These Are The Best ‘Game Of Thrones’ Episodes Of All Time

When this show was good, it was REALLY good.

Game of Thrones

Ah, Game of Thrones. The biggest, most beloved show of all time that nobody likes to talk about anymore.

Thanks to a pretty abysmal final season — which largely blew to smithereens the character and story development that had been carefully laid in previous seasons — not many fans currently look back on Game of Thrones with fondness.

The thing is, when it was good, it was really fucking good. It earned its reputation as one of the best shows on TV, and deserved its devoted following.

With that in mind, here are the best episodes of Game of Thrones that are 100% still worth watching, and loving, and talking about…

The Winds of Winter (Season 6, Episode 10)

So much happens in this episode, and it’s all incredible in one way or another.

The opening sequence, which sees everyone preparing for Cersei’s trial, followed by the slow realisation that she’s up to something, and then the shock of the wildfire explosion, is one of the most exquisite moments in television history. The way the tension builds and builds, beautifully scored by Ramin Djawadi’s ‘Light of the Seven’, is absolutely perfect.

On top of that mind-blowing opening, we get Arya murdering Walder Frey, Daenerys finally leaving Essos for Westeros, the Tower of Joy reveal AND Jon Snow being crowned King in the North. The revelation about Jon Snow’s parentage juxtaposed with the latter scene — and the cut from baby Jon’s eyes to adult Jon’s — is a particularly special moment.

Again, Ramin Djawadi’s score elevates it to the next level, this time with the heart-wrenching ‘The Tower’.

Battle of the Bastards (Season 6, Episode 9)

Is it overstating things to say this is the best battle sequence of all time? Perhaps. But I don’t think so.

As the title suggests, this episode focuses primarily on the fight between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton and their armies, intercut with some scenes of Daenerys attacking the Masters in Meereen and then making an alliance with the Greyjoys. While the latter scenes are great, it’s the eponymous battle that is the true masterpiece of the episode.

Director Miguel Sapochnik focuses in on Jon Snow for the fight, allowing us to vicariously experience the harrowing emotional journey as well as the torturous physical slog. The scene in which Jon gets crushed by his own men and has to claw his way out and fight for his life — after wishing for death all season — is viscerally affecting.

And then there’s the cinematography, which, considering its focus is a very ugly battle, is absolutely beautiful. The shot of Jon pulling out his sword, getting ready to face a charging army, is one of the best in the whole series.

Baelor (Season 1, Episode 9)

Season 1 had the lowest budget and had to do a lot of groundwork establishing relationships and backstories and complicated political drama. But it also had some amazing acting, excellent direction and tightly-written scripts — and ‘Baelor’ is the prime example of that.

Game of Thrones was often at its best not in the big, flashy battle scenes (although they were OBVIOUSLY great) but in the quiet moments, in which complicated characters had interesting, layered conversations. In this episode, we see Maester Aemon discuss honour and love with Jon Snow in a conversation that is absolutely oozing with subtext and foreshadowing.

Of course, what everyone remembers most about ‘Baelor’ — for good reason — is the death of Ned Stark. After spending a season with him as the protagonist, it was shocking and gutting to watch him get his head chopped off.

With one massive twist, Game of Thrones established itself as something different and unique, and raised the stakes of literally every event for seasons to come.

The Rains of Castamere (Season 3, Episode 9)

This episode is also known as The One With The Red Wedding.

Honestly it’s still hard to think and talk about it. It was traumatic, to say the least. But it was also incredible television.

The way the wedding sequence transitions from jovial celebrations to a creeping sense of terror before finally unleashing the bloodbath is excruciating and hard to watch — but also impossible to look away from.

The acting is strong all round, but Michelle Fairley in particular owns the episode. I can still feel her guttural, grief-stricken scream in my bones.

Kissed by Fire (Season 3, Episode 5)

This is one of those episodes that isn’t about big explosions or memorable twists, but rather significant character moments that are contained but powerful.

There’s Jon Snow and Ygritte getting clean (after getting dirty) in the cave — in which we learn Jon Snow does know some things, but also, more importantly (ahem), see a big turning point on Jon’s whole love vs honour and duty arc (which is what his story is all about, in the end). There’s also Arya and Gendry’s emotional confrontation over his decision to leave her for the Brotherhood, and her desperate, lonely wish that they be family.

