Once upon a time, the world of Westeros and its habitants lived in our heads rent-free.
From Tyrion to Cersei, our regular TV date with Game of Thrones made it easier to keep up with the insane amount of characters the show churned out every season. But then, the controversial finale aired and an era of our lives ended along with it.
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Whether or not you liked how it all turned out, perhaps your memory is fizzling out a little. Maybe you’re worried about forgetting your favorite protagonists from the biggest fantasy show ever made. If so, have no fear, we’ve got your back.
Without further ado, here is a ranking of the top 40 best Game of Thrones characters for the super-fan in you.
Ranking Hodor at the end of this list probably seems harsh. But making the list, and being among the top 40 characters in a show with hundreds of them, isn’t bad!
Hodor is very endearing. The Door is one of the most shocking and affecting episodes in Game of Thrones. Aside from that though, he’s kind of the literal, in-your-face definition of a one-note character. We love him, but there’s not a lot to him. Not every gentle giant is Hagrid.
39. Ned Stark
Although his head falls off at the end of season one (in what is the most shocking GoT death ever), Ned Stark’s great heart and strength of character lives on through his children across the eight seasons.
He would rank higher on this list if he hadn’t made the foolish decision to reveal Jaime and Cersei’s, erm, romance. But he did, so, we’re still kind of mad at him. Ned, why did you think that would turn out well?
38. Jaqen H’Ghar
There never was a more elusive character than Jaqen H’Ghar. Indeed, we never learn much about the man (or rather, the entity) who successfully trains Arya Stark to become a Faceless Woman.
And although a part of us will remain curious about his backstory, we also wouldn’t have it any other way. Godspeed, Jaqen, Godspeed.
Melisandre adds a supernatural touch to the endless political talks. Spooky and charismatic, her presence always makes us shudder in the best and worst of ways.
That being said, she is low on this list due to her being a straight-up monster who convinces a man to barbecue his own daughter. Normal witch stuff, you might say, but Shireen was the real MVP.
Missandei deserves so much more screen-time, especially given the fact that she’s one of the few Black characters on the show. Her generous and loyal nature makes Daenerys’ trusted friend one of the highlights of the later seasons.
In a show filled with greed, dirt and surprise wedding massacres, such wholesomeness is rare. So rare, that Cersei had to behead her. Thanks, mam.
35. Robert Baratheon
Like Ned, Robert Baratheon doesn’t grace our screens for more than a few episodes, but his important impact on the timeline of events is undeniable.
Carefree and kind of hilarious, King Rob is killed by a boar. That’s a rather merciful death if you think about the way people usually meet their ends on this famous show.
Tyrion’s friend has a place in our hearts and on this list, thanks to his scene-stealing charisma and humor.
A great swordsman and a devoted friend, Bronn is definitely the type of friend we’d like to have in a place like Westeros, or anywhere.
33. Viserys Targaryen
If you haven’t watched GoT in a while, Viserys may be a more crucial character than you think. He helps introduce Daenerys, gives us Targaryen family history, and even leads us to the Dothraki and Khal Drogo.
Yes, he’s despicable, and his sadistic, boy-king swagger is almost Joffrey-like at times (not a good thing). You don’t exactly love having him on the screen. But he matters a great deal, and his “crown for a king” death is iconic.
32. Robb Stark
Yes, we’ve ranked the eldest Stark quite low. But let’s be honest, did Robb ever look like eight-seasons material? In a way, Jon’s big brother actually embodies all of the most Disney-esque qualities of the Stark family – bravery, loyalty, honor – stuff that works in Middle-earth, but not in Westeros.
Even with those qualities, he failed to learn that ‘when you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die on your wedding day alongside your bride and child.’
31. Catelyn Stark
Sweet mother to her children (who tries to protect them all the way to her death), and fiercely loyal wife to Ned Stark, it’s safe to say Catelyn is a memorable Game of Thrones character.
We admire her strength and ability to watch as her entire family is torn apart, and the way she goes down is undeniably epic (killing Frey’s wife before she’s murdered herself). It’s probably Catelyn’s mistreatment of Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister which makes her lose brownie points.
30. Khal Drogo
Khal Drogo is an extremely cool character. He’s billed as one of the greatest warriors in the world (more so in the GoT books versus the show). He commands legions of horse lords. He’s even surprisingly tender with Dany after seeming like a barbarian.
