The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - 2003
Age-appropriateness: Frequent, violent, and intense battle scenes. Scary images and themes. Some tobacco use. An “army of the dead” depicts ghosts as real beings.
Overview: In the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are many characters who are willing to give up their lives for their mission. Jesus modeled this type of self-sacrifice. The movie title has an easy parallel to the return of Christ, who is our King.
Themes: adventure, good vs. evil, power, kingship, conflict, Jesus’ return, hope, courage, tricky people, lying, loyalty, unconditional love, purpose/calling, honor, death/dying, temptation, peace
The Quick 3
Ask these quick questions to hit the major themes of the film.
1. Kingship. What does it mean for Jesus to be your King and Lord?
Aragorn becomes the king of Gondor. Jesus is said to be our true King. Revelation 19:16 talks about Jesus when it says, "On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” Jesus is King, meaning He’s in position of power. Jesus is Lord, meaning he’s in charge.
2. Purpose/calling. Who do you think you were born to be? What did God uniquely create you to do?
Lord Elrond encourages Aragorn to “put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be.” He’s referring to Aragorn answering his call to become the king of Gondor.
Parent resource: How to Talk to Your Child About their Purpose/Calling.
3. Self-sacrifice. What are the most important things in your life? What are the things worth fighting for? Many of the characters were willing to give up their lives for the mission. Destroying evil and saving the world was at stake, so people were willing to sacrifice everything to fight for the things they loved most. In the New Testament, many of Jesus’ followers did the same, for the sake of the gospel.
After The Movie Discussion Guide
Follow this 5-10 minute discussion guide to drive an in-depth conversation.
1. Check out this article about the over-arching themes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
2. The Return of the King refers to the return of the king of Gondor, which is Aragorn. The reclaiming of the Kingdom of Gondor is something people talked about for a long time. In the same way, Christians await the day when Jesus returns to His throne and rules the new heaven and the new earth. Hebrews 9:28 mentions the return of Jesus when it says, " so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” What do you think Jesus will do when He returns? What do you think He might be waiting for?
3. Aragorn becomes the king of Gondor. Jesus is said to be our true King. Revelation 19:16 talks about Jesus when it says, "On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” Jesus is King, meaning He’s in position of power. Jesus is Lord, meaning he’s in charge. What does it mean for Jesus to be your King and Lord?
4. Gollum tries to trick Frodo into fighting with and hating his best friend, Samwise. Gollum makes up lies and creates situations to pin the Hobbits against one another. Have you ever had someone try to trick you like this?
5. Parent resource: For further discussion, read this article on How to Talk to Your Child About Tricky People.
6. The Army of the Dead were a group of soldiers who were called upon to defend their people. But when the time came for them to fight, they chose to run away. Because they were traitors, Isildur cursed them. They decided to regain their honor by doing the right thing. Have you ever failed to show up and do the right thing? Was there ever a time when you acted like a “traitor”? How might you regain your honor?
7. Many of the characters were willing to give up their lives for the mission. Destroying evil and saving the world was at stake, so people were willing to sacrifice everything to fight for the things they loved most. In the New Testament, many of Jesus’ followers did the same, for the sake of the gospel. What are the most important things in your life? What are the things worth fighting for?
Minute By Minute Guide
Use this break down of the entire movie in addition to the “After the Movie” discussion guide. Great for repeat viewings.
:04 Sméagol kills his cousin Déagol in order to keep the ring for himself. In one of the first stories in the Bible, a similar story is told. The first two humans on Earth, Adam and Eve, had kids themselves. They named their children Cain and Abel. One day, Cain became really angry and jealous, and he killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4). Have you ever became angry or jealous of a friend? In what way might your actions have hurt them?
:18 Samwise becomes really mad when he hears Gollum planning to hurt Frodo and take the ring. Frodo emphasizes that they cannot hurt Gollum because they need a guide to bring them to Mordor. Have you ever had a disagreement with your friend? What would you do in this case, if you were Sam?
:35 After Gandalf told Pippin not to speak, the foolish Hobbit ends up speaking anyway. Have you ever been told to stay quiet, but find it really hard to stay silent? Can you think of a time when you were supposed to be quiet, but ended up being loud anyway? What was the result?
:37 Gandalf tells Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, that no one can deny the return of the king. Denethor feels threatened by Aragorn, because he think he’ll lose his power and his importance if Aragorn comes and takes his place as the ruler of Gondor. Have you ever felt threatened by another person?
:48 When the beacon of Amor Dîn is lit, Gandalf says, “Hope is kindled.” Hope is a feeling that something will happen the way you want it to. What are some things that you hope for?
1:00 Denethor says very hurtful words to his son, Faramir. He makes it very clear that Boromir was his favorite son. Faramir does not get to experience the unconditional love of a father. It’s clear that his father only loves him based on his performance and what he’s able to accomplish. 1 John 4:16 describes how God loves us, no matter what. It says, "We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” What does it mean to love someone no matter what?
1:19 Lord Elrond encourages Aragorn to “put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be.” He’s referring to Aragorn answering his call to become the king of Gondor. Who do you think you were born to be? What did God uniquely create you to do?
Parent resource: How to Talk to Your Child About their Purpose/Calling.
1:39 Frodo finds himself in a spider’s cave. He regrets letting Sam go and realizes that he’s in danger. He gets caught up in webs and finds that there’s nothing he can do to save himself. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” We can only be truly “saved” by God’s grace, not because of anything we do ourselves. Because of our sin, we are separated from God. But because Jesus gave His life for us, our sins are forgiven and we can be with God forever in heaven. What would it feel like to be in a situation where you couldn’t save yourself? Then, how would it feel if someone sacrificed themself in order to save you?
1:50 After being sent away by Frodo, Samwise returns to save his friend’s life. He refused to give up on his friendship, no matter what. Samwise is a very loyal friend. Loyalty is showing trust and constant support for someone. Who are some of your loyal friends? What do they do to demonstrate their loyalty?
1:59 Éowyn reassures Merry that she’ll be with him, even when it’s scary and hard. In some of the last words He ever said to His friends, Jesus encouraged them with a similar sentiment: "I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b). How comforting is it to know that God is always with you?
2:08 Gandalf encourages Pippin not to fear death. He explains that it’s a path we all must take. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to fear death. Because of Jesus, death is not the end of our story. Jesus gave up His life so that we could live forever! How would you describe what you think heaven will be like?
Parent resource: How to Talk to Your Child About Heaven.
2:22 Samwise is tempted to keep the ring. He hears a voice inside his head that tells him to do a bad thing. A temptation is a desire to do something wrong or unwise. When was the last time you were tempted to do something wrong or unwise? Were you able to overcome that temptation?
2:36 Samwise tells Frodo, “I may not be able to carry it for you, but I can carry you!” He proceeds to carry Frodo up the hill as they approach Mount Doom. Have you ever seen a friend struggling and decided to do something about it? What’s one friend that you can “carry” in this season of life?
2:50 Frodo destroys the One Ring and Sauron is defeated forever. Evil is eliminated throughout Middle-Earth. Deuteronomy 20:4 gives a very encouraging reminder: "For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’” Jesus has already won, He defeated death and evil forever. We can have hope that when Jesus returns, there will be a new heaven and a new earth - and we will live there forever without any more hurt, pain, suffering, or evil of any sort. Can you imagine a world without evil or sin? What do you think it will be like?
2:57 The entire group of heroes bows down to the four hobbits in a sign of respect and admiration for all they had done. Philippians 2:10-11 tells a similar story: "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” It says that when Jesus returns, everyone will bow to Him and recognize that He is Lord. What do you think that means?