Game of Thrones is a show loaded with awesome characters, from Tyrion Lannister to The Hound and Arya Stark. Even minor, one-off characters can be indescribably cool, so it’s easy for fans to become emotionally attached to certain people on the series, regardless of their overall importance.
That said, death is a constant way of life on Game of Thrones. From the very beginning, the show has proven that it doesn’t play by the rules, and just because someone is heroic or morally right, that doesn’t mean they’re going to win. If anything, it means they’re going to die a horrible death. The show has given viewers any number of heartbreaking scenes where their favorite characters have met a painful end, and it almost seems to delight in doing so.
The death scenes have become iconic by themselves, with many of the series' most memorable or emotional scenes centered around characters dying. It can be hard for fans to say goodbye, though, so here are 18 Game Of Thrones Death Scenes We Still Can’t Get Over. From the ever unlucky Stark clan – seriously, they need a happy ending this season -- and even a few nasty villains, these are the characters fans can't help but miss.
There’s nothing redeemable about King Joffrey; he was a cruel, vain, and cowardly creature who tormented friends and foes alike. From executing Ned Stark to cowering in fear during the Battle Of The Blackwater, he fast became the villain fans loved to hate, which was topped off by actor Jack Gleeson’s enjoyably evil performance.
When his death came during season four, it felt like karma had finally caught up to him and viewers rejoiced, but it also made one thing clear: he was a really awesome villain, and the show kind of missed his nastiness.
In a way, Joffrey’s murder set the wheels in motion to destroy the Lannister family one member at a time, but he’s proven to be a hard villain to replace. Ramsey Bolton and Cersei herself have certainly helped fill the void, but King Joffrey’s particular brand of evil is hard to top.
17 Robb And Talisa Stark
The Red Wedding is a TV event that will be talked about for many years to come, where fans – who obviously hadn’t read the novels – watched in horror while the show cruelly murdered three of its biggest characters.
Robb Stark had been set up as the hero of Game of Thrones who was determined to avenge his father’s murder and overthrow the evil Lannisters. Robb had even fallen in love and gotten married during his rebellion, with his wife Talisa revealing moments before things went to hell that she believed that the child they were expecting would be a boy. On cue, that leads to the massacre that was arguably the most heartbreaking scene in the entire series; which is a high bar to jump.
The moment Talisa and Robb were stabbed to death seemed to signal the good guys could never win in this world, and that evil would always triumph. Of course, the bad guys learned that wasn’t the case, but this beloved couple's death remains one of the most devastating moments on the show. As for Robb's mother, well...we'll get to her.
16 Khal Drogo
It was hard to warm to Khal Drogo initially, since he seemed like a heartless barbarian with nothing going on beneath the surface. Game of Thrones has always been good at subverting expectations, though, so he and Daenerys soon fell madly in love, and he revealed himself to be a romantic at heart.
He’d do anything to protect her, to the point that he gives her nasty brother Viserys a literal golden crown when he threatened the life of their unborn child. Jason Momoa's charismatic performance certainly helped endear fans to Drogo, but he and Dany's plans for the future were cut short in the season one finale.
He suffers a wound that becomes infected, and after a ritual involving a witch and blood magic (long story), Daenerys eventually puts him out of his misery by smothering him. It’s heartbreaking for her and the audience, since it felt like Drogo was taken just when he was becoming a big part of the show. His death gave Daenerys strength to keep moving, but his absence was missed.
15 Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun
While there were giants on Game of Thrones before Wun Wun, he was the one who really made a lasting impression on viewers. Introduced in season five, Wun Wun was the first to be given anything resembling a real personality, and he certainly wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty during a fight.
He proved invaluable during the battle at Hardhome by Hulk smashing his way through a great many undead Wights, and he helped storm Castle Black when Thorne tried to burn Jon’s body. (Seriously, Jon would've likely died without Wun Wun there to bust the door down.) It’s also been hinted that he may be the last living giant, which makes his last stand during the Battle Of The Bastards all the more heartbreaking.
