Ask any fan of the show to describe Game of Thrones, and you probably hear “lots of nudity, sex scenes, betrayal, horrible deaths, and epic battles.” And that is the show in a nutshell. Today, we will discuss some of the best battle scenes that Thrones has given us so far. And just to be clear, any combat between two or more people on scene is defined as a battle. So, expect big battles like Battle of the Bastards, but also one-on-one combat. Let’s go.
26. Brienne vs. Jaime Lannister, s3/e2
It was a long time since Jaime had a sword in his hands. A small mistake by Brienne let the Lannister go and allowed him an opportunity to grab a sword, defend himself and be free. But Brienne was not going to let that happen, and even though Jaime was one of the best men she had fought, she was victorious at the end. Brienne attacked and attacked until Jaime was on the ground. Ice cold veins.
25. Jon Snow vs. Karl Tanner, s4/e5
Jon Snow didn’t have many great fight scenes in Thrones, even though he is one of the most beloved characters. But his fight scene with Karl Tanner beyond the Wall was as great as they come. Karl has deserted the Night’s Watch, and Jon is there to put him in the right place. The fight and the scene shows Jon’s sense for what is right, and his belief in the Night’s Watch inauguration words.
24. Daario Naharis vs. the Champion of Mereen, s4/e3
This was one of the shortest and funniest fight scenes in GoT history. Basically, think of a Monty Python scene, and you’ve got it. Daario was shown as a smart and cunning warrior from his introduction, and in this scene, he showed that you don’t need big weapons or armor to kill someone. It is all in the brain.
23. Tyrion and Catelyn Stark, s1/e5
The beauty of this fight is that you have a moral dilemma. Should Catelyn Stark free Tyrion and let him fight when she and her entourage are attacked, or should she keep him captive and hope her knights will save her. In the end, she decides to let Tyrion go free, hoping he won’t make a run. There is a brief sequence in which Tyrion thinks of running, but then he comes back and saves Catelyn’s life.
22. Jorah Mormont vs. Qotho, s1/e9
Short in duration and very simple in choreography, but Jorah versus Qotho had motion, motivation, stakes and characterization, making it one of the best sword fighting scene in the show. The stakes were high for both sides. You actually care about the characters, since if Jorah loses, Dany is also dead. The battle originates from the conflict in Dany’s arc. Qotho is a loyal blood rider, and he is bound to Khal Drogo and his blood. He is concerned with Dany and the Witch corrupting his Khal, so he tries to stop them. In the end, Jorah wins because of the advantage he has bearing Westerosi equipment, which is much better suited for a close combat than Dothraki weapons.
21. Brienne vs. Loras Tyrell, s2/e3
What made this fight so much fun to watch is the introduction of Brienne. Before this scene, nobody knew about the mighty female warrior. Everyone watching the fight thought Loras was fighting some knight, but when he yielded and accepted defeat, the knight took off his mask and showed a female character underneath. Brienne swore allegiance to Remly, and she was anointed as a knight. The fight itself was great, with both fighters giving their best.
20. The Hound vs. Beric Dondarrion, s3/e5
This fight had everything: stakes, motion, characterization, and pure badass fighting. Beric Dondarrion’s burning blade got all the credit for the scene, but the Hound showed he is not afraid even when the Lord of Light is against him. The ending of the battle is great as well, with Sandor Clegane providing comical relief “where is your God now.”
19. Battle of Blackwater Bay, s2/e9
You are probably wondering why one of the best scenes in the history of Thrones is so low on the list. Well, the reason is simple: we didn’t see much fighting. The battle was decided thanks to Tyrion’s use of wildfire, and Stannis Baratheon never had a chance. Then Tywin stormed in with his forces, and the battle was over even before it began. But the wildfire scene was some great cinematography.
18. Khal Drogo vs. Khal Mago
Khal Drogo was described as the best fighter outside Westeros—someone who has a pile of heads from the enemies he has killed. Khal Mago challenged him in season one, as Drogo was blinded by his love for Dany. And when you challenge the Great Khal, you better expect a furious response. Mago tried to block Drogo with his weapon, but the Great Khal only scratched himself. He was dancing around Mago for few seconds, and then he finally decided to put an end to his misery. Sadly, Drogo was injured by a poisonous weapon in the fight, but that was after he showed just how badass he is.
