The final hour is approaching as the world prepares to kick off the last season of GAME OF THRONES. It’s been a tremendous eight years of television, filled with gripping drama, heartbreaking losses, the occasional triumph, lots of witty retorts over wine and even more naked folks flying free. This series has done much of that better than any other television drama before it, and to make things even better, across the whole series we’ve seen visually-arresting, gripping action scenes that have left us begging for more and gasping for air…albeit not as much as some of the characters in those fights.
Swords have clashed, backs have been stabbed and dragons have lit the place up in tremendous blazes of glory, almost beyond counting. But we here at JoBlo have been taking notes, and as we approach a final season that has teased, above all, an epic showdown at Winterfell that will pit the Army of the Dead against many of the living characters, we thought we would recall some of the best battles and fights of the series.
That’s a lot of fire and blood for you, sometimes on a large battlefield or just one-on-one. There have been tons of fights and battles of all sorts, but we have picked out the ten best of the very best, spanning from the earliest seasons to the most recent, from the sandy city of Meereen all the way beyond The Wall. Get your war faces on because this is about to go off.
Honorable Mentions: Ned Stark and his Men vs. Arthur Dayne (Season 6, Episode 3, “Oathbreaker”); Grey Worm & Barristan Selmy vs. Sons of the Harpy (Season 5, Episode 4, “Sons of the Harpy”)
10. Euron Greyjoy Attacks (Season 7, Episode 2, “Stormborn”)
Directed by: Mark Mylod
At the end of season six, we saw a triumphant Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) crossing the Narrow Sea with her armada of ships, having aligned herself with the Martells, the Tyrells and Yara and Theon Greyjoy. With all those ships and dragons absolutely nothing could go wrong for her now, right? Oh, ye of false hope. You should know better by now.
In that same season, we heard Euron (Pilou Asbæk) boasting about building the largest fleet anyone had ever seen, and after pledging himself to Cersei (Lena Headey) in exchange for, uh, well, Cersei herself, we get to see him unleash the impressive fleet on Yara and Theon’s crew, leading the charge with his massive mother ship of a vessel, The Silence.
Attacking in the dead of night, we still get a sense of the massive scale of the opposing Greyjoy ships, with Euron leading the charge like a madman with his giant ax, and a fleet of ships burning all around them. After hearing tales of Greyjoy brutality in past seasons we get an unrelenting taste of their carnage here, as the weapons clash, blood sprays and even a few body parts are severed from fallen combatants. Under direction from Mark Mylod, the chaos plays like a riot in a burning city, with no real method to the madness — which is just how a scene like this should play. The Sand Snakes even get in on the action, and though stylish and skilled, Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Nymeria Sand (Jessica Henwick) are wiped out by Euron in vicious ways. Ending on an incredibly depressing note with Ellaria (Indira Varma), Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) and Yara (Gemma Whelan) captured and Theon (Alfie Allen) leaping overboard to save himself (bad Theon!), we now have ample reason to fear Euron, who may be an even bigger bad than Cersei herself. Not only was this a brutal, forceful first major battle of the season, but it also acted as a stark reminder that things were not going to go happily for Daenerys and her army. Shame, because things started on such a pleasant note before…#EllariaYara4Life.
Watch the sequence below, as well as the cast and crew talking more about the making of it in great depth here!
9. Fighting Pits of Meereen (Season 5, Episode 9, “The Dance of Dragons”)
Directed by: David Nutter
At the start of season five, GAME OF THRONES viewers were introduced to the Sons of the Harpy, a vicious rebellion faction within Meereen bent on taking down the newly founded Targaryen regime, all while clad in golden masks that took up the majority of their ensemble budget. Throughout the season they are a seriously well-funded thorn in Daenerys’ side, wounding Grey Worm and killing off Barristan Selmy, who took about half a dozen down with him like a boss.
While not clad in armor or having piles of heavy weapons, these mysterious figures seem to be all part of an unending wave that exists all around the city, which is what made them so formidable. Tensions boiled over in the penultimate episode of the season when the Harpys attacked the Mother of Dragons, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and more in the GLADIATOR-esque fighting pits, and no, they were not very entertained as a result.
