Who are the best Game of Thrones characters? George R. R. Martin’s epic series of fantasy novels spawned what is widely regarded as one of the best TV shows ever made. Game of Thrones premiered in 2011 and would run for eight seasons before a House of the Dragon prequel series.
Set in the fictional world of Westeros, Game of Thrones brought to life a monumental ensemble of incredible characters in one of the best drama series ever, from cruel kings and queens to valiant heroes. Whichever end of the scale these characters find themselves on, one thing is guaranteed: they all go on one hell of a journey.
Love or hate them, there are plenty of great characters to choose from when picking a favorite from this fantasy series. That is if they’re not killed off after one episode. We took on the challenge of settling the debate once and been through everyone in the Game of Thrones cast to bring you a definitive list of the best Game of Thrones characters.
God loves a survivor, and it seems so do the Seven. A mercenary cutthroat whose allegiance lies with the person putting gold in his Purse, Bronn is nobody’s idea of a hero. It’s unsurprising, then, considering what a horrible and brutal place Westeros can be, that a greedy sellsword like him could ultimately rise as high as the Lord of the Reach.
Honestly, though, we really like Bronn because, while he’s a huge bastard (Not in the Jon Snow kind of way), he’s very open about this fact. Ultimately, I suppose what it comes down to is that in a world where loyalty means nothing and everyone has their own agenda, there’s something quite endearing about a character as straightforward as Bronn. He just likes gold.
24. Jaqen H’ghar
Why has Jaqen H’ghar earned a place on this list? Well, would you want to piss off a shape-shifting assassin who could be anywhere? No? Well, neither would we; that’s why he’s on the list.
In all seriousness, though, Jaqen’s one of the more enigmatic characters in Thrones and a member of one of the series’ most mysterious organizations, the Faceless Men, which is pretty cool. Still, the real reason we like Jaqen so much is for the chaos he causes at Harrenhal at Arya’s bidding; it’s just really cathartic to see the young Strark get her revenge on the men who’s tormented her using this magical assassin.
23. Jaime Lannister
The Kingslayer himself is one of the most morally complex characters in the Game of Thrones. When we meet him, he’s an arrogant and cruel soldier, willing to push a child to their death to protect him and his family. Yet after being captured by Robb Stark, the once mighty Jaime Lannister is slowly humbled as he realizes for the first time how his family squabbles are destroying the land of Westeros.
Jamie’s story then revolves around his struggle with this new awareness and the loyalty (And love) he feels towards his family. While it seems, briefly, as though Jaime’s sense of honor and duty have won the day, in the final episodes, he goes back to Cersei.
A lot of fans felt let down by this twist, but ultimately, I thought it was one of the more realistic things that happened in the eighth season. Change isn’t easy, and progress isn’t always linear. People stumble and fall, and no character exemplifies that quite like Jamie Lannister.
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21. Tywin Lannister
The winner of Westeros’s Worst Father Award (261 AC – 301 AC), Tywin Lannister prized one thing above all else. It wasn’t gold, it wasn’t even power (Although he loved power as well), it was legacy. Everything Tywin did was about ensuring the legacy of House Lannister.
That’s part of the reason he loathed Tyrion so much, the son who, by rights, should have inherited Casterly Rock. Tywin believed he was a stain on his legacy, and most of his schemes revolved around getting Jaime out of the King’s Guard so he could take Tyrion’s place as heir. Unfortunately for the Lion of Lannister, this ultimately backfired.
After years of cruel treatment, Tyrion slew his father while Tywin sat on a chamber pot, ending the old man’s dreams and condemning him to an ignoble place in the history books of Westeros as a ‘man who died shitting’.
20. Daenerys Targaryen
The Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains Daenerys Targaryen planned on breaking the wheel and building a new world for the people of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.
Unfortunately, Dany’s story didn’t end that way, and the House of the Dragon’s last surviving member (Besides Jon Snow) ended up going down in history as the Mad Queen. Still, we’ll always remember Dany in her better days when she championed slaves and toppled tyrants.
19. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish
The most manipulative man in the Seven Kingdoms, Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger to his friends, is cruel, petty, and, above all else, ambitious. It’s Petyr who begins the War of the Five Kings, pits the Lannisters against the Starks, and sells Sansa to the Boltons, all in the hopes of moving up the ladder.