All this said, Drogo doesn’t rank any higher because in the end, he doesn’t quite live up to his own potential. He flames out rather quickly, and it’s his influence on Dany that matters more in the long-run.
29. Jorah Mormont
If we didn’t know better, we’d think the term ‘friendzone’ was coined by this very emo man. Jorah Mormont is Daenerys’ most trusted advisor for a while, until his past catches up to him and he ends up being exiled by his one true love.
He does finally get his ‘knight in shining armor’ moment, defending Daenerys in Winterfell. But sadly, he dies before she kisses his forehead. Tough luck till the end.
28. Stannis Baratheon
Stannis Baratheon is a lot like what we imagine a medieval king to be. He’s stern and rugged, irrationally certain of his right to rule, and more warlord than diplomat. For these reasons, Stannis feels like a strong character even if he isn’t a joy to be around.
He does lose some points, however, for being so easily seduced by Melisandre and her brutal faith (to the point that he, you know, fathers a shadow demon and then sets his living daughter on fire).
Every show needs a giant, bawdy warrior fighting alongside our heroes, and well, Tormund is that top man. Undeniably one of the best Game of Thrones characters, Tormund also adds that very much needed comic relief.
While he’s initially a Wildling warrior, his loyalty and bravery helps him gain a place in the King of the North’s council. We’re just super proud of him.
Jon Snow’s first love wasn’t always kind (she did try to kill him once or twice), but her tough love definitely has an impact on his growth as a man and warrior.
The Wildling teaches Jon how to take care of himself and endure hardships at a time where he is still quite inexperienced with…well, everything. We’ll never forget Jon and Ygritte’s weird but epic relationship, that’s for sure.
25. Shireen Baratheon
Probably the purest character on the entire show alongside Missandei, Stannis Baratheon’s daughter is a smart and adorable kid, who’s simply passionate about history.
Unfortunately, she has character traits that won’t help you much when your dad is a wacko, who’d do anything to become king. That includes burning his child at the stake, because a witch told him to. You really can’t choose your family.
24. Davos Seaworth
You can’t choose your family and you also can’t choose your CEO. A brave and dutiful knight, Davos stands beside Stannis Baratheon despite the latter’s commitment to being a mediocre boss.
It’s only towards the end that our gentle knight finds the true meaning of friendship alongside Jon Snow. We’re glad he ends up becoming a Master of Ships, and although it wasn’t confirmed, we at Tell Tales have decided that he’s been living a prosperous life ever since.
23. Tywin Lannister
Imposing, brilliant, and ruthless, this main character is a great example of military commanders and conquerors we read about in history books. You just get the sense that if you’re opposite the battlefield from him, you’re going to lose.
Tywin is kind of a monster, too…but he’s still a great character.
22. Oberyn Martell
A list of the best GoT characters whose awesome personality is sacrificed by poor choices would be longer than this one. But we’ll keep it short with Oberyn. The badass, sexy and altogether fearless Red Viper was very close to making it into the ‘could become king’ fan-theories.
Sadly, his pride costs him his life in the most gruesome way and we’d be lying if we said we ever got over it. Still, his charm and presence has earned him this spot in our ranking.
21. Lord Varys
It’s easy to laugh at Lord Varys. His cryptic messages and riddles are annoying, but there are few if any characters who “see the chessboard” quite like him. This is why he nearly makes it to the end and why he goes down doing the right thing – turning on Daenerys for the “good of the realm” (as he might put it).
Lord Varys does good and bad things, but much of the show’s best political intrigue is due to his string-pulling.
20. Lady Mormont
Played by everybody’s beloved The Last Of Us star, Lady Lyanna Mormont is a fan-favorite character. She hits the show like a thunderbolt, establishing herself as a fearsome northern leader despite being a little girl.
It’s believable that a girl born and bred in the Westerosi North in winter would be this tough and capable. Oh, and she also takes down a giant.
When you think of backstabbing, this man’s face instantly comes to mind. Petyr Baelish loves to conspire and conspire some more to make sure he’s always on the winning side.
This habit allows him to live in luxury for a while, but ultimately costs him his life. He certainly knows how to play the game of thrones, we’ll give him that.
