However audiences might feel about the last season of Game of Thrones, one thing is for sure, and that’s that the show had great female characters during its run. Although some didn’t get the arc they deserved, and some were killed off before the show was halfway done, fans still remember them fondly.
Game of Thrones‘ women vary in strength and personality; thus, it’s difficult to rate them just on likability, as many of the most despicable characters are the most well-written. For the characters of Game of Thrones, it’s not just about how likable someone is, but how deep they are too.
Updated on April 16, 2023, by David Caballero:
HBO announced another Game of Thrones spin-off coming to the small screen, cementing the show among the new millennium’s most important TB efforts. A large reason for the show’s success was its large cast of memorable and three-dimensional female characters, active players in the story that made it far more complex and engaging. And while all were noteworthy, some were far more nuanced and compelling.
Shae is one of Game of Thrones‘ most divisive characters. She spends most of the early seasons as Tyrion’s lover, becoming increasingly distrustful of him, especially after he is forced to marry Sansa. Shae eventually betrays Tyrion and dies by his hand, which leaves him jaded and slightly traumatized.
Played by Sibel Kekili, Shae is among the more complicated women of Game of Thrones who proves herself incapable of playing the game. She followed her heart but didn’t know who to trust and put her faith in the wrong people. In the end, Shae was another victim of those in power using the smallfolk as pawns in their larger game.
Jon Snow’s first love is a strong warrior as well as a true friend and comrade. Ygritte’s carefree personality makes for a fun character, but she is also fiercely loyal when the time comes. A Wildling, Ygritte is not bound to societal expectations of women and is much more open-minded about everything, a trait that would influence Jon Snow’s growth and character development.
Alas, Ygritte’s loyalty to the Wildlings’ cause would be her undoing. Still, her spirited personality makes her an indelible part of the Thrones canon, especially in a world where few women were allowed the chance to fight and die for their beliefs.
13 Yara Greyjoy
Gemma Whelan played the fierce Yara Greyjoy from season two onwards. Yara is Balon Greyjoy’s oldest daughter and Theon’s older sister, who tries her best to rescue her brother from the many dangers his stupid mistakes get him into.
Yara is an interesting character, differing considerably from her GoT book counterpart; however, her storyline never takes off. She spends most of her time serving as a driving force in Theon’s journey, although Whelan’s committed and fiery performance goes a long way in elevating the character, turning it into a fan favorite.
Whatever Game of Thrones has to say about wealth, power, and prestige, one thing is for certain; most of the main characters come from royal families, giving them a huge advantage over the rest of Westeros. However, Ros isn’t one of those characters.
Played by the underrated Esmé Bianco, Ros starts as a Northern prostitute and ends as a player. Her intelligence and ability to read people allowed her to move up Littlefinger’s ranks until he gave her to Joffrey as punishment for her betrayal. Fans are still disappointed about Ros’ ending, as she could have been a great character if she had lived a couple more seasons.
The Wildling woman turned epic babysitter had a smaller role in the novels, but fans are happy she blossomed in the show. The ever-underrated Natalia Tena plays Osha in the show, taking what could’ve been a forgettable character and turning it into one of the show’s most compelling and unsung figures.
Osha is Bran and Rickon’s protector throughout the show’s first three seasons, playing a key role in their escape from Winterfell and eventual survival. Tena imbues Osha with strength and purpose, making her relatable and admirable despite her many hardships.
Daenerys’ formerly enslaved handmaiden is a favorite among GoT fans. Missandei of Naath is loyal and dependable, fiercely committed to Daenerys’ cause and always willing to sacrifice her life for her queen. However, what really sets her apart is her gentle nature and overall kindness towards others, rare traits in the unforgiving world of Game of Thrones.
Missandei is among the biggest victims of Game of Thrones‘s quality decline, losing all her agency and becoming another pawn in the writers’ game. However, the show’s early seasons reveal a capable and wise character who was key in Daenerys’ rise to power.
9 Catelyn Stark
Despite her flaws, the Stark matriarch is one of the best characters in the series. A mother of five, Catelyn is driven largely by her love for her family, but her horrible treatment of Jon Snow shows that she cannot conjure up a sense of love for a child that isn’t her own.
Catelyn is also overly emotional, especially regarding her children. She makes several key mistakes that show a remarkable short-sightedness that rivals Cersei’s. Cat’s complexities and contradictions make her a more appealing character, especially because her love for her children drives all her actions.
Melisandre stands out from nearly everyone else in the series because she is driven largely by her faith, a rare trait in Westeros. Although everyone claims to be pious, very few are true to their word. Melisandre is a messenger and a servant, living only to serve the Lord of Light.
