“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” says the icy Queen Cersei Lannister, played tauntingly by Lena Headey. “A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of a sheep,” states her strictly draconian father Tywin, played by a commanding Charles Dance.
So many elements of foreshadowing have attributed a great deal to the deaths of so many characters. However, there is one quote that came before them all that truly set a benchmark for Game of Thrones in terms of unrelenting bloodshed, and it is by George R. R. Martin himself.
Referring to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, Martin once said: “Tolkien made the wrong choice when he brought Gandalf back. Screw Gandalf. He had a great death and the characters should have had to go on without him.”
You can take it from this man as the foreshadowing of all foreshadowings. Martin does not concern himself with our admiration of one character or distaste for another. Instead, he is far more concerned with telling the most realistic story as possible set in a fantasy world.
Almost each and every characters has come and gone, though they were all portrayed by a slew of talented actors (some of them not even knowing when they will be killed off). There’s no denying the popularity surrounding Game of Thrones. The series has often jumpstarted careers for actors, who have gone on to do bigger and better things after being killed off.
Here are the Where Are They Now? The Characters Who Died On Game Of Thrones.
15 Sean Bean (Ned Stark)
Ned Stark's murder was the death scene that kicked it all off for the HBO series. Arguably, however, Sean Bean was already quite the popular star before the series was in development. He was more well known for his villainous performances in a multitude of movies such as GoldenEye, Clear and Present Danger, and The Island.
Bean, however, is also known for his frequent onscreen death scenes. Shot, stabbed, hanged, quartering, crushed by a tower, buried alive — Bean has met all sorts of demises, so his portrayal of the all-too-honest Ned Stark was a nice touch.
This nice touch was ended quite abruptly, though, by his execution at the hands of Ilyn Payne. However, don’t feel too bad for Bean, as his career has continued to prosper since this closing moment.
Starring in the eventually canceled Legends, Bean went on to win an International Emmy for Best Leading Actor for Accused, and also played a priest in the series Broken.
14 Rose Leslie (Ygritte)
Most fans who were unfamiliar with the Song of Ice and Fire series were unaware just how much of an impact Ygritte the wilding would have on, not only Jon Snow, but on all of us, the viewers, as well.
She’s a boss with a bow and arrow, and is beyond confident in her own right. Not quite the victim you would expect from someone of her stature, she instead commands the screen and teaches a young Jon Snow everything along the way. This pretty much made her death by an arrow (a sort of poetic justice in a sense) all the more heart wrenching, since Jon Snow not only lost his lover but also someone he often looked up to.
Rose Leslie has had success with several indie films, such as the horror movies Honeymoon and Sticky Notes, where she plays a dancer with familial issues. Leslie has also found success in several supporting roles on television such as Idris Elba’s new partner in Luther, as well as a great role in the new The Good Wife spin-off The Good Fight.
13 Jack Gleeson (Joffrey Baratheon)
Who would have thought that the fresh-faced youth that Batman saved in Batman Begins would grow up to become one of the most gruesomely sadistic kings to ever grace a TV screen? Pretty much everyone who has worked with Gleeson has made the point of saying he is a great actor and is nothing like his onscreen counterpart, but that doesn't mean we can’t still compare the two.
Since leaving Game of Thrones behind, Gleeson has left acting behind along with it, instead focusing on his academic pursuits in philosophy and theology at Trinity College in Dublin. While we would love to see good old Joffrey return even for a mere cameo in a flashback or dream sequence, this idea is pretty much dead in the water, as Gleeson is pretty focused on school.
Although he did make an appearance in a local puppet show in New York, so there is some sort of a glimmer of hope.
12 Mark Addy (King Robert Baratheon)
Mark Addy, like Sean Bean, was a very famous name before the series even started. As the bloated, drunken, and arrogant King Robert Baratheon, Addy gave the performance of a lifetime (a far cry from his portrayal of Fred Flintstone).
He was blunt and honest, and somehow managed to squeeze some drops of dark humor into his dialogue. How did the most powerful man in Westeros meet his demise? In a planned boar hunting accident before dying in his own bed (though the newest season has provided much more information on this "accident").
