legolas, Gimli, and Éowyn mourn Aragorn. He is presumed dead after a Warg attack, having gone over the edge of a cliff into a raging river. Their despair turns to joy, however, upon his triumphant return. Aragorn walks through the double doors of the keep, creating one of the most visually iconic moments in the movie. He tells Théoden that he saw 10,000 Uruk-hai marching to Helm’s Deep, setting the stage for the ensuing battle.

9. Surfing Elf

Elves in Middle-earth are known for their battle prowess and grace. Although this moment is brief, it is one that never fails to please. Between walking on snow, balancing on a chain to shoot a cave troll in the back of the head, and swinging onto a horse, Legolas’ incredible skill was never in question. His resourcefulness is delightfully featured once again during the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Legolas throws a shield ahead of him and surfs on it down stone stairs while firing arrows at the oncoming Uruk-hai. He finishes his cheer-worthy stunt by launching the shield itself into one of the Uruks.

8. Quiet Before the Storm

The Rohirrim and their allies stand along the walls of Helm’s Deep, staring out into the night. Most are not seasoned warriors; the odds grow increasingly unfavorable as the many torches of the Uruk-hai come into view. The two armies come face-to-face and it starts to rain as they stand on the razor’s edge of battle. The quietness and tension of the moment is cut when an elderly Rohirrim man accidentally looses an arrow, killing an Uruk on the front line. Recognizing that the battle has started, Théoden quietly says, “So it begins.”

7. Elf vs. Dwarf

Helm’s Deep is easily one of the most harrowing moments in the War of the Ring. Despite the gravity of the battle at hand, Legolas and Gimli manage to add levity. The Elf and Dwarf are on good terms at this point. The two Fellowship members still, however, enjoy a friendly rivalry with one another counting how many Uruk-hai they take down. Gimli proudly tells Legolas he has already killed two of the enemy. Legolas gleefully replies, “I’m on 17!” Gimli, taken aback, retorts, “I’ll have no pointy-ear outscoring me!”

6. Haldir’s Death

As the fortress is overrun, Théoden and Aragorn recognize that they must fall back. Aragorn shouts to Haldir to let him know. Haldir acknowledges the order and fights the Uruk-hai around him to fall back. He is gravely wounded, however, and an Uruk-hai behind him delivers a killing blow. Aragorn witnesses this, and rushes to his side just in time to catch his fallen friend. In profound grief and rage, Aragorn fights on. He leaps on one of the Uruk-hai ladders and throws himself down into the fray.

5. The Elves Arrive

There were several changes from book to film for the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Common Orcs were omitted from the battle in the movie, and Elves were added. Although the Elves’ addition to the battle is at times controversial, it provides one of the most heartening moments at Helm’s Deep. Visually the skilled warriors are a sight to behold, and the music is stirring upon their arrival. Witnessing the people of Middle-earth unite against their common enemy highlights the fact that no single group of people can defeat Saruman and Sauron on their own.

4. “Nobody tosses a dwarf!”

In another moment of welcome levity, Aragorn and Gimli exit a hidden door and peer at the enemy on the causeway. Gimli quickly realizes that the gap is larger than he can span. In a hilarious callback to The Fellowship of the Ring, Gimli realizes that Aragorn will need to toss him. When Aragorn asks for Gimli to repeat himself, Gimli makes the same request to be tossed, only louder. Right before Aragorn throws his Dwarven companion, Gimli has one final request: “Don’t tell the Elf.” Aragorn reassures him, saying, “Not a word.”

3. The Deeping Wall Is Breached

Théoden chose to bring his people to Helm’s Deep for refuge thanks to its high, thick walls. He tells a skeptical Gimli that Saruman’s forces “will break upon this fortress like water on rock.” For some time, Théoden’s words ring true. Despite countless ladders and their best efforts, the Uruk-hai do not get past the walls of the Hornburg. The tides shift to Saruman’s favor as the Uruk-hai load powder-filled bombs into a drain on the wall. Legolas fails to take down an Uruk-hai carrying a sparking torch. The fire makes contact with the explosives and the wall is destroyed as Théoden and his forces look on with horror.

2. “Ride out with me.”

Théoden loses hope as the remaining soldiers seek refuge following several retreats. Aragorn points out that the remaining men are still defending the keep and that many had given their lives for Rohan. Aragorn answers Théoden’s continued despair, saying, “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.” Théoden is inspired by the notion, telling Aragorn, “Let this be the hour when we draw swords together. Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath! Now for ruin! And a red dawn!” Gimli sounds the horn of Helm Hammerhand as the remaining warriors mount their horses, open the doors to the keep, and charge into the enemy hordes.

1. “First Light on the Fifth Day”

Gandalf recognizes the danger in retreating to Helm’s Deep as the Rohirrim leave Edoras. He tells Aragorn that he will join him at Helm’s Deep, saying, “Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.” As Aragorn and Théoden lead their charge on the fifth day of battle, Gandalf arrives at the crest of the hill overlooking Helm’s Deep. He notes that Théoden stands alone as Éomer comes into view, saying, “Not alone.” Drawing his sword, he rallies the rest of his company, shouting, “To the king!” Gandalf and Éomer lead the charge, joining the remaining soldiers in the fight and securing victory for the people of Rohan.

While this battle does not win the War of the Ring, it strikes a defeating blow to Sauron’s most powerful ally, Saruman. The battle’s scope and cinematography easily secure it a top spot in the best battles ever committed to film. Beyond its importance in the overall war, the story of the Rohirrim overcoming almost hopeless odds inspires every time.

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