Alas, poor Littlefinger eventually bit off more than he could chew when he came up against a literal god, Bran Stark (In his defense, it’s hard to manipulate someone who sees all of time at once), and he ends up learning a lesson Cersei Lannister tried to teach him years earlier. Knowledge isn’t always power. Sometimes, power is power.
18. Jon Snow
Jon Snow may know nothing, but we know something: we love the little bastard. True, he’s a bit whiney in the earlier seasons, and his tactics at the Battle of the Bastards leave a lot to be desired, but Jon went from an insecure whelp to a seasoned warrior and eventually the King of the North over the course of eight seasons and his arc’s actually one of the more believable ones (If you ignore the fact he technically died and came back to life).
17. Samwell Tarly
Samwell Tarly starts the series in the shadow of Jon Snow and is often thought of as a character used for two things: comic relief and exposition, but in our not-so-humble opinion, Sam actually has one of the most satisfying story arcs in the entire show.
When we meet Sam, he’s a meek and cowardly boy who’s thought of as a craven by his brothers in black and hated by his father. By the series’ end, though, Sam’s become a respected member of the Night’s Watch, who’s comfortable in his own skin, and he even steals his family’s ancestral sword. Take that, Randyll!
16. Arya Stark
None of the Stark children got off easy in Game of Thrones, but Arya Stark at least managed to get what she always wanted, even if it didn’t happen the way she would have wanted.
Yes, as a child, Arya always dreamed of learning how to fight, but her transformation from a plucky tomboy into a shapeshifting assassin is one of the lowkey saddest storylines in the series. Like Bran and Sansa, the Starks may have survived the events of Thrones, but they lost so much of themselves along the way you can’t help but feel sorry for them.
15. The Night King
He’s as cold as ice and willing to sacrifice Craster’s sons to build himself an army of the undead. Yes, we’re talking about the one and only Night King. This undead ice monster may not have had a big personality, but he more than made up for it in sheer menace.
From the moment he walked onscreen in Game of Thrones season 4, we were terrified at what this lord of monsters had planned for Westeros, and we were right to be scared. The Night King’s plan was a simple one: he was going to take his undead legions and march south, killing everyone in his path.
When would he stop? We genuinely don’t know, which just adds to the terror. When you factor that in with some truly unforgettable moments, like raising the dead at Hardhome and one-shotting one of Daenerys’ dragons, it’s easy to understand why we had to include the Night King on this list.
14. Ned Stark
Honorable to a fault, Ned Stark may have only lasted one season, but the Quiet Wolf loomed large over the next seven seasons of Game of Thrones. Almost all the Starks remembered their dear old dad fondly (Good fathers are quite rare in Westeros), and even his enemies had to admit he wasn’t all bad.
Still, the reason we decided to put Ned on this list is because he taught us an important lesson that would serve us well while watching the rest of Thrones: don’t get attached to anyone. They’ll probably end up dead.
13. Ser Jorah Mormont
Few people in the Seven Kingdoms (Or Essos, for that matter) are as loyal as Ser Jorah is to his Khaleesi, Daenerys. True, he started off as a spy for Robert Baratheon, but over time, he saw the last Targaryen princess was a kind and compassionate leader who ruled in the interests of her people, not out of a desire for power.
Knowing she belonged on the Iron Throne over the usurper Robert, Jorah offered his sword and counsel to the Queen, which made her take over of Slaver’s Bay all the easier. It’s telling, as well, that when she banished the old knight, her rule started to fall apart. Still, in the end, Jorah was there for his queen, helping to save her from the Night King’s evil. Perhaps had he survived the Battle of Winterfell, things would have been different, and Dany wouldn’t have become the Mad Queen.
12. Robert Baratheon
Robert Baratheon was great at two things, having a good time and the second, we can’t mention in case there are children reading. Was he a good king? Absolutely not. Robert was a terrible king whose incompetence and apathy basically doomed the realm.
Still, with his larger-than-life personality and bombastic nature, he was always an entertaining screen presence, and I genuinely believe the show lost a little of its magic when he died at the end of season 1. Still, at least he lives on in memes forever now.