Addy has had some success in several British television series as of late. He played the iconic Hercules in Atlantis, a depressed detective in Remember Me, a nineteenth century detective in Jericho, and…wait for it… another detective in New Blood.
11 Pedro Pascal (Prince Oberyn)
Pedro Pascal was an actor destined to be part of the HBO series. Pascal is an experienced theater and television actor who reached popularity with his acclaimed stage performances of several Shakespeare plays.
However, in Game of Thrones he adopts a thick Spanish accent and takes on the role of the flamboyantly sexual Prince Oberyn of Dorne. A man with vision only for revenge against all things Lannister , due to the brutal assault and murder of his sister and her children during Robert’s Rebellion.
What caused his demise? The best vicious head-crushing scene ever put on a screen. As his skull matter lay on the ground like spilled milk, you may have wondered what else Pascal has starred in after his short time as Prince Oberyn.
Many were impressed by Pascal's performance and he has since taken on a role as Matt Damon’s sidekick in The Great Wall, and will appear in the upcoming The Kingsman: The Golden Circle. To top it all off, he also has a great role in the captivating Netflix series Narcos.
10 Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo)
If you need a muscular fella who looks as though he can take down an army without breaking a sweat then look no further. Around the same time as he was portraying Conan the Barbarian, Momoa was cast as the less-than loquacious but no less brutal Khal Drogo.
Similarly to King Robert, Khal Drogo’s presence was more than felt and he used every single second of his screen time to make an ever lasting impression on the series’ most devoted fans. However, just like King Robert, the Khal’s death was a less than climactic, infected from a wound and smothered by a pillow.
Game of Thrones helped to make Momoa’s current career. He took a stab at writing and directing with the film Road to Paloma, and has starred in television series such as The Red Road and Frontier. Now his new film The Bad Batch is currently in theaters and he still looks all the more commanding. He will also appear in the 2018 Aquaman as the titular hero.
9 Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen)
Do you remember Viserys Targaryen? The golden haired down on his luck brother of Daenerys Targaryen did not last very long in the series, but his impression on Daenerys has helped to shape her into the queen she might one day become. Overwhelmed by his lustful obsession with greed and power, Viserys met his end with a scorching hot crown that was tailor made just for him — too bad it was a bit too tight.
Since then, actor Harry Lloyd has made a jump into indie film territory with the lead role in Big Significant Things, and also appeared in The Riot Club. Additionally, he has gone off to perform in various TV shows, such as Counterpart, Manhattan, and the award-winning Wolf Hall.
8 Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon)
Somehow, there are some who still believe that the most jovial king is still alive. Though it is very unlike Game of Thrones to shy away from blood and gore, all we got during Stannis Baratheon's so-called death scene was a swift cut away as Brienne of Tarth was just about to get her revenge for the death of Renly.
It has been well documented that actor Stephen Dillane was not a fan of the series, however. Dillane has since said, “I do not regret having done Game of Thrones, but I have nothing to say about it either. I understood neither the series nor its success when I was part of it.”
We can suppose that Dillane feels more comfortable with historical drama as opposed to a fantasy series, since he has been a part of both Zero Dark Thirty and Mary Shelley. He has also been a part of The Crown, The Tunnel, and will be in the upcoming Darkest Hour.
7 Natalia Tena (Osha)
Unfortunately, the overprotective guardian of Rickon and Bran Stark met a sudden and unexpected death at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. However, Natalia Tena has had quite the career surrounding her role as the manipulative wildling. One role, specifically, that she is known for is as Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter movies, which immediately comes to the mind of many fans.
She also stars in the underrated Netflix series Residue-- opposite her soon-to-be executioner Ramsay Bolton-- where she plays an urban photographer who notices bizarre supernatural events in her pictures.
To top it all off, she is the leader singer of Molotov Jukebox, a band with some interestingly electrical indie vibes, and has released some pretty stellar albums such as Carnival Flower and Tropical Gypsy.
6 David Bradley (Walder Frey)
If there’s a show that will ever give Game of Thrones a run for its money-- in terms of fans who glue themselves to TV screens religiously-- it would have to be Doctor Who. Lucky for actor David Bradley, he is in both of them.
