8:30am PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones': The 10 Greatest Warriors in Westeros
Blackwater. Hardhome. The Watchers on the Wall.
These are some of the greatest battles ever fought on Game of Thrones, utterly unforgettable sequences due to their depiction of harsh bloodshed and the toll of war. But the success of these scenes rests on the shoulders of the soldiers at the heart of the struggle — warriors whose reputations more than speak for themselves.
Some of these people are still alive to tell their tales. Others? Not so much. Here's the rundown on the greatest warriors featured on Game of Thrones, both on the show, and in the history books.
1. Brienne of Tarth
"I'm no knight." True words, but it's hard to tell the difference when discussing Brienne, who wields her Valyrian sword Oathkeeper with power matched by few. Her word is her bond, too; every move she makes today is fueled by her solemn vows to Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, long gone at this point. When it comes to raw strength and endless fealty, Brienne is top of the pack.
2. Jaime Lannister
Before the be-handing, the so-called Kingslayer was one of the most esteemed swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms. Noble? Not so much; it's hard to defend a man who pushes a boy out a window, his recent reformed-bad-boy image notwithstanding. But even without the hand, Jaime has shown moments of fierce courage, like the moment he pulled a Ron Burgundy and helped Brienne out of the bear pit.
3. The Brothers Clegane
Both men are guilty of atrocious crimes. Only one of them gets a pass — and even then, it's a light pass at best, given The Hound's history of violence; he could have protected Arya Stark every day for the rest of his life, and it never would have made amends for butchering the butcher's boy. But when measured against his brother Gregor — commonly called the Mountain, these days known as the zombified Robert Strong — Sandor is practically a role model.
4. Oberyn Martell
The Red Viper of Dorne accomplished a feat matched by no one else before or since when he toppled the Mountain. Granted, he didn't walk away from the battle unscathed — a mild way to describe the manner in which Gregor popped Oberyn's head like a ripe pimple — but the ill-advised smack talk aside, Oberyn's momentary victory puts him right here on this list.
5. Khal Drogo
In the books, Daenerys Targaryen's Sun and Stars is never seen in combat. Readers only hear whispers of his barbarism on the battlefield, though the legends are enough to send shivers down the spine. The show turns those rumors into reality in Jason Momoa's one and only action scene, in which he removes another Dothraki's throat with his bare hands. Case closed.
6. Robert Baratheon
In the end, he was little more than a drunken buffoon, skewered by a boar. Years before, he was one of the most fearsome fighters in all the land. He ended centuries of Targaryen rule with a single strike from his war hammer, in what's easily one of the single most impactful physical acts in Westeros history.
7. Rhaegar Targaryen
The man on the receiving end of Robert's hammer deserves special recognition as well, as the winner of the Tourney at Harrenhal, one of the most storied songs in Thrones history. What makes the late prince even more special, however, is his reported soft spot for song and poetry, preferring peace to war — at least, that's the word depending on who is telling the story.
8. Everyone at the Tower of Joy
The survivors: Eddard Stark and Howland Reed. The dead: Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, and Lyanna Stark, among many others. Win or lose, the warriors who fought at the Dornish stronghold at the end of Robert's Rebellion will remain etched in legend forever, part of the most significant battle in all Westerosi lore.
9. Barristan Selmy
Barristan the Bold lost his life in an unceremonious alleyway ambush in the middle of Meereen, hardly a fitting way for such a distinguished fighter to die. He earned the "Bold" nickname for a reason, battling valiantly on behalf of the Targaryens, so famously that even King Robert pardoned the man at the end of his rebellion. Even if his death was sudden, at least it was once again in service of House Targaryen.
10. Syrio Forel
The Water Dancer of Braavos' tenure on Thrones was short-lived, and his impact on the overall story is fairly minimal, beyond teaching young Arya how to wield a sword. Still, he left an indelible impression on fans, dying in one of the first season's single greatest scenes. Other accounts of the greatest warriors in Westeros history might not include Syrio, but is he getting cut from this list? As he would say, "Not today."
Keep up with all the Game of Thrones coverage at THR.com/GameOfThrones.