Game of Thrones is one of the most popular and well received shows on television right now. The show has broken HBO records in terms of viewership and, having been renewed for another two seasons already, the upward trend seems inevitable. Every week, millions sit down to watch political and courtly intrigue, myth and magic. And of course, it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if people weren’t fighting and dying. HBO’s epic fantasy, based on George R. R. Martin‘s book series, has its share of knights and their ladies fair, of kings and queens, and of mythical monsters and creatures. And when you put all these elements together you get many impressive, well choreographed, intense fights and battle scenes. These battle scenes can be one on one combat between knights or enemies, war scenes full of blood and gore and death, and even the unexpected dragon fireball. These are the fight scenes you wanted to watch time and time again, the ones that had your heart racing. Even when you know the outcome of the fight, these battles are the ones you remember.
Obviously, heavy spoilers if you aren’t caught up on the show!
10. The Mountain vs. The Hound
Ah, brotherly love. Brothers are supposed to protect and love one another, right? This is so not the case with Gregor (The Mountain) and Sandor (The Hound) Clegane. As young boys, Gregor held Sandor’s face to hot coals and disfigured his little brother. As one might expect, this caused the Hound to hate his brother quite a bit. Years later, fully grown and full of rage and violence, they have a smack down in which you’re convinced that one of them must surely perish. During a tourney, the Mountain was unhorsed and defeated by a lesser knight. Angry over his loss, the Mountain chops off the head of his horse before turning his blade on the unsuspecting knight. The Hound intervenes, raising his own sword against his brother. The fight is loud and intense and only stopped when the King bellows at both of them.
9. Ned Stark vs. Jaime Lannister
It’s no secret that there is little love lost between the honorable Ned Stark and the somewhat morally ambiguous Jaime Lannister. Called the Kingslayer by men, Jaime Lannister is cocky and rash and hostile. And when Ned Stark’s wife takes Jaime’s brother as a hostage, all bets between the two are off. In this season one scene, Jaime confronts Ned demanding the release of his brother. Lannister men surround Ned and those loyal to him but still Ned refuses to yield. Knowing that he can’t outright kill Ned, Jaime orders the death of Ned’s men and the swords are unsheathed. Ned and Jaime, the latter of whom is considered by many to be the greatest swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms, turn to fight each other and the Wolf and the Lion jab and parry. Ned is eventually taken down but the fight scene leaves a slew of dead bodies in its wake.
8. Khal Drogo vs. Mago
Khal Drogo went to his death with his hair uncut, meaning he was never defeated. And with good reason! The horse lord was a fierce and vicious fighter. When one of his followers is angered by Daenerys protecting women he feels he won, the Khal takes his wife’s side. Mago is not pleased and insults Dany and nobody insults the Khaleesi. Drogo is such an accomplished fighter that he doesn’t even need to use a weapon! As Mago tries to get one hit on Drogo, the Khal promises his enemy that Mago will have no honor—he will not be buried, but left for the worms to feast on. And then Drogo uses Mago’s own weapon against him before ripping out Mago’s throat to toss on a pile of dead things. Moral of the story: don’t insult the Khal’s wife.
7. Jon Snow vs. Karl Tanner
Karl Tanner got what was coming to him. When a man breaks his sacred vows, death is surely staring him in the face. A member of the Night’s Watch, Tanner betrayed his Lord Commander and his host when the Watch went north of the Wall. Setting himself up in his host’s house, Tanner and his traitorous companions, feasted on food that was not theirs and used the women of the household cruelly. Enter Jon Snow, who came to defeat those men he once called brothers. The fight has the clang of the swords and just the right amount of tension to keep you on the edge of your seat. Will Karl win because he refuses to fight with honor? Or can Jon get the upper hand? In the end, Karl got a sword through his skull and Jon proved once more what an exceptional fighter he is.
