It's definitely the best of this trilogy, and it affirms the entire trilogy in my all-time best movies pantheon. As much as I'd wanted to be, I hadn't been moved to tears by any scenes in the first two films. But for ROTK, the theater was dusty and my allergies kicked in more than once. I'll admit that I wasn't completely into the movie for the first hour or so: I was enjoying it, but I was thinking that I liked The Two Towers better so far. All that changed when the Rohirrim arrived at Minas Tirith and Theoden spoke to his army. My favorite scene in the book is at the end of the chapter entitled "The Siege of Gondor," when Tolkien writes, "Horns, horns, horns. Horns wildly blowing from the north. Rohan had come at last." (indicating the arrival of the riders of Rohan). This scene in the movie equaled my expectations and kicked the movie into another plane of filmmaking, as far as I'm concerned. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields was every bit as exciting as it is on the page, and then some. I missed the Mouth of Sauron at the gates of Mordor, but Aragorn's inspirational speech and the resulting confrontation didn't lack for excitement either. The Frodo-Sam-Gollum triangle was even better this time around. Even more than last year, Andy Serkis deserves consideration for Best Supporting Actor. His Gollum is even more cunning and deceitful than he was in TTT, and Serkis does an amazing job with the role. I especially liked the Smeagol and Deagol opening scene, where we find out how Smeagol became Gollum. But the best and most moving scene in the movie was at the end, when Aragorn, now King Elessar, and all the people of Gondor bow before the four hobbits. I admit that the theater got really dusty then. The ending was a little drawn out, but the stories needed to be wrapped up and there's no other way to end it than to put Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf and Elrond on the ship. I'm sure the ending will be extra long in the extended edition next fall. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the extended version of ROTK runs five hours.
I'm sure there were more things I wanted to mention in this review. It would be more coherent if it hadn't taken me over an hour to get home on the subway. (Remember kids, the 42nd St. shuttle doesn't run between midnight and 6 AM!) So I'm sure you won't mind if I write more about this later, especially after I see it a few more times.