But just as things looked dire, and our heroes became surrounded in an ATTACK OF THE CLONES callback, who else but none other than Dany’s number one best beastie – Drogon – came flying in to save the day. We had seen the dragons light some fools up in the past, but here one is finally big enough to start munching on thugs and setting the rest ablaze. He may have taken a few licks from over-confident Harpys, but those were merely flesh wounds, and after tons of their comrades were devoured or otherwise charred to a crisp the remaining Harpys decided a shiny mask was not worth all this trouble, and appropriately, got the hell out of there as Dany flew off on her mighty dragon. As for the characters who were left behind…nah, it’s cool, they’ll just chill there and see themselves out.
Watch the sequence below, as well as the crew talking about it and the episode here!
8. Brienne of Tarth vs. The Hound (Season 4, Episode 10, “The Children”)
Directed by: Alex Graves
So far, we’ve covered two epic action set pieces with all sorts of visual effects and armies involved, but here is where we get to some seriously terrific one-on-one combat, and of all the swordplay going on in the series one of the absolute best: it’s Brienne of Tarth vs The Hound, Sandor Clegane.
From the latter half of season three up until this moment in season four, young Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has been traveling with The Hound (Rory McCann), with him hoping to take her somewhere to collect some sort of reward. At the same time, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) had been on the hunt for Arya and Sansa, in hopes of bringing them to safety, with Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) at her side. In the final episode of season four, both parties finally cross paths, and after reaching a disagreement of sorts the two tall, strong warriors clash in a battle that’s as even sided as it is brutal.
Swords clash before the two get into more vicious maneuvers, punching and kicking each other to a pulp, with Brienne biting off a chunk of the Hound’s face all before bashing in his face again and again until he falls off the cliff. There’s a vicious intensity to the fight and it’s choreographed and filmed with finesse by Alex Graves, with the fight flowing up the hillside and among the rocks and across open stretches of dirt covered in volcanic rocks as blows hit harder and harder.
As for the characters, this is perhaps the most powerful of a moment for Brienne. We had seen her in fights before, using her strength and determination to cut down fools and best Jaime Lannister, but here she has to become a different kind of fighter. Never taking on someone so much her equal in terms of size, she has to get nasty and vicious, resorting to desperate and bold measures to get the upper hand.
Neither The Hound or Brienne aren’t as evenly matched as they have been here, and this was a fight that lived up to their stature…and made for an awkward re-encounter in season seven.
Watch the sequence below, as well as the cast and crew talking more about it here!
7. Jon Snow & More vs. The Army of the Dead (Season 7, Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Okay, so season seven had a lot to cram in in terms of story and spectacle, which made for a few episodes where the logic of everything was, well, let’s say a bit stretched. This was perhaps most noticeable and most called-out online during the episode “Beyond the Wall”, wherein Jon (Kit Harington), Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), Jorah (Iain Glen), The Hound and more did the silly thing of going into the northern wilderness on a hunt for an actual zombie soldier to bring back home. The series has never caused so many facepalms to occur around the world than when this plan was devised. Silly boys.
Of course, this dumb move ends exactly as they feared, and soon they’re surrounded by the Army of the Dead, trapped on top of a rock in the middle of the frozen lake. This was fine, and all they had to do was wait for Gendry (Joe Dempsie) to run back to Eastwatch, get a message to Dany, and have her fly in for an airlift. Sadly, the Hound ruined things in a Star Lord-in-INFINITY-WAR move, throwing a rock at a Wight, but with it landing on the lake without going through, showing the deadies that they could walk on said ice. Bad move.
That being said, it led to a pretty terrific battle sequence.
This group of fighters took on the Army of the Dead, hacking and slashing as they lumbered onto the rock, to the point where it genuinely felt any one of them could die any moment (and Tormund almost did). This was all before Dany was able to soar in with her dragons and save the day, which all happened after Gendry made it back to Eastwatch in a sprint that would make Usain Bolt look like the Michelin Man trying to run a marathon.
