Game of Thrones is about allegiances, betrayals, tragedy, and power struggles, but few can argue that one of the greatest aspects of the show is the epic, high-stakes battles. Nearly every season to date has featured at least one all-out brawl that, in some cases, manages to rival the those of the latest big-screen blockbusters, in everything from pacing to choreography to emotional weight.
From the Battle of the Whispering Wood to the Wight Hunt in “Beyond the Wall,” we here at Epicstream have ranked the 10 best Game of Thrones battles that have taken place so far, so grab your Valyrian steel sword, your Dragonglass dagger, and prepare for war!
Battle Of The Whispering Wood
Episode: “Baelor” (Season 1, Episode 9)
Back in the first season of Game of Thrones, the battle sequences were a mere shadow of what they are today. Nevertheless, the Battle of the Whispering Wood holds a special place in the hearts of many viewers largely because it was the first major conflict in the War of the Five Kings, which ignited immediately following the death of King Robert Baratheon. Admittedly, House Stark has almost always gotten the short end of the stick since the start of the series, but in the Battle of the Whispering Wood, Robb Stark and his army manages to score a decisive victory over the Lannister troops, deceiving Tywin and taking Jaime prisoner in the process. Not only does Whispering Wood establish Robb's reputation as a strong leader, but it also eliminates the sound numerical advantage the Lannisters held at the onset of the war.
Daenerys Versus The Slavers
Episode: “Battle of the Bastards” (Season 6, Episode 9)
While this small skirmish is largely overshadowed by the eponymous Battle of the Bastards, it’s still an incredibly action-packed sequence and one that ultimately breaks the power of the slave trade over Meereen. Watching Daenerys ride Drogon into the bay as Rhaegal and Viserion break free from captivity beneath the Great Pyramid to join them in the attack on the Slaver fleet remains equally as breathtaking with each subsequent viewing as it did when it first took place, and its significance in the geopolitical history of Westeros absolutely warrants its inclusion in this list.
Drogon And Daenerys’ Army Versus The Sons Of The Harpy
Episode: “The Dance of Dragons” (Season 5, Episode 9)
Our first real taste of Daenerys’ dragons (Drogon, to be specific) in action comes when the Sons of the Harpy flood the Daznak's Pit, slaughtering Masters and freedmen alike. With Daenerys, Jorah, Tyrion, Missandrei, Daario, and the remaining Unsullied soldiers greatly outnumbered, Drogon – who’d fled previous attempts to contain him – returns to aid his mother, biting, crushing, and burning the Sons in a brutal, yet visually-stunning sequence. The chaos culminates with Daenerys climbing onto Drogon’s back and bidding him to fly, becoming the first Targaryen dragon rider in over a century, and solidifying the fact that when it came to Dany’s quest to reclaim the Iron Throne, the game had clearly changed in her favor.
Greyjoys Versus Greyjoys
Episode: “Stormborn” (Season 7, Episode 2)
Until Season 6, Euron Greyjoy’s presence had yet to be felt in Game of Thrones, but since returning to the Iron Islands and murdering his brother Balon, he’s certainly been hell-bent on making up for lost time. This is perhaps most evident when Euron attempts to make good on his promise to deliver a gift to Cersei Lannister, which – as we soon find out – comes in the form of Ellaria and Tyene, whom Cersei holds responsible for the death of her daughter Myrcella. The battle itself proves just how savage Euron and his forces can be, as they storm Yara’s fleet after setting it on fire and proceed to lay waste to Daenerys’ allies in devastatingly quick and brutal fashion, all for the sake of winning the heart of the equally-sadistic Cersei.
Battle Of Castle Black
Episode: “The Watchers on the Wall” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Perhaps one of the most cinematic and beautifully-choreographed battles in all of Game of Thrones is the Battle of Castle Black, where the Night’s Watch manages to protect the Wall and fend off the ruthless army of the Wildlings, who attack from the North and the South. The epic scope of this spectacle is exacerbated by the fact that we get to watch it unfold throughout the course of the entire episode, as well, giving viewers a full hour of giants, mammoths, giant ice scythes, and a number of tragic and shocking casualties along the way. What’s most important about the Battle of Castle Black, though, is the aftermath, which sees Jon Snow appointed as the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch thanks to his valor and successful leadership amidst the bloodshed.
