Though there were always big battle sequences and shocking twists to grab viewers’ attention, Game of Thrones worked best when it was focused on its great characters. The show did a terrific job of playing with the audience’s expectations when it came to many of the key players and took them on compelling journeys throughout the series.
With all the big moments and challenges these characters faced, it was interesting to see how some of them would change over time. Villains could find redemption, cowards became heroes, and heroes became more complicated. Throughout the many character arcs, Ranker has highlighted the ones voted the best in the series.
Few fans would have predicted Samwell Tarly would survive the whole series when introduced in season 1 of Game of Thrones. As a new member of the Night’s Watch, he was a self-described coward and a poor fighter as well.
However, as Sam’s journey continued, he proved there was more to courage than what is shown on the battlefield. Sam proved himself a loyal friend to Jon, a protector to Gilly and her baby, and one of the smartest characters in the series. By the end, he had found his place of importance after thinking he was worthless for so long.
Tormund Giantsbane doesn’t particularly stand out when introduced on Game of Thrones aside from being an especially wild Wildling. He takes a liking to Jon Snow but doesn’t let that stand in the way of his mission against the Night’s Watch.
After Jon proves himself as someone who cares about the Wildlings, Tormund gradually becomes a loyal follower of him as well as one of Jon’s best friends. But most entertainingly, the Wildling badass also grows into the funniest character in the show, especially with his hilarious and oddly charming crush on Brienne.
Though Game of Thrones is a huge ensemble, over time, Jon Snow seemed to emerge as the story’s main character. Growing up as the overlooked bastard of the Stark family, Jon found his place in the Night’s Watch, eventually becoming its leader.
Most compelling of all, it was revealed he was not Ned Stark’s bastard, but the true heir to the Iron Throne. Jon would likely have had the best arc in the series if not for his strangely inactive final season, but having this man of honor pushed to murdering Daenerys to save the day was an interesting end for the character.
Davos Seaworth already had an interesting arc before he appeared on the show as he was a smuggler who saved Stannis Baratheon’s castle, thus being named head of his own house. Davos continued to rise to a prominent position as Hand of the King to Stannis, even if he didn’t always agree with Stannis’s actions.
The show followed his charming connection to Shireen Baratheon, his heartbreak over her death, and becoming Jon Snow’s closest advisor. By the end of the series, Davos had risen from a lowly smuggler to having a seat on the king’s council, all while remaining a good man.
6Brienne Of Tarth
Brienne of Tarth was one of those few characters on the show who was always easy to root for. She was immediately likable as a powerful warrior who was always dismissed because she was a woman. Yet in a world filled with dishonorable people, Brienne continued her relentless path of doing what is right.
Her relationship with Jaime Lannister did not end the way many fans had wanted, but that was not the defining aspect of her character. Seeing her fulfill her dream of becoming a knight and serving on the Kingsguard was inspiring.
In the first season of the show, Sansa Stark was the least likable member of House Stark. She was a foolish young girl who thought the world was like the love songs she heard and dreamed of marrying Joffrey.
Seeing Sansa learn the truth about the world and have that innocence broken was often devastating to watch. Yet she also gradually became a stronger person and began to understand the political world. After being the little girl who wanted nothing more than to leave Winterfell, it was perfect to see her named Queen of the North and become perhaps Westeros’s strongest leader.
Theon was little more than a side character in the first season of the show but had a prominent role in season 2 as it explored his struggle between being a Stark or a Greyjoy. He quickly became the most hated character on the show after betraying Robb and taking Winterfell.
But Theon gained sympathy back after his relentless torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. He then began his path to redemption by saving Sansa and joining his sister Yara. Though he continued to struggle with his dark past, Theon’s arc ended with Bran forgiving him as Theon died protecting him.
Sandor Clegane aka The Hound was not only a hateful character in the beginning but also one who didn’t seem to have a lot of depth to him. He was an angry man who served mostly as a henchman for Joffrey.
The Hound first earned fan approval when he finally told off Joffrey and quit. But his real turnaround came when he meets up with Arya. Though it started as a kidnapping, The Hound developed a bond with Arya and looked out for her. He even spared her from going down the same vengeful path that led him to die while fighting his brother.
Almost immediately, Tyrion Lannister emerged as the fan-favorite character on Game of Thrones. And while he was a funny and intelligent character, it was also clear his story had the potential of being the most compelling.
Being an outcast his entire life, Tyrion was always looking to prove himself and gain the respect he knew he deserved. But facing more injustices at the hands of his own family, he turned to serving Daenerys. Though Tyrion’s decisions in the final few seasons were frustrating, seeing him end up back as Hand of the King, trying to make up for his mistakes, was a fitting end.
Arya Stark was another character who captured the hearts of fans very quickly. She was introduced as a little girl who was not interested in going down the path the world thought she should. Seeing her follow her desire to become a warrior was a thrilling journey to go on.
As Arya learned more from each new teacher and grew more fearless, she delivered some of the most crowd-pleasing moments in the series. And when it was all over and she set sail into the unknown, Arya was the character fans most wanted to follow.