17. Drogon vs. the Sons of the Harpy, s5/e9
We saw Dany’s dragons in action few times before, but never as adults. And when Dany was in trouble in the pits of Mereen, Drogon came to rescue her from the Sons of the Harpy. Breathing fire everywhere around, the scene showed the connection between Dany and her dragons. The only downside was the GGI, as the show made Dany riding Drogon a bit clumsy and sloppy. Nevertheless, it was an epic scene in which Dany got onto one of her dragons for the first time.
16. The Hound vs. Fake Brotherhood without Banners, s6/e8
“You are shit at dying, you know that?” Arguably one of the best lines in Thrones, and it came again from the mouth of the beloved character, the Hound. He was trying to lead a happy and violence-free life, but then the fake Brotherhood attacked his church, and the Hound responded in the only way he knew: by killing everyone. This time he took an axe, and absolutely crushed every member of the Brotherhood he could find.
15. The Hound vs. the Mountain, s1/e5
Two brothers who have fought against each other their entire lives. And then we saw them fight briefly as the Hound saved Ser Loras Tyrell from the rage of the Mountain. Fans were excited for another battle between these two ever since, as the battle itself left a lot to be desired. There were some rumors about a CleganeBowl in season 6, but that didn’t happen. At least we can always remember their battle in the first season of Thrones.
14. Bronn vs. Ser Vardis, s1/e6
Season one featured some of the best one-on-one battles in the history of Thrones. At the Eyrie, Bronn stepped up to be Tyrion’s knight in the trial by combat. This battle was the first impression we got from Bronn, and it showed how cunning and skilled a warrior he is. Bronn was patient, waiting for his chance against the heavy armed knight of the Vale. He was never threatened, thanks mostly to his understanding of battle.
13. Bronn and Jaime vs. Dornishmen, s5/e4
Jaime had just one hand at this point in the show, but that didn’t stop him from killing some Dornishmen. But when you have Bronn at your side, you know you are in good shape. Bronn just brings a comical element to every battle, and he is a joy to watch on the screen.
12. Battle of Oxcross, s2/e4
We didn’t see the full battle, as it happened off screen. But the beginning—the scene with Robb’s dire wolf attacking the two Lannister guards and chanting “King of the North”—is what made our bodies temper. The aftermath of the battle was emotional, with Robb acknowledging that wins at the battlefield are not as important if they lose too many men.
11. Jaime Lannister vs. Ned Stark, s1/e5
Great trash talking at the start of the battle, and then two of the greatest swordsman in the realm go at each other. Jaime quickly kills Ned’s help, showing he is extremely vicious and ruthless as well as skilled. The downside is that Ned was backstabbed, and it left something to be desired. But not all battles last long, and this one was quick and fun.
10. Brienne vs. the Hound, s4/e10
Brienne makes it back to the list with another epic battle. The battle was not just great as a fighting scene, but also from an emotional standpoint. The battle provided the perfect ending to one story arc—the one with Arya and the Hound—and made room for the next chapter in Arya’s storyline (her training to become an assassin). The battle itself was great in that both Brienne and Hound had their moments. You could have never guessed the outcome, as there were moments when you thought the Hound would win, and then Brienne would respond. The whole buildup to the fight, with the stare-down between Brienne and the Hound, was epic. And unlike many other fight scenes, it wasn’t a work of art. Quite the contrary, it was two vicious dogs on the loose and going at each other.
9. Syrio Forel vs. the Kingsguard s1/e8
If you are looking for a great, one-sided battle, you need to go back to season one. The Last Sword of Bravos managed to defeat the Kingsguard with a wooden sword. The directors decided to hide the outcome of the battle, and left fans with many theories about what happened. His death was never confirmed, and left a lot to be desired from Arya’s dance partner. Bonus points for the iconic reply “What do we say to the God of Death? Not today!”