He used the last of his strength to break through the barricades at Winterfell, which allowed Jon Snow to lead his men inside and retake it. He and Jon share a moment before Ramsey finishes the giant with an arrow to the eye, which leads to one of the most satisfying beatdowns in television history. It’s a shame we didn't get more time with Wun Wun, but he made his limited screentime count.
Arya Stark’s been quite lucky with her mentors; she has a habit of being tutored by wise men and women, even if they’re not always friendly or innocent. She spent time with Tywin Lannister, The Hound, and Jaqen H’ghar during her travels, who taught her how to plan, fight, and survive.
Her first tutor outside the Stark clan, however, was Syrio Forel, who Ned hired to teach Arya how to fight with her sword Needle. He was a little quirky, but he provided some nice comic relief while teaching Arya life lessons that stuck with her. He defended her in his final moments when the Kingsguard tried to take her, and he held them off with only a wooden training sword.
Arya later killed Meryn Trant in season five to avenge Syrio’s death, and while it hasn’t been one hundred confirmed that he died (where's the body, showrunners?), his survival seems very unlikely. There’s also a fan theory that Syrio was Jaqen in disguise the whole time, but that feels like wishful thinking.
Osha was the first Wildling who got proper character development on the show, and despite being forced into service for the Stark family, she quickly grew attached to young Bran and Rickon. Thanks to her survival instincts, she was able to keep the boys safe when things went bad, and lead them out of Winterfell after Theon tried to take it for himself.
She could fight when she needed to as well, so she was sorely missed when she and Rickon vanished after season three, after Bran split off with Jojen, Meera, and Hodor. It was assumed that Osha and Rickon were hiding safely with the Umbers until the reveal in season six that Smalljon Umber has betrayed them as a sign of loyalty to Ramsey Bolton.
She tries to seduce Ramsey in an effort to kill him, but he was wise to her tactics and stabbed her in the neck. Osha was a great, strong character who got sidelined by the story, so it was sad to see her come to such a swift end after her extended absence.
Jon Snow didn’t have an easy time at The Wall during his early days, and being the illegitimate son of Ned Stark didn’t help. By proving his bravery and all-around awesomeness, however, he eventually made a solid band of friends, from Samwell to Dolorous Edd and Grenn.
The group helped put a human face on The Night’s Watch and backed Jon up whenever he needed it. During the Castle Black battle against the invading Wildings, Jon ordered Grenn to take a band of men down to the tunnel to hold the gate, understanding that if it came down, the battle was all but over. Both he and Grenn realized it was likely a suicide mission, but he didn’t hesitate to take the job.
When a lone giant bounded down the tunnel, Grenn led his men in reciting their Night’s Watch vows and standing defiantly in the face of approaching death. It was one of the most rousing moments in an episode loaded with them, and Grenn’s death – alongside Pip’s – made the fight feel more personal.
11 Margaery Tyrell
Margaery Tyrell first appeared in season two, where she married Renly Baratheon in her quest to become Queen. His brother Stannis soon put a stop to that by having Renly assassinated, leading Margaery to pursue the ever-lovable Joffrey instead.
She realizes he’s a monster quickly enough, but she plays the role of perfect wife anyway. Unlike Cersei Lannister, though, behind all the manipulations, she truly seemed to want to be a good Queen to the people. She even befriended the ever-suffering Sansa and did everything she could to free her brother following his arrest by The High Sparrow.
Margaery didn’t exactly mourn Joffrey’s assassination – which was orchestrated by her grandmother – but she did seem to care for her third husband Tommen, especially once she realized that he wasn’t a monster like most of his family. Sadly, Cersei finally got the best of her in the end, resulting in Margaery and the rest of the Queen Regent's enemies being incinerated in a huge wildfire explosion. Margaery's cunning will certainly be missed going forward.
10 Mance Rayder
Mance Rayder was a former ranger with The Night’s Watch who abandoned his post to join the Wildlings, soon becoming their chosen King Beyond The Wall. He even managed the tricky task of uniting the warring clans, convincing them that if they didn’t work together to get south beyond the wall, they’d all die.