6. Syrio Forel vs. The Kingsguard
You will be speaking to Syrio with more respect. When Ned is betrayed and all the Starks are rounded up, it is only “dancing master” Syrio who stands between the youngest daughter, Arya, and the men who wish to drag her off. Syrio is armed with a wooden sword, but this doesn’t stop him from taking out almost every single guard in the room. The First Sword of Braavos does not run, even when out numbered. Syrio managed to hold off the guards long enough so that Arya could escape, an act of sheer heroism. What do we say to the God of death? Not today.
5. The Bear and The Maiden Fair
Sometimes your enemies aren’t even human! Brienne of Tarth has been left behind to be the entertainment for some not so nice people. Brienne, who is no great beauty but a very skilled warrior, is put into a pit with a very angry bear and given a fake sword to defend herself. She’s also been dressed in a frilly pink dress, which is certainly not helpful in this situation. The crowd gathers above the pit and watches as the bear tries to maul her to death. Jaime Lannister, feeling guilty over leaving Brienne behind, swoops down to help save the day and rescue the Maiden from certain death by bear claw.
4. The Unsullied vs. The Slave Masters
The Unsullied are the best warriors in Essos. They are also slaves, castrated as young boys and taught nothing but the art of fighting and war. Daenerys needs an army to go home, so she buys all the Unsullied she can, even going so far as to sell one of her dragons to the slave master. But Dany has very strong feelings about slavery and the injustice of it. Once the Unsullied are hers, she orders her new army to slaughter their former masters. Without question, the Unsullied turn on the slavers and the blood bath begins. But, in what has to be one of the most iconic scenes of the series so far, Dany turns to the slave master holding her dragon on a chain and speaks just one word. Dracarys. The dragon unleashes a single breath of fire and the slaver is set ablaze. Daenerys “Stormborm” Targaryen, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons does not suffer fools lightly.
3. Night’s Watch vs. The Wildlings
The only thing guarding the realms of men from the mythic horrors that lie beyond is an 8,000 year old wall that is so tall it gets lost in the clouds. It’s also woefully undermanned and in desperate need of repair. On the other side, besides the mysterious White Walkers and Wights, are the Free Folk, men and women (and giants!) who refuse to bend the knee to any king and live as independent clans in the lands of snow and ice. But they too fear the coming of winter and want to flee south—but there is an 8,000-year-old wall in their way. So a plan to scale the wall, fight the Night’s Watch, and flee is devised. The Night’s Watch is greatly outnumbered but that doesn’t mean they will give up the Wall so easily. They are the swords in the darkness and the watchers on the wall. The battle between the Free Folk and the men of the Night’s Watch had so many good action moments: unexpected giant scythe’s, flaming arrows, one on one combat, and mammoths!
2. The Mountain vs. The Viper
Oberyn Martell, called the Red Viper, has a bone to pick with Gregor Clegane. Many years ago, Gregor was sent to kill Oberyn’s sister and he did so, but only after he brutally murdered her little children. It is a crime that has haunted the Martell family. Oberyn sees his chance to avenge his sister when he volunteers to be Tyrion Lannister’s champion against Clegane. Oberyn is a skilled spear fighter, entertaining the audience while at the same time keeping Gregor Clegane on his toes. He dances around the Mountain, screaming accusations at him, over and over. And at one point, the Mountain is flat on his back and you think The Viper has won. But the good guys in Game of Thrones rarely get such a happy ending. The Mountain pulls the Viper’s feet out from under him and then proceeds to squeeze his head like a melon, until everything inside comes bursting out.
1. The Battle of the Blackwater
The ninth episode of season two was the climax of a year’s long war between kings. Stannis Baratheon, the true heir to Westeros, descends on King’s Landing to take the Iron Throne from his nephew Joffery Baratheon, who was not the true born son of the late King Robert. This war battle is everything a person could want: sword fighting, knights on horses, men scaling walls, and in a moment that still takes out breath away: wildfire. Tyrion Lannister, acting Hand of the King, devises quite a unique strategy for blowing up Stannis’s very impressive navy. He leaks wildfire, a substance that is everlasting even on water, into the bay and then sets it ablaze. In an instant the bay is on fire and Stannis’s ships are done for. Everything about this battle felt real and deadly. It’s no wonder this is still one of the highest rated episodes in Game of Thrones history.