Not exactly a bigot but very obviously a fanatic, Melisandre is among the show’s most eerie and mysterious characters. She crosses many lines and remains a crucial player throughout the story, serving as both a considerable secondary villain and an ally and becoming one of Game of Thrones‘ most interesting characters.
7 Brienne of Tarth
Among the most beloved female Game of Thrones characters, Brienne found out from a young age that men would only marry her for her titles and land, so she opted to be a knight instead. Although angered by Renly’s death, Brienne is not driven by revenge like many other characters in the show but rather by honor and duty.
Gwendolyn Christie delivers a star-making performance as Brienne, turning the valorous knight into a deeply compelling and inspiring hero that audiences could easily root for. Her story with Jamie Lannister ranks as one of the best in the show, and while she is another victim of season eight’s questionable choices, she emerges largely unscathed, thanks to Christie’s unforgettable performance.
6 Arya Stark
From the very beginning, Arya was one of the most important characters in the show and the among the most interesting Game of Thrones girls. Maisie Williams portrays the character beautifully from the first season to the last, transforming Arya from a fierce little girl to a hardened warrior and assassin.
Arya ends up the show’s ultimate hero, killing the Night King and ending the Long Night. Her character arguably suffers the most drastic transformation, but her journey always feels natural, inevitable even. And even if Williams wanted more from her Game of Thrones ending, fans applauded her character’s conclusion, sailing beyond Westeros as staying true to her lone-wolf persona.
5 Olenna Tyrell
Olenna Tyrell, played by the mighty Dame Diana Rigg, is sassy and extremely intelligent – the Game of Thrones female cast wouldn’t be complete without her. She is plotting to get Margaery on the throne from the moment the Tyrells enter the picture, but she also loves her grandchildren deeply and wants them to be protected.
As one of the game’s key players, Olenna remained a fascinating and formidable character in the show, orchestrating several crucial events, including Joffrey Baratheon’s death. Cunning and clever, Olenna was among Westeros’ most important figures; ultimately, she died on her own terms, adding yet another layer to her already badass personality.
4 Margaery Tyrell
Natalie Dormer delivered a brilliant performance as Margaery Tyrell, perhaps the most underrated player in the game. Beautiful but cunning, charming, and brilliant, Margaery uses her beauty, wit, and intelligence to achieve her goals. She has the remarkable and unique ability to flip the tables in any bad situation, allying with the Lannisters after Renly’s death and even earning the Sparrows’ favor after Cersei puts them in power.
Margaery is almost infallible and could’ve become a worthy queen who helped the poor while ensuring the noble families stayed in power. She is everything a great player should be: clever, adaptable, strategic, and careful. She was never a step ahead of her competition but always knew how to react to their schemes, which is equally impressive.
3 Sansa Stark
Sophie Turner‘s Sansa starts the show as an extremely naive little girl and pays dearly for it. Forced to watch her father’s execution, she gets taken hostage and abused by a sadistic young boy for three seasons, then taken to her unbalanced and jealous aunt, then taken back to Winterfell and held captive once again by the most sadistic character in the series.
Sansa stands out from the rest of the characters because she has no drive for the first half of the series, living in complete turmoil from her father’s execution until meeting with Jon Snow. However, Sana matures and learns, eventually becoming one of the most badass women in fantasy. She falls and makes numerous mistakes but becomes wiser because of them, ascending to her rightful place as Queen of the North.
2 Cersei Lannister
Perhaps the most despicable character on the show, Cersei is a layered and terrific character, brought to life via a bravura performance by Lena Headey. Victim and perpetrator alike, Cersei spends her life trapped in a gilded cage and longing for enough power to make her own rules.
Cersei ranks among the best television villains of the past decade. Driven, selfish, extremely short-sighted, mercurial, and dangerous, the lioness of the Rock is a fierce enemy who nearly brings Westeros down to its knees. In many ways, she is a tragic character, desperate to prove herself but hindered by her ambition and selfishness. Therein lies her appeal; Cersei is a walking contradiction, too wilful to bend, too stubborn to lead, and far too iconic to forget.
1 Daenerys Targaryen
From the get-go, Daenerys is portrayed as Game of Thrones‘ savior. The last Targaryen in any position to reclaim the Iron Throne, Dany is a hero to some and a danger to others. Dany is not a queen but a conqueror, willing to set entire cities aflame if it means achieving her goals.
Emilia Clarke‘s stellar performance elevated the early seasons’ already strong writing, turning Daenerys into a compelling and inspiring heroine that stood among television’s most fascinating characters. And while the inexcusable Game of Thrones finale tarnished her legacy, Daenerys remains Thrones‘ most impressive figure and an icon of modern television.
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