Mance himself only appeared in a handful of episodes, but he left a big impression on Jon Snow during that time, convincing him of the wisdom of uniting against the White Walkers. His planned execution after the Castle Black battle was a suitably nasty one, with Melisandre convincing Stannis to burn him alive for the Lord Of Light.
Stannis took her advice, but just as Mance was about to burn, Jon put him out of his misery with an arrow. In a way, Jon is following on from Mance’s legacy now, and is willing to break away from tradition in order to survive. Still, that was one charismatic Wildling Thrones decided to off.
9 Maester Luwin
Luwin was the kindly old maester at Winterfell who was intensely loyal to the Stark family, and he essentially became a parental figure to Bran and Rickon when Ned and Catelyn went away. He helped Bran work through his depression after the fall that crippled him, and he comforted the boys when word reached Winterfell about Ned’s execution.
When Theon Greyjoy and the Ironborn take Winterfell, Luwin then has to find a way to get them to safety, and even tries to convince Theon of the error of his ways. Of course, such a kind and sage character isn’t going to last long on Game of Thrones, so when he tries to intervene when Theon’s men turn against him, he gets stabbed for his trouble.
Luwin at least lives long enough to see the Stark boys escape Winterfell, and dies safely in the knowledge that they're in good hands with Osha and Hodor. Luwin’s decency and selflessness made a lasting impression on fans, as did his emotional death scene.
8 Catelyn Stark
It’s well-known that the pilot episode of Game of Thrones was a disaster, with around ninety percent of it being reshot. The pilot was weighted down by dull, confusing exposition and a lack of likable characters, which included the Stark family. The marriage between Ned and Catelyn was too cold, with the two sniping at each other throughout the episode.
The producers decided to rework the relationship to be more loving, which led to Catelyn’s original actress Jennifer Ehle being recast with Michelle Fairley. This worked out for the best, with Fairley bringing a fierce strength to the role. Like her husband, she would always try to do the right thing and never backed down from a fight, like taking on the assassin who tried to kill Bran.
After Ned’s death, she became an advisor to Robb, but unfortunately, he didn’t always listen to her advice. One of the things that made The Red Wedding so devastating was watching her trying desperately to save her son, despite knowing full well how hopeless their situation was.
It’s a shame she won’t be around for the Stark family reunion in season seven; unless the showrunners have a surprise in store.
7 The Direwolves
Direwolves are the coolest pets in Westeros (sorry, dragons). In the first episode, the Starks come across a newborn batch of pups, with Ned reluctantly allowing his children to take them as pets. The wolves are loyal companions with distinct personalities and have proven themselves to be very useful in a fight over the years.
Sadly, most of them have died during the course of the series, and always in tearjerking circumstances. Ned had to kill Sansa’s direwolf Lady when the Lannisters ordered it, after Arya’s wolf bit Joffrey to protect her. Robb’s wolf Grey Wind was shot with arrows in his kennel during The Red Wedding. Rickon’s wolf Shaggydog was killed off-screen by the Umbers, while Bran’s wolf Summer died protecting him from Wights.
That leaves Ghost and Nymeria alive, and even the latter's reunion with Arya proved to be a heartbreaker. It’s hard going being an animal lover on Game of Thrones, as these poor wolves have shown.
Shireen was Stannis’ daughter, who was scarred by a bout with Greyscale when she was young. She was one of the few purely innocent characters on the show, and she taught Ser Davos how to read. She was also the only one who could break through Stannis’ cold exterior, revealing that he was really a softie underneath it all.
His quest to become King was more important than all of that, however, so when it looked like his army would be too weak to fight for Winterfell, Melisandre convinced him that burning Shireen as a blood sacrifice would show them the way. He initially rejected the idea, but he eventually caves when he can see no way around it.
Shireen’s sacrifice is probably one of the most upsetting scenes in the series, with the girl being tied to a post while begging her parents to save her; instead, they stand back and watch. It doesn’t even help Stannis’ cause, with he and his army being defeated shortly after, making her death even more tragic.
5 Tywin Lannister
Tywin Lannister was always more concerned with his family's legacy than with his actual children, and he could be as cold and calculating as they come. He hated Tyrion for “causing” his mother's death during childbirth and had no qualms about telling him so, while his contempt for his grandson Joffrey and his cruelty wasn’t well hidden either.