No, this sequence doesn’t have much logic attached, but it makes up for in sheer dramatic heft, with the rest of the season before proving these final episodes would go wherever they had to, and that no one was safe. Jon kept throwing himself into positions that made you want to scream at the TV, and the overwhelming odds made for gripping television. There’s no way not to watch this battle and not be shouting and engaging with the screen. To cap it all off, the battle ends with the gut-wrenching loss of one of Dany’s dragons, Viserion, who is then made part of the undead force, given serious weight by the opening of his newly icy eyes.
Watch the scene below, as well as the cast and crew talking more about the making of it in great depth here!
6. The Loot Train Attack (Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”)
Directed by: Matt Shakman
Leading from one dragon scene into another, over the course of two seasons Dany’s dragons grew considerably, to the point where they were basically jumbo jets with scales and teeth. As season seven kicked off things were not going well for Dany as we saw in the previous clips, but here she finally got to let loose some steam, or, in this case, some dragon fire.
After looting Highgarden and wiping out the Tyrell forces, the Lannister army was returning to King’s Landing feeling quite cocky, that is until the Dothraki horde came screaming down the hillside. Ser Jaime seemed bold enough to try and hold them off, but then Dany came out of the clouds atop a roaring Drogon, and thus turning those crimson and gold Lannister colors a dark shade of brown.
This is, in terms of visual spectacle, perhaps the most epic moment in the entire series and finally brings the image of swords clashing and dragons flying above to life, and something that, for GOT aficionados, brings images of Aegon’s Conquest to life. However, this isn’t quite a battle in the way some of the other installments are, and can even be seen as just a pure massacre, but it has an undeniable mixture of drama and stakes, with the focus often shifting between Dany’s forces and the Lannister’s, as well as Ser Braun (Jerome Flynn). What’s great about it beyond the extreme carnage is that this battle gets us to a special moment as the series comes to an end, wherein you don’t quite know who to root for on either side of the battle. Fans of Jaime’s and Braun’s may hope they can take down some Dothraki and repel the dragon, while Dany diehards are hoping for nothing but fire and blood. It creates this interesting conflict that makes watching it all go down so much more intense.
All in all, it’s a sweeping moment in the series and marked a much-needed win for Dany and her forces, and the moment of Drogon raining down fire on the line of carriages can be played on a loop and never get old. Go on, replay it over and over below and see how long it takes to get bored. I’ll wait.
Watch the sequence below, as well as the cast and crew talking more about the making of in great depth here!
5. Oberyn vs. The Mountain (Season 4, Episode 8, “The Mountain and the Viper”)
Directed by: Alex Graves
At the start of season four, there was a lot to unpack coming out of season three, but man was it easy to forget about the tragedy of the Red Wedding when Pedro Pascal’s Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne showed up. Like the James Bond of the GAME OF THRONES universe, he was charming, suave, dangerous and seemed to always be having sex. With him a new kind of life was brought into the series, as well as the tease of what would be a stunning showdown – him vs Ser Gregor Clegane a.k.a. The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson).
As Oberyn mentioned more than once, the massive man murdered his sister and her children at the command of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), making Oberyn a man out for revenge. That driving force never strays far from Oberyn’s arc, and when it comes time for the epic battle during Tyrion’s trial by combat it was the fight of the century.
Beautifully and dramatically choreographed with director Alex Graves at the helm, Oberyn’s speed and deadliness were matched by Clegane’s strength and ferocity. The whole time Oberyn is trying to get him to “confess” to his crimes, emphasizing this is not just some brawl for the Viper, but a personal mission with all the stakes involved. The biggest moment comes when Oberyn, getting a leg up on the Mountain drives his spear into Clegane’s heart, seemingly winning the battle. But he couldn’t leave well enough alone, and in one of the most shocking scenes in the entire series, Oberyn is cut short, brought down to the ground all before the Mountain squished his head in. The scream from Oberyn’s love, Ellaria, will stay in your brain for a long while and was perhaps matched by a few fans watching the moment when it aired years ago.
Thus, was the end of both one of the best fights in all the series and one of the most compelling characters. Never get greedy, kids.
Watch the scene below, as well as the crew talking about the episode and the sequence here!
