Game Of Thrones Main Characters Ranked

HBO's megahit "Game of Thrones," based on George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series of fantasy books, ran for eight seasons from 2011 to 2019. Martin still isn't finished writing the books, but the main television show is over. To say the ending of "Game of Thrones" has proved to be controversial is a massive understatement. Dissection of the finale's flaws will likely continue for years, and might become even more intense once further books and spinoff series hit shelves and screens.

Nevertheless, for many years, "Game of Thrones" was the show to watch. With a new series, "House of the Dragon," hitting HBO in 2022, new storylines, plot twists, and subversions will soon be luring fans in every week. What better time to look back on the high points of "Game of Thrones," especially our favorite characters? Since there are literally hundreds of characters from which to chose, we're sticking with the main figures. And yes, surely, in a perfect world, the top three would be the dragons, but this is a human-centric list. Without further ado, we present the main characters of "Game of Thrones," ranked from worst to best.

14. Bran Stark

Bran Stark, capably portrayed by Isaac Hempstead-Wright, starts his "Game of Thrones" journey by being thrown out a tower window. His discovery of Cersei and Jaime's affair — the event that prompts Jaime to attempt child murder — kicks off a series of events that spiral dramatically outward, affecting all of Westeros and the lands beyond.

Bran survives the fall, but loses the use of his legs. He sets out to seek the wisdom of the Three-Eyed Raven, a psychic "greenseer" who knows all that has been and all that will ever be. After finding him, Bran is trained to become the Three Eyed Raven himself. This all sounds cool, but to be honest, Bran's story is a little boring. His actions throughout the series consist mostly of traveling, having visions, and speaking in riddles. As a result, when Tyrion suggests that the person with the most interesting story is Bran Stark in the series finale, audiences everywhere went, "Huh?!" Bran becoming king on the strength of his allegedly fantastic story is even more questionable. Is it even a good idea to make an all-knowing magical being who can see the future the new ruler of the kingdom? Maybe, maybe not. Bran has some interesting moments, but overall, he's a bit of a dull character. But hey, at least he's not evil.

13. Cersei Lannister

You might as well call Cersei Lannister, thunderously played by Lena Headey, the queen of mean. Daughter of the infamous Tywin Lannister, Cersei is wife of the king, mother to the king twice over, and eventually crowned herself. When we meet her, she's married to King Robert Baratheon and sleeping with her twin brother, Jaime. As this introduction makes clear, Cersei always puts her own family first, forsaking Robert and the realm as a whole in order to advance herself, Jaime, their children, and her house.

Cersei does many terrible things over the course of the show. She tortures people, has them murdered, lies, cheats, and schemes her way to power. It's a whole heck of a lot of fun to watch. Should a viewer root for Cersei, given her endless evil? That's up to you. But even if you loathe her, you can't deny she's witty, cunning, and complex. Even when she's finally forced to do a walk of shame through King's Landing, she refuses to be cowed. Soon enough, she manages to get her revenge, winning the hearts of many, if only for a moment. Cersei ultimately loses the titular game, due to reaping what she's sown. But at least she ends her life the same way she began it: Wrapped in her brother's arms.

12. Petyr Baelish

Petyr Baelish, known as "Littlefinger," plays the game of thrones like nobody else. Baelish is conniving, cruel, and willing to do anything that might grant him more power. As Master of Coin under King Robert Baratheon and King Joffrey Baratheon, Littlefinger works his manipulative magic in order to benefit himself. It helps that no one else at his echelon ever really bothers to wonder what things cost.

Littlefinger's schemes are incredibly entertaining. Aidan Gillen's great performance even makes him easy to root for, despite his actions. And boy, are those actions loathsome. Littlefinger orchestrates assassinations that lead to the War of the Five Kings. He betrays Ned Stark in a plot that eventually leads to Ned's beheading. He marries Lysa Arryn, Catelyn Stark's sister, even though he's been obsessed with Cat his entire life. This comes to a bloody end when he murders Lysa, takes control of the Vale, and creepily sets his sights on Cat's eldest daughter, Sansa. But his attempts at manipulating Sansa come back to bite him in the end. It's enormously satisfying to watch Sansa sentence him to death and Arya Stark carry out his execution.

11. Sandor Clegane

Introduced as Prince Joffrey Baratheon's bodyguard, Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) is nicknamed "The Hound." Initially, he even wears a metal helmet shaped like a snarling dog. The Hound is the little brother of the Mountain, aka Gregor Clegane, a vicious knight who towers over pretty much everyone. When they were younger, Gregor held Sandor's face to a fire, leaving the Hound with permanent facial scarring and a fear of flame. Despite being the shorter of the two, though, the Hound isn't exactly small. His frightening stature and scarred face make him an intimidating bodyguard and ruthless killer.

The Hound enjoys a redemption arc that behaves more like a redemption roller coaster over the course of "Game of Thrones." It starts when he shows pity and compassion towards Sansa when she's being abused by Joffrey. He proceeds to protect Arya for a couple of seasons, though his underlying intent is to ransom her off to whatever family she has left. The Hound is left for dead after an epic battle with Brienne of Tarth, but he lives to face his own brother in a fiery final battle in King's Landing. The Hound is a brutal killer with a bit of a heart, and while his life is full of trauma and evil, he does manage to do some good.

