Well folks, the long wait is over and winter is finally here. Game of Thrones is finally airing its final season, with dedicated fans the world over collectively holding their breath in anticipation of the series' epic conclusion. The show's eight-year run has been nothing short of a total pop culture phenomenon, attracting and retaining audiences past the ten million mark, counting myself and every friend that I have – that's right, all four of them. Well, three if you don't count my mom. Anyway, its immense and seemingly universal popularity is an entertainment milestone that we don't often see the like of.
Central to its appeal is the thoroughly engaging depth of its cast of characters, spawning heated and endless debates concerning who should sit on the Iron Throne, who's going to fall in love with who, and of course, who'd win against who in a cage match. The latter is what brings us here today – we're going to sort out the best of the best when it comes to the top fighters in Westeros and beyond.
A few ground rules first, though. For the first and most obvious stipulation, we're operating off of the show over the books. Second, humanoids only. No direwolves or dragons allowed! Lastly, we're looking at each character in their prime. So if anyone, you know, lost their sword hand or something along the way, we're talking about how strong they were when it was still attached. With all that said, let us proceed – valar morghulis!
32 Loras Tyrell
Kicking off the list we have Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers. He takes the bottom spot as an honorable mention because while we don't get to see much of him on the field of battle, he has some solid notoriety as a tourney participant and does manage to unseat the Mountain during a joust.
We also do, at the very least, know that he took part in and survived the Battle of the Blackwater, marching into the throne room battle-worn and victorious alongside the relief force led by Tywin Lannister. Unfortunately, we don't get much more context than that, so he climbs no further.
31 Gendry Baratheon
We know he's a world class runner and likely the resident rowboat champion of King's Landing, but how does he hold up in a fight with that big hammer of his?
From what we've seen, pretty well! After all, he does showcase some pretty awesome moves when he leaves King's Landing with Ser Davos during season seven. And if his lineage has anything to do with it, he's going to be a natural. However, I feel like we've yet to see the true extent of his capabilities as a fighter, and we can't judge what we haven't seen.
30 Yara Greyjoy
Yara holds her own in a scrap, as we've seen during her daring raid to recover Theon from the clutches of Ramsay Bolton, and the desperate attempt to fend off Euron Greyjoy's naval ambush of her fleet during season seven.
While she does put up a valiant effort, neither of these battles turn out well for her, and she finds herself bested both times. It's hard to fault her for facing such tough odds on a consistent basis, but coming out on top of them is what makes the difference between a good fighter and a great one. However, there's something to be said for someone that can actually command the respect of the Ironborn.
29 Ramsay Bolton
Yes, yes, I know. Boo, hiss, for shame, and all that. But regardless of what a despicable person he is, it's hard to argue that he isn't both calculating and savage when it comes to facing his opponents.
First and foremost, he's an incredibly talented archer. Perhaps even more importantly, he has a knack for identifying his opponents' weaknesses and setting them off balance psychologically, something he demonstrates well when he puts an arrow into Rickon before facing Jon's ragtag army during the battle for Winterfell. However, while he can definitely hold his own in close combat, he doesn't have the heart to truly face his enemies if the odds aren't in his favor, and Jon easily beats him to a pulp once he's cornered.
We don't get to spend a great deal of time with this no-nonsense wandering crow, as he meets his end earlier on in season two. However, we get a solid and satisfying taste of the skills that landed him on this list before he does.
Having already been shot with a crossbow after refusing the surrender the Night's Watch recruits he's charged with bringing to Castle Black, he bellows out a solid one-liner concerning how those things "take too long to reload" before swiftly cutting down several Lannister troops. Things don't end well for him, obviously, but it takes one tough warrior to fight on against impossible odds after taking a serious wound.
A lot of the other wildling tribes harbor a thorough dislike for the Thenn, and with good reason. I mean, you can tell a lot about a man by the way he eats. But it's hard to argue that the Magnar himself isn't a imposing sight to behold, with his massive battleaxe and ritualistically scarred visage.
Most wildlings don't have much of a mind for tactics though, and this definitely shows when they lay siege to Castle Black. Charging into battle with wild abandon, he takes out brothers of the Watch left and right until he's finally defeated by Jon.
26 Beric Dondarrion
Ah, Beric. He's a personal favorite of mine, if we're being honest. How can you not love a man that wields a flaming sword with such righteous fury? And he does so skillfully, even managing to make a good showing in his duel against the infamous Sandor Clegane.
Unfortunately, he just can't seem to stop shuffling his way off this mortal coil, as he's already managed to do six, yes, count 'em, six times. The fact that Thoros has needed to resurrect him so often should serve as enough explanation as to why I can't justify him placing any higher here.
