Ranking the best Game of Thrones episodes

Posted at 3:27 PM, Apr 21, 2016


Although summer is around the corner, winter is coming and “Game of Thrones” fans are anxiously awaiting season six, which premieres Sunday, April 24, at 9:00 p.m. on HBO. The first book, “A Game of Thrones,” was published in 1996, and the series has since become a cultural phenomenon, with HBO cashing in on the complex and often violent tale by George R. R. Martin.

Throughout its five seasons, “Game of Thrones” has expertly intertwined the elaborate storylines of House Stark, Lannister, Targaryen, Tyrell, Baratheon, Martell, Greyjoy, Bolton, Tully and Frey, plus hundreds of other characters in the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. “Game of Thrones” continues to be one of the most-watched shows on T.V., with good reviews and high ratings to match.

To prepare for the new season, the experts at PrettyFamous ranked the top 25 episodes of the entire “Game of Thrones” series based on each episode’s IMDb rating. In the case of a tie, the episode with more votes ranked higher. All 50 “Game of Thrones” episodes scored over a seven, but only 10 episodes reached nine and above. For each episode, we also note the total viewership, as reported by Nielsen. However, we didn’t factor viewership into our analysis and total viewership did not necessarily lead to higher ratings.

Immerse yourself in the world of White Walkers, dragons, murder, religion, family loyalty and betrayal. Season six is fast approaching. As Jon Snow once said, “Winter is coming. We know what’s coming with it. We can’t face it alone.”

Alert: Spoilers galore.

#25. Sons of the Harpy

IMDb Rating: 8.1

The insurgency group Sons of the Harpy strikes in Meereen, slipping through the Unsullied army and mercilessly killing Daenerys Targaryen’s trusted aid Ser Barristan Selmy. The Sand Snakes, Oberyn Martell’s three feisty daughters, are also introduced in this episode.

#24. A Golden Crown

IMDb Rating: 8.1

Throughout season one, Prince Viserys Targaryen displays a selfish side very similar to Joffrey Baratheon later in the series. In this episode, he storms around the Dothraki camp, drawing his sword to Khal Drogo and threatening his unborn child. Khal Drogo reacts by giving Viserys a crown “that men will tremble to behold,” and pours molten gold over Viserys’ head. According to the Game of Thrones Wikia page, “due to the complexity of the scene, the scene had to be nailed in one take, which was successfully achieved.”

#23. Winter Is Coming

IMDb Rating: 8.1

This is the first episode of “Game of Thrones,” setting the stage for all of the shocking, treacherous and entertaining events throughout the series. Of course, “Winter is Coming” is the saying for House Stark. The scene where the Starks gather in the great hall of Winterfell marks the only time throughout the show that the whole family is together.

#22. Valar Morghulis

IMDb Rating: 8.3

Season two concludes with King’s Landing recovering from the Battle of the Blackwater and the Lannister victory over Stannis Baratheon. Beyond the Wall, Qhorin Halfhand sacrifices himself to save Jon Snow. The last image in this season is of a particularly menacing White Walker riding an undead horse among a group of horrifying Wights.

#21. Fire and Blood

IMDb Rating: 8.4

“Fire and Blood” is House Targaryen’s motto, and season one concludes amidst a torrent of fire and blood. Eddard Stark’s head is gruesomely stuck on a spike in front of the Red Keep. Daenerys mourns the death of her son and Khal Drogo by lying with their bodies on their burning funeral pyre with her three petrified dragon eggs. The morning after, all her clothing has burned off and she is covered in soot. Three baby dragons emerge from the ashes.

#20. Baelor

IMDb Rating: 8.5

In front of a large crowd in King’s Landing, Eddard Stark admits his crimes and says that Joffrey is the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms. This last-ditch effort to save his life is ineffective. King Joffrey says, “My mother wishes me to let Lord Eddard join the Night’s Watch. Stripped of all titles and powers, he would serve the realm in permanent exile. And my Lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father. But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I’m your King, treason shall never go unpunished! Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!” Eddard Stark is beheaded and Ilyn Payne presents the severed head triumphantly toward Joffrey.

#19. The Bear and the Maiden Fair

IMDb Rating: 8.6

This episode is one of the only in the series to include scenes filmed in the U.S. The scenes with the bear were filmed in a studio in Los Angeles. According to IMDb, the bear starring in this episode was named “Little Bart.”

#18. Kill the Boy

IMDb Rating: 8.6

On his deathbed, Maester Aemon tells Jon Snow, “kill the boy, and let the man be born.” Meanwhile, the kingdom of Valyria appears for the first time, as Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister drift slowly through the foggy ruins. At the end of the episode, they see the ever-growing Drogon fly through the clouds and Tyrion appears speechless.

#17. Lord Snow

IMDb Rating: 8.6

This episode focuses on Jon Snow as he struggles to be accepted as a member of the Night’s Watch. This is the only episode in season one with no deaths.

#16. And Now His Watch Is Ended

IMDb Rating: 8.6

Emilia Clarke was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series based on her portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in this episode. In a moving scene, she frees the Unsullied army and tells them to go forth and kill their masters. “Unsullied! Slay the masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child. Strike the chains off every slave you see.”

#15. The Watchers on the Wall

IMDb Rating: 8.6

Mance Rayder’s giant army of wildlings — including some actual giants — advances on the Night’s Watch and begins to attack. Perhaps the most touching scene in this episode is when Ygritte dies in Jon Snow’s arms and utters one final time “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

#14. Mother’s Mercy

IMDb Rating: 8.6

The finale of season five is rife with unexpected deaths. Unable to deal with the role she played in her daughter’s death, Selyse Baratheon hangs herself. Stannis Baratheon wanders away from the battlefield only to be met by Brienne of Tarth’s sword. Perhaps the most controversial death in the entire series thus far is that of Jon Snow. He is stabbed mercilessly by nearly every member of the Night’s Watch and bleeds out quietly into the snow. Many fans are hoping to see him come back somehow in season six.

