It is hard to believe it's been almost 17 years now since Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy became the first hit movie theaters in late 2001. While the films themselves remain iconic, so too do the scores composed by Howard Shore and the theme songs from various artists. It is very difficult to separate the visual imagery from the audial accompaniments when re-watching the trilogy today.
Since 1978, both Tolkien Week and Hobbit Day have thrilled Middle Earth enthusiasts, and with September 22—the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins—rapidly approaching, it is the perfect time to revisit the music from The Lord of the Rings. Shore's compositions and the full soundtracks, spanning the three films—The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003)—provided many options to choose from for this list. This list is also perfect to jam out to during Tolkien Reading Day on March 25.
In the end, we chose the seven best songs from the trilogy's official soundtracks to offer you—plus a very necessary honorable mention. So celebrate Hobbit Day in style. Whether at work or at home, don't forget to hit "repeat" on the playlist, of course ...
While this little ditty does not appear on the soundtrack to The Return of the King, it's a fan favorite for obvious reasons. The scene is somewhat short, with a slightly longer version on the Extended Edition DVD, but that does not minimize its appeal one bit. We only wish there existed some full version of this song ... somewhere. If you can find one on the Internet, let us know!
7. Enya: "May It Be"
This is the theme song to The Fellowship of the Ring, and it played over the closing credits of the first entry in the trilogy. She is one of those easy-listening artists from which we always wish we could hear more. The mood and tone of the song are perfect for the end of The Fellowship, as everything is splintered and (for those who had not read the books) up in the air, in terms of character destiny. The song is haunting, still, so many years later.
6. Howard Shore: "Minas Morgul"
It is a chilling moment in The Return of the King when the armies of Sauron emerge from Minas Morgul, as many storylines converge in the moment. It is a dark spot of time for our heroes: Frodo and Sam witness the whole parade, while Gandalf and Pippen watch from afar in horror, too. The music ebbs and flows with our emotions, permanently reminding us of what is at stake for what remains of the Fellowship.
5. Howard Shore and Enya, featuring Roma Ryan: "The Council of Elrond"
This is a great track, because it captures the overall thematic brilliance of Shore's Academy Award-winning score for The Fellowship of the Ring while also incorporating the love theme of Aragorn and Arwen, featuring the vocals of Roma Ryan. In fact, Enya composed that "love" section, giving us even more reason to love it. The entire emotional journey of the trilogy is packed into this track, for the most part.
A particularly poignant moment in The Return of the King is highlighted by this composition—and Boyd's dulcet delivery of the vocals. There is an instrumental build throughout the track until the end, when Boyd starts singing ... and bringing a tear to your eye. It's even better on screen, as Faramir charges hopelessly against the enemy, while his father Denethor gorges himself on food in front of Pippen. It just makes you break out in goosebumps.
3. Annie Lennox: "Into the West"
This song the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as the entire score to The Return of the King netted Shore another Oscar, too. It played over the credits at the end of the trilogy's final installment, the perfect ending to a long and emotional adventure for the film-viewing audience. In that vein, it was hard not to make this the top pick on the list, truly.
2. Howard Shore: "The King of the Golden Hall"
This is the only (official) entry on our list from The Two Towers, but that should not minimize that film's contributions to our audio enjoyment of the trilogy. The sweeping visual vistas of the middle film are stunning when it comes to Rohan and its horse-lord civilization. There is a sadness to the melody that embodies the transitional elements of storytelling in the trilogy here we cannot emphasize enough: Shore's skill in composition nails it on the head.
1. Howard Shore: "The Bridge of Khazad Dum"
Perhaps the most singularly memorable moment of the entire trilogy, Gandalf's battle with the Balrog simply stunned audiences with its visual triumph on the big screen. Yet it's the music in that scene which sticks in your mind just as much as the imagery itself. It is both powerful and sentimental at the same time, capturing the essence of the entire trilogy in just under six minutes' time—an unforgettable eternity to our ears.