As the black market futuristic pirate named Solomon, Bradley frightened and allured Doctor Who fans. However, as the merciless and senile Walder Frey, Bradley managed to shock and astound Game of Thrones fans.
Bradley has also been a part of the British series Broadchurch, and even portrayed as Argus Filch along with Natalia Tena in the Harry Potter series. Since his recent demise at the hands of Arya Stark, Bradley’s Walder Frey finally met his deserving end.
However, Bradley is by no means done with the television universe, as he also has a pretty pivotal role in the FX horror series The Strain.
5 Kristian Nairn (Hodor)
You gotta give it to Game of Thrones, just when you start to think that no other surprise death could possibly overshadow Robb and Catelyn Stark’s untimely murder, then comes Hodor's death in season six.
One difference between Hodor’s death from the others is that Hodor, unlike the Robb and Catelyn, was the completely innocent and loyal to the Stark family. This manages to make his death all the more heart-wrenching to watch.
Actor Kristian Nairn has found a lot of success around his former character — a death scene that will likely be cemented into our pop culture for the next few years to come. He recently re-enacted his depressing end in a KFC commercial.
Nairn, who is openly gay and has fought to decrease stereotypes on television, is actually a pretty renowned house DJ in his own right. He has since appeared in Mythica: The Godslayer, and will be in the upcoming The Appearance.
4 Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton)
Ramsay Bolton is the only character in the entire series who is actually worst than Joffrey Baratheon (which is feat in itself). Game of Thrones creators wasted no time in establishing the former bastard of Roose Bolton as a deplorable character, and had no interest in giving him a shred of any decency in his character.
Since his poetic bloody death by his formerly loyal but hungry hounds, Ramsay's actor Iwan Rheon has found success in several television shows. He has been a part ofResidue, Riviera, Vicious, and will be in the upcoming Marvel series Inhumans, where he will play the villainous Maximus.
Rheon is also a talented singer and songwriter, and has found some success in his mellow and rhythmic music (which is quite a contrast from the character that he had been playing in Game of Thrones since season three).
3 Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister)
Tywin Lannister's commanding and domineering existence is enough to warrant his very own television series, but actor Charles Dance will always, first and foremost, be the villain in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero in our '90s childhood hearts.
It is great to see that Dance has made a great career out of playing serious characters, whether it be in drama or comedy (who can forget his Ali G. Indahouse dance?). It helps that he has had an incredible career in movies as well, having perviously performed in The Imitation Game.
He has since been a part of Ghostbusters, Child 44, as well as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Me Before You, along with his former Game of Thrones co-starts Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke, respectively. Finally, Dance will be in the upcoming Godzilla Sequel.
2 Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark)
Michelle Fairley is another Game of Thrones actor who crossed into the Harry Potter universe, playing Hermoine’s mother in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part I. Nobody plays the brutally devoted matriarch like Fairley, and she completely conquerors the role with what looks like effortless precision. This is probably what made her death all the more tragic and gruesomely unexpected.
With several television outings such as 24: Live Another Day, Resurrection, and a role as Margaret Beaufort in White Princess, Fairley cannot be surpassed by her dramatic work. What’s next? Well, she not only has found success on the small screen, but Fairley is actually a pretty accomplished theater actor. Look for her as Cassius in the upcoming Julius Caesar play.
1 Richard Madden (Robb Stark)
The poor Stark family never had a chance. Robb Stark was supposed to be the King of the North, but it all came to a severely heartless end during the wedding ceremony. His wife, unborn child, direwolf, mother, and many friends were all stabbed in the back with a cold knife by Roose Bolton, which led to the blood spurting end to the beloved character.
Actor Richard Madden has since not had a performance that has surpassed his great Robb Stark outing in popularity. Instead, he has had leading and supporting roles in several television shows, such as Klondike, de’Medici, Oasis, and Lady Chatterly’s Lover.
He has also appeared as the handsome prince Cinderella and the pickpocketing thief in Bastille Day. Was it a worthy career after playing the King of the North for so long? Maybe so, but for now, at least, we have the Starks back in charge of Winterfell for season seven.
Can you think of any other deceased Game of Thrones characters' whose actors have gone on to do bigger and better things? Let us know in the comment section!