#13. Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things

IMDb Rating: 8.7

This episode is unique because, according to IMDb, it is the only episode in which every main cast member appears at some point throughout the episode. The title of the episode is uttered by Tyrion Lannister when he visits Bran Stark, who is slowly becoming used to his life as a cripple after falling from a tower at Winterfell. “I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things,” he says.

#12. Blackwater

IMDb Rating: 8.8

The entire episode focuses on the Battle of the Blackwater. It appears that Stannis Baratheon may defeat King Joffrey Baratheon, until Tywin Lannister and his army arrive, and the Wildfire that Tyrion obtained explodes in gigantic green flames around Stannis’ fleet. Tyrion is almost killed when Ser Mandon Moore slams an axe into his face, but manages to escape when his squire, Podrick Payne, saves him.

#11. The Children

IMDb Rating: 8.8

Season four ends with the deaths of three major characters, the most shocking being the murder of family patriarch, Tywin Lannister. The night before his scheduled execution, Jaime Lannister arranges Tyrion Lannister’s escape. As Tyrion flees the Red Keep, he visits his father’s chambers and realizes that the one woman he was close with, Shae, is in his father’s bed. Tyrion strangles Shae, grabs a crossbow and heads to the privvy where Tywin is sitting. Tyrion shoots his father in the chest and says, “I am your son. I have always been your son.”

#10. The Gift

IMDb Rating: 9.0

At the Wall, Maester Aemon passes away at the age of 102. According to IMDb, he is the only character to die on-screen from natural causes. Tyrion meets Daenerys Targaryen for the first time in this episode. He is the only character in the series that speaks to both Aemon Targaryen and Daenerys Targaryen.

#9. The Wolf and the Lion

IMDb Rating: 9.0

The wedge between long-time friends King Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark is driven further when King Robert declares that he wants Daenerys Targaryen and her unborn son killed. Although everyone in the small council agrees, Ned Stark vehemently disagrees and tells Robert, “I followed you into war. Twice. Without doubts, without second thoughts. But I will not follow you now. The Robert I grew up with didn’t tremble at the shadow of an unborn child.” He then resigns as Hand of the King.

#8. Two Swords

IMDb Rating: 9.0

This episode marks a turning point for Arya Stark. While she is still in the Hound’s captivity, Arya becomes more daring and bloodthirsty. When they run into the King’s henchman, Polliver, at a tavern in the Riverlands, Arya fearlessly joins in the brawl and drives her sword through his neck.

#7. The Dance of Dragons

IMDb Rating: 9.0

One of the most shocking and upsetting deaths happens in the ninth episode of season five. Stannis Baratheon, swayed by Melisandre and his wife Selyse, is convinced that he must sacrifice his young daughter Shireen. She is tied to a pyre and burned in front of Stannis and his army, her screams piercing through the cold air. Some arguedthat this was one of the most disturbing scenes in all of “Game of Thrones”.

#6. The Mountain and the Viper

IMDb Rating: 9.0

Tyrion Lannister’s highly anticipated trial by combat occurs in this episode. Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane and Oberyn “The Red Viper” Martell face off in a nail-biting battle. Oberyn Martell is quick and darts around the Mountain, repeatedly stabbing him with his poisoned sword. Just when it appears to be all over for the Mountain, he stands up and crushes Oberyn’s skull in his hands.

#5. You Win or You Die

IMDb Rating: 9.2

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground,” Cersei Lannister tells Eddard Stark. Cersei does her part in playing the game by making sure her husband, King Robert Baratheon, dies of “natural causes” in this episode.

#4. The Lion and the Rose

IMDb Rating: 9.2

Another episode, another unsuspecting king’s death. At the wedding feast of Margaery Tyrell and Joffrey Lannister, King Joffrey is poisoned and chokes to death. Immediately, Cersei blames Tyrion and he is detained. Fans have deemed this episode “The Purple Wedding” because of the purple shade Joffrey turns as he chokes to death.

#3. The Rains of Castamere

IMDb Rating: 9.5

Known simply as “The Red Wedding episode” to many fans, “The Rains of Castamere” shocked many fans who had not read the series and were not expecting Robb Stark and those closest to him (including his mother Catelyn) to be murdered in cold blood at the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. This episode was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding writing for a drama series and outstanding single-camera picture editing for a drama series.

#2. The Laws of Gods and Men

IMDb Rating: 9.7

Things are looking grim for Tyrion Lannister on the day of his trial. Everyone, including his father, Tywin, is against him. Tyrion makes a stand for himself, though, and proclaims, “I did not do it. I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had! Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores! I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you! I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it! I will not give my life for Joffrey’s murder, and I know I’ll get no justice here, so I will let the gods decide my fate! I demand a trial by combat!”

#1. Hardhome

IMDb Rating: 9.9

The eighth episode of the latest season comes in at number one, with a 9.9 rating on IMDb. The Night’s Watch travels far beyond the Wall to Hardhome, a town of wildlings, to warn them of the White Walkers’ imminent attack. The wildlings reticently agree to leave Hardhome, and pack their belongings into boats. As they leave, a menacing group of White Walkers, along with thousands of Wights, descend upon the village. Jon Snow narrowly escapes with his life, and we are introduced to the Night’s King, the incredibly creepy White Walker with the ability to raise the dead into an ever-growing army of Wights.

Game of Thrones Ratings Over Time