Season eight is not far away now! It’s time to reflect on the deep cast of characters that this show boasts. There are few that could support so many fully formed story arcs and explorations of morality. Game of Thrones is truly in a league of its own. There is also no shortage of deadly characters in George R. R. Martin's harsh landscape. It would seem no one is safe when this man is at his keyboard.
This ranking will include characters who have passed, because let’s be honest… we’ve lost too many good ones to ignore those. To make it simpler, it will not heavily factor in the accomplishments of characters prior to the books / show. This would explain the exclusion of someone like, Robert Baratheon, who we never see during his rebellion, only sitting and sipping wine.
This list won’t include anyone that isn’t human. Apologies to Drogon, the Night King and the mighty Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, but this should make more a more even playing field.
The sand snakes are an honorable mention because their depiction in the show is not good. They are laughably adapted and provide most of the worst lines of dialogue and moments in the entire run of the show. But, it can’t be dismissed that their description and actions in the books make them out to be highly deadly warriors. It’s a shame they’re just so poorly executed in the show. With all of that said, let's count them down!
20 OBERYN MARTELL
Obryn’s abilities did not get to fully shine in Game of Thrones as his time was cut short in that infamous trial by combat. He let his emotions get the better of him, when he should have just walked away. Prior to that grizzly defeat however, is a glimpse into the kind of fighter he was.
Obryn was normally quite calm and collected and he fought in the same manor. His acrobatics, speed and ability with a spear were on full display early on in the fight. It is a shame we didn’t get to see more of Obryn, as he was a joy to watch.
19 JAIME LANNISTER
Jaime is a fascinating character. He is first introduced as a man with an incestuous secret who is willing to push a child out of window to keep that secret safe. Yet, somehow, through his progression, he becomes a character you sympathize with and in some cases root for. He may not be the legendary fighter he once was after losing his hand, but he still has power and influence combined with tactical battle knowledge.
He should never be counted out in a fight. The question now remains though, will this once ‘Kingslayer’ soon find himself in a similar position where he must become the Queenslayer?
18 KHAL DROGO
We certainly lost this character too soon. It was vital for Daenerys’ story and her rise to power, but it is really a shame. Khal Drogo was the Genghis Khan of the Game of Thrones universe. As a mighty warlord and never defeated in battle, we only caught a glimpse of this man’s might in his short time in the series.
To see the Dorthraki now fighting in Westeros makes us imagine what this titan could have done if he’d crossed the narrow sea. Once he fell for Daenerys, there is no doubt he would have gone to the ends of the earth for her and their son.
You may not pray to the Lord of Light, but you can’t deny that every name she spoke as she placed the leeches on the fire, have met untimely fates. She doesn’t act on her own free will, framing every major decision around her religious beliefs, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t changed the game in drastic ways.
One of the most game-changing moves of the entire series was Melisanre’s hand in the removal of Renly Barrathion. It was a dramatic shift in what could have been a long, drawn out battle between the two brothers.
16 TORMUND GIANTSBANE
Tormund is not a classically trained fighter. There’s no water dancing where he’s from. As a wildling from north of the wall, he is downright scary in battle. Like the Dorthraki, there is no mercy in the wildling approach. They storm and they conquer. Tormund has suffered defeats along the way but he’s also survived some of the most insane battles of the series.
He was there at the battle at the wall and alongside Jon at Hardhome and the Battle of the Bastards. He’s survived it all and took down countless men and wights along the way. When we left him in season seven, he was seemingly trapped atop the wall with Beric Dondarrion. Hopefully that doesn’t last long and we can see him back in the action soon.
15 JORAH MORMONT
We’ve not seen Jorah in the prime of his fighting career. We know a more weathered and worn Jorah, especially now after the painful procedure to remove the greyscale. Still, there are many signs that point to the kind of knight he was before his exile. In his relationship with Daenerys, he has proven his unyielding loyalty.