10. Catelyn Stark

Much like her husband Ned, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is a bit naïve when it comes to thinking that the people around her will act honorably or loyally. She isn't as clueless as her husband, granted, but she still doesn't end up playing the game as well as many others. Taking Tyrion prisoner is a bold move, but it doesn't work out in the end. Still, Cat is brave and has a good heart. You really can't help but root for her, no matter what happens.

This makes her death at the hands of the Freys, who betray the Starks for the Lannisters, all the more traumatic. By the time the Red Wedding, as it's infamously called, comes to a bitter end, Cat, her son Robb, his wife Talisa, and a ton of other Stark soldiers are dead. It's a bloody and surprising final end for Cat, who has already lost so much. Sadly, the HBO adaptation never gets around to including Lady Stoneheart, the vengeful sort-of-zombie Cat becomes in the books. Still, Cat is one of few characters you always feel good about rooting for, even if it doesn't work out so well in the end.

9. Jaime Lannister

Twin brother to Cersei, older brother to Tyrion, and eldest son of the tyrannical Tywin, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a knight of the Kingsguard. After murdering King Aerys Targaryen during Robert Baratheon's rebellion, Jaime is given the nickname "Kingslayer." As a number of characters come to realize over the course of the series, Jaime is also the biological father of all three of Cersei's children. Jaime is captured by Robb Stark's forces, but is released by Cat, who offers him freedom in exchange for her daughters. Their agreement never comes to fruition, however, and Jaime ends up traveling with Brienne of Tarth. 

As he's a Lannister, a snide jerk, and an attempted child killer, it makes sense that audiences initially feel inclined to root against Jaime. But things end up being a lot more complicated than that. Jaime is a deeply conflicted person whose greatest act of heroism is the one that gave him his derisive nickname. He loses nearly everything that matters to him before the show ends, but ends up finding new sources of self regard — especially when he's apart from Cersei. The catalyst for much of this change is his relationship with Brienne, the knight (in spirit, if not actuality until the final season) he saves and is saved by on multiple occasions. But Jaime's devotion to Cersei leads him back to her in the end, which is where he meets his demise.

8. Theon Greyjoy

Here's another character fans have a love-hate relationship with. Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) was born a noble son of the Iron Islands, but he grew up in Winterfell as a ward of the Starks. His presence there is punishment for his father's attempt at a rebellion. This means Theon exists in an uncomfortably liminal space: He's simultaneously part of the Stark family, as they treat him with kindness, and their prisoner. This doesn't really bode well for one's mental health. When Theon attempts a takeover of Winterfell while the Starks are gone, it's not entirely unexpected. Not even the infuriated audience thinks it'll go as poorly as it does, however.

Poor Theon falls into the clutches of Ramsay Bolton, an absolute monster who continually tortures and abuses him. Eventually, this treatment turns Theon into a subservient lackey named Reek. But Theon's redemption eventually arrives when he helps Sansa run away from her nightmarish marriage to Ramsay. During the Battle of Winterfell, he fiercely protects Bran from the Night King, using every last bit of bravery and strength in his body to keep the frozen villain from reaching his prey. Theon dies at his icy hands, but before his body is burned, Sansa tearfully places a Stark pin on his chest.

7. Daenerys Targaryen

Let's introduce her properly: We're talking about Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains. Daenerys starts out as a victim and ends her story as a queen. She was one of the most beloved characters in the entire series ... until the final few episodes completely destroyed her. If we were willing to ignore those last installments, she'd probably be number one on this list. But we can't, which means she's here in the middle.

Expertly played by Emilia Clarke, Daenerys is a witty, intelligent, compassionate visionary. A whole lot of people want her to take back the throne and rule with her awesome dragons.  And indeed, that's how things seem to be going for a while. We cheer when she frees the Unsullied and burns slavers alive. We cheer when she emerges from a burning hut to earn the respect of the assembled Dothraki. We cheer when she helps Jon Snow defeat the White Walkers. But then, Daenerys takes a bizarre turn into madness and becomes a tyrant. Some say fans should have expected this — she is the daughter of the Mad King after all. But many others think the lead-up to Daenerys' downfall amounts to a poorly executed cop-out. One thing is certain: She doesn't end up on the throne.

6. Samwell Tarly

Adorable, kind, and brilliant Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) might not seem born for greatness, but he seizes it for himself anyhow. The eldest son of House Tarly, Sam's vicious father forces him to join the Night's Watch or be disinherited. On the Wall, Sam becomes best friends with Jon Snow, saves the life of a wildling named Gilly, and slowly but surely uses his smarts and kindness to get ahead, without playing any cruel games.