18. Yara Greyjoy
We wish we’d seen more of her, but even in the few scenes Yara had, she always stole the show. The Iron Islands’ princess is always more pirate than lady and consistently shows more bravery and fearlessness than any man in her family.
Bonus points for the fact that she’s one of the few proudly gay characters on the show. It’s difficult to find a flaw in this character, except her lack of screen-time…
17. Margaery Tyrell
Margaery’s only goal in marrying Joffrey is to become queen, and heck, she almost gets the Throne. Just as stealth and clever in the way she manipulates people to get what she wants, Olenna’s granddaughter knows how to play her cards right.
Her only flaw is being a step behind Cersei in the backstabbing department. In her defense, blowing up a church and one’s own subjects to get rid of a few enemies is a hard plan to beat. RIP Margie.
16. Samwell Tarly
Samwell Tarly is basically the best ‘person’ in Game of Thrones, or at least the most kind-hearted. He’s a sweet soul who cares for those around him and retains a sense of right and wrong even in the hardest moments.
He’s also an interesting character as he navigates a brutal world with brains rather than brawn. The only drawback with Samwell is that he’s very much a fantasy type; if he didn’t feel like a Samwise Gamgee rip-off (you know, that awesome Lord of the Rings character), he might rank even higher.
15. Joffrey Baratheon
He is perhaps one of the most detestable characters in television history, but we can’t ignore how massive Joff’s impact was on the overall story and every character on the show.
Cruel and manipulative, sadistic and generally bad news, Joffrey being poisoned received more applause in bars around the world than the Olympics. That just goes to show what a fantastic job this GoT actor did. Forever not in our hearts…
14. The Night King
Some weren’t pleased with how easily the almighty Night King died – a.k.a. stabbed by Arya with little to no struggle, after many years of buildup. Yet, there’s still no denying how much this terrifying frozen dude had us shivering for 10 years – even when he wasn’t on screen.
His absence of dialogue doesn’t take away from how creepy he is. That says a lot, especially if you compare him to other baddies on the show.
13. Ramsay Bolton
Yes, this is the bad guy corner of our list. While Joffrey has similar sadistic tendencies, no character is ever more gratuitously cruel than Ramsay Bolton. Lord Roose Bolton’s psychopathic son never has an ounce of sympathy for anyone, and routinely tortures people for kicks, notably poor Theon.
And although that basically makes him the opposite of a fan-favorite, he’s still a villain worth remembering. At any rate, we won’t forget that pork sausage scene anytime soon.
12. Theon Greyjoy
Theon, Theon, Theon. Practically raised by Ned Stark, the Iron Islands’ heir goes through hell and back after betraying his friend Robb Stark to become Lord of Winterfell. The world turns its back on him and he ends up becoming Ramsay Bolton’s torture-device guinea pig, instead.
After finding redemption by saving Sansa, he dies a hero fighting the Night King. A sad but satisfying character-arc for a guy who is really put through the wringer for free. Very deserving of 12th spot.
11. Bran Stark
Bran is one of the few Starks who makes it till the end (and practically trumps all by winning the game of thrones!), despite going through some pretty grim challenges. This quiet and gentle character becomes the Three-Eyed Raven – essentially a human version of Alexa – until a vote puts him on the Throne of Westeros.
His Three-Eyed gig barely has him say a word and he has as much emotional availability as a tree. This kinda makes him a little less likeable, but we know the real Bran is still in there being his same cute self, and that’s all that matters. His flashbacks also gave us some of the most epic GoT moments, too.
10. The Hound
Is The Hound annoyingly gruff? Perhaps. Is he basically a WWE character lost in Westeros? Maybe. Sandor Clegane is arguably one of the most complex characters on the show.
He’s a brutal warrior scared of fire; he’s a savage Lannister stooge, protective over Arya Stark; he’s a loner who joins a rag-team team to save mankind. The guy is a bundle of contradictions that somehow make perfect sense – which is often what a great character boils down to.
9. Jon Snow
Let’s face it, Jon was always a little bland compared to other more colorful and charismatic characters. Yet, he still has that earnest quality that keeps us hooked to his storyline. That, and the mystery surrounding his birth which never built up to anything (thanks D&D).