The best indicator of his abilities as a swordsman come in the fighting pits. He easily bests his competition, saves Daenerys with a lofty toss of a spear and proceeds to massacre many members of the Sons of the Harpy. No matter where he is in the world, he has the grit and strength of a man from the north, along with an impressive technical skill set.
14 PETYR BAELISH
Little Finger is a mastermind and a puppeteer. He orchestrates everything behind the scenes through whispers and manipulation. From the beginning of the series, you can see just how influential and dangerous this man’s word and allegiances are. He’ll look you in the eyes and give you some cryptic monologue but you can never be sure he isn’t plotting your downfall.
He turned the tides at the Battle of the Basterds. He pushed Lysa Aren through the moon door. He conspired with Lady Olenna to poison Joffrey and have Tyrion blamed. The list goes on. He is very dangerous but as Sansa has proven, quite valuable, if you believe he can be trusted.
13 GREY WORM
As an unsullied commander, Grey Worm’s loyalty and discipline is unmatched. He was taken into slavery in Astapor and trained from an early age to fight. It is the unsullied purpose. Their reputation is wide spread and daunting, though the show’s depiction sometimes betrays this promise, especially with the way some unsullied are defeated by Sons of the Harpy.
Despite this, Grey Worm is a strong and composed leader for a highly deadly army. We’ve seen his impressive moves with the spear and knife. Though he is an incredible fighter, at the end of the day, he obeys Daenerys for every move. So, who is really more deadly?
12 RAMSAY BOLTON
Ramsey is the most evil character the show has ever given us. No one takes more pleasure in mutilation and torture than this weasel. Sure, no one liked Theon… but no one deserves the punishment he received.
He may not be an exceptional fighter, but here is a man who loves to emotionally and physically torment his enemies. He delights in it. And with Ramsey, no one is safe. Not even his own father. He maintains this arrogance and remorseless nature at every turn. He was even smiling as Jon beat his face in. He was a true villain in the series, right up until his fitting end.
He seems like a simple sellsword but he has managed to make a far bigger name for himself than most in that profession. His first major move was championing Tyrion in a trial by combat. He fought dirty and won, which is Bronn in a nutshell.
He was later appointed Commander of the City Watch and eventually knighted after the Battle the Blackwater. There is no shortage of deadly moments for this mercenary as he is always a highlight of any battle sequence. He’s a crafty fighter whether he throwing a knife, shooting an arrow or swinging a sword. He’s quick with a quip but more importantly, quick with a blade.
10 DAARIO NAHARIS
With the recasting between seasons… you might think he prayed to the many-faced God. Joking aside, here is a warrior who proved his worth over and over in Essos. The foil to Jorah Mormont, he acts without honor or valor, looking out for himself. He is like Bronn in many ways, not adverse to fighting dirty as we saw him take out the champion from Mereen by throwing a knife into their horse’s eye.
In the show we see him pledge himself to Daenerys, falling in love with her. He professes how he will do anything for her, showing it in his brave, though sometimes reckless behavior. He is cocky and he is brash, but to witness him fight and the lengths he will go to for his queen proves he is not someone you want to face in the ring.
9 SANDOR CLEGANE (THE HOUND)
The Hound is a complex character with a disturbing past. His fear of fire and resentment of his brother are just a few of the crosses he bears. Through all his evolution in the show and moments of humanity however, there is always the reminder that he is one of the deadliest men in the Seven Kingdoms.
A near death experience radically changed him and though he always maintains the rough exterior, we see deeper conflictions within him. Even with this newly discovered moral compass though, he is still as dangerous with a sword or an axe as he was when we first met him.
8 BRIENNE OF TARTH
Brienne seems to enter every encounter with something to prove. In these misogynist medieval times, there is always a laugh or a joke at her expense before she kicks some butt. She certainly has some bad luck when it comes to pledging her loyalty, but at the end of the day, she’s someone you want on your side.