8. Brienne vs. the Bear s3/e7
For those of you who want a raw, primal fight, this was the best in Game of Thrones. Brienne went against the bear with her bare hands, and she was holding her own. We don’t know who would have won if Jaime didn’t come along and save Brienne, but we can be sure for one thing: nobody messes with Brienne.
7. The Mountain vs. the Red Viper, s4/e8
It was a battle many expected, and all book readers knew the outcome. But the battle itself was a joy to watch. Pedro Pascal was great in the role of the Red Viper all season long, and in the fight scene, he managed to portray the virtuous skill of the Viper to its best. Pedro danced around the Mountain until he found a weak spot, and then took full advantage of it. And his rage as he was screaming “you raped my sister, you killed her children” was very real. Sadly, the fight ended in one of the worst deaths in Game of Thrones (and for a beloved character). The fight went from triumph to despair in a matter of seconds.
6. Barristan Selmy and Grey Worm vs. Sons of the Harpy, s5/e4
Fans saw the death of a beloved character, as Barristan Selmy didn’t survive the attack of the Sons of the Harpy. But he and Grey Worm fought bravely to the very end, until every attacker was dead. The unsullied patrol falls down quickly, but Grey Worm and Selmy were not so easy to take down. And the moment when those two had their back was as great as there is.
5. Ser Arthur Dayne vs. Ned Stark, s6/e3
The Tower of Joy is scene Game of Thrones fans wanted to see on screen since the first book came out 20+ years ago. The Tower of Joy scene was revealed in the book in a dream Ned Stark had, but in the show, Bran and his visions were responsible for the reveal. And boy, was it good. Arthur Dayne is described as the best swordsman in the realm. Ned Stark, Barristan Selmy, Jaime Lannister—all of them praise the knight. And we got to see him fight for the first and last time in Thrones. The scene perfectly showed his poise, skill, and ability to match against any opponent. Fans of the books wanted to see him yield a two-handed sword, but he was great with two one-handed ones.
4. Wildlings at the Wall, s4/e9
This was probably one of the most evenly matched battle scenes in the history of Game of Thrones and big battles. Yes, the Night’s Watch was outnumbered, but they had the wall to protect them. The episode provided few emotional moments to accompany the big battle, like Jon’s friends protecting the tunnel against wildlings, and then the death of Ygritte. We saw Jon and Styr go against each other, ending with an epic hammer blow. And then there was Ghost, who is always fun to watch on screen.
3. Dany destroys Slaver’s Bay s6/e19
You can safely say this was a lopsided battle, but nevertheless, it was a joy to watch. Daenerys had its way with the masters of Slaver’s Bay, and finally unleashed the full power of her dragons. The GGI was not at its best, especially when Dany rode Drogon, as those scenes still needed work. But when the three dragons breathed fire on the ships in Slaver’s bay, and we saw the masters scared for their lives, it was finally a payoff fans were expecting since season one when Dany got her dragons.
2. Hardhome, s5/e8
From season one onward, fans grow accustomed to expect the best episode to be the ninth episode of the season. But that wasn’t the case for season 5, when Hardhome completely blew fans away. Before the Battle of the Bastards, Hardhome was ranked as the best episode of Thrones. White Walkers versus Wildlings versus Jon Snow. What more can you ask for? And we got to see the Night’s King in action at the very end of the episode. The last scene of the battle—the one when Jon is leaving on a small boat and the King is watching him—went viral as a meme. And that is the biggest proof you can get that the episode and the battle were awesome.
1. Battle of the Bastards, s6/e9
From a cinematographic aspect, nothing beats Battle of the Bastards, or Bastardbowl as it was called among fans. The Internet went crazy after the episode, and rightfully so. This battle was on par with some of the greatest battles we’ve seen in the movie industry. Think “Braveheart,” for example. After the episode, showrunners said that they felt Thrones lacked a true medieval battle scene. So they delivered. The only downside of the battle was logic. As long as you throw logic out the door (since the characters made some illogical moves), the Battle itself is as epic as it comes. Consider this for a moment: even before airing, HBO nominated this episode for all Emmy categories.
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