Amid the violence, sex, and political scheming that made Game of Thrones such a quintessential hit series of modern television, one thing about the show that always stood out was its innate ability to conjure up consistently brilliant dialogue. From ominous forewarnings of foul things to come, to well-articulated gems of philosophical wisdom, and even witty and barbed insults which put contemptuous cretins back in their place, these stand as the best Game of Thrones quotes, representing the writing of the show at its very best.
A great many of these lines have even become iconic in their own right, embedded in television history and even being entered into the standard lexicon of Game of Thrones fans everywhere. Truly unforgettable and often repeated, these Game of Thrones lines are synonymous with the show itself, perfectly representing its main themes while cleverly and efficiently embodying the mindsets of the characters who spoke them.
Game Of Thrones
- Release Date
- April 17, 2011
- David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
12 “Power is power.”
Cersei Lannister – Season 2, Episode 1 (2012)
Much of the intrigue that Game of Thrones offered in abundance revolved around notions of power and how each character sought to exploit situations to their advantage. Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) was one of the best in this regard, but even he wasn’t immune to being bested, as was evidenced in the season two premiere, “The North Remembers.” when he was felled by the powerful Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
With Littlefinger and Cersei trading barbs about one another’s personal lives, Baelish takes aim at Cersei’s rumored romance with her brother, telling her how such ideas can be manipulated while expressing “knowledge is power.” Cersei’s response entails her ordering her guards to seize Baelish and cut his throat before she changes her minds, demanding her men to step back and close their eyes before coldly assuring Baelish that “power is power,” no matter what anyone may think to the contrary. – Ryan Heffernan
11 “The Lannisters send their regards.”
Roose Bolton – Season 3, Episode 9 (2013)
While Game of Thrones featured plenty of quotes that were more cutting in their engagement with the show’s core theme of power, few had the impact to match Roose Bolton’s (Michael McElhatton) treacherous jab. It was the defining quote of the Red Wedding, which remains one of the best episodes to come from Game of Thrones.
While the ceremony was meant to represent a pivotal strategic victory for Robb Stark (Richard Madden) in his war against the Lannisters, it was all undone when it was revealed Walder Frey (David Bradley) had shifted his allegiance. Amid the violence and chaos around him, as he watched his family and his men being slaughtered, Robb Stark was eventually confronted by Bolton whose delivery of “the Lannisters send their regards” was as harrowing as it was instantly iconic. – Ryan Heffernan
10 “Not today.”
Syrio Forel and Arya Stark – Season 1, Episode 6 (2011)
While Game of Thrones was loaded with excellent one-liners, there was no more famous question from the series than that posed by Arya Stark’s (Maisie Williams) swordmaster, Syrio Forel (Miltos Yerolemou), “What do we say to the God of Death?” to which the answer was always a resounding “Not today.” Arya keeps this lesson with her throughout her vast journey, with its defiance emblematic of her will to survive and avenge her family.
It was far from the only lesson that the First Sword of Bravos taught Arya in their brief time together, but it did serve as an adequate symbol of the brand of real-world pragmatism that he emphasized, with the quote effective in its ability to perfectly summarize Arya’s ascent from hard-edged child to master assassin. It also made a meaningful return during the Long Night when Melisandre (Carice van Houten) speaks it to remind Arya of her killing instincts.
9 “Any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king.”
Tywin Lannister – Season 3, Episode 10 (2013)
Stoic, intimidating, domineering, and fiercely intelligent, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) was one of the most commanding and cunning characters to appear in Game of Thrones. While his callous nature and his affiliation with the Lannisters made him easy to brand as a villain, he always boasted a certain wisdom that made him one of the show’s most compelling characters, one whose presence always bore a weight that even kings were incapable of rising above.
With Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) feeling aggrieved as the council which serve him fail to appease him, the young ruler, in the midst of a trademark tantrum and power lust, announces to his advisors that he is the king. In one of his greatest moments in the series, Tywin assures Joffrey that those who truly possess power have no need to proclaim it aloud. As Joffrey tries to argue, Tywin dispatches him to his room in what is one of the most satisfying moments of the series.
8 “Yes, all men must die. But we are not men.”
Daenerys Targaryan – Season 3, Episode 3 (2013)
“Valar morghulis,” which, in High Valyrian, translates to “All men must die,” could easily have featured on this list as one of the most renowned and repeated sayings from the series, particularly in Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) plot line as it is a common idiom in Essos. When Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) says the line to the Mother of Dragons in the third episode of season three, “Walk of Punishment”, Daenerys retorts with her own twist on the prophetic saying.
Although “valar morghulis” isn’t meant to be taken literally, Daenerys uses it as an analogy for how she, and those allied to her, aren’t ordinary people. It’s a confident and powerful statement that makes Missandei’s belief in Dany increase and confirms her as one of the show’s strongest figures.
7 “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not.”
Tyrion Lannister – Season 1, Episode 1 (2011)
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is one of television’s most likable characters. He has some of the story’s best quotes, thanks to his wit and hard-earned wisdom, although most appear during the earlier seasons. When Tyrion first meets Jon (Kit Harrington), he calls him “bastard,” making Jon uncomfortable. However, Tyrion insists he shouldn’t deny what he is; instead, he should use it as armor, so the world can’t use Jon’s weaknesses against him.