Along the way she defeated The Hound in single combat and managed to train Podrick Payne into a respectable fighter. At this point her reputation should precede her, but it seems there are no shortage of misguided men who one by one have their expectations flipped on their head.
7 GREGOR CLEGANE (THE MOUNTAIN)
This beast provided one of the grizzliest ends to a fight in the history of fantasy cinema and TV. Was he losing the fight against Obryn? Yes. He may not be as fast or as clever as other fighters in Westeros, but when it comes to strength and brutality, he cannot be beat.
Major credit must be given Qyburn for rebuilding this man as a Frankenstein version of his former self. He is now more of a machine. Without ever showing an inkling of vulnerability, he is more of a weapon than anything, not unlike wildfire. The question is: how best to utilize this weapon?
6 ARYA STARK
Everyone should be grateful they aren’t on Arya’s list. She’s been muttering in her sleep for the list of her enemies ever since Ned’s execution and now she has returned to Westeros. There is no telling when and where she will strike.
We have watched her grow as a warrior for six seasons and then finally got a taste of her potential as Walder Frey and Meryn Trantmet their fates. From her days of training with Syrio Forel to calmly sparing with Brianne in Winterfell, we’ve seen an impressive progression. She combines a deep seeded vengeance with the skills she learned in Essos, making her one of deadliest people in the seven kingdoms.
5 BARRISTAN SELMY
“…he was a painter. A painter who only used red.” Barristan is widely known as one of the best swordsmen in the seven kingdoms as multiple characters such as Jaime and Ned sing his praises. There was a great deal of disappointment surrounding the departure of this character as it diverted from the books and many believed a fighter of his caliber would not have gone out as quietly as he did. There is also the consensus that if he was taken out, Grey Worm certainly would have been as well.
Before his end however, we were able to see his virtue and honor as a knight and his skills with a sword. Here is yet another entry on the list of character who were taken too soon.
4 JON SNOW
Jon has been on a remarkable journey and survived it all. He has literally returned from the dead. Let us not ignore that fact. Beyond that, he has taken down a White Walker, defended the wall from wildlings and lead an army to take back Winterfell.
He has done it all without resorting to cheap tricks. He is an honorable fighter and skilled swordsman. Hardened by a neglected upbringing and time north of the wall, his bravery and ferocity is unrivaled. If you want to see The King in the North in action, watch the beautiful one shot from The Battle of the Bastards.
3 DAENERYS TARGARYEN
Power is dangerous and no one has attained more power over the last seven seasons than Daenerys. She commands the Dothraki, unsullied and of course three (now two?) fully formed dragons.
Her strength and dominance is demonstrated time and again as she defeated enemies one by one in Essos and quickly decimated an army in the Battle of the Goldroad. Even when she has nothing, stripped of her ‘power’, she rises to the occasion. Of course, it also helps that fire can’t harm her. With only one season to go and the mother of dragons not far from her enemies, there will no doubt be more carnage to come, courtesy of Khaleesi.
2 JAQEN H'GHAR
We can’t ignore his ability to take any life at will. He mutilated everyone in a castle so Arya could escape and he could repay his debt. He feels nothing. Like Melisandre, he is acting under a higher power so does not dictate his own actions. He operates under this mysterious religious code of the many-faced God. This means he can't easily be used but it also means he could be anywhere and anyone… which is the most downright scary trait.
1 CERSEI LANNISTER
It was the season six finale that put her over the edge. Her cruelty and unrelenting hatred was seen time and time again, but never on a scale like that. In a split second, she killed hundreds of people, many of them innocent. It also provided the best opening to any episode.
She may never have a sword in her hand but it seems a cup of wine for her is just as deadly. She plots and schemes with no remorse or second glances to the trail of rubble she is leaving behind. She explains to Sansa in the second season: “The more people you love, the weaker you are.” In her quest for power she has lost all three of her children, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a villain with nothing to lose.