‘Game of Thrones’: The Best Villains (So Far)

The heart and soul of Game of Thrones are its heroes. But fans know that even though Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and the rest of the good guys are awesome, the series would be nothing without its villains. HBO‘s adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire, has captivated fans and critics for six seasons. And oftentimes, the moments we talk about most are in some way related to the misdeeds of the show’s most nefarious characters.

They murder, they misdirect, they manipulate. And they do it all seemingly without breaking a sweat. They’ve taken down many a contender for the Iron Throne. Some use strength, while others employ their brilliant political skills. And the Realm simply wouldn’t be the same without them. Here are the 10 best villains on Game of Thrones, so far.

10. Walder Frey

Walder Frey sits at a table, a lit candle in front of him, in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
David Bradley as Walder Frey | HBO

It’s one thing to hold a grudge. It’s entirely another to murder four people simply because someone embarrassed you once. But don’t tell that to Walder Frey, one of Game of Thrones‘ earliest tertiary villains. The Lord of the Crossing never seemed to have the same ambitions as some of the series’ big players. But what he lacked in political acuity, he made up for in pride. And after Robb Stark wounded his, he made sure that his entire family — and the North, in general — paid the price.

Walder Frey never held the blades that put an end to Robb, Talisa, their child, and poor Catelyn, but he set in motion the events that brought about their deaths. His betrayal of the Starks was especially egregious because it came as a result of a relatively small slight, all things considered.

9. Viserys Targaryen

Viserys stands in the desert, with the wind blowing in his hair, in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen | HBO

If Viserys Targaryen had stuck around much longer in Game of Thrones, he likely would have become insufferable. His sense of entitlement where all things Iron Throne were considered, was obnoxious. The abusive, controlling, patronizing, and often disturbing way he treated his sister helped make her transformation into a powerful, confident young woman feel more satisfying. But it was painful to see him try to cut her down at every turn, nonetheless.

Viserys was smart enough to realize he needed an army to take back King’s Landing, but stupid enough to think he could talk down to Khal Drogo. If anything, his sneering disdain for the Dothraki and Daenerys led to, perhaps, one of the best deaths a villain ever suffered on Game of Thrones.

8. The Mountain

The Mountain, a.k.a. Gregor Clegane, stands, shirtless, and brandishes a long sword in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson as The Mountain | HBO

So many of Game of Thrones’ villains rely on their intelligence and powers of manipulation to get what they want. Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, can attribute all of his victories to sheer brute force. That doesn’t make him any less terrifying. He was scary enough as a warrior before he unmasked. And even before Game of Thrones started, he proved himself to be the type of man who truly doesn’t care who he’s killing, or even why, only that he’s been asked to.

His fight with and subsequent brutal eye-gouging, face-smashing murder of Oberyn Martell was undoubtedly one of the series’ most unforgettable moments. We can only hope that The Mountain’s future victims, should there be any, will have a slightly less grisly fate.

7. Roose Bolton

Roose Bolton, sitting at a table, in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
Michael McElhatton as Roose Bolton | HBO

Roose Bolton earned his spot as one of Game of Thrones’ most despicable, and undeniable villains, with just five words: “The Lannisters send their regards.” That he murdered Robb Stark and played accessory to the death of Robb’s wife and mother was bad enough. The fact that he betrayed the Starks, simply because he saw a better chance standing with the Freys and Lannisters, made him truly odious.

Bolton went on to take Winterfell, which made his betrayal of the Starks seem even more terrible. Perhaps the only thing you can say for Roose Bolton is that at least he wasn’t as unhinged as some of the other members of his family.

6. The White Walkers

A White Walker stands with his arms raised in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
The White Walkers | HBO

They’re the first Game of Thrones villains TV fans ever met. And unlike some of the other series baddies, they’ve managed to command a decent amount of power while staying mostly on the periphery. They’re thought to be nothing more than legends by much of the Realm, but those that have had the unfortunate luck to encounter them know they’re very real, and very dangerous.

Though we’ve learned, bit by bit, how the White Walkers came to be, there’s still quite a lot we don’t know about them. But after what they did in “Hardhome” and what they did to Hodor, we know that they’re capable of inflicting some serious damage.

5. Littlefinger

Baelish stands outside in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
Aidan Gillen as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish | HBO

What makes Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, such an astute villain is that there are several major characters that still haven’t figured out that he is one. In his six seasons on the show, he’s shown a masterful ability to use and manipulate those around him to get what he wants. And he’s also managed to remain relatively unscathed in the process. At first, it seemed as though he wasn’t quite as dastardly, perhaps, as some of his King’s Landing compatriots. But we’ve seen, on more than one occasion, that he’ll stop at nothing to retain any scrap of power he can amass.

Those that have crossed him, like Ros, may not have died directly by his hand, but make no mistake, he has plenty of blood on his hands, nonetheless.

4. Tywin Lannister

Tywin Lannister looks somber in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister | HBO

Tywin Lannister was a rare Game of Thrones villain. On one hand, he had a brilliant knack for the subtle art of political manipulation. On the other, he was a skilled strategic thinker when it came to the art of war. Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion’s father was great at what he did. He was also a terrible human being.

His disdain for basically everyone that wasn’t him, including his own children and grandson, was clear in nearly every interaction he had. His willingness to cut down anyone who got in his way was merciless. Tywin didn’t just like to beat his adversaries, he enjoyed watching them hurt. That quality alone made him a force to be reckoned with until his very last moments.

3. Joffrey Baratheon

Joffrey stands, smirking, as he wears his crown, in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon | HBO

Joffrey Baratheon wasn’t just a villain. He was a menacing sociopath of the highest order, one who took glee in others’ suffering. He humiliated anyone and everyone he could, from court jesters to his own traumatized fiancee, just for his own enjoyment. He ordered the murder of innocents, and then watched happily as they died. He used young women for target practice.

What made Joffrey especially frightening was the fact that he was so young. And indeed, the only thing that kept him from expanding his long list of horrific offenses was the fact that his life was cut so short.

2. Ramsay Bolton

Ramsay Bolton stands and looks at something off-screen in a scene from 'Game of Thrones.'
Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton | HBO

If Joffrey Baratheon was frightening, then Ramsay Bolton was downright terrifying. From the moment he first revealed himself to have kidnapped, rather than rescued, poor Theon Greyjoy, it was clear that the young man was a little unstable. The torture he subjected his prisoner to, though, went beyond traditional villainy. The terrible way he murdered Rickon, as a way to push Jon Snow to his limit, was dastardly. Those actions, and everything else he did, paled in comparison to the unforgivable violence he inflicted on Sansa Stark.

Ramsay Bolton wasn’t just a villain. He was, perhaps, the clearest example that Game of Thrones has ever offered up of what pure evil might look like.

1. Cersei Lannister

Cersei Lanniser wears a grown as she sits on the Iron Throne in a scene from the 'Game of Thrones' Season 6 finale.
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister | HBO

There is a tragic quality to Cersei Lannister that’s almost impossible to ignore. From her twisted relationship with her brother to the way she’s lost nearly everyone she ever really cared about, proves she certainly hasn’t had an easy life, despite her cushy digs in King’s Landing. But the low points of her life have turned her into someone who will stop at literally nothing to keep herself on top.

Cersei is smart enough to know how to maneuver herself out of nearly every difficult situation. But she’s also bold enough to not care that her adversaries know she’s not truly on their side. When she is wronged, she strikes back relentlessly. And the fact that she has lost her children and, in some ways, her sense of self, means that she has little left to lose. And in that way, she has become the most fascinating villain in the series’ history — and maybe the most dangerous, too.

Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox

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