The quote is compelling and instantly iconic; and saw many viewers relate to, and even find empowerment in, the idea of using one’s vulnerabilities in such a manner. Tyrion is one of the most unfairly mistreated figures in the show, meaning he offers the best advice to those in a similar position. This quote is the perfect example, with Tyrion sympathizing with a fellow outcast, sharing his wisdom and leaving a lasting impression on Jon and an immediate impression on the audience.
6 “Power resides where men believe it resides.”
Lord Varys – Season 2, Episode 3 (2012)
Out of all the players in Game of Thrones, Varys (Conleth Hill) was the most elusive and interesting. The Spider, as he was sometimes known, was behind many of the show’s most important events, scheming from the shadows as he navigated and influenced the deadly and ever-shifting political landscape of Westeros. His greatest strength came from his understanding of the game’s true nature, something he explained to Tyrion in the season two episode “What is Dead May Never Die.”
Equating power to a shadow on a wall, Varys’ sentiment that the illusion of power often holds more sway than power itself was an enthralling notion that perfectly described the central theme of Game of Thrones. Varys is the only one who understands that power, like everything else in Westeros, is ever-changing and mercurial, going from hand to hand without caring about loyalties, legacies, or divine rights.
5 “A man needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”
Tyrion Lannister – Season 1, Episode 2 (2011)
Another nugget of wisdom from Tyrion’s interactions with Jon Snow in the show’s first season, “A man needs books like a sword needs a whetstone”, was an adept display and defense of his cunning intellect. When questioned by Jon as to why he spends so much time reading books, Tyrion’s response emphasized his razor-sharp wit, but also exemplified his greatest asset in surviving Westeros; the great value he placed on knowledge.
Where many other characters would rely on their might or physical prowess, their magical abilities, or their scheming to thrive, Tyrion seemed to be one of the few who read prolifically as a means to better prepare himself to face whatever threats waited for him in the world. The bookworm would prevail as one of the sharpest and most knowledgeable minds in Westeros who fell back on his father’s wisdom (from the books) which stated “Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.”
4 “Chaos is not a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”
Petyr Baelish – Season 3, Episode 6 (2013)
A nefarious fan-favorite on account of his devious scheming and his ruthless cunning, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish was the cause of most of Westeros’ problems, sowing the seeds of the Lannister-Stark animosity that would become the War of the Five Kings. In the season three episode “The Climb”, Baelish’s philosophy is made clear with his famous quote “Chaos is not a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”
With the onset of war plunging Westeros’ most powerful and secure rulers into a slippery landscape of peril and treason, Littlefinger sees the tumultuous times as an opportunity to ascend higher up the chain of command, clasping on to more power and wealth the higher he rises. While his antagonistic, warmongering mantra would eventually be his undoing, it did see him become one of the most influential figures in Westeros and established him as one of the show’s sharpest and most adaptable characters.
3 “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”
Daenerys Targaryen – Season 5, Episode 8 (2015)
Season five of Game of Thrones saw an exciting new partnership arise as Daenerys Targaryen accepted the council of Tyrion Lannister as she truly began to set her sights on Westeros. The season’s eighth episode, “Hardhome”, was the point where the allegiance was solidified, with Tyrion explaining that Dany’s conquest for the Iron Throne will require the support of at least one of Westeros’ noble houses to be successful, an idea she rebuffs with an analogy that each of the houses are spokes on a turning wheel of power.
Voicing her intent to break the metaphorical wheel makes for one of the Daenerys’ defining moments, re-enforcing the idea that she is Westeros’ destined savior who will bring change, peace, and prosperity to the Seven Kingdoms. Her quote helped win Tyrion over to her cause and re-affirmed to audiences that she was the show’s looming hero. Even though the metaphor didn’t ring true (as the terrible TV series finale proves), it still serves as a powerful explanation of her campaign and of the series’ dogma.
2 “Winter is coming.”
Eddard Stark – Season 1, Episode 1 (2011)
Not only a famous phrase from the series, but one of the most significant sayings in the context of modern television history, “Winter is coming” serves as the title of the pilot episode and the words of warning that House Stark displays on its banner. The debut episode saw Ned use the prophetic adage to galvanize those loyal to his house in preparation of the tough times he saw nearing.
As the series went on, it came not just to serve as a warning of the long, lean Winter which was on the horizon, but also of the threat to all life it would bring with the return of the White Walkers putting the lives of everyone in Westeros in danger. Like most of Thrones‘ promises, “Winter is coming” didn’t quite live up to its potential. However, the words remain iconic within the show’s context, representing House Stark and portraying the White Walkers in a vague yet ominous way.
1 “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Cersei Lannister – Season 1, Episode 7 (2011)
It is a testament to the brilliance of Lena Headey’s performance that, in a series that featured a horde of the undead descending upon all humanity, her portrayal of Cersei Lannister was heralded as being Game of Thrones’ best villain. While many fans loathed Cersei, no one could deny that her mastery of navigating Kings Landing’s political minefield was unmatched, with her ruthless mentality and utter conviction laid bare in the show’s first season.
While confronting Eddard Stark about how he wishes to proceed in the wake of King Robert’s (Mark Addy) death, Cersei casts a vicious warning – disguised as advice – at her newfound enemy who would delay Joffrey’s ascent to the throne. The quote is undeniably the greatest depiction of the nature of the game that was ever said in the show, adequately touching on the brutality, relentlessness, and treachery required to hold any semblance of power in Game of Thrones.
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