Game of Thrones has done a lot to change people's perceptions of fantasy stories. When Tolkien and J.K. Rowling were the biggest names in fantasy, people were used to heroes who were kind and righteous, and villains who were ugly and tyrannical. Thanks to George R. R. Martin, fantasy fans have had those preconceptions turned upside down.
With the Game of Thrones TV series, Martin's world has reached many more people than when there were just the Song of Ice and Fire books, and by now fans have grown used to morally gray fantasy characters. There's scarcely a person in the franchise you could say is decent, and it's actually tough to decide who exactly is the worst of the bunch; there’s way too much competition for the top spot of most sadistic, vile, even homicidal villains in the series. But we're giving it a shot by sorting through all the backstabbers, liars, and cold-blooded killers to pick out the most ruthless villains in all of Game of Thrones.
15 WALDER FREY
Walder Frey hasn't received anywhere near as much screen time as a lot of other villains, but he helped create one of the biggest impacts in the franchise. The Red Wedding is the most famous part of all of Game of Thrones, resulting in the deaths of Greywind, Catelyn, Talisa, and Robb along with many of the North's supporters. It was a bloodbath that took the Northmen out of the bidding for the war for Westeros, and it was all perpetrated by Walder Frey.
Admittedly, Robb broke his word by marrying Talisa instead of one of Frey's daughters, but the Starks made a sincere effort to rectify that lapse in decorum. Instead, Walder Frey showed just how deeply he holds a grudge. The fact that Frey sold the Starks out is one of the most cold-blooded and ruthless acts we've seen in the story, and in Game of Thrones, that's really saying something.
Littlefinger might not be as directly violent as other people in Game of Thrones, but he's one of the biggest power players in the story. Rather than get his own hands bloody Petyr prefers to operate behind the scenes and manipulate other people into doing his bidding. That doesn't make him any less ruthless, though, since he's repeatedly shown that once a person outlives their usefulness to him, he'll happily have them disposed of.
Littlefinger showed his duplicitous ways early on when he betrayed Ned Stark as the latter tried to expose Cersei and Jaime's incest. Then time and again he has allied himself with whomever can move him closer to the throne. There was Lysa Arryn, who Petyr killed as soon as she became a problem. And now there is Sansa, who has to know from Petyr's track record exactly how much trust to put in him.
Qyburn might not leap out to you as someone who has gotten his hands dirty doing the most horrible things in the show, but there are other ways to be ruthless besides murdering people. Sure, Jaime tossing Bran out a window was ruthless, but since then Jaime has been on a path of redemption. But Qyburn? He was so demented that he had his maester's chain revoked, and he's only descended deeper into depravity since then.
Qyburn is the guy who resurrected Gregor Clegane into an abomination just to give Cersei another weapon. Qyburn is the one whose research into wildfire enabled Cersei to kill off the High Sparrow and Margaery and Loras. Qyburn is so twisted that he has become one of Cersei’s most trusted servants. That says it all, really.
It's hard to get much more ruthless than a character who is willing to burn a child alive, but a few characters in the franchise have arguably accomplished it. Maybe fans are willing to forgive Melisandre for doing something like killing Shireen Baratheon since she did help Jon Snow come back to life, but you can never forget something that awful. And it's hardly the only thing Melisandre did for her Red God.
It became obvious as time went on that Melisandre was only using Stannis. And we can't forget about the people who Melisandre has killed with the shadows she spawns. Renly might have actually been able to restore peace to Westeros before Melisandre had him killed. The only person she is loyal to is her god, and everyone else could be expendable.
Fans did not have long to get to know Viserys Targaryen. He stuck around for less than one whole season and since his death years ago there have been so many worse people to show up. But at the start of everything, Viserys was definitely someone whose conniving ways made him pretty reprehensible. After all, Viserys' whole plan for power was to sell his sister to Khal Drogo in exchange for an army.
Though it was ultimately the cruelty of Viserys that was his undoing, he did some pretty horrible things to Daenarys during their time together. He physically abused her, flat out told her he'd be willing to let Drogo's entire tribe rape her if it meant he got what he wanted, and in the book of A Dance With Dragons there's evidence provided to suspect that Viserys might have raped Daenarys himself. Viserys never cared about his sister, just power.
At first glance, Craster seemed like a decent enough guy. He managed to survive somehow outside the confines of the Wall, and was willing to provide shelter for the members of the Night's Watch when they passed through. Sure, he was grumpy and not very enthusiastic about providing hospitality, but it was better than nothing right? That is, it was... until the secrets of Craster's Keep started to come to light.
It turned out the white walkers didn't bother Craster because he was bribing them with his own children. It was odd how Craster had so many daughters around but no sons. The reason for that was Craster gave up his sons to the white walkers in exchange for his safety. And the only reason Craster was able to continue to have children is because he was raping his own daughters. Craster truly was a man who would do anything to survive.
9 TYWIN LANNISTER
Tywin might not be the most evil character in Game of Thrones, but he's the definition of ruthless. He is seldom motivated by emotion, but rather what advances his plans and keeps his family in power. A perfect example of how cold he can be is how he coerced Tyrion into marrying Sansa just so it could be said there was unity between the warring Starks and Lannisters.
By far the worst thing Tywin did was the way he treated Tyrion's first wife. Tyrion repeatedly recounts how he rescued a woman from bandits, fell in love, and married her. When Tywin found out, he claimed the woman was a prostitute that Jaime had paid for his brother's enjoyment. Tywin had a bunch of his men have sex with Tyrion's wife and pay her. It was only later Tyrion learned Tywin lied, and that Tywin’s men had actually raped her.