But most of all, there is Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth’s bath. Beautifully written and wonderfully acted, this is one of the best scenes in the whole show. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is on a whole other level as he delivers the truth about Jaime’s most notorious moment, when he killed the Mad King. It’s a huge moment for Jaime, his relationship with Brienne, and also how we as an audience perceive him.

The Door (Season 6, Episode 5)

HODOOOOR. His death was both brutal and breathtaking. The way it was cut together with scenes of young Hodor and the revelation of how he came to BE Hodor was heartbreaking but so well done.

The fact that it was the result of the actions of Bran, one of our supposed heroes, made for a really interesting piece of storytelling that was unfortunately never fully explored or delivered on (especially considering the fact he later became king). Still, it was a brilliant sequence.

This episode also has both the Stark girls confronting their trauma, as Arya watches the play in which her father’s death is reenacted, and Sansa faces Littlefinger in the aftermath of her escape from Ramsay.

Sansa holding Littlefinger accountable for his part in her pain is a particularly powerful moment, and one of Sophie Turner’s best scenes.

Hardhome (Season 5, Episode 8)

Season 5 is pretty rough going for the most part, but in ‘Hardhome’ it delivers one of the best scenes in the whole show.

The absolute horror and helplessness you feel from the moment the wights attack is overwhelming, but unforgettable.

This was the first time we really saw just how much of a threat the White Walkers and their army of the dead were, and it left an impression — not just on us as viewers, but on all the characters there, and most of all on Jon Snow.

The silent stare-off he has with the Night King at the end stays with him and drives everything he does in the following seasons.

The Lion and the Rose (Season 4, Episode 2)

Was there any moment more satisfying in all of Game of Thrones than Joffrey’s death? No. The answer is no.

After more than three seasons of him being a total and utter shit with the most punchable face in Westerosi history, he finally gets what he deserves. It’s one of the few deaths in the show which provides a sense of catharsis after an extremely tense build up.

The episode is notable not just for Joffrey’s death, of course. There are a lot of smaller moments that make it even more interesting — with so many characters gathered for the wedding of Joffrey and Margaery, there’s a lot of charged conversations and meaningful looks happening.

My personal favourite is the extremely bizarre love triangle that is Cersei/Jaime/Brienne playing out, and literally everything Olenna Tyrell does.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Season 8, Episode 2)

Yes, Season 8 on the whole was the worst in Game of Thrones history. But it wasn’t all terrible. At least, this one specific episode wasn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact.

‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ is yet another example of Game of Thrones being strongest in its quietest moments. As all of our favourite characters wait through their own personal long night before the White Walkers attack Winterfell, they’re forced to reckon with their demons, confront their mortality, resolve their issues and do the best they can to cope. In a show about monsters and dragons, this episode is all about being human, and all the beauty and pain that goes along with it.

The highlight is Jaime knighting Brienne — a huge moment for the two of them as individuals, as well as in their relationship — but honestly it’s all pretty great.

The Dragon and the Wolf (Season 7, Episode 7)

Season 7 has some very bumpy storytelling, but the payoffs in this episode (almost) make it all worth it.

The Stark siblings teaming up to finally take down Littlefinger is perfection, and they all seem to be having the best damn time doing it. Then there’s the infamous boatsex (complete with Jon Snow’s Fibonacci butt) and the way it’s interspersed with the big R+L=J wedding reveal (scored to Ramin Djawadi’s amazing ‘Truth’) and, oh yeah, THE WALL COMING DOWN.

But I have to say it’s the dragonpit scene, featuring a massive gathering of characters and their incredibly complex personal and political relationships, that really makes the episode. The scene is allowed to breathe and unfold in a way that does justice to the power shifts at play.

It’s the kind of moment that reminds you of why, for most of its run, Game of Thrones really was the best.

Jenna Guillaume is a Sydney-based writer who loves all things TV and pop culture. She tweets @JennaGuillaume, and her new book, ‘What I Like About Me’ is available now.