Game of Thrones is an adaptation of the epic dark fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire from writer George R.R. Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The series aired exclusively on HBO and starred Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke.
Set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos Game of Thrones weaves several plot lines with a broad ensemble cast. The first narrative arc follows a civil war among several noble houses for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms; the second covers the attempts of the exiled last scion of the realm’s deposed ruling dynasty to reclaim the throne; the third chronicles the rising threat of the impending winter and the legendary creatures and fierce peoples of the North.
MAJOR SPOILER WARNING FOR ALL 8 SEASONS!!!!!
#20. And Now His Watch is Ended (Season 3, Episode 4)
What foreshadowing… Seeing Dany take the unsullied army with an incredibly violent show of force after commanding a younger Drogon to light a sexist douche on fire was one of the most badass moments on the show. Until this key moment, Dany literally had nothing backing her aside from her dragons and a few key supporters, so watching her take over and begin building her forces in such dramatic fashion was exhilarating. Cue the sunglasses drop in the image above.
#19. Valar Morghulis (Season 2, Episode 10)
Some more foreshadowing… And people were shocked at the final season’s twisty twists… Come on people. Anyway, this was the first time we got to see Dany’s babies murder someone with fire and it was glorious. Just look at these adorable little dragons breathing fire – what you aren’t seeing is a screaming warlock who just got scorched after showing Dany that her inevitable end will indeed be wrought with Fire and Blood.
#18. Winter is Coming (Season 1, Episode 1)
Simultaneously the happiest episode in Game of Thrones history and also the one that set the shocking tone of what’s to come. You won’t see the entire Stark family altogether ever again after the debut episode. Ever. Because you know… Everyone is dead or was dead and is now seeking some sort of quest for vengeance. We kick the series off with a flash of White Walkers in a nasty opening and we close with Jaime Lannister pushing a little kid out of a window after he’s caught boning his sister.
We get a bit of everything in ‘Winter is Coming’: humour, violence, politics, world-building, and my favourite quote from the series when Ned Stark tells his son, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword”. Ned says this right before he executes a rogue Night’s Watch soldier who is trying to warn him about the monsters on the other side of the wall. Karma Ned.
#17. The Dance of Dragons (Season 5, Episode 9)
The first flight! After Dany is ambushed by the Sons of The Harpy and marked for death in the fighting pits, Drogon comes to the rescue and absolutely annihilates the golden masked bastards in one of the most outstanding displays of CGI ever put on television. Dany also decides to finally take Drogon for a spin in this episode making for some very iconic scenes that would become a staple of the series going forward..
#16. The Children (Season 4, Episode 10)
There was A LOT going on in this fourth season finale, including the first time we see the children of the forest (ELVES!). But my favorite moments would be The Hound versus Brienne (still potentially the best one on one brawl of the series) and the shocking Tyrion killing spree where he finds out his dad was boning his girlfriend so he takes them both out before getting the F out of Westeros and tracking down the dragon queen to switch sides.
#15. The Iron Throne (Season 8, Episode 6)
The controversial series finale that will be talked about for decades to come. Did we all want to see Bran Stark take the now metaphorical throne of Westeros? Probably not, but that’s what was always planned from the beginning (sorry fellow book readers – this is what will happen someday) and this a show that never played it safe. I personally loved the dark, brooding and relatively quiet nature of the final episode. Jon Snow was forced to kill his love in order to save the world from being scorched by a power-hungry Dany and we got to see Peter Dinklage deliver what is without a doubt his strongest performance in series history, proving he truly was the headlining star of this series all along.
#14. The Mountain and The Viper (Season 4, Episode 8)
Pedro Pascal came into season four like a boss and went out in what has to be the most gruesome on-screen death in series history. The Red Viper, aka Oberyn Martell, from the exotic new locale Dorne made quite the impression in season four. He sexed everyone he could sex and he made his true mark when he became Tyrion Lannister’s champion during the trial by combat debacle against The ferocious Mountain Gregor Clegane.
The fact that Martell probably could have beat the toughest warrior on the show if he had just stopped showboating and trying to force a confession out of his nemesis makes the outcome all-the-more horrific. The screams when Clegane thrusts his thumbs into Oberyn’s eyeballs before he pancakes his entire head is easily the most shocking and gore-tastic finish that we’ve seen on the show. Ellaria’s scream and reaction is also priceless, adding a true horror stamp and finish to a suspenseful episode.
