Updated: Jan 19, 2021
For the longest time I avoided watching Game of Thrones. When it was a phenomenon, I didn't have access to it and slowly the more people talked about it, the more bullish I became about never wanting to watch it. It was something that started to give me odd hipster-pride. I didn't give in to the societal pressure of being glued to the idiot box every week just to keep up in conversation around the water cooler. I was above it all.
Then my parents got HBO Max with their new AT&T phone plan. So I watched it.
I watched all eight seasons in two weeks. I get it now. It's pretty good.
Possibly my favorite part of the show is the imagery and pure brutality of the battles. Each major battle had me on the edge of my seat. It controlled my attention so well that if I started a text at the beginning of the scene, I likely only added a couple of words by the end of it. So, I decided to rank my top five favorite battles from Game of Thrones.
Daenerys vs. Sons of the Harpy in The Pits (The Dance of Dragons, S5E9)
This is the first time we get to see Drogon scorch some fools! He saves his mama when the Sons of The Harpy plan a secret attack on the queen.
The Wildings vs. The Night's Watch (The Watchers on the Wall, S4E9)
The confusing and passive aggressive relationship between Jon Snow and his Wildling lover, Ygritte, comes to an end. She was the love of his life... until he met his aunt, Daenerys.
Battle of the Goldroad (The Spoils of War, S7E4)
Sneak attack! Daenerys' first personal battle against the Lannisters. We also get to see a scorpion (big ass crossbow) in action for the first time that almost takes out Drogon.
Daenerys vs. The Slavers (Battle of The Bastards, S6E9)
Daenerys lays down the law in her dramatic return to Merreen. Her dragon squad wrecks the slaver's ships and her Dothraki army slices up some Sons of the Harpy.
5. Battle of Blackwater Bay
Blackwater - Season 2, Episode 9 (start 22:35)
The Lannisters versus Stannis Baratheon. The lion versus the stag. Truthfully, I wasn't really cheering for either side, I was just happy to see the first big battle.
Unlike in season one's Battle of the Whispering Wood where Tyrion gets knocked out right away and we see nothing, we see this entire fight. While not quite the same production value as the rest on this list, it sets the precedent of brutality and gore for the rest of the show. It even introduces the concept we later see repeatedly of a last second surprise army arriving out of nowhere. Just when is seems the Lannisters may be defeated, Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell ride into battle and bring down Stannis' troops.
We get to see The Hound kick some ass, Bronn kick some ass, and Joffrey run away to his mommy. Tyrion Lannister (easily my favorite character) steps up and gives a rally cry to lead his men into battle by acknowledging that Joffrey sucks. This ultimately results in Tyrion's face getting sliced, but also his life being saved by Podrick's secretive "big dick" energy.
The power of wild fire is also displayed at the beginning of the battle with a lovely all-green firework show. Obviously, wild fire becomes a huge plot point later on so this is important in understanding it's destruction. Also, Cersei reminds us that she is overall terrible by almost killing her second son, (the future king) Tommen.
How it starts:
When it escalates:
4. Massacre at Hardhome
Hardhome - Season 5, Episode 8 (start 42:01)
This battle comes out of nowhere solely to haunt your dreams for eternity. After successful peace talks, conflict between the Wildlings and the Night's Watch has been averted. It appears that this episode will end peacefully. Unfortunately, the Night King and White Walkers have other plans. They release their hoard of wights upon the Wildlings, resulting in a brutal slaughter.
No big name characters perish, but this is the first time you feel the true power and impending doom at the hands of the Night King. His wights are relentless and mindless. At one point, they sprint off the edge of a cliff, piling up dead at the bottom just to reawake and continue sprinting at Jon Snow and company.
Jon Snow does have an epic swordfight with a White Walker, ultimately shattering him with his Valerian steel sword. This is the first White Walker sworfight and it left me with many questions that, honestly, were never answered. Do they have super-human strength? Where do their clothes go when they burst into a million pieces?
This battle ends with possibly the most haunting scene of the whole show when the Night King resurrects thousands of dead bodies as Jon Snow slowly floats away. Quick question though: why can't wights swim? Do they need floaties? Do they just not like getting wet? Also, if they can't swim, who tied chains to the dragon at the bottom of the frozen lake in season 7?