11. Lyanna Mormont
Lyanna Mormont is an icon. That’s the entry. Oh, you need more. Well, how about the fact that a mere 10-year-old child managed to hang on to Bear Island after her mother died at the Red Wedding? Not only that, she managed to stay in charge during House Bolton’s mismanagement of The North and boldly refused to serve Stannis Baratheon. In the end, it took a mother flippin’ giant to take her down, and she still managed to take it out with her.
10. Ser Davos Seaworth
There aren’t many truly likable characters in Game of Thrones, but for me, Ser Davos is the best of the best, and I would like to be his friend. Quite possibly the nicest, most loyal, and selfless character in the whole of Westeros, this man only wants what is right and just and ultimately hopes to help bring peace to the kingdom.
Ser Davos is not a fighter, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t stop him from bravely serving his lords on the battlefield, as well as being a skilled tactician and wise counselor when called upon.
What makes Ser Davos one of the best Game of Thrones characters, though, is his inherent goodness and his gentle nature. In a realm of violence and greed, Ser Davos is more concerned with the well-being of others. This trait is most notable in his endearing interactions with Shireen Baratheon, the young daughter of Lord Stannis, with whom Ser Davos forms a fatherly bond and whose murder ultimately leads him to end his fierce loyalty to the House of Baratheon.
9. Tyrion Lannister
We love a tumultuous character arc, and very few go on quite the journey that Tyrion Lannister does. An outcast in his own family and a source of ridicule for most of his life, it’s fascinating to witness the different bonds Tyrion forms over time and the lengths he goes to in order to unite the kingdom ultimately.
In the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones, Tyrion is mainly a source of comedic relief with his witty one-liners and raucous behavior, but his story soon becomes a much more poignant one. By the time Tyrion kills his father at the end of season five, we are well and truly supportive of his actions. We have seen him carefully navigate a forced marriage to Sansa Stark, enduring the vicious bullying of his nefarious nephew, Joffrey Baratheon, and suffering the indignity of falling in love with a woman who was paid to entertain him.
From there on, Tyrion’s journey outside of King’s Landing is far from plain sailing. However, much like Ser Davos, Tyrion’s key focus is to bring peace to the Seven Kingdoms. His allegiance to Daenerys Targaryen allows him to showcase his tactical nous and diplomatic prowess and prove that he was always worthy of being far more than just a butt of the joke.
8. Cersei Lannister
In total contrast to Tyrion, this Lannister remains fiercely loyal to the family name, right to the bitter end. Although, you could argue Cersei loves her family a little bit too much if you know what I mean.
Cersei Lannister is an immovable object: pure evil, calculated, spiteful, and detestable. But my word, you have to respect her. The sheer malice that motivates many of Cersei’s actions, whilst horrible for her victims, is absolutely outstanding entertainment for the neutral observer. This is largely down to the tremendous talents of Lena Headey, who imbues the character with an eerily-convincing wickedness.
The enduring determination of Cersei to cling to the crown is both admirable and at times desperate. The downfall of Cersei at the hands of the High Sparrow is one of the only redeeming features of that particular strand of the show, and her eventual climb back to the top is symbolic of her unerring pragmatism and desire to see a Lannister on the Iron Throne.
7. Ramsay Bolton
While we’re on the topic of evil, we had better give this guy a mention too. I remember the blissful days of season one, where I thought Joffrey Baratheon was as hateful as they come. How wrong I was. Ramsay Bolton is a ruthless savage but has the unsettling confidence and charm of a much more dignified man. We call that range.
Ramsay is first introduced in season three of Game of Thrones but doesn’t truly gain prominence until season five, where his tortuous talents really take shape. As such, in a relatively short space of time, he terrorizes various characters, including most notably his reluctant wife, Sansa Stark, and his lapdog, Theon Greyjoy.
Every show needs characters that we love to hate, and Ramsay Bolton certainly fulfills that quota. Indeed, his eventual demise is extremely satisfying.
6. Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane
Another man who enjoys a very rewarding character arc is Sandor Clegane, also known as The Hound. From executioner and servant to the Crown, Clegane quickly develops a conscience and abandons his duties in King’s Landing.