Jon's long lost wildling lover is probably the most talented ranged combatant Westeros has ever seen, unleashing arrow after unerringly accurate arrow as if she were a scorned lover sending break up texts. Get it? Because they, y'know... look, never mind. She's just downright scary with a bow, alright?
We may not get to see much of her fighting skills when things get up close and personal, but the thing is, I'm not entirely sure anyone's actually going to manage to get that close without becoming a pincushion in the process.
24 Euron Greyjoy
The crazy weirdo uncle of the Greyjoy family isn't big on social graces. Or sanity in general, for that matter. But when it comes to combat, that lack of restraint can be as much of an advantage as it is a hindrance.
He's definitely Ironborn through and through, having survived a life of piracy abroad and proving an adept and dangerous fighter when he executes an ambush on Yara's fleet. He handily defeats her, Theon, and a couple of the Sand Snakes during the battle, so he's obviously no joke. But you have to wonder how well he'll hold out when he doesn't have the element of surprise on his side.
23 Stannis Baratheon
We'll say the grizzled and stoic middle child of the Baratheon brothers may have been just a little misguided, since I'm gunning for understatement of the decade. But he was every bit the model soldier, as even Renly had to admit.
The crowning moments that landed him on this list also happen to be the last few he spent alive. During the season five finale, we see a wounded Stannis staggering aimlessly around the battlefield following a crushing defeat at the hands of the Bolton army. Even in such a state, he expertly dispatches several Bolton troopers that confront him before he collapses, exhausted.
Lord Roose Bolton's "pet rat," as Jaime Lannister puts it, is equal parts vicious and cunning. Viciously cunning, you might say! Anyway, he's definitely not the sort of guy you'd want to get into a sword fight with, no matter how badly you might want to.
When he's sent by Roose Bolton to infiltrate the Night's Watch and locate the remaining Stark sons, he even impresses Jon Snow during his initial combat training by showing off against his sparring partner. He's a dangerous man, to be sure. But not dangerous enough to fulfill the dirty deed of eradicating the last heirs to Winterfell.
21 Robb Stark
Eddard's eldest son certainly took after his father, quickly becoming a talented swordsman and military commander during his campaign against the Lannisters. While we don't get to see much of it firsthand, he emerges victorious against his more experienced and battle hardened foes, outsmarting Tywin's tactical genius and even managing to take Jaime captive.
He can be a bit headstrong, impetuous, and is understandably vengeful after Eddard's wrongful sentencing. But he's at least somewhat realistic about his own capabilities when Jaime challenges him to a one on one duel – readily admitting the he'd lose to the renowned Kingslayer.
20 Robert Baratheon
It might be hard to imagine Robert as a fearsome warrior after seeing what long years of lavish living have done to him, but make no mistake, he was a force to be reckoned with during his eponymous rebellion. And Gods, was he strong then.
Robert's key strength was, well, his strength. Wielding a mighty Warhammer, he soundly trounced all who stood in his way, including Prince Rhaegar Targaryen at the Battle of the Trident. Strength alone doesn't make for a very balanced fighter, on the other side of the coin, and Robert's temper was such that it would be easy to taunt him into unfortunate decisions on the field of battle.
19 Daario Naharis
The charismatic captain of the Second Sons company of mercenaries is definitely eccentric, but he's also a seasoned combatant that isn't afraid to fight unconventionally. Daenerys definitely knew what she was doing when she took him into her service. I mean, they definitely got a lot cozier than that, but we're not here to get into all that mess.
Being a seasoned veteran of Meereen's fighting pits taught him how to take on all manner of opponents, but did little to stem the uncontrollable growth of his ego. Confidence is important, sure, but too much of anything can be bad for you, as they say. They do say that, right?
18 Tormund Giantsbane
Fan favorite Tormund is every bit as wild as a wildling can get, fighting with an unhinged ferocity matched by few and surpassed by none. If ferocity were the sole factor at play here, he'd undoubtedly be the king of this list.
From the pain of Hardhome to the epic clash at Winterfell, Tormund's seen more than his fair share of action. But his totally berserk combat style has also led him to brush shoulders with his end more than once, so hopefully, he'll learn just a little bit of restraint, if only to keep from breaking our hearts like so many on this list have.
17 Khal Drogo
It's been a long time since we've seen Drogo, but no discussion about Game of Thrones' most capable warriors would be complete without bringing him up. The Great Khal of the Dothraki was absolutely ruthless, unforgiving, and nearly unstoppable when roused to combat.