3. Battle of King's Landing
The Bells - Season 8, Episode 5 (start 26:31)
This had number one potential simply because we got to see Cersei Lannister die. However, I was VERY disappointed we didn't get to see her tortured which, as I type this, makes me concerned about what this show has done to me.
Nonetheless, the sheer destruction and death in this episode makes it a top three contender. While the actual fight is one-sided, we witness the pure, unbridled power of a full-grown dragon. It's the culmination of the series as the Lannisters are FINALLY defeated by Daenerys. This battle also features a showdown between The Hound and The Mountain while the castle crumbles around them. It's brute force versus brute force and we finally get a good close up of The Mountain's Frankenstein face which looks like a bruised pear.
Along with the Lannister siblings and Clegane brothers, we also get to see Euron "Murderous Uncle" Greyjoy and Maester "Human Turtle" Qyburn perish. Arya battles for her life almost the entire episode as she is among the King's Landing civilians feeling Daenerys' wrath. Because of that, this battle shows the viewpoint of a civilian better than any on this list.
I'm not a huge fan of how quickly they made Daenerys turn into a crazy psycho-killer (casca say), but am grateful it led to the death of a pregnant Cersei Lannister in the arms of the only man who ever loved her. Yikes... this show really has changed me.
2. Battle of Winterfell
The Long Night - Season 8, Episode 3 (whole episode)
Simply put, this episode is one long nightmare. It's eighty-two minutes of the show's main heroes getting up close and personal with the zombocalypse. I had figured this would be the culmination battle of the show, but I guess it is called Game of Thrones and not, I Am Legend 2: Who Gave These Zombies Swords?
It's an extremely one-sided battle. This episode gave me the most discouragement and loss of hope in the whole show. That is until Arya Stark decided to show off her quick feet and fast hands by burying a dagger into the Night King's gut. Which, by the way, would sway me to vote for her in The Iron Throne elections. But, Westeros ain't about democracy. It's about putting the lives of millions in the hands of small children.
For all the blood that was spilled, not many big name characters died. We did see Jorah Mormont dramatically pass and we also lost Theon "No Dick" Greyjoy, Beric "Eyepatch Guy" Dondarrion, that random little girl queen, and the secretly old-as-shit witch lady. But, I felt like more characters should not have survived the endless amount of zombies. For God's sake, Samwell Tarly SURVIVED! SAMWELL FRICKIN' TARLY!
We do get a dragon versus dragon battle which is pretty epic. But, I do wish we would've seen the White Walkers battle some of our heroes instead of just stand there waiting for the Night King to kill a cripple. Also, what's the level of contact that dragon glass has to hit the wights to kill them? Does it have to penetrate their nonfunctioning organs? Or does it just have to touch them? Because if it's just touching, I'd be in the corner with a dragon glass hula hoop mowing those zombies down.
This episode required several months to film and was the single most expensive episode ever made in the history of television, coming in at around $8 million. So it probably should be number one on this list, buuuut I have a different favorite.
1. Battle of the Bastards
Battle of the Bastards - Season 6, Episode 9 (start 30:07)
Ramsay Bolton clearly did not believe in karma. Other than Cersei's comeuppance, his was the most satisfying of the show. His smug smirk and not-PETA-approved dog food made him a villain deserving of an epic death. Game of Thrones delivered.
This battle puts you in the eyes of a warrior. Specifically Jon Snow's eyes.
After the single shot sequence of him barely escaping death for five minutes straight, the show makes you feel claustrophobic as Jon slowly loses oxygen beneath the feet of his own comrades. They stomp him down while attempting to climb over the hill of corpses to escape the death circle of spears closing in on them. It's bloody, it's graphic and it's Game of Thrones at its finest.
We lose Rickon "Forgot About That Kid" Stark at the very beginning of the battle and Wun Wun "The Giant I Didn't Know Had a Name" in a blaze of glory at the end. This is also one of the first times we see Sansa show her leadership skills by saving Jon's ass with the help of Little Finger and the Knights of the Vale.
Overall, this battle sequence is equal parts majestic and beautiful as it is gruesome and disturbing.