Ah, The Lord of the Rings. The epic to end all epics. Cinema experienced a resurgence in the epic genre during the nineties and early noughties, which really culminated in LOTR. Can you think of anything more epic or more recent? Nothing can top it.

In an attempt to get some work done yesterday, I put The Lord of the Rings on in the background. I got through the entire trilogy over the course of the day. I was over-caffeinated and far under the average levels of human normalcy. During nearly twelve long hours, as I got some writing done, and my roommate went about the course of her day – coming and going, leading a far healthier social life than me – we geeked out just a little bit too much. The progress tracked on Twitter, I’ve come up with the 20 Most Epic Moments in The Lord of the Rings. Without further ado:

20. Arwen’s Watery Horsies Take Out the Nazgul

I know, some people have their beefs with Arwen, but she is pretty kick-ass in the first film. This moment shows just how powerful she can be. It’s a perfect introduction to the elves in general: their calmness, their grace, and their quiet-yet-frightening magic.

19. Frodo Gets By With a Little Help From His Friend.

On the slopes of Mount Doom, as Frodo collapses, Sam epically bellows: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” as he hoists Frodo into the air, and I always expect the soundtrack to kick into Whitney Houston: “And I-I-I-I-I-I will always lo-ove yoooooou!”

18. Mourning Gandalf

After Gandalf is supposedly taken by shadow and flame, the most heartbreaking moment occurs on the rocky hills outside. The brightness of the snow-covered landscape stands in perfect contrast to the dark and fiery pits of Mordor, and we – along with the Fellowship – slowly let sink in what just happened.

17. Eomer Finds Eowyn on the Battlefield

One of the best additions in the extended edition: Eomer finds his sister, apparently killed in a battle he never knew she was a part of. Karl Urban rocks this scene, brining a tenderness and humanity to Eomer that was previously masked by his attempts at macho chauvinism.

16. Nature Kicks Ass: the Ents PWN Isengard

The Last March of the Ents truly epitomizes Tolkien’s theme of nature vs industry in the most base way. I also love the one little ent who runs into the water and puts out his flaming head (at 4.11 in this clip).

15. Bilbo Resists Temptation – Barely.

If you saw this in theatres back in the day, you must remember how many people screamed as the shadow passes over Bilbo when he’s tempted by the ring around Frodo’s neck. I remember seeing this for the second time with a friend and my sister (her first time). We grabbed her wrist at this moment and she literally screamed. It would have been hilarious if she was the only one, but she wasn’t! This moment really hammers home just how powerful the addiction of the ring is. (This video was the best I could find.)

14. Legolas: Two Orcs, One Arrow

Admittedly, I was a little put off by the way Legolas’s killing sprees had to one-up themselves each film. The two orcs, one arrow was clearly the best and most realistic one. Surfing down the stairs and taking down two mumakil is pretty damn close to jumping the shark. The moment I’m talking about occurs at 0.30 in the video.

13. From The Tallest Tower to the Depths of Hell

Best. Shot. Ever. From Galdalf trapped atop Orthanc, the tower at Isengard this brilliant shot swoops down the side of the tower right down into the depths of the cavernous pits where the Uruk-hai are being born.

12. Gandalf Battles His Foe Through Shadow and Flame

What an amazing way to start The Two Towers! Perhaps the most epic duel since Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. ‘Nuff said.

11. Wormtongue Realizes His Mistake… Whoopsie-doodles.

As Saruman addresses his legions of deformed soldiers, Wormtongue hovers in the background. That terrified look on his face shows his realization of how totally, utterly, majorly, epically he’s cocked-up.

10. Gollum Finally Gets the Ring Back… with a side order of Death.

The joy and elation of Gollum’s face when he’s finally reunited with his precious, followed by the sudden shock that he’s a split second from death, form a perfect ending for such a tragic figure. (Okay, so the only video I could find of this scene is set to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” Apologies/”You’re Welcome”s)

9. Boromir Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking… well, for awhile

Boromir’s death scene was quite epic. Not many dudes can take that many arrows to the torso and keep fighting. It made me respect just that little bit more.

8. Pippin’s Lament for Faramir (and all those nameless soldiers we don’t care about riding into Osgiliath)

Peregrin “Pippin” Took: great comic relief, but not the guy you want on your side in battle. Good thing he’s got the voice of an angel because nothing says “dude, we’re gonna die” like an American Idol-worthy hobbit singing a teary ballad as you depart. It’s almost like he doomed them, isn’t it?

7. The Opening Battle Scene

All kinds of epic. From the vast armies sweeping over the hills to Elrond’s terse battle calls, the opening scene of the trilogy really made you sit up and go “Holy F- -K!” How they were able to top that is anyone’s guess. (This video is set to the Benny Hill music. Again, apologies/thanks)

6. Gandalf Performs the Facelift of a Lifetime

As Gandalf casts the spell of Saruman off of Theoden, the special effects are seamless: we see Theoden perfectly transition back from the Cryptkeeper to Bernard Hill. With the clever cut to Saruman slamming back to the floor in his little lair in Orthanc, the scene is brilliantly magical, without puffs of smoke and bolts of lightning.

5. Haldir’s Death… weepies.

What is it that’s so awesome about Haldir? We don’t really see him all that often, yet your heart breaks when you see him taken down during the battle at Helm’s Deep. *tear* (What is it with the elves, that all I can find on Youtube are tribute videos?)

4. Gollum’s Conversation With, er… himself?

The clever camera work here is what really makes this scene. The two sides of Gollum – Gollum/Smeagol – are perfectly characterized and this really underlines what a fantastic achievement Gollum was from a filmmaking perspective. You never feel you’re watching CGI.

3. Theoden’s Heart-Stirring Pre-Battle Morale Boost

You’d have to be a corpse not to be moved by this speech. And a pretty dead one, too. Not a freshly dead one. Here we see a king who truly realizes that everything is on the line here. You get a feeling that he’s aware of the fact that this is his last day on earth. Love the clanging of his swords against all their spears, too. Nice touch.

2. “I am no man!” Eowyn FTW

This scene is proof that Eowyn is the most badass character in LOTR. With the exception of Sauron, The Witch King of Angmar is the biggest baddie of them all. And, since no one actually kills Sauron in hand-to-hand combat (and it took an ENTIRE ARMY and a bunch of hobbits to bring him down), the fact that Eowyn makes the Witch King her bitch like you wouldn’t believe makes her pretty badass. I always keep expecting the Witch King to shriek: “I’m melting! I’m melting!” as well.

1. The Lighting of the Beacons

The stirring music! The swooping across the mountain tops! The call for help from one kingdom to another! The knowledge that yes, Rohan will answer! Yes, men will unite! Evil will be vanquished! And some poor Rohan employee – whose ENTIRE JOB is to notice when the beacon is lit – has his thunder stolen by Aragorn, the damn king of men. What a jerk.