The Wight Hunt
Episode: “Beyond the Wall” (Season 7, Episode 6)
At the time of this writing, “Beyond the Wall” is home to the most recent battle to earn a spot on this list; a battle in which in Daenerys suffers her biggest loss since Khal Drogo in Season 1, and one whose fallout significantly increases the threat posed by the already-deadly White Walkers. Jon Snow and his ragtag band of misfits attempt to capture a wight, but get way more than they bargained for and quickly find themselves surrounded by the White Walkers and their entire Army of the Dead. The numbers game inevitably catches up with them, but Daenerys and her dragons are able to make the save; all except for Viserion, who’s struck with one of the Night King’s ice spears, which pierces his neck and sends him plunging into the frozen lake. The reaction of not just Daenerys, but of Drogon and Rhaegal, who cry out for their fallen brother, make this moment all the more heartbreaking, but it’s the thought of them eventually seeing Viserion, who the Night King brings back as a wight, that pulls at the heart strings the most.
Battle Of The Blackwater
Episode: “Blackwater” (Season 2, Episode 9)
The first truly massive battle to occur in Game of Thrones is the Battle of the Blackwater, where Stannis Baratheon and his army storm King’s Landing by land and by sea to try and seize the Iron Throne from King Joffrey. Not only is it the first time that we really get a chance to see what the show is capable of in terms of big-budget brawls, but it’s also our chance to see both Joffrey and Tyrion for who they truly are. In the face of battle, Tyrion rises to the occasion, delivering a rousing speech that helps rally the King’s forces, while Joffrey cowers away with his tail between his legs, abandoning his own troops at a crucial moment. This ultimately leaves you rooting for King’s Landing and Stannis’ army equally, if only for the satisfaction of seeing Tyrion elicit more of a reaction from the Lannister soldiers than their King.
Battle Of The Bastards
Episode: “Battle of the Bastards” (Season 6, Episode 9)
The Battle of the Bastards is by far one of the grittiest, most visceral fights to take place in all of Game of Thrones; like World War I trench warfare, but with a massive giant fighting for the Allied forces. At one point, we even see a literal pile of bodies that both sides of the fight are forced to climb over to in order to engage, lest they be buried beneath a mountain of death comprised of the lifeless corpses of their brothers-in-arms. It all pays off in the end, though, as Ramsay Bolton is finally knocked off his high horse and the banners of House Stark once again hang proudly in Winterfell. And while Rickon Stark’s death at the start of the battle is certainly tragic, this still remains one of the sweetest victories for House Stark since the start of the series.
Battle Of The Goldroad
Episode: “The Spoils of War” (Season 7, Episode 4)
The look on Jaime’s face when he first catches glimpse of Daenerys riding on the back of Drogon says everything there is to say about this battle. The Lannister army was ill-equipped to deal with the Dothraki soldiers, let alone a massive, fire-breathing dragon, and despite Bronn’s best efforts to use the Scorpion to take Drogon down, the element of surprise and the might of Daenerys’ 100,000-strong army is simply too much for Jaime’s troops to handle. Whether it’s by the sickles of the Dothraki riders or by Drogon’s fiery breath, the Lannister army is unequivocally decimated, and much like the Battle of the Blackwater, a small part of you can’t help but root for the Lannisters. This time, though, it’s because of Jaime, who’s become far too great a character for any of us to want to see die. In fact, this internal conflict is perfectly embodied by Tyrion watching the melee from a safe distance, quietly encouraging his brother to retreat, and live to fight another day.
The Battle At Hardhome
Episode: “Hardhome” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Prior to the Battle at Hardhome, the conflicts in Game of Thrones had always pitted man against man, but this marked a turning point from which the show has continued to build upon as we get closer and closer to the series finale; a turning point that shifted the focus from human conflicts to the battle against death itself. While Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane attempt to broker a truce with the Wildlings, they’re blindsided by the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead, led by the dreaded Night King, who sends his wights into battle like an avalanche of death. The action is fast-paced and brilliantly-choreographed, but the true heart of the spectacle lies in its conclusion, where we see the Night King slowly raise his hands to bring back everyone he and his army have just slain. It’s our first real look at the scope and scale of the White Walker’s power, and proof positive that the final battle against the dead is going to take the entirety of the Seven Kingdoms’ might.
What about you? Which Game of Thrones battles were your favorites? Let us know in the comments section!