Today I watched Lord of the Rings The Return of the King (2003).
When I first saw this movie in the theater I thought it was my least favorite LOTR film. It seemed to drag on and on and refuse to end. The movie seemed to end and end and end for almost an hour in the theater and then the credits stretched the limitations for length of time a movie could scroll through names.
A while later I picked up the extended version of The Return of the King and it moved into contending with The Two Towers as one of my all-time favorite movies. I'm not sure I can put my finger on what the extended version does to make this movie better other than that it seems to give some character depth and it must fix the pacing problems I had with it on my first viewing.
This movie has the big final battle that twists on the Helms Deep battle by bringing in the large war animals Frodo and Sam see when they get captured by humans. This movie also has the great sequence of the lighting of the beakons to call for help that both shows the beauty of middle earth, but also the vastness of it.
This has such great stories within the story with the mad king, to the separation of the hobbits, to Sam and Frodo fighting the heaviness of the ring. I don't really recall the first time I saw this, I think it was with my brother on a weekend that he had come down from New Hampshire to visit, but I do have fond memories of watching all three movies in a sitting with friends and enjoying the final installment of the marathon.