4. Battle of Blackwater Bay (Season 2, Episode 9, “Blackwater”)
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Come season two, war was spreading across Westeros as Starks, Baratheons, and Greyjoys fought for claims and vengeance. Much of this fighting happens in the background, and we don’t get much of a taste for battle until the penultimate episode featuring the battle of Blackwater Bay, and hoo-boy is it an epic fight we got.
Here the forces of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) clashed with the forces of King’s Landing, with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) having to lead the attack as Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) was called in by mommy. Of all the battles on this list, this one feels most like the typical siege seen in any number of sword and shield stories and is superbly epic in its own right.
You have the impressive explosion of Wildfire that sets Stannis’ fleet aflame, and then the clashing of steel with the likes of the Hound in action. The most compelling element of it is seeing Tyrion in a command position, reluctantly taking on the mantle of leader when he knows no one else will. He gets a heroic speech that rallies and troops, as well as a rather sweet axe kill, but getting his own face slashed by a member of the King’s Guard – one clearly doing someone’s dirty work.
As the first season got much of the character development started we didn’t see a ton of big combat scenes and battles, and season two was all about building up to this big event. What this fight needed to do was prove the people behind the show were just as capable of delivering cinema-quality action to match the character drama. Director Neil Marshall brought his A-game here (and it would not be his last time doing so on the show), and this whole battle is pure medieval spectacle done terrifically and mixed with that confident direction and commanding performances, put a spectacular cap on the series’ second season.
Watch the scene below, as well as the crew talking about the sequence and the episode here!
3. Night’s Watch vs. Wildling Army (Season 4, Episode 9, “The Watchers on the Wall”)
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Jon’s time with the Wildlings may have been mostly spent on falling in love with a girl who loved reminding him of how much he didn’t know, but what all that time had been building up to was the ultimate clash between Mance Rayder’s (Ciaran Hinds) massive Wildling army and The Night Watch’s ragtag group of fighters.
By all accounts, it could have been a slaughter, but thanks to TV magic we got one of the most epically staged, intense battles of the whole series fit with giants, mammoths, big-ass scythes that turn climbers into splats of meat, and some incredible sword-fighting combat. Some of the best fighters are on display, with Jon Snow getting to unleash Longclaw with a fury, Tormund slicing and dicing through seemingly every single brother of the Watch and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) proving to be a red-haired Legolas.
Most impressive about the battle is the direction from Neil Marshall, who takes several locations like the top of the wall, the north of the wall and the courtyard and giving them their own flavor of combat and level of stakes, taking an area we’ve become very familiar with (Castle Black) and giving it a whole new level of scope. There are so many rich layers to the whole battle, effortlessly gliding from one area to the next and increasing the chaos with each minute. The combat in the courtyard alone is worthy of a high point on the list, with an impressive one-shot sequence showing the incredible complexity of the battle with several key characters acting as focal points throughout.
Of course, fans of the show know how the battle ends, with Ygritte aiming an arrow right at Jon, and just when you start to see some sparks fly once again, she gets an arrow of her own through the heart. The best love story of the series thus came to a tragic end, with Jon cradling her in his arms, and her uttering one last “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Ah, my heart!
Watch the scene below, as well as the crew talking more about this sequence and the episode in depth here!
2. Fight at Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8, “Hardhome”)
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
In the last segment we had the Wildlings going up against the Night’s Watch, but come the events of “Hardhome” both sides have come to realize the bigger threat is the Army of the Dead and the White Walkers, which means banding together in order to survive. Yeah, unity is all well and good, but what everyone was waiting for with this one was that finally – finally – after years of seeing the dead army trudge through the snow, inch by inch, they actually got to unleash their zombie fury.
Against vicious weather and impossible odds, this is both a battle, a massacre and a race against the clock, with the massive, massive army of the dead throwing themselves at the Wildling gates with some fighting them off and others trying to escape to ships. It’s brilliantly staged chaos from start to finish, with the expertly paced combat as thrilling as always with a new layer of horror factored in that puts WORLD WAR Z to shame. The blistering cold and blowing snow add a level of devastation that accentuates the horror, putting the living in even more peril as they fight off the elements as well as the dead. You know it’s serious when even a giant has to say “f**k this” and bail.
