No show on television does a medieval scrap quite like Game of Thrones.
Hell, the battles are so epically orchestrated some movies don’t even come close to matching the quality.
And, through seven seasons the bodies have really piled up.
Whether it was wildfire spreading over Blackwater Bay, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) leading a band of Westeros All-Star swords beyond the wall, or the Free Folk attacking Castle Black, there’s been no shortage of emotional intensity and pure action on Thrones.
Here are the seven most intense battles in Game of Thrones history.
From here on out—major SPOILER ALERT.
This list will go over details from Season 7 and all previous seasons of the series.
Enter if you dare.
This scene is the epitome of a sneak attack. Euron Greyjoy’s (Pilou Asbæk) ship "Silence" lived up to its name, appearing out of a fog to ambush his relatives Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan). Euron’s attack demolished a large chunk of Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) army, and he ended up taking both Yara and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) hostage. The battle featured some of the goriest fight scenes on Game of Thrones, with the Iron Born fighting with pure brutality. Euron’s status as the new maniacal villain of Thrones (replacing the deceased Ramsay Bolton—more on him later) was cemented with this fight. Asbæk’s performance is his best of the series, showcasing Euron in his element: happy to be killing, setting things on fire, destroying his enemies.
Unlike most other episodes of Game of Thrones, “The Watchers on the Wall” takes place in only one location: Castle Black. From the beginning of the series, the Night’s Watch knew that a Wildling attack on the wall was only a matter of time—and here, it finally came. This all-out assault saw Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) lead thousands of free folk through, under, and over the Wall into Castle Black.
This battle pit members of the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings against the White Walkers and their undead army. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) led a mission to the titular Wildling Village, where hundreds of undead wights and a handful of extremely creepy-looking White Walkers attacked the free folk staying there. Jon vanquishing a White Walker with his Valyrian sword is a highlight, but the most memorable moment is the final shot of the Night King reviving thousands of dead wildlings and Night’s Watch members as new wights for his army.
In the early days of the series, there wasn’t any extra money for battle scenes. At that time, a high-minded fantasy epic—or, as co-creator David Benioff first called it, “The Sopranos meets Middle Earth,” The Guardian reports—was no sure thing to be a hit, so the producers had to spend their money wisely. Basically, they only showed the aftermath of a battle, or as they did in Season 1, episode 9, they had Tyrion get knocked out and wake up after the battle ended.
But once Season 2 came around, HBO knew it had a hit on its hands, meaning fans would finally get their first all-out battle on Game of Thrones. “The Battle of the Blackwater” delivered on all fronts: Neil Marshall’s direction takes you from the archers on the castle walls, to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) giving the Lannister forces one of the most motivating speeches, to Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) riding into Blackwater Bay on their ships. Then Bronn (Jerome Flynn) shoots a flaming arrow into the bay, setting wildfire ablaze, giving fans a battle they’d never forget.
Daenerys finally brought dragons back to Westeros. On their way back from looting Highgarden and defeating House Tyrell, the Lannisters were ambushed by Drogon—with Dany riding him—and the Dothraki, who touch down on mainland Westeros for the first time. Jaime and Bronn hold their own against the far-superior horse-riding soldiers, but the Lannister army was decimated by the infantry and the flames shooting down from above. The absolutely stunning behind-the-scenes footage of how the battle was made is almost as good as the episode itself—including an inside look at how they set 70 stuntmen on fire.
Just when fans thought Game of Thrones couldn’t have a more explosive dragon battle than the “Loot Train Attack,” the show went and did this. In a fight that truly brought fire and ice against one another, Daenerys led her three dragons north of the Wall to save Jon Snow and his group of men. The crew was there to capture a wight to prove to the Seven Kingdoms that the White Walker army is real, but once they completed the mission they were surrounded by thousands of undead soldiers. With all hope seemingly lost, Dany flies in for the rescue, unleashing her three dragons in a stunning sequence that ended with the Night King killing the flying Viserion with an ice spear. The death of a CGI character has never had more emotional weight on the show, and fans were even more horrified when the Night King resurrected Viserion as an undead ice dragon.
As wild, crazy, and fiery as the “Loot Train Battle” and the fight “Beyond the Wall” were in Season 7, it’s still hard to top the “Battle of the Bastards”. The back-from-the-dead Jon Snow and the maniacal Ramsay Bolton give the battle a clear hero and a clear villain, unlike some of the other battles in which likable main characters were on both sides. The episode stayed primarily on the action at Winterfell—apart from a quick interlude to Dany in Meereen—giving the episode intense focus. There are many memorable images from this episode, including the opening part of the battle when the forces collide, surrounding Jon with pure chaos and bloodshed, and later, when Jon gasps for air while crawling through a pile of hundreds of dead men. The stellar production design and direction from Miguel Sapochnik, which included more than 500 extras and even more crew members, made the battle feel realistic and visceral. Of course, when the good guys win it always helps, too. Seeing Ramsay fall victim to his own hounds, on the order of Sansa no less, was absolutely satisfying for fans.