On his long path to redemption, we get to see the vulnerabilities that lie beneath his brutish façade, which make Clegane a surprisingly endearing and gentle character. His unorthodox partnership with Arya Stark allows The Hound to truly shine, with humor and heart in equal measure, while never forgetting his instinctive, brutal bloodlust.
Of course, the final season of Game of Thrones has its fair share of critics, and while many narrative arcs didn’t conclude effectively, it was good to see The Hound finally inflict long-overdue revenge on his beastly brother, The Mountain.
5. Tormund Giantsbane
Comedic relief is, perhaps rightly so, few and far between in this epic fantasy series, but none do it better than the loveable rogue from beyond the wall. Tormund Giantsbane’s fixation on Brienne, or “the big woman” as he refers to her, is hilarious, and that alone makes him worthy of the Game of Thrones Hall of Fame.
Tormund first appears as early as season three, albeit very much on the periphery, as a follower of Mance Rayder. It’s not until season five that he begins to play a more prominent role, as his allegiance shifts to support his one-time enemy, Jon Snow.
By the final season of Game of Thrones, Tormund well and truly inserts himself as one of the key players in the fight against the White Walkers. He never does win the heart of “the big woman,” but he definitely wins the heart of the viewers.
4. Brienne of Tarth
Speaking of “the big woman”, we couldn’t possibly leave the badass Brienne of Tarth out of this list. Brienne is another character, much like Ser Davos, who can pretty much claim a clear conscience. Sure, she kills a few people along the way, but no one who didn’t deserve it.
Brienne’s story is one of absolute devotion and determination. In season two, after the death of King Renly, she swears an oath to Lady Catelyn Stark that she will protect her family. This oath extends all the way to the final episode of the show, with Brienne fiercely guarding both Sansa and Arya Stark. Indeed, Brienne is nothing if not committed.
Not only is Brienne the first woman to be knighted in the Seven Kingdoms, she also rises to become the Lady Commander of the Kingsguard. If that isn’t impressive, I don’t know what is.
3. Theon Greyjoy
This one may be controversial, but you have to admit Theon is an incredibly well-written character whose journey, though not a pleasant one, is certainly fascinating to watch unfold.
I have to say, when Theon elects to betray the House of Stark, a family who took him in as though he were one of their own, I couldn’t wait to see him meet his fate. However, witnessing his barbaric suffering at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Theon, and as the show progresses, his looming redemption certainly feels earned. Much of this brilliant character journey is owed to the phenomenal performance of Alfie Allen, who garnered a swell of critical praise for his work.
Ultimately, by the final season, Theon comes full circle and dies a hero. He repents for his sins against the House of Stark in a most tragic sacrifice, protecting Bran and allowing Arya to strike the killer blow to the Night King. The battle could have been very different were it not for Theon Greyjoy.
More commonly known as The Red Witch, Melisandre introduces mysterious magic and tragic prophecies to Westeros when she arrives in season two.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, this shady lady and her dark arts cause quite a lot of trouble, and she even prompts one of the cruelest deaths in the whole show when she forces Stannis to sacrifice his daughter. But we all want a bit of drama, don’t we? And Melisandre certainly delivers on that front.
Daenerys had her dragons, and that’s cool, but on the other side of the world, Melisandre was bringing people back from the dead and looking into the future. I know who I would rather have by my side.
1. Lady Olenna Tyrell
I have two words for you: “Tell Cersei.”
Do we really need to say anything else? The late, great Dame Diana Rigg played Lady Olenna Tyrell with such a charming sharpness, and her iconic final words are a blistering example of this. The moment she utters those lines will go down in Game of Thrones folklore.
Not only does she bump off Joffrey, but Lady Olenna was one of the only characters who could go toe-to-toe with Cersei Lannister and come out on top. Even in death, she was still winning.
So, there we have it, the best Game of Thrones characters. And, not a Stark in sight.
If you love Game of Thrones, check out our guide to the best fantasy movies. Or if you want to know more about the House of the Dragon cast and the best House of the Dragon characters, we have guides on Otto Hightower, Larys Strong, King Viserys Targaryen, and The White Worm, two key figures in the civil war. We also have an article all about the House of the Dragon season 2 release date, and we’ve done some digging to see if a Game of Thrones season 9 is possible.