Top Five Epic Musical Moments in The Lord of the Rings

By Shannon O'Toole

The music in The Lord of the Rings is so bound to the films that it’s almost impossible to imagine some of the most stirring and emotional scenes in the trilogy without it.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are the top five epic musical moments in The Lord of the Rings films. You can refer to the track name from the extended edition scores and time mark to listen along!

5. The Fellowship of the Ring – “Gilraen’s Memorial” – 3:50

The Fellowship has just formed in Rivendell and set out on their quest. Viewers witness the Fellowship traversing over the mountains as they begin their journey from afar, hearing the hints of what becomes their theme steadily building.

The music swells as the camera draws in for a close shot of each Fellowship member passing single-file over the crest of a hill. It feels like a heroic moment for them all, allowing each individual to have a time of their own visually while uniting them as a group with a single purpose beneath the banner of the music.

4. The Two Towers – “The Last March of the Ents” – 0:00

Treebeard is brought to the edge of Isengard after some clever coaxing on Pippin’s part. Light-hearted talk between Treebeard, Merry, and Pippin comes to a halt as they survey Saruman’s destruction. Treebeard laments the loss of trees he had known his entire life, acknowledging that they were each irreplaceable, individual spirits.

After taking a moment to mourn, Treebeard decides that such a travesty cannot go without a response. Treebeard cries out in agony and rage, and the remaining Ents emerge from the forest, aware that they are likely going forth to their doom. The music is simultaneously haunting and full of purpose, perfectly capturing the gravity of the moment.

3. The Two Towers – “The Tales That Really Mattered” – 0:00

In Osgiliath, Frodo Baggins almost succumbs to the Ring. He nearly surrenders himself to one of the Nazgûl, and is saved at the last moment by his loyal friend and gardener Samwise Gamgee. Still overcome by the power of the Ring, Frodo pins Sam to the ground and holds his sword to Sam’s throat. As Frodo comes to his senses and gives in to despair, Sam’s words fill Frodo, and the viewers, with a feeling of hope.

While Sam speaks, viewers are taken to Isengard to see the Ents overthrowing Saruman, and then they are whisked away to the Battle of Helm’s Deep where Rohan, with the help of Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Gandalf, has claimed victory in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds.

The score manages to acknowledge the loss and pain inherent in the tales that really matter while maintaining a current of hope and goodness. This track embodies one of the most important and enduring lessons that the trilogy imparts to its viewers.

2. The Return of the King – “The Lighting of the Beacons” – 3:50

As the armies of Mordor march upon a woefully underprepared Minas Tirith, Gandalf recognizes that the world of men will have to unite if it hopes to stand against Sauron’s forces. With the help of Pippin, Gandalf goes against Denethor’s wishes and summons Rohan to help in the fight.

“Hope is kindled,” Gandalf says as he watches the beacon of Amon Dîn in Minas Tirith light up. Viewers are taken through the mountains, from beacon to beacon, spanning the distance from Gondor to Rohan. Gondor’s theme, at its strongest in this moment, paired with the breathtaking landscapes of this scene, inspires every time.

1. The Return of the King – The Battle of the Pelennor Fields – 0:00

While the rest of the list was more challenging to put into a ranking, this moment was locked at number one from the start. Rohan has answered Gondor’s call, fully recognizing that their numbers are fewer than what they had hoped for.

As the Rohirrim army marches toward an overrun Minas Tirith beneath a beautiful sunrise, Théoden delivers what is arguably the most stirring and poetic speech of the entire trilogy. With his sword raised, he gallops across the frontline of his cavalry, his sword striking against their weapons. He shouts, “Death!” and his men (and one woman and one hobbit) echo his battle cry.

The music in this scene begins quietly, almost like it’s holding its breath. Rohan’s musical theme becomes recognizable as Théoden speaks, slowly building in strength and hitting a crescendo as the Rohirrim charge.

The scores in The Lord of the Rings are so powerful that they can tell us the story with only music. They ferry us to new lands, introduce us to characters we will come to know like old friends, and serve as an invaluable companion to the movies. From the rolling hills of the Shire to the volcanic wastelands of Mordor, Howard Shore’s score is with us every step of the journey, supporting and driving the epic tale.

What is your favorite musical moment in The Lord of the Rings films? Let Your Geek Sideshow and tell us in the comments section!