This isn’t a battle meant to be won by Snow and his team, and it’s all about them getting a taste of the might of the Night King and understanding how small of a chance at survival the living actually has. It’s at all points epic and terrifying, and punctuated with a whopper of a final scene, with the Night King (Vladimír Furdík) staring blankly at Snow, and with the simple raise of his arms bringing back from the dead everyone and thing that was just killed, growing the size of the already impressive army. Yeah, they’re all f**ked.
Watch the sequence here (and the rest here), as well as the cast and crew talking more about this sequence here!
1. Battle of the Bastards: (Season 6, Episode 9, “The Battle of the Bastards”)
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
This is it. The number one. We’ve seen battles with dragons, the dead, one-on-one fights ending with exploded skulls and ripped off ears – but now we are at the crème de la crème of all the battles in the GAME OF THRONES series – and given everything we’ve seen, it proves sometimes traditional battle scenes need nothing more than a slight twist and high drama to make for the most thrilling entertainment.
The jaw-dropping Battle of the Bastards is all about a clear hero of the series, Jon Snow, taking on perhaps the most despicable villains ever produced on television – Ramsey Bolton (Iwan Rheon) – who spent years torturing Theon Greyjoy and doing just as bad to Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). This dude was due for a beatdown, but what this battle does is make it seem like he could pull out yet another win. Not just another clash-of-the-armies battle we’ve seen in medieval movies of the past, the emotional stakes are the biggest element of this battle. After years of leading to this after the Bolton’s betrayed the Starks in season three, one final punctuation comes when Ramsey, in his very expected fashion, coaxes Snow out of his own game plan by toying with the returning Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson), eventually piercing him in the heart right before Jon can get to him.
From this point on every moment of this battle is one for the books, with Jon facing down an incoming stampede, continuing on with a bonkers, chaotic one-shot taking us into the fray of battle, and into face-gripping territory, as the out-numbered Snow forces become surrounded by Bolton shields. Chaos evolves into violent, claustrophobic madness as men trample each other to get out of the pile-up of bodies, with the normally in-command Snow certainly facing a stunning defeat. Not only is this devastating to watch, but the harsh emotional toll is one for the books as Ramsay looks on in self-satisfied, evil triumph as Snow gasps for air atop a pile of clashing bodies.
The direction by Miguel Sapochnik was worthy of the Emmy he received for this episode, taking the typical clash of horses and men we’ve come to recognize through years of movies and breathing fresh, gripping, ever-evolving air into the well-worn style – and all for a television show. Battles have been done on this show before, and quite terrifically as we’ve seen, but almost none have taken the level of stakes, emotional investment, ingenuity and the sheer level of carnage to the same heights as they were here. Come the end, when Snow is saved by Sansa getting Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) to bring in the Knights of the Vale, we get the ending we all so craved, and in especially brutal fashion, with Ramsey beaten to a pulp and eaten alive by his own dogs. The emotional, bloody whirlwind came to an incredibly satisfying end, concluding a battle that could very easily stand as the show’s best come the series’ finale.
Watch the first part of the epic battle below, as well as the cast and crew talking more about the making of the sequence in great depth here!
So, there you have it. Certainly, some of you fans out there have your own ideas as to which scenes should have made the list or how they should be ordered, but there’s no denying that looking at this list you see proof at just how dynamic, unique, and all sort of thrilling the action in this series has been. We’ve one-on-one battles done with grace and brutality, massacres that have ranged to horrifying to jaw-dropping, and clashes of armies that have been bloody, exhausting, bloody, bold and very, very bloody. There have been TV dramas before, and we’re seeing more action in more shows than ever before. But what makes THRONES a show that will never be replicated is how the spectacle has risen to the level of the drama and performances. The level of which we’ve seen this show push the boundaries of what can be done on television has been on the greatest joys in coming back season after season, and chances are slim we’ll ever see it replicated again…or until the prequel shows come out.
The final season of GAME OF THRONES arrives April 14.