#13. The Dragon and The Wolf (Season 7, Episode 7)
Littlefinger finally gets what he deserves after the Stark sisters pull a fast one over the master of deception and we also get to see for the very first time ever – nearly every single major character in the same scene – together. That moment where Jon and Dany bring an undead wight to King’s Landing in order to convince Cersei that she needs to stop being a shit and help fight the white walkers is loaded with memorable character mashups and reunions. But most people will likely recall the cliffhanger ending where The Night King rides a zombified Viserion to the wall and takes that sucker down with ease, finally taking his terrifying army into Westeros.
#12. The Door (Season 6, Episode 5)
‘The Door’ — what a tease of an episode title… Kristian Nairn’s performance as Hodor, the loveable oaf who could only say one thing and one thing only – “Hodor”, became one of the most iconic references to the entire franchise. We all love Hodor because he was one of the most innocent figures on a show where there are no traditional unflawed heroes. He just wanted to help and that’s what he did, whether it was carrying Brandon Stark across the damn country or becoming a warg battle machine during intense showdowns.
I love this episode so much because it has what I feel to be the craziest plot twist of any show I’ve ever seen. The fact that writer George RR Martin knew the origin of HODOR that far in advance and had plotted that incredible reveal makes me want to high-five him so hard… So yes, as the White Walkers move in to kill Brandon Stark, he yells at his friend Hodor to “Hold the door”, as they try to evade death. Brandon does this WHILE he has mentally travelled back in time and a younger Hodor witnesses the carnage through Brandon as a child and begins to have a seizure shouting “hold the door” until it sounds like – you guessed it – HODOR. It’s intense as shit – Hodor saw his death as a child and lived his entire life for this one moment – to hold the damn door and help his friends escape. Heart-breaking doesn’t even begin to describe this moment.
#11. The Spoils of War (Season 7, Episode 4)
Holy shit. I think I uttered that no less than a dozen times watching this unexpected battle between Dany/Drogon and her Dothraki army after they ambushed Jaime/Bronn and the Lannister army who were taking their Tyrell loot back home. It was the first time viewers were thrown into a full scale battle and didn’t know which side to cheer for. I didn’t want anyone to die in this showdown, but my god did everyone come close during several points in the attack. If you weren’t nearly shitting yourself when Jaime begins charging towards Drogon with a spear then you simply aren’t alive my friends.
#10. Blackwater (Season 2, Episode 9)
Season 2 was a different beast than the first 10 episodes… We were introduced to more magical elements, many new characters all vying for the Throne and a slower burn story structure that all led up to an incredible fight at ‘Blackwater’ Bay when Stannis and his men stormed King’s Landing. This is Tyrion’s episode… He was Hand of The King and he went to war, rallying his men after Joffrey bitched out and Cersei nearly drank herself to a double suicide because she was also a coward.
Not only was this the finest Peter Dinklage episode to date at the time (his war speech was kick-ass and his battle axe moves even sweeter), but it was the first time we saw a movie-scale fight taking place on the small-screen. From the explosions on the water, to the storming of the beach, we were bearing witness to the series’ first big brawl after we had to skip season one’s fight due to budgetary reasons.
#9. The Watchers on The Wall (Season 4, Episode 9)
By the time Jon Snow and The Night’s Watch fought the Wildling army at the Wall, it had been a couple seasons since we had a major clash ala ‘Blackwater’. This time the budget was bigger, the bodycount was higher and the action was spectacular. From the giants riding mammoths, to the giant shooting a bow and arrow which launched a puny human into the air, to the giant charging the gate (did I mention THE GIANTS?!?)… ‘Watchers on The Wall’ was the episode that turned Jon Snow into the hero we were all waiting for and was a stunning display of chaos and action sequences that put major studio films to shame.
This one has everything – shocking death, incredible stuntwork, a hook shredding people who were climbing the wall, GIANTS, Jon Snow kicking ass – you name it. Neil Marshall’s direction was riveting and it was great to welcome him back after his work on ‘Blackwater’, cementing him as one of the premiere big battle filmmakers working in television.
