Twenty years on from the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, fans continue to celebrate the monumental achievements of Peter Jackson and the team who brought Middle-earth to life. New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) have shared with us a twelve-minute look at the making of LOTR: ROTK pulled from the archives featuring new 4K remastered footage.
Back when midnight openings were a thing, fans around the world lined up to be the first to watch Return of the King in cinemas with heralded hype. The runtime of 3 hours and 21 minutes did not dissuade anyone as book fans knew there was a lot of story to cover, and the DVD releases of the longer Extended Editions had primed audiences for a longer, well-told story. The finale exceeded anyone’s expectations. The Return of the King made $1.1 Billion at the box office, making it the second-highest grossing movie of all time at release. It was still #1 at the box office in its 4th week!
LOTR was destined for greatness from the start, as the story by J.R.R. Tolkien are the highest-selling books of the 20th century and the informal teaser from Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema broke online video records, surpassing downloads of the trailer to Star Wars Episode 1.
Above, Peter Jackson attends TheOneRing.net’s Fellowship of the Ring Oscar Party in 2002. Below, Peter Jackson returns to the 2004 fan party for Return of the King with all the Oscar trophies in hand. Return of the King matched the record for most Oscars ever won by any movie, and is the most-awarded film worldwide of all time.
In addition to the video above from WBHE recognizing Peter Jackson’s achievement, fans are celebrating together with a global watch-along on Sunday December 17 to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Return of the King. Also look out for a new Art of Costume podcast with the award winning costume designer Ngila Dickson.
- Return of the King Extended Edition watch-along
- Sunday December 17
- 9am PT | 12 noon ET | 5pm London
- TheOneRing Discord
- Nerd of the Rings on YouTube (with special guests!)
In the 20 years since its record setting award winning run, The Lord of the Rings films have become the benchmark of filmmaking with just the right balance of practical and digital effects, location and digital shooting, innovation and classical performance, and maintaining a fidelity to the source material while at the same time introducing changes benefiting the medium of film. Fans have made watching these films an annual event, and the wide use of LOTR memes are unsurpassed in quantity and relevance.
Peter Jackson is adored worldwide and fans still enjoy diving into the BTS Appendices on 4K, Bluray and DVD. Now that New Line Cinema has a fresh long-term deal to make new LOTR spinoff movies, could Jackson return to Middle-earth? His producing partner Philippa Boyens is already bringing WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM to cinemas in December 2024, telling the story of Helm Hammerhand and the history of the Rohan Shieldmaidens. Jackson doesn’t need to get back to LOTR after winning Emmy Awards with The Beatles (and directing his first ever music video for them) but, based on the daily conversations happening on our forums and discord, LOTR fans are ready for a trustworthy hand to manage the future of Tolkien’s expanding legendarium.
Happy 20th anniversary to Return of the King, a film that made us all cry (multiple times) by channeling the best of J.R.R. Tolkien and the humanity of his stories. It remains the high water mark of fantasy filmmaking even today.