Game of Thrones is known for plenty of things. The giant, soaring dragons. The often-explicit sex scenes. And the titular "game of thrones" as people vie for a spot on the Iron Throne. But it's also known for orchestrating some of the craziest battle scenes TV has ever seen. They're more often than not brutal and violent. They're also usually choreographed so well you can barely tell you're watching a TV scene at all! As the years have gone on, and the budgets have gotten bigger, the battles have naturally gotten better, better, and more shocking to match!
But not all battles on Game of Thrones are created equal. Some are a bit lackluster or almost passed-over entirely. Early-series budget concerns prevented viewers from seeing some insane battles to their fullest. On the other hand, some of the most memorable battles on the show weren't even between warring battalions but were just two skilled people duking it out. Here is the definitive ranking of all of the crazy, major battles on Game of Thrones from worst to first!
In Daenerys's (Emilia Clarke) quest to free the slaves all throughout Slaver's Bay, she was involved in several battles. After a while, her conquest through the cities became a little boring. This battle, in particular, seems a little pointless since the moment she leaves the city, the Wise Masters of Yunkai return to their old ways, re-enslaving the citizens. She sends threats after the fact, but this particular battle is more than just a little inconsequential, especially when we know her big conquest is all the way across the sea.
This is more inter-Night's Watch drama than anything that really propels the plot forward. The battle at Craster's Keep is intended to kill the mutineers of the Night's Watch, aka men who had rallied against the Lord Commander and essentially betrayed their post. Craster (Robert Pugh) himself leads the mutineers and does really disgusting things to his daughter-wives. While the battle doesn't do much to push the plot forward in the long run, it does give us the character of Gilly (Hannah Murray), who actually is important later on in the series. But it also delivers the most frustrating near-miss of the series: Jon (Kit Harington) narrowly missing being reunited with his brothers who were right there!
This was one of those early Game of Thrones battles that seemed so significant and amazing at the time, but has long since been overshadowed by much more significant battles. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) leads his army against Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the Lannister army. In the end, Lannister men are slain, Jaime is captured, and Robb's reputation is established in the North. Yes, that's all fine and good, however, the battle itself was pretty standard and Robb's rule never comes to fruition so it's a little trivial.
Oh, Stannis (Stephen Dillane). By the end, your bid for the Iron Throne was getting a bit sad. Nothing shows that more than your embarrassing (and quick) defeat by House Bolton at the Battle of Winterfell. As Stannis and his army attempt to take Winterfell from the Boltons, they engage in battle just outside the castle. Stannis had a weak army, men who were starting to mistrust him, and all-in-all it seemed his spirit was broken. Not that many thought he'd end up on the Iron Throne by this point in the series anyway, but it was officially the end of his attempt and it was pretty ~whatever~ when everything was said and done. The only good thing that came out of this battle? Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) finally escaping her captivity by the Boltons.
Dany's journey through Slaver's Bay gets a bit boring now and again, but this is definitely one of the higher points. When The Sons of the Harpy try to assassinate her in Mereen, since she's disbanding their slaving ways, she retaliates like she never has before: with her dragon, Drogon, by her side. Drogon swoops in to save his mother, burning her enemies in the process. Boo-yah, bitches. It's the first time we really see dragon vs. human and it's also the first time Dany rides a dragon, which just continues to be iconic for future seasons. So it's pretty monumental. We will, of course, see the dragons do much cooler stuff later on, but this is still a nice example of their loyalty and willingness to fight for their queen.
We're not going to lie — anything that has to do with the Greyjoys is usually kind of boring and lame. Their inter-family drama has very little weight in Westeros. ...Until this battle, of course. Even though the Greyjoy family stuff is still kind of blah, this seventh-season battle flaunts the show's impressive budget as the two factions of the family duke it out at sea. Ships are destroyed, cannons are shot, and it's all beautifully lit by the ocean at night. Theon (Alfie Allen) is a pansy, IOHO, but this battle actually makes the Greyjoys seem more exciting than ever before.
While this is one of the more thrilling battles in Essos between Dany and her enemies, it also suffers from being the least interesting battle on this particular episode (more on that later). "Battle of the Bastards" is easily the most entertaining episode in Slaver's Bay and Dany completes her final coup of the Masters of Mereen and Sons of the Harpy. When they expect her to surrender, she shows them how powerful she really is, sicking her dragons on their fleet and burning their men. It's a triumphant battle for Dany right before she sets sail for Westeros and puts a successful cap on her journey through Slaver's Bay.
This isn't even a major battle between armies. It's just two badass people going head-to-head and it's still one of the greatest fights on Game of Thrones. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) had along ago promised Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) that she would protect her daughters. So when she meets Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) traveling with the dangerous Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann), she challenges him to battle to take over protective duties of Arya. He, too, is finding himself protective of the young girl and the two dual in epic fashion. Brilliant swordplay ensues and The Hound finds himself tumbling off a cliff. Arya runs from them both, but the battle shows how formidable Brienne really is.
