Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King

image for Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King

Short takes

Not suitable under 13; parental guidance to 14 (violence, scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King
  • a review of Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 27 December 2003.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to violence and scary scenes.
Children aged 13–14 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes.
Children aged 15 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Lord of the Rings, The: The Return of the King
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Medium level violence
Length: 201 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Return of the King is based upon the third book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of The Rings. The film is of the fantasy genre complete with castles, wizards, knights, dwarfs, hobbits, trolls, goblins, etc. It contains adult and supernatural themes with high level violence.

The film completes the trilogy, describing the continuation of the exploits of five separate but connecting groups of characters:

  • Lord Aragorn, (the returning King), Legolas the elf, and Gimli the dwarf
  • the two hobbits, Merry and Pippin
  • Gandalf the white wizard
  • King Theoden and the riders of Rohan
  • the two hobbits, Frodo and Samwise.

After the battle of Helm’s Deep, Lord Aragorn, accompanied by Legolas and Gimli, enlists the aid of an army of ghost warriors (the dead men of Dunharrow) who help them in the battle to defend Minas Tirith against the Dark Lord Sauron’s invading army of orcs, trolls and other nasties. Following the victory at Minas Tirith, Aragorn, together with Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf and an army of thousands march upon the Black Gate of Mordor where, although greatly outnumbered, they challenge the dark lord Sauron.

The two hobbits, Merry and Pippin, gather the tree shepherds, the Ents and lead them to see the destruction wreaked by Saruman on the trees surrounding the tower of Orthanc.
Gandalf the white wizard, rides to Minas Tirith to warn the steward of Gondor, Lord Denethor, of the impending invasion. During the siege of Minas Tirith, Gandalf plays a major role in the defence of the city.

King Theoden, with an army of six thousand riders of Rohan, ride to the assistance of Denethor where they engage the invading force of orcs in a fierce battle, the battle of the Pelennor fields. The Rohirrim then march with Lord Aragorn to the Black Gates of Mordor.

Meanwhile, Frodo and Samwise, guided by the creature Gollum, continue on their quest to destroy the one ring of power by throwing it into the fires of Mount Doom. After escaping both the giant spider Shelob and a band of orcs, Frodo, once again with the assistance of Samwise, reaches the fires of Mount Doom at the same time as Lord Aragorn’s army reaches the Black Gates.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Good vs Evil.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The violence presented in The Return of The King, while not highly graphic, is portrayed in both a realistic and unrealistic manner. Examples of violence resulting in death and injury, are people:

  • being impaled on lances and swords
  • being decapitated
  • being crushed underneath huge boulders
  • having their throats torn out and shot by arrows, etc, with death and injury resulting.

Other violence is portrayed in a highly glamorised and unrealistic manner. At one point Legolas scales a huge Mumakil (giant elephant) and single handedly kills all on board including the giant beast while finally sliding down the trunk of the Mumakil and calmly stepping onto the ground.

The violence enacted by good side is performed for the most part by attractive heroes and nearly always successful. Violence is also enacted by one of the heroines of the story, Eowyn, niece to Theoden who single-handedly kills a dragon-like creature ridden by the Witch King (Sauron’s number one).

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There are continuous scary images capable of terrifying children under the age of five years including:

  • Hideously monstrous looking orcs and trolls
  • Dragon-like creatures referred to as Fell beasts
  • Wargs (giant wolfs)
  • The giant spider, Shelob
  • Ghost-like images of dead men complete with decomposing bodies
  • Grim reaper-like characters referred to as Ringwraiths
  • A giant lidless eye-like image referred to as the eye of Sauron
  • Giant tree-like creatures called Ents
  • Frodo’s finger being bittern off by the creature Gollum.
  • Numerous horse are killed during battles including being lifted into the air by fell beasts and dropped to the ground, or being torn apart by fell beasts.
  • Once the one ring is cast into the fires of Mount Doom there are numerous images of giant towers crashing to the ground with the ground opening up and devouring Sauron’s creatures.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Children in this age group are likely to be scared or disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and images.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Children in this age group are likely to be scared or disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and images.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Some children in this age group are likely to be scared or disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and images.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • There is some depiction of alcohol and tobacco consumption in The Return of The King. The context of the alcohol consumption was set in either a tavern or banquet environment with there being no scene depicting the overindulgence of alcohol consumption.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has a classic good verses evil theme, with good triumphing over evil.

There were a number of positive values presented in The Return of the King worthy of parental discussion and or encouragement including:

  • the conflict in mankind between darkness and light
  • men’s hearts being both fickle and fragile things capable of both greatness and wickedness
  • the ability of the will of people to be swayed by pride, vengeance, greed and love
  • the ability of humanity to rise above itself to be proven above temptation and human weakness
  • the selflessness and sacrifice of individuals for the good of others.

Themes and values parents may wish to discourage include:

  • violence as a means to solve conflict
  • the dominance of males in controlling difficult or dangerous situations
  • the theme that good always triumphs over evil simply because it is good.