Warning: What follows features Game of Thrones spoilers for seasons one through to eight.
Game of Thrones is a television show which has become a pop cultural phenomenon during its eight-year run. It excels in many aspects but one of the features that I find the most impressive is the musical score. Composed by Ramin Djawadi, the score encapsulates everything within the epic fantasy perfectly. With the final season underway, I thought it would be a good time to have a look back through the years of wonderful music and make a list of the top twenty best tracks from Game of Thrones. Due to the huge array of music that Djawadi has provided, I have no doubt that there will be tracks that I have left out so let me know if you have a favourite piece that I haven’t mentioned here. Please note that this list will only be based on the instrumental musical score. I won’t be including songs with lyrics so you won’t find “The Rains of Castamere” (version with lyrics) or “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” on this list.
20. You Know Nothing- Season Three
One of Djawadi’s talents is being able to not only capture the feel of a whole house with a piece of music, but also being able to capture every single character with small but effective melodies to represent them. “You Know Nothing” is a theme for Ygritte, the wilding firecracker who captures the heart of Jon Snow in season three. Ygritte is a strong and sometimes vicious character who is willing to kill and pillage to survive beyond the Wall. Her strength is clear within the theme but there is also a sense of softness to it. The music starts off with a quiet and growing strength, similar to Ygritte as a character. Her silence and resolve in the show as she awaits execution from Jon Snow, only to be spared, shows her inner strength and is reflected by the deep cello mixed with the lighter strings. There is also a hint of the Stark theme within her music, linking her closely to Jon. Whilst it could be considered a theme for both Jon and Ygritte, I think it represents Ygritte more so. It is a great theme for a great character.
19- Chaos is A Ladder- Season Three
This particular piece of music could be interpreted as a character theme. That character is Petyr Baelish, otherwise known as the conniving Littlefinger. The music comes at a scene between Littlefinger and Varys, where Littlefinger describes how he goes about playing the great game of manipulation within Kings Landing. He considers chaos as a ladder where those who can play along will climb and those who cannot fall. The music starts off slowly and somewhat creepily, building and becoming stronger but in a subtle manner. In the show, we see Sansa in tears as Littlefinger’s ship sails away from Kings Landing as the music plays. This moment is accompanied by Baelish stating, “Some are given a chance to climb but they refuse, they cling to the realm or the Gods or love.” Littlefinger had given Sansa a chance to escape but she turned it down with the hope that she could marry Loras Tyrell and thus allow her to be taken away from Lannister rule. The scene comes after Sansa finds out that she is to marry Tyrion, further strengthening the hold the Lannisters have on her. The sinister theme has gotten much stronger at this point. This gradual increase emphasises Littlefinger’s ideals that those who climb will win and those who choose dreams, like Sansa, will fail. Without such perfect corresponding music for this scene, the impact would not have been anywhere near as strong. Djawadi succeeds in creating a piece of music that sounds just as scheming and deceitful as Littlefinger himself. His character and values are represented well by the music, as are the repercussions for those who do not play the game.
18. The North Remembers- Season 4
The Starks are a tragic family from the Game of Thrones universe. Their dedication to honour and loyalty ultimately resulted in the devastation of their family. The northern kingdom in Westeros is full of stubborn but fiercely loyal people who considered the Starks the protectors of the north. Their decline was a blow to the north but they were quick to name Robb (and then Jon after Robb’s death) as the King in the North. The music is also a testament to the honorable nature of the northern people, hence the title, as well as the Starks themselves. Only a few Starks remain, but this particular theme is always a reminder of the family that they once were. The music in “The North Remembers” is played in a certain scene between Catelyn and Robb’s fiancée Talisa but it has acted as a recurrent theme for several of the Stark family throughout, including the aforementioned Catelyn, Jon Snow and Sansa. The somber strings that permeate the piece are a reminder of what has been lost and how the remaining Stark children have been changed by what they have been through. It binds them all underneath one musical theme, uniting them as one no matter how far away from one another they were. With the last remaining Starks (Arya, Sansa, Bran, and Jon) now back together in Winterfell in the eighth season, the theme is sure to make another appearance.
17. The Kings Arrival- Season One
It seems like a lifetime ago that we were introduced to the world of Westeros on the screen after the success of George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Ramin Djawadi’s score manages to bring the audience into the fantasy world immediately. “The King’s Arrival”, which also acts as the House Baratheon theme, is a self-explanatory piece which plays when King Robert arrives at Winterfell with the Lannisters in tow. The tune begins energetically but softly and simply. It is reminiscent of something you would hear at a medieval festival. There is a sense of optimism and joy for the special visit from Westeros royalty. In the accompanying scene, we see the younger Stark children gathering excitedly in preparation. The music soon becomes more grandiose with full orchestral backing, further emphasizing the importance of the royal family. There is a sense of significance within the music when the simple tune becomes more extravagant and this significance relates to the scene also. This is the first time that we see the entire Stark family together and, sadly, also the last time. There is poignancy in the meeting between King Robert and Ned Stark and their respective families, due to the oncoming conflict and the characters that we will lose along the way. The music succeeds in setting up the basis of a fantasy show, but also suggests that the moment is of great importance by turning up the power of the music. Part of the theme was used in the first episode of season eight, when Daenerys and Jon Snow return to Winterfell as the remaining Starks wait to greet them. The music has come full circle, just as the show has.
16. The Tower- Season Six
One of the biggest theories from fans about Jon Snow’s parentage was confirmed in an emotional scene from season six and with it came a stellar score. Jon was confirmed to not actually be the son of Ned Stark but instead his nephew. Jon’s parents were long speculated to be Rhaegar Targaryen, brother of Daenerys, and Lyanna Stark, sister of Ned Stark and it was finally revealed that this was indeed the truth. When Bran has a vision of the past, he sees a young Ned with his sister Lyanna in the Tower of Joy. He realizes that she is dying from childbirth. Her final wish is for Ned to promise that she will keep the identity of her son safe and it is then that we realize that not only is Jon half Targaryen and half Stark, but also the true heir to the Iron Throne. The music perfectly reflects the build-up to this revelation as well as the sorrow between the Stark siblings saying their last goodbyes. It starts off gently and solemnly as we see Ned attempt to help his dying sister as Bran watches helplessly, unaware of the true nature of his family history until now. The music intensifies once Ned realizes that Lyanna has had her baby and she whispers to him, begging that he protect her son. We get a close up of the baby’s face, then the transition from a baby to a fully grown Jon. The main Stark theme rings out with the realization that Jon is far more important to this world then he knows. “The Tower” is a beautiful, sad piece that ultimately progresses into something more robust, in correlation with the sad scene progressing to something more shocking and powerful.
15. Dragonstone- Season Seven
Season Seven was one that had a rather monumental opening. Daenerys’s storyline has had several twists and turns along the way but there was always one constant throughout: she was going to go home and take her place as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. The contender for Iron Throne is still up in the air for the meantime (what with the ice zombie invasion and all that) but in this opening scene, Daenerys is finally able to fulfil her desire of returning to Westeros where her family had once ruled. We see Daenerys and her crew arrive on the shores of Dragonstone. Dany presses her hand to the sand as she looks up at the castle where her ancestors ruled and where she herself was born. She has been waiting for this moment and is now certain of her victory. It was a difficult and sometimes painful journey but she has finally made it with an army and loyal subjects in tow, including Tyrion Lannister. Djawadi’s accompanying score to this is incredibly fitting. He combines several elements of the main Targaryen