Tywin was still a cool character, though, capable of laying the smackdown on his enemies - or family members - with just a few words. Charles Dance's performance was a big part of this, and he often stole any scene he appeared in. He was a nasty guy for sure, but he was a lot of fun to watch too.
Tyrion killing him while he was on the toilet was a nice piece of revenge, since it guaranteed people would be laughing about Tywin's death for years to come. The Lannister clan have clearly missed Tywin’s cunning and smarts following his demise, and fans have sorely missed his dominating presence.
Hodor was the loyal, simpleminded servant to the Stark family, having earned his nickname from the one word he can say (which everyone presumed to be his name). He’s a gentle fellow that's extremely protective of Bran and Rickon, but his immense strength can only really be utilized by a warging Bran. Hodor's just too soft for this world, and honestly, we should have seen this coming.
He’s an easy character to love, but season six revealed his tragic backstory, with Bran accidentally warging into him during a trip to the past. This comes when Bran, Meera, and Hodor are being chased by Wights in the present day, and when Meera shouted at him to “hold the door” against the wave of undead, the order is what causes his trauma when he’s a boy, with the words eventually forming into “Hodor.”
This surprising turn of events blew a few minds, but it broke way more hearts. It also revealed Bran’s ability to affect the past and the extent of his powers, which will surely be important in the battles ahead, but c'mon. Not Hodor!
While Jon Snow might be heroic, he also started the show pretty green, being inexperienced in combat and life in general. That changed when he met Ygritte, a Wildling he took prisoner during season two. He soon became a Wildling prisoner himself before seemingly converting to their cause, though Jon was truly playing the role of a double agent.
Ygritte and Jon soon developed feelings for each other, with her teaching him some life lessons along the way, filling him in on the many, many things he doesn’t know. Of course, she knew his true intentions all along - though she never thought he'd betray her, which he sorta did - which set them on an unavoidable collision course. She spoke a good game about wanting to kill him, but when it came time to take the kill shot, she couldn’t go through with it.
Instead, she was the one who got an arrow through the heart (damn it, Ollie!) with Jon cradling her while she died. The show even let the moment linger with a rare use of slo-mo, allowing fans to take a beat to dry their tears.
2 Oberyn Martell
Oberyn Martell – aka the Red Viper - arrived in season four and was an instant audience favorite; he was charismatic, ice cool, and never afraid to speak his mind. Following the death of Robb, Oberyn felt like the hero the show needed, especially since he had plenty of reasons to hate the Lannisters.
When he chose to represent Tyrion in combat against The Mountain, it felt like some shred of justice was finally coming. That’s why the fight was so damn great initially, with Martell outmaneuvering and wearing his massive opponent down. After a few minutes, it truly seemed like victory was assured. But in his obsession to get The Mountain to confess to the murder of his sister – and Tywin’s part in it - he got too close, giving the beast an opening.
In what’s got to be one of the most graphic deaths in TV history The Mountain tripped him up, punched his teeth out, gouged out his eyes, and crushed his skull, leading fans everywhere to mirror Ellaria Sand's reaction to the horrific twist. It was an unforgettable moment for sure, but the heartache lingers to this day.
1 Ned Stark
While fans of the book were obviously well aware of Ned’s fate, his execution in the first season took many by surprise. In any traditional story, he’d be the hero, the honorable man who always does the right thing. He investigated Jon Arryn’s death and learned the dark secret of the Lannister family, and tried to see that justice was served; in hindsight, he should have stayed at home.
Despite doing the right thing, Ned was constantly outmatched, and when he was about to be executed, he even tried to compromise and pretend he was lying for the sake of his daughters, only for Joffrey to order his death regardless. It was a shocking, unforgettable moment, and it kicked off many of the conflicts that are still raging on the show.
Fans still miss Ned for his decency, but his death was a powerful lesson that good doesn’t always triumph in the land of Westeros, and it’s a lesson the show has taught viewers time and time again in the years since.
What Game of Thrones deaths still keep you up at night? Let us know in the comments.