Sam's devotion to Jon and Gilly, whose son he comes to regard as his own, makes him basically the best friend you could ever have in Westeros. It's strange that a man as nasty as Lord Randall Tarly raised someone as kind as Sam, but in truth, Sam's experience with cruelty is what makes him so concerned with treating others respectfully. Sam's loyalty, smarts, and devotion pay off: He survives multiple battles, helps save the world, and ultimately becomes the new Grand Maester of Westeros. He even helps another maester come up with a title for a book about the series' events: "A Song of Ice and Fire."

5. Brienne of Tarth

Ser Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), the first female knight of the Seven Kingdoms, was once a girl widely sneered at for her height, appearance, and lack of ladylike decorum. Joke's on them — Brienne proves to be a legendary warrior, devoted friend, and perhaps the most honorable person in Westeros. Constant mockery and scorn only fuels her determination, kindness, and bravery.

Brienne's journey takes her from protecting Renly Baratheon to serving Catelyn Stark to caring for Jaime Lannister. Through much of this arc, she is desperate to save the Stark girls, thus fulfilling her oath to Catelyn. Eventually, she ends up at their side in Winterfell, and fights nobly in the final battle against the Night King and his army of White Walkers. Over the course of the story, her love for Jaime Lannister grows. He ends up giving her the greatest gift she could ever receive when he officially knights her. Tragically, Jaime's heart will always belong to Cersei. Though Brienne is heartbroken by his departure and death, she ends the series as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and has the honor of finishing Jaime's entry in "The Book of Brothers" — a tome that now includes one sister.

4. Jon Snow

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is the bastard of Winterfell. But this is a lie — one that sets practically the whole series into motion. Season 1 sees him joins the Night's Watch, where he serves as a leader, spy, and Lord Commander, before his brothers betray him with multiple knives to the chest. He's brought back to life by the mysterious Melisandre, and, as his watch has ended with his death, returns to Winterfell to defend his home and fight the inevitable onslaught of White Walkers.

Jon's true parentage comes to light in the final two seasons. Instead of being Ned Stark's bastard son, Jon is revealed to be the product of a legitimate union between Ned's sister, Lyanna Stark, and Rhaegar Targaryen. This makes Jon Snow the rightful heir to the throne, and Daenerys, the woman with whom Jon has fallen in love, his aunt. Jon and Dany are doomed from the start, and indeed, it is Jon who ends up taking Daenerys' life to stop her from destroying everything. But Jon was never one for games. His final march beyond the Wall is, in truth, a happy ending.

3. Sansa Stark

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is yet another "Game of Thrones" character that does a complete 180 over the course of the series. She starts out in Season 1 as a naïve and somewhat whiny girl in love with a prince. The death of her father and all that ensues destroys any hope she has of living happily ever after, however. Though she manages to escape King's Landing, she falls into multiple traps evil men lay out for her. Perhaps most horrifyingly, she becomes Ramsay Bolton's wife and suffers hideous abuse at his hands. When Sansa finally emerges from her captors, however, she reveals herself to be the leader, and eventual queen, she was always meant to be.

Insanely strong, deeply resilient, and enormously good at playing the game, Sansa becomes a character everyone loves to root for. When she's finally able to march through the halls of Winterfell as Sansa Stark, Queen in the North, viewers cheer and cry. Sansa, who has been through so much and suffered for so long, is finally home — and on the throne, no less.

2. Tyrion Lannister

There's a reason Peter Dinklage won all those Emmy Awards for playing Tyrion Lannister — he's one of the best characters on the show. Little brother to Cersei and Jaime Lannister, Tyrion has been mocked and derided his whole life. The only thing keeping him alive, really, is the fact he was born into a noble family. Tyrion starts out as a hedonist, gambling, drinking, and generally not taking anything too seriously. Eventually, however, circumstances demand he straighten up and buckle down. Though he proves to be a brilliant leader, capable warrior, and genuinely compassionate person, the people of King's Landing disdain him. After murdering his father and lover (who just wrapped up betraying him in public), he flees across the Narrow Sea.

Tyrion soon joins up with Daenerys, and eventually Jon Snow. But his sincere sadness at the demise of his siblings proves he never stops longing for the approval of his countrymen and family. Tyrion's humor, genius, pathos, and irresistible charm make him one of the very best parts of "Game of Thrones."

1. Arya Stark

The absolute best "Game of Thrones" character is just a child when the series begins. Though Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is one of the smallest characters on the show, she soon proves to be the most powerful. The first few seasons force her through a series of tragedies. First, her father is beheaded. She goes into hiding and briefly attempts to survive on her own, but is eventually taken prisoner by the Hound, who trots her all across Westeros. Once free, Arya heads east to Braavos, the homeland of Jaqen H'ghar. There, she learns to become one of the Faceless Men.

Once Arya returns to Westeros, she sets out on a path of utterly awesome revenge. Her first victims are the Freys, who murdered her mother, brother, and bannermen years before. Next up on her to-do list is un-maksing the scheming Petyr Baelish, whose execution she undertakes herself. Finally, Arya becomes the one to stab the Night King in a seriously triumphant battle scene, which reduces the whole of his army to so many shards of ice on the battlefield. If there is one truth in "Game of Thrones," it is this: Arya is awesome.