#8. The Winds of Winter (Season 6, Episode 10)
Hate her or just simply disklike her – but you can’t help but want to high-five Cersei for executing the most vicious, clever and amazing revenge plot in Game of Thrones history. After she was forced to walk naked through the streets in season 5, getting pelted with shit and blood and “SHAME!”, season 6 was her chance for vengeance. The opening to this kill-tastic finale is one of the most bonkers moments of ANY TV show I’ve seen.
While we patiently await Cersei to stand trial, we are treated to a series of peculiar events before we realise she had zero intention of showing up but instead struck the match which ultimately wiped out nearly all of her competition – ever. Yes – everyone – all those Sparrows who tortured her, all the backstabbers who were a threat to her family – she burned them all and she did it with such style and swagger that you couldn’t help but love the drastic lengths in which she went to secure the Iron Throne for herself. Lena Headey is a boss but she literally became THE BOSS here and it was profoundly satisfying just as much as it is terrifying…
#7. Baelor (Season 1, Episode 9)
This is THE episode, the turning point not just for Game of Thrones as a TV show, but for all of television dramas that followed… Nobody is safe. NOBODY. That includes the man we all thought was going to be the lead of the show (for non-book readers anyway). After Ned Stark thought he had struck a deal to take the Night’s Watch after he’s imprisoned, our new king Joffrey decided to take matters into his own sick and twisted hands and called for Stark’s execution instead…
It was the craziest thing I had seen on TV at the time. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I know Sean Bean dies in damn near everything he stars in, but I didn’t see this coming at all. (Note: I read all of the books during season 2’s airing to get into the real game finally). From this episode onward, Game of Thrones was truly an ensemble series (there are no ‘main’ characters), and the show could have turned into a big mess but it actually got better as it went along.
#6. Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8)
Director Miguel Sapochnik’s ‘Hardhome’ is terrifying. After Jon Snow travels to a wildling fishing village to try and rally the people to his side in order to fight the White Walker army, things take a dramatic turn for the worse when that very threat launches a full-scale assault on the town. Snow goes toe to toe with one of the Walkers and we find out that his sword is made of that good shit when he slices the ghoulish bastard into smithereens.
The wights (aka zombies or undead warriors controlled by The Night’s King) have never been so scary as they are here… I know the undead have been pardon the pun – done to death, but I was legit disturbed by their relentless onslaught in ‘Hardhome’. Like an army of unstoppable ants, they just swarm this helpless village while Jon and the wildlings fight for survival. That ending too…. You won’t find a more intense climax in a Thrones episode as the Night’s King (Richard Brake) stares down Snow and proceeds to resurrect every person his army just mowed down in the most staggering display of power that we’ve seen on the show yet.
#5. The Bells (Season 8, Episode 5)
The moment that shocked the world and ruined every Dany supporter forever – The Bells. If you thought The Red Wedding was a grim episode (and boy is it ever – keep scrolling) then you ain’t seen nothing yet people… After easily taking King’s Landing, Dany and Drogon decide that a complete surrender simply isn’t enough so they decide to burn the ever loving shit out of the entire city, killing countless innocent people in the process while Jon, Davos and Tyrion walk around shocked and confused at the chaos. It’s a beautifully directed episode thanks to Miguel Sapochnik who shows us street level horror from Arya’s survival-mode perspective. There were plenty of major deaths to be found as well – in fact I’d say the MOST major deaths ever for an episode.
The Hound finally goes toe to toe with his brother The Mountain and their clash did NOT disappoint as the two mashed each other to death while the city crumbled around them. Cersei and Jaime reunited only to die in the same fashion as they came into the world – holding each other: It was a deeply sad but beautiful exit… The Bells may have been the final nail in the coffin for some fans who weren’t happy to discover that they had been cheering for a villain this whole time, but you know – deal with it. This is Game of Thrones.
#4. Beyond The Wall (Season 7, Episode 6)
If Game of Thrones had an A-Team, this would be it. Jon Snow spent the previous episode assembling a crew of badasses in order to venture beyond the wall to capture a wight in order to convince King’s Landing to join their fight against the undead. In this spectacular episode, The Hound, Gendry, Jon, Jorah, Tormund, Beric and more take on The Night Kind’s army but wind up in some deep shit only for Dany and her dragons to come to the rescue.
That’s when we see The Night King whip out an ice spear and proceed to kill Dany’s dragon Viserion with ease during the botched rescue attempt. The showdown and mad scramble to escape the white walkers in this episode is more than thrilling and the repercussions of everyone’s actions here is felt throughout the rest of the show until the ultimate showdown in season 8, episode 3.