Like his father before him, minus the blind optimism, Jon has what it takes to become king. But his devotion to doing things right eventually costs him the crown and makes him a lifelong prisoner (something he didn’t mind much, because he was just chill like that). The only thing we’re judging Jon for is his taste in women…Daenerys is your aunt, Jon, YOUR AUNT.
8. Jaime Lannister
We’re just gonna forget the way Jaime’s character development was eventually annihilated like no other and simply focus on his heydays. From bratty prince to valiant knight fighting for what is right, Jaime definitely had one of the best ‘glow-ups’ on the show.
Him dying in Cersei’s arms is not the ending we hoped for and kind of sent him back to square one, but Game of Thrones is never about happy endings anyway, so we’ll just remember him for his best moments only.
7. Brienne of Tarth
Brienne is a strong and intrepid knight who never lets anyone belittle her for her gender (which is kind of difficult, since she’s about seven-feet tall). Always against playing sneaky games and preferring to stay true to herself, these are the qualities that lead Brienne to become the first woman knighted.
We’re still mad at Jaime for ghosting her. Literally because we wanted to see her carry him to their wedding bed.
6. Cersei Lannister
Although she is a political snake, there’s no denying the powerful Cersei Lannister is always the most cunning player in the game. She could have been a great queen if she wasn’t so cruel and generally mean to everybody including her own subjects.
Although we’re glad she doesn’t stay on the Throne, we can acknowledge that this popular character deserved a better send-off than being knocked out by a few bricks.
5. Tyrion Lannister
Even if his famous and unbeatable wit vanishes by the end of the show, Tyrion still remains one of the best Game of Thrones characters. We also forgive his huge error of judgement in thinking Daenerys wouldn’t go absolutely bonkers.
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Ready to do anything it takes to bring peace to Westeros, Tyrion simply does what he thinks is right. By making up for his mistakes, he ends up becoming the Hand of the King – again. Hope it works out better this time!
4. Daenerys Targaryen
This merciful and headstrong woman initially seems bound for greatness and appears to be more mentally stable than her pervy late brother and famously unhinged father. But she loses it momentarily by killing the very civilians she hopes to rule.
That doesn’t cut with anyone, including her one true love, Jon Snow, who ends up putting her to sleep. Still, if we pretend Dany’s weird fascist character development didn’t happen, she really is a real one.
3. Arya Stark
Arya had one of the most badass storylines out of all the Stark children, so it’s no wonder she ends up saving the world. After running away from danger while she is still a little girl, Ned’s tomboy daughter slowly but surely becomes one of the greatest assassins in Westeros.
Gloriously completing her bucket-list of people to kill, before annihilating the Night King himself, we forever stan this multi-tasking queen. Always one of the most-loved characters on the show.
2. Olenna Tyrell
We know it’s an odd second choice given that she is rarely on screen. But Olenna Tyrell’s demise goes down in television history as one of the most badass send-offs, ever. After years of being a clever but seemingly minor player in the game, this witty elderly lady is revealed to have protected her family and saved Westeros years of struggle. All by poisoning Joffrey Baratheon himself.
What’s more, she gets away with it. A plot-twist that still gives us goosebumps and, in addition to her awesome one-liners, makes her the most underrated character in GoT by far.
1. Sansa Stark
Indeed, we’ve ranked none other than Sansa Stark as the best Game of Thrones character. She is the princess-turned-queen of the North. Going from a bratty young lady who believes in fairytales, to a weary, strong-willed stateswoman, Sansa clearly plays the game of thrones better than her own father and brothers.
From her horrible marriage to Joffrey, to her torture at the hands of Ramsay, the odds always seem to be stacked against her. But years of struggle give Sansa the strength necessary to claim her family’s land back, proving she is no longer a damsel in distress. No we’re not crying, you’re crying.
Here you have it, the top 40 best Game of Thrones characters, ranked.
This show ended a while ago, and arguably not on the greatest note, but its legacy will endure. That’s all thanks to its well-written characters and the many weird, wonderful, disgusting and courageous things they did to play the game.
We hope this list makes it easier for you to remember who is who in spin-off shows that’ll feature another 67 new names (a.k.a. House of the Dragon).
Let us know who your best Game of Thrones main characters are in the comments below!
This article was originally published in November 2021.
There are sections of this aritcle that were written by Angela Stephanou.
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