8 AERYS TARGARYEN
Despite how many people want Jon Snow or Daenerys Targaryen on the Iron Throne by the end of the franchise, there's actually pretty good reason to distrust having them there. You have to figure, they're both related to Aerys Targaryen who was so insane that it led to Robert Baratheon's rebellion in the first place. And they do say that madness runs in the Targaryen bloodline. Viserys hardly discounts that theory, too.
The ruthless nature of Aerys is what caused Westeros to turn against him, since his madness made him paranoid of everyone. After Aerys' son Rhaegar ran off with Lyanna Stark, Brandon Stark believed his sister had been kidnapped and demanded her back. Instead, Aerys had Brandon arrested and executed not only him, but his brother Rickon as well. The Starks really don't have very good luck with kings, do they?
7 GREGOR CLEGANE
Gregor definitely ranks up there as one of the most evil characters in the franchise. To call him ruthless is an understatement since ruthless people usually just don't hold back in achieving their goals regardless of who it hurts. Gregor doesn't really have goals. He just plain enjoys hurting people. He kicked things off by hurting his own brother. Sandor had played with one of Gregor's toys as a kid, so Gregor retaliated by giving Sandor his trademark burns.
And we can't forget the whole Oberyn Martell situation. Martell wanted vengeance against Gregor because the Mountain had raped and killed one of the women in the Martell family, and even killed one of their babies. Gregor wasn't even remorseful, though, instead coldly repeating the crimes to Oberyn as he gouged out the man's eyes and squashed his head like a ripe melon.
6 JOFFREY BARATHEON
For the first few seasons of the show, there was nobody worse than Joffrey Lannister. He lied to and manipulated Sansa, he tried to kill Arya with a sword, and got Mycah and Lady killed. And all of that was just the tip of the iceberg for the horrible things Joffrey did. He wanted to assert his control and power, and the best way he knew how to do that was through instilling fear.
Obviously the most ruthless thing Joffrey ever did was order the death of Ned Stark. The young king was already unforgivable even before that, but after that moment tons of fans were just waiting for when they would get to see Joffrey dead. Joffrey continued to be a monster for a couple more seasons, doing things like torturing and killing Ros, but eventually he was poisoned and mourned by none of the show's fans.
5 THE HIGH SPARROW
The High Sparrow is another reminder that being ruthless can come in many forms. Some in Westeros are ruthless criminals who simply have no morals and feel free to do whatever they want. The High Sparrow certainly has morals, though, and he wants to make sure everyone abides by them. Cersei's first big blunder in retaining her power was to give credence to a religious fanatic like the High Sparrow.
The High Sparrow makes life hard for both the villains and the heroes of the franchise, imprisoning both Cersei and Margaery. He was so cold-hearted that he even got many to feel pity for Cersei during her walk of shame. Then he has Loras Tyrell mutilated just for being gay. The High Sparrow might just be the one person worse than a Lannister for ruling Westeros.
4 CERSEI LANNISTER
It was pretty obvious early on that Cersei’s the kind of person who does anything to protect her family. Her love for Jaime led to her lying to the entire kingdom about the parentage of her kids, and when that lie was in jeopardy, she had Robert Baratheon killed for it. She was also fully prepared to exile Ned Stark to the Night Watch to protect her deceit, and kept Sansa as a hostage to protect against any retaliation from Robb.
Just when it looked like Cersei had been brought down thanks to her walk of shame, she came back more vicious than ever. She killed off Margaery Tyrell and the Sparrows with an explosion of wildfire for their part in her suffering. And she got the last word on who should be ashamed when she unleashed the resurrected Gregor Clegane on Septa Unella.
3 ROOSE BOLTON
You know Ramsay will be someone we have to discuss in a bit, but we can't forget Roose. Ramsay didn't wind up the twisted monster he was without a lot of help in the form of a horrible upbringing from his dad. But what else can you expect from a family who proudly displays their penchant for flaying people on their house flag?
So where to start with Roose? Well the whole reason he has Ramsay in the first place is due to rape. And then we can't forget how he had no qualms about mistreating Theon and Sansa while they were his captives, both of whom had been sexually abused. And just in case you needed any more reason to dislike Roose, he's also the one who delivered the killing blow to Robb Stark.
2 THE NIGHT KING
It took a while for the true villain of the franchise to show up, but eventually the white walkers did arrive, led by the Night King. There’s no disputing that someone who wants to fill the world with ice zombies has to be a pretty ruthless person. Pretty much every horrible thing the white walkers have done can be attributed to the Night King since he is their leader and they're following his command.
This is the villain we have to thank for the deaths of Summer, Leaf, and Hodor. The Night King is the one responsible for the many deaths that have occurred in the Night Watch. And perhaps the worst thing about it all is that the Night King will just revive anyone he slays as another member of his army. So even death is not the worst thing that the Night King can bring to his victims.
1 RAMSAY SNOW
It's pretty disputable who the worst of the bunch among most of the other characters we've mentioned, but Ramsay is undeniably the worst of the worst. We quickly saw that with how Ramsay treated Theon Greyjoy. At the time, fans viewed Theon as one of the bigger scumbags of the franchise for his betrayal of the Starks after raising him. Ramsay quickly usurped that position, though.
Ramsay physically tortured Theon while he was restrained, toyed with his emotions by making him believe he'd be set free, and just continually broke Theon down until he became Reek. And Ramsay only got worse from there. There was his part in raping Sansa, his desecration of Winterfell, murdering Rickon right as he was about to be reunited with Jon. Ramsay was just pure evil, putting even the likes of Joffrey and Cersei to shame.
Who do you think wins when it comes to villainy on the Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments!