Every 'Game of Thrones' Sword Fight, From Worst to Best

Kit Harington as Jon Snow faces off against a White Walker in Hardhome

The Game of Thrones Season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter” resolved so many storylines -- while setting up plenty of end-of-world conflict for Season 7 -- that any gripes we have would only be nitpicking. OK, just one nitpick: where was the spectacular one-on-one sword fight between two characters we cared about? Where was the moment of two characters we loved battling to the death? We wanted Cleganebowl, but really, we would have taken anything.

We whine because we love. To fill the Oathbreaker-sized hole in our heart, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to rank the most epic fights the show has ever pulled off using swords and other sword-like weaponry. Rules for inclusion: single combat of any sort (close-ups of battle sequences count; assassinations like the Red Wedding do not), with at least one sword present.

Steel yourselves. As Syrio Forel would say, “Fear cuts deeper than swords.”

45. Bronn and Jaime Lannister vs. Sand Snakes
S5E6: "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

The Dornish subplot was a slow-motion bus crash, and this fight was the moment the vehicles collided -- an overly telegraphed, poorly edited sparring match capping off a tactically hopeless rescue mission. One of many book reader questions: Areo Hotah doesn’t even swing his curved glaive once, so why bother changing it from the long axe mentioned in the books? We’ll never know.

44. Tyrion Lannister, Bronn, and Rodrik Cassel vs. Hill Tribe soldiers
S1E5: “The Wolf and the Lion”

This scene isn’t so much about the fight itself -- though we do get a good look at Bronn using his kukri knife -- as much as it was about showing a provoked Catelyn Stark (and the audience) that Tyrion could be violent and dangerous in his own way.

Kit Harinton as Jon Snow

43. Jon Snow vs. The Night’s Watch
Multiple episodes

More an introduction to Castle Black than anything else, all of these scenes showcase Alliser Thorne’s sparkling wit: "Well, Lord Snow, it appears you're the least useless person here."

42. Samwell Tarly vs. The Night’s Watch
S1E4: “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things”

Same here. Again, Ser Alliser grants us his condescension: “You don't know cold. Neither of you do.”

41. Robb Stark, Theon Greyjoy, and Bran Stark vs. Osha and Wildling soldiers
S1E6: “A Golden Crown”

There's a lot to like in this brief scene in retrospect, from little Bran threatening his attackers with death to Robb getting on-screen swordplay in his only true fight in the series. It's a pity he had to get married.

game of thrones fight scene ranking

40. The Night’s Watch vs. The Night’s Watch
S3E4: “And Now His Watch is Ended”

The mutiny at Craster’s Keep was a messy, underhanded slaughter where members of the Night's Watch stab Jeor Mormont. It’s actually hardly a fight, but luckily Jon Snow makes up for it in his one-on-one against Karl Tanner.

39. Bronn and Jaime Lannister vs. Dornish soldiers
S5E4: “Sons of the Harpy”

This fight is probably the highlight of the Dornish plot, if for no other reason than this GIF.

38. Jorah Mormont vs. Qotho
S1E9: “Baelor”

In the early seasons, Jorah the Andal wore his heavy armor every time he fought -- and this isn’t the last time he would get nicked in the cheek by an arakh blade. Jorah predicted his victory, though, and correctly.

37. Jorah Mormont vs. pit slaves
S5E9: “The Dance Of Dragons”

AKA “That Other Time Jorah Got Nicked in the Cheek.” The crowd boos him at the end of this fight, and honestly, he deserved it. Jorah should be dead, guys.

36. Gregor Clegane vs. prisoners
S4E8: “The Mountain and the Viper”

A sword fight in the sense that his opponents hold swords when they die. Really, this is Gregor Clegane’s abattoir, and the floors are not sanitized.

35. Yoren vs. Amory Lorch and Lannister soldiers
S2E3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”

Lorch may have killed Yoren, but not before Yoren gave the most badass original-to-the-show monologue you totally forgot about. Arya can thank him for her lists.

34. Jon Snow vs. Tormund Giantsbane, Orell, and Ygritte
S3E9: “The Rains of Castamere”

Mackenzie Crook only appeared as Orell in six episodes before Jon Snow drove Longclaw through his chest, but Jon still wears the mark of his warging eagle.

33. Yara Greyjoy and Ironborn vs. Bolton soldiers
S4E6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”

I wish this fight pushed the story forward more than getting Yara to touch base with Reek/Theon, but it provides a counterbalance to the other vital, non-violent event of the episode: Tyrion Lannister’s trial. Yara’s speech before the scene begins serves as a good reminder of why she is the leader the Iron Islands need, and the combat itself is all dark, murky madness.

game of thrones fight scenes

32. Bronn vs. Jaime Lannister
Multiple episodes

Apart from their sojourn to Dorne, these two easily make the top-five list for "Best Odd Couple in Westeros," and it’s all because of former pop musician Jerome Flynn’s Bronn.

31. Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane vs. Freys
S3E10: "Mhysa"

Arya straight-up murders a Frey soldier because she's driven by grief over her assassinated family. And it's awesome. It's also a psychotic thing to do, a kill that even unsettles Sandor Clegane. Arya's twisted arc of vengeance begins in earnest.

30. Jon Snow vs. Qhorin Halfhand
S2E10: “Valar Morghulis”

One crackpot fan theory claims that Qhorin Halfhand is Ser Arthur Dayne, the legendary Sword of the Morning, but this would be a miserable way for Ser Arthur to die, wouldn’t it? (Not that Dayne’s actual death shown in Bran’s flashback was much more satisfying -- more on that below.) RIP, Halfhand.

Grey Worm in Game of Thrones

29. Grey Worm, Jorah Mormont, and Daario Naharis vs. Yunkai’i Unsullied
S3E9: “The Rains of Castamere”

Seeing Jorah and Grey Worm fight together here may be a lot of fun, but (1) the other events of “The Rains of Castamere” overshadow the rest of the episode, and (2) so much of this takes place off-screen that it’s hard to adequately judge.

28. Sandor Clegane vs. Gregor Clegane
S1E4: “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things”

Ahhh, the half-duel that launched a thousand Cleganebowl theorists. It’s frightening, no doubt, but this is probably the closest we’ll come to a WWE-style brotherly throwdown. We’ll always have Season 1.

27. Daario Naharis vs. the Champion of Meereen
S4E3: “Breaker of Chains”

Reintroductions are a sweet, sweet thing. In Season 4, producers recast Daario, and this was Michiel Huisman's first big scene, and he needed to prove he had the swagger. As part of his practice with swordplay, he says, "I would grab the sword -- or the arakh, as it's called -- make sure that nobody was standing directly next to me, and I would just twirl it back and forth, back and forth, back and forth."

game of thrones fight scenes

26. Jon Snow vs. Bolton soldiers
S5E9: “Battle of the Bastards”

Kit Harington played a better Superman in this episode than Henry Cavill and Brandon Routh combined. For all the suspense of disbelief it took to ignore all the dodged arrows, he did it in bloody, trampled style while taking out what looked like half the Bolton army in a gorgeous long take. Not quite a surprise, but exquisite nonetheless.

game of thrones fight scenes

25. Arya Stark vs. Syrio Forel vs. Lannister soldiers
Multiple episodes

Five seasons later, Syrio’s death is still hotly debated by Reddit truthers. Logic -- and Maisie Williams -- tell us that he’s super-extra-definitely dead, but come on: “What do we say to the god of death?”

game of thrones fight scenes

24. Tormund Giantsbane vs. Alliser Thorne
S4E9: “The Watchers on the Wall”

Kristofer Hivju turned Tormund into one of Thrones’ most charismatic moving pieces, and Owen Teale did the same for Thorne. It’s almost a shame their characters couldn’t finish their fight, but Ser Alliser needed to live so he could kill a certain curly-haired Stark, and Tormund needed to live so shippers could obsess over the show’s greatest unrequited romance. This scimitar-on-longsword skirmish is pure fan service, and no one’s complaining. (FWIW, Tormund keeps fighting despite getting shot with multiple arrows, while Alliser does not.)

23. Tormund Giantsbane vs. Smalljon Umber
S6E9: “Battle of the Bastards”

We were so terrified Tormund would kick the bucket in this scene -- and then he ripped out Umber's throat with his teeth. It's barely a sword fight, and it's beautiful for it.

game of thrones fight scenes

22. Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand vs. Ygritte and Wildling soldiers
S3E1: “The Old Gods and the New”

Come for the fight, stay for Ygritte and Jon Snow flirting with each other and beautiful magic-hour cinematography, encasing Jon’s sword Longclaw in golden sunlight.

21. Ned Stark and Starks vs. Sandor Clegane, Gold Cloaks, and Littlefinger
S1E7: “You Win or You Die”

Blame Joffrey for chopping off Ned Stark’s head. Blame Littlefinger for setting the trap that put him on the block.

game of thrones fight scenes

20.  Sandor Clegane, Bronn, and Lannisters vs. Baratheon soldiers
S2E9: “Blackwater”

All of “Blackwater” is a dark and brooding horror show, and this scene is the first taste. Season 2 fully fleshed out the Hound as a character to care for, and actor Rory McCann steals this episode by waving a gigantic broadsword and spouting lines like “Eat shit, Dwarf” and “Fuck the king.”

19. Brienne of Tarth vs. Baratheon Rainbow Guard
S2E5: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

This is the first time Gwendoline Christie's towering knight swung a sword on camera, and her performance and clever editing make it look like instinct. Brienne has all of 15 seconds between seeing Renly die at the hands of a shadow demon and having to fight for her own life.

18. Stannis Baratheon vs. Lannister soldiers
S2E9: “Blackwater”

If you ever wondered why everyone called him “the Mannis,” rewatch his scene in this episode, where he uses his Valyrian steel sword Lightbringer to scalp a Lannister soldier.

17. Brienne of Tarth vs. Stark soldiers
S2E10: “Valar Morghulis”

When asked what drew her to playing Brienne, Gwendoline Christie replied, “her honesty.” There’s nothing more honest than Brienne’s revulsion at the butcher she kills slowly in this scene.

16. Jon Snow vs. Styr, Magnar of Thenn
S4E9: “The Watchers on the Wall”

Your unbreakable sword is cool and all, but nothing beats a hammer to the skull. That said, don't ever knock Valyrian steel...

game of thrones fight scenes

15. Jon Snow vs. Karl Tanner
S4E5: “First of His Name”

Jon's fight with Tanner is actually where the newly appointed King in the North learned the spit-in-the-eye trick that he later used to kill the Magnar. It’s the ultimate mid-level boss fight, complete with a damsel to save.

game of thrones fight scenes

14. Ned Stark vs. Jaime Lannister
S1E5: “The Wolf and the Lion”

Remember Season 1, when Jaime was the bad guy, Ned Stark was the good guy, and this was the fight you'd wanted to see GO DOWN? In another universe, we might have gotten it, but Game of Thrones is built on telling your expectations to go screw themselves and getting their heads chopped off.

game of thrones fight scenes

13. Drogo vs. Mago
S1E8: “The Pointy End”

How to WIN like Drogo: toss your own weapons away, steal your enemy's sword, then deal the finishing blow. This is why he’s Khal.

12. Brienne of Tarth, Podrick Payne, and Theon Greyjoy vs. Bolton soldiers
S6E1: “The Red Woman”

Brienne and Pod rescuing Sansa after she escapes Winterfell was perhaps the most fan-service-y thing this show had ever done. Luckily, that trend carried through most of Season 6, to great effect.

11. Bronn vs. Vardis Egen
S1E6: “A Golden Crown”

Bronn had us ever since this exchange, after this fight:

LYSA ARRYN: "You don't fight with honor!"

BRONN: [Grins.] "No. He did."

10. A Dothraki soldier vs. A Dothraki soldier
S1E1: “Winter Is Coming”

The first true sword fight of Game of Thrones brutally introduced the viscera to come. The crowd's reaction to the fight was appropriately shocked. And there was this killer one-liner: “A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.”

9. Jaime Lannister vs. Brienne of Tarth
S3E2: “Dark Wings, Dark Words”

This face-off crystallizes Brienne and Jaime's dynamic in one decisive contest of ideas and fighting styles. It should be said that Jaime was tired, half-starved, and shackled, but Brienne humbling him here is still an important part of his arc, and the tension between them in the scene is electric.

8. Barristan Selmy and Grey Worm vs. Sons of the Harpy
S5E4: “Sons of the Harpy”

When Barristan Selmy quit Joffrey’s Kingsguard, he told his former comrades, “Even now I could cut through the five of you like carving a cake!” It eventually took seven to bring him down, and even then they didn’t live to talk about it.

Ser Gerold Hightower at the Tower of Joy

7. Ned Stark, Howland Reed, and Stark soldiers vs. Arthur Dayne & Gerold Hightower
S6E3: “Oathbreaker”

The Tower of Joy scene will likely be our best taste in the series of the slicing-and-dicing aptitude of Aerys II’s legendary Kingsguard. Some nitpicky book readers actually complained that Arthur Dayne only wielded a two-handed greatsword, Dawn, in the books, but the change to two swords is likely a reference to another Jaime Lannister book quote: “I learned from Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain all five of you with his left hand while he was taking a piss with the right.” By comparison, the honorable Lord Eddard Stark and his noble comrade-at-arms Lord Howland Reed are just a couple of goons with knives.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in the Game of Thrones episode Blackwater

6. Tyrion Lannister, Podrick Payne and Lannister soldiers vs. Baratheons and Mandon Moore
S2E9: “Blackwater”

For all the great battles Game of Thrones has staged in six years, none has topped the darkly medieval power of “Blackwater” and Tyrion’s badass line, “Those are brave men knocking on our door. Let’s go kill them!”

game of thrones fight scenes

5. Oberyn Martell vs. Gregor Clegane
S4E8: “The Mountain and the Viper”

Oberyn's dance with the poisoned ash spear may seem silly, but it's a big part of how the scene builds tension. Season 4 was dead-set on making Oberyn our new favorite new character -- just as George R.R. Martin's Storm of Swords did. Oberyn talked smack about everyone and never let go of the moral high ground, and Pedro Pascal's wit and bravado stole every scene... which is why he had to die. Even after Ned Stark’s death, no emotional feint has topped the end of this fight. The Mountain is the rare fighter whose giant broadsword could conceivably be a distraction technique. He was far more dangerous to Oberyn when he was on the ground than when Oberyn was dancing around him.

A Blog of Thrones

4. Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane vs. Lannister soldiers
S4E1: “Two Swords”

The beautifully framed shot of Arya springing into the fray, stealing a sword, and murdering a man on the floor is a deliberate window to exquisite barbarism, and it’s like the fifth-coolest thing about the scene, which has since been remade as a lightsaber battle.

3. The Hound vs. Beric Dondarrion
S3E5: “Kissed by Fire”

One of the most truly gripping fights of the show, and a reminder of how Thrones can surprise us with pyrotechnics.

game of thrones flights

2. Jon Snow vs. White Walker
S5E8: “Hardhome”

Jon Snow vaporizing a White Walker with his bastard blade is exactly the sort of core moment that felt missing from “Battle of the Bastards.” The zombies in “Hardhome” seem to emerge from the wind, bringing terror, emotional attrition, and frenetic energy with them. The tension of the entire battle renders Jon's heroic, final swing of Longclaw a minor consolation. It's never ambiguous who won the battle. Compared to the Knights of the Vale riding in for the third act of "Battle of the Bastards," the reveal in "Hardhome" felt as well-forged and true as Valyrian steel.

game of thrones fights

1. Brienne of Tarth vs. Sandor Clegane
S4E10: “The Children”

"Both of us were very sore and bruised for weeks. It just couldn’t be helped," Rory McCann, who plays the Hound, later told HBO. The physicality shows. This fight is one of the show's most brutal one-on-one sequences, with the Hound and Brienne going blow for blow by any means possible. What starts with swords devolves to fists, then headbutts, then daggers, then rocks, and then teeth. An ugly, beautiful scuffle -- which they somehow both survived.

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Eric Vilas-Boas is an editor at Thrillist who, in spite of everything, hasn't stopped holding out hope for Cleganebowl. He'll happily parry away all your arguments on Twitter.