Reportedly an undefeated warrior, Drogo puts the full extent of his skills on display when challenged as an ineffective leader by one of his riders. He completely disarms himself and manages to defeat the challenger with his own weapon. While the Dothraki are definitely savage fighters, they're not invulnerable, and can have some trouble adapting to tactics they haven't faced before - a fact outlined when Jorah takes on and defeats one singlehandedly.
16 Qhorin Halfhand
The Halfhand is another character that we need to judge by reputation, as he's clearly holding back during the only extended fight scene that we get to see him in. But it's safe to assume that he's a hard man indeed if he's managed to develop such a legendary reputation among both his brothers in the Night's Watch and the wildlings that he fights against.
When his party captures the wildling Ygritte, he asks her what her people would do should they capture him. And she responds that they would, ahem, take their time putting him down. Needless to say, he must have accomplished some impressive feats of combat to raise such ire among them.
15 Jorah Mormont
The disgraced son of Bear Island and poster child for unrequited love has seen no shortage of trials and tribulations, but steely determination and a steady sword hand have seen him through the lot.
It might seem strange to see Ser Jorah climb this high on the list, but his list of credits is actually extremely impressive when you stop to consider it. He's brought down a Dothraki bloodrider in single combat, faced the imposing Stone Men of Old Valyria and survived the chaos of the fighting pits not once, but twice. And that's not even the complete list! Lyanna Mormont claims that a man from Bear Island fights with the strength of ten southerners, and Jorah stands as a fine testament to that claim, exiled or not.
14 Bronn of the Blackwater
From wandering sellsword to landed knight, Bronn's journey upwards from his humble origins has been an interesting one, to say the very least. He's a resourceful combatant that stays light on his feet during a fight, a style that goes both underrated and underestimated on the western side of the Narrow Sea, much to the detriment of his opponents.
Another huge advantage he's got going for him is his willingness to fight as dirty as he needs to in order to get the job done. He might not fight with honor, but one look at the guy who did and you'll understand why.
13 Syrio Forel
Arya's Water Dancing instructor is short of stature but fleet of foot, providing more than ample proof that size and strength aren't everything. He spent nine years as the First Sword of Braavos, no mean feat in a city rife with skilled swordsmen.
Though he's a relatively minor character, what little we do see of him during Arya's training sessions indicates that he's a man of immense skill. He's cut down when he prevents the Lannisters from taking Arya as a hostage, but not before making total fools out of an entire troop of Lannister soldiers utilizing nothing more than a wooden sword and his razor-sharp Braavosi wit. Just imagine what the man could do with a proper blade.
12 Sandor "The Hound" Clegane
Though graceless and relying heavily on brute strength, the Hound's a nearly unstoppable force on the battlefield. Watching him cut through anyone foolish enough to get between him and his next meal (probably chicken) is truly a sight to behold.
He's been thoroughly outnumbered in almost every melee he's found himself in, and he's come out on top every time. Well, almost every time. He might have lost that epic one on one brawl with Brienne of Tarth, but only by the breadth of a single hair – and even then, he managed to miraculously walk away from it with his life. He's easily one of the toughest men in Westeros, even if he does get a little nervous around an open flame.
11 Grey Worm
The leader of the Unsullied might be a man of few words, but really, who needs to speak the common tongue fluently when there's plenty you can say with the tip of a spear?
The most obvious consideration here is Grey Worm's intense military training. As a veteran member of the Unsullied, he's been trained from birth to dominate the battlefield. He might have gone down fighting alongside Barristan Selmy during an ambush by the Sons of the Harpy, but the sheer number of bad guys he takes down with him is pretty extraordinary, and he manages to survive the encounter to continue fighting on Daenerys' behalf.
10 Eddard Stark
Ah, poor old Ned. He was our first clue that this show was going to toy with our emotions like a cat unraveling a ball of emotionally traumatizing yarn. His deeply rooted sense of honor may have seen him to a bad end, but there's no denying that he was one tough Northman when faced outright.
A stalwart veteran of Robert's Rebellion, Eddard saw his fair share of action both during and after the usurpation of the Targaryen dynasty. He's been shown to be able to hold his ground against some of the best swordsmen in Westeros, including Jaime Lannister and Arthur Dayne. Though we learn that he didn't exactly manage to take Dayne down all on his lonesome, being able to make such a valiant showing against a warrior with such a legendary reputation is still a considerable credit to his skill with a blade.
9 Oberyn Martell
The Red Viper of Dorne seems to truly enjoy the thrill of a good fight, performing an agile and evasive dance around his often heavier, bigger opponents with a confident smile on his face.
His skill with a spear is unparalleled, and his knowledge of poisons is both impressive and concerning for those that he's set his sights on. His technique is impeccable, but his most pronounced weakness is his willingness to indulge in passion and pride over getting the job done. The man who technically defeated the Mountain places high on the list, and would place even higher had his pride not proven to be his undoing.