Before the wights and White Walkers were taken seriously as the true threat, the Night's Watch guarding the wall was just trying to keep Wildlings away. Eventually, though, they realized how poorly staffed the Night's Watch truly was and manned an attack on Castle Black in an attempt to cross the wall and take over the post. The battle is brutal, and it's one of the most violent incidents of the series. The Night's Watch successfully keeps their post despite many casualties, including Jon Snow's Wildling love, Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Good thing it worked out for those crazy kids in real life since Harington and Leslie are married!
This is one of the most significant battles in the series when it comes to the endgame of the show. For the first time since The Long Night over 8,000 years ago, men battle White Walkers beyond the wall. While the Night's Watch suffers extremely heavy casualties as White Walkers and wights descend on their camp, it verifies their existence for many and warns them that there's an imminent threat. Samwell Tarley (John Bradley) lives to tell the tale and spread the news that there is a bigger enemy beyond the wall than the Wildlings. Despite most of the battle happening off-screen, the implications and the first sight of the White Walker army, make it one of the best of the series.
Not only is this another thrilling glimpse at the White Walker army, it's also an incredibly emotional battle. We learn, finally, why Hodor (Kristian Nairn) can only say his name, which is really the metamorphosized version of "hold the door." This is the order given to him at this battle as he tries to protect Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead) from an army of wights sent to destroy the boy that is the new Three-Eyed Raven. His door-holding as the rest frantically escape from the cave leads to his death and the most heartbreaking reveal of all time that this event, manipulated by Bran's Warg powers, changed his life from childhood onward.
This is another battle between just two men, but it's one of the most unmerciful battles in the entire series. Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) agrees to fight in trial by combat for Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) since his opponent, Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), raped and murdered his sister years ago. The battle begins in Oberyn's favor, with him landing some very good shots. But he gets cocky and emotional, taunting his opponent and hedging him to admit what he did to his sister. It leads to a slip-up and Oberyn getting his eyes caved in by The Mountain's massive thumbs. It's disgusting and hard to watch, but also one of the most remarkable moments in Game of Thrones history.
This battle is one of the biggest showings of White Walkers and wights Game of Thrones has ever give us. It also provides one of the biggest casualties of the series. When Jon and his compatriots get trapped beyond the wall by the Night King and his army, they send to Dany in hopes that she'll come to rescue them. She arrives, aided by her dragons, and light up the wights attacking Jon and his men. There's one problem though: the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) has dragon-killing spears (apparently!) and knocks one of Dany's faithful dragons to the depths of a frozen lake. It awakens later... as a White Walker dragon... the biggest loss yet for the living. The thrills of the battle and surprises it brings make it one of the greatest battles to watch on the series as a whole.
By this point in the series, Dany has made it to Westeros and is itching to show her true power — and the power of her dragons. While she's advised not to char the current Queen to ash and take over the Iron Throne, she has to assert her power somehow. So she targets Jaime Lannister and his men as they journey home from Highgarden with piles of gold. With Drogon and a horde of Dothraki beside her, she makes her presence in Westeros known as she finally prepares to take her place on the Iron Throne. These men had never seen dragons and had only heard about them in legend, suddenly just to find themselves fighting her biggest one. This is one of the most satisfying battles on Game of Thrones as we see Dany finally give her enemies a taste of her immense power.
Many of the battles on the first few seasons of Game of Thrones were low-scope or happened off-screen for budgeting reasons. But The Battle of Blackwater was a loud and proud battle that shows what theatrics this show was capable of when it came to pulling off the thrill of war. Stannis, with a much stronger army at this point, attempts to take King's Landing and a place on the Iron Throne. Tyrion proves himself as a tactical force to be reckoned with as he leads the defense of the city and manages to destroy some of Stannis's fleet with wildfire. In the end, reinforcements make their way to the city and secure a victory for the Lannisters by sending Stannis home to lick his wounds.
There have been battles against the White Walkers and wights throughout Game of Thrones, but this is the best of them all. At the Hardhome camp beyond the wall, Jon tries to convince the Wildlings to fight with him against the undead threat. While they're resistant, they eventually agree to come with him to Castle Black. Until the army of the undead comes to them. The Night King and his army invade Hardhome (with impeccable timing, we may add, considering they did it when Jon was there) and a battle ensues. We learn here what can and can't kill them (Valyrian Steel for the win!) and see the true might of their undead craze. Fans will never forget the moment when survivors begin escaping on boats and the Night King raises his hands with those who died in the battle rising up behind him, now part of his army.
Jon Snow vs. Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) is Game of Thrones at its best. Sansa and Jon are determined to get Winterfell, their home, back from Bolton and his army. So they go to the houses of the North to find an to get an army. Although they aren't super successful, and their army is mostly Wildlings, they still engage in battle with Bolton. The battle begins with their brother's death and, the next thing you know, Jon is charging at Bolton's large army and trying to take them on single-handedly. The battle escalates until it seems Jon and his men are too outnumbered to possibly survive. Of course, our girl Sansa comes through in the clutch having recruited the Knights of the Vale to assist them. It's perfectly choreographed and as perfect a battle as you can get on a show like this!