#3. The Rains of Castamere (Season 3, Episode 9)
The ending that shocked the world. The Red Wedding.. Dun dun dun! Yes this is the moment that show creaters Benioff and Weiss had wanted to film since pitching the series to HBO because they knew long ago that THIS episode, THIS event would make Game of Thrones the powerhouse that it is today. They weren’t wrong… I was floored reading the book, but the show was even harder to grasp seeing all of that stab-happy betrayal unfold before my eyes. Rob Stark, his mother, his wife, his army – slaughtered in the house of Frey after dishonouring his promise to wed Walder’s daughter… Don’t break a promise to a psychopath people – shit can go South real fast.
Michelle Fairley’s final performance as Catelyn Stark is gut-wrenching as we see her plead for her son’s life, only for Roose Bolton to “send the Lannister’s regards” before plunging his dagger into the King of The North, effectively ending the war against Tywin Lannister’s empire. Catelyn has nothing left, so she slices Walder Frey’s wife’s throat, only for her own neck to be cut seconds later as the episode ends in complete silence, jaws-on-the-floor, tears on your faces, stunned looks all-around – The Red Wedding people – aka the worst after-party of all time.
#2. Battle of The Bastards (Season 6, Episode 9)
Jon Snow vs. Ramsay Bolton – hero versus villain – the most anticipated showdown in Game of Thrones history. Not even death can stop Kit Harrington from finally taking out the show’s most despicable baddie as The Stark and Wildling army meets the Bolton’s on the battlefield in a display of action that not only rivals all big budget war movies, but destroys them. That initial moment of contact when the horses collide on both sides of Snow is ridiculous. The stuntwork and action choreography has never been better than it is in ‘Battle of The Bastards’ and the ‘over-the-shoulder’ tracking shot where Snow is cutting down his enemies is one of the best things ever filmed in my opinion.
Joffrey may have been a bitch but Ramsay was a psychotic evil bastard (literally) and we have been waiting for several seasons to see this prick get his – and spoiler alert – we got that in spades. Whereas Joffrey went out like a ho after an old lady poisoned him, Ramsay gets the shit knocked out of his face by the Snow-man and then his battered face gets chewed off by his own hounds. Not only was this the biggest spectacle in Thrones history when it aired but it was the most satisfying episode as well because good finally triumphed over evil – a trend that just didn’t exist in the past, when the most stunning moments featured good guys getting murdered in horrible ways.
#1. The Long Night (Season 8, Episode 3)
The Long Night is the final showdown between The Night King’s undead army and the human survivors who are staging their last stand at Winterfell. The battle took 55 days of NIGHT SHOOTS to film, which is absolute brutality but the final product from director Miguel Sapochnik is a masterpiece. It’s the longest cinematic battle of all time, edging out the big fight from Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers and it’s the biggest spectacle to possibly ever hit the smallscreen from any series – ever made. I don’t know how HBO managed to pull this off, but in my humble opinion it is the finest episode of TV in the history of the medium.
From the opening literal wave of the undead crashing into the walls of Winterfell, to the grim moments where our favorite characters are constantly put in danger, The Long Night is the most intense 80 minutes a Game of Thrones fan has ever had to endure. There are so many masterful moments that it’s impossible to list them all here, but I’ll try to go with my top 5:
#5. The opening attack where Jorah, Ghost and the Dothraki army charge the darkness only to find out that it’s even worse than they anticipated. The way they slowly reveal the massive army of the undead is what makes this episode so frightening and that opening sequence is nightmare fuel.
#4. Drogon becomes smothered in a horde of wights who begin stabbing him to death, so he has no choice but to shake off his mother and take flight over the castle to get rid of the stab happy zombies in one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. It’s still hard to process that insanity.
#3. Lyanna Mormont charges a giant and goes down like the warrior she was. I actually had tears in my eyes for this and it chokes me up thinking about it still.
#2. Composer Ramin Djawadi delivers his finest piece of music to date during the final 10 minutes of the episode (the music is called ‘The Night King’) and we hear it unfold as both Theon and Jorah die protecting their companions.
#1. Arya kills the night King and becomes TV’s greatest hero. I literally jumped out of my seat and yelled F*** yeah about 5 times.