8 Jaime Lannister
The Kingslayer gets a pretty harsh reputation concerning the nature of his hand in the Mad King's demise, but is equally if not moreso renowned as a swordsman of almost legendary prowess.
We only get to see Jaime's remarkable skill put to use a precious few times before the loss of his sword hand, namely during his confrontation with Eddard in the streets of King's Landing – through the fight is cut short by the intervention of a Lannister grunt, it feels like he's got Ned on the back foot. He's beaten in a duel with Brienne of Tarth, though it can be argued that he wasn't at his best, as his hands were quite literally tied, and he was no doubt exhausted after being held prisoner by the Starks for an extended period of time.
7 Jon Snow
The King in the North, the King in the North! Arguably the current moral hero of the story, we've followed the exploits of the former Lord Commander of the Night's Watch from day one, bringing us to our first solid point - he's still around for us to follow. Considering the things he's seen, this isn't something to take lightly.
His deeds and victories are far too many to sum up in a single paragraph, but he's a veteran of many battles, most of which we see firsthand. He's faced and cut down a host of enemies both mortal and mythical, not least among which are a few fearsome White Walkers, and that's a feat that very few living men can lay claim to.
6 Barristan Selmy
Ser Barristan the Bold has had a lengthy and illustrious career as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Even after that, he swore himself to Daenerys as a Queensguard, despite his age beginning to catch up with him.
His reputation in Westeros was such that most would label him the greatest living swordsman. Well, while he was still living, anyway. He's brought low fighting against the numerically superior Sons of the Harpy alongside Grey Worm, but not before reminding us why he had an understandable claim to that title.
5 Arthur Dayne
Even the storied Barristan Selmy would tell you that the greatest knight to ever walk the Seven Kingdoms was Ser Arthur Dayne, Kingsguard under Aerys Targaryen and a swordsman of unmatched skill.
While Eddard's claim that he felled Dayne in combat is technically true, Eddard is clearly outmatched by him, as we see in the flashback scene at the Tower of Joy. Wielding two swords with indomitable proficiency, the Sword of the Morning makes short work of Eddard's men before nearly winning the ensuing duel between the two. Just as Dayne readies himself to make the final blow, he's ambushed from behind and dealt a grievous wound by Howland Reed, allowing a young Eddard to seize victory.
4 Brienne Of Tarth
Brienne may not have a reputation as widely heralded as some of her peers, but she more than makes up for it with the deeds we've seen her accomplish with our own eyes. As far as we've seen, she's never lost a fight, no matter the odds or the opponent.
She's faced and struck down entire squadrons of less than honorable fringes of the Stark army, laid out an entire hunting party of the sinister Boltons, squared off against knights of the Vale, outfought Jaime Lannister, and even managed to conquer the Hound in a vicious one on one duel. If there's anyone she can't take down, she's yet to meet them. And a great many of us certainly hope that she never does!
3 Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane
A truly terrible mountain of a man, Ser Gregor is the very definition of an immovable object, and it seems almost impossible that he'll ever meet his personal equivalent of an unstoppable force.
He isn't without his faults, as evidenced in his bout with Oberyn Martell – he's slow, clumsy, and relies purely on his brute strength to overpower his adversaries. And though he was nearly taken out by a special poison the wily Red Viper of Dorne had afflicted him with, the "cure" applied to him by the decrepit former maester Qyburn seems to have boosted his strength and toughness to levels that can only be described as inhuman. But at what cost?
2 Arya Stark
You've got to admit, when you first saw Arya in season one, you never would have guessed that she'd even bear a mention on a list like this. But now? I'm willing to bet that you're angry at me for not putting her in first place.
The mischievous tomboy daughter of Ned Stark has blossomed into a lethal life-taker, having studied swordplay under the Dancing Master, Syrio Forel, and going on to learn the shadowy arts practiced by the Faceless Men of Braavos. Her feats are both many and impressive, but the easiest way to contextualize her placement would be to point out that she wiped out the entirety of House Frey. By herself. If that doesn't impress you, then I shudder to think of what would.
1 Jaqen H'gahr
For all we know, that isn't even his real name. But what we know for certain is that this enigmatic Faceless Man has to be one of the most absolutely dangerous people to have set foot in Westeros, if not the world over.
All a man needs is a name, and the deed is done. We never get to see him in action directly, but that's sort of the point - accomplishing his contracts with the utmost of stealthy efficiency and seemingly impossible swiftness, you'll never know when or where he'll strike you down, or which face he'll be wearing when he does. But you can rest entirely assured that the Many-Faced God will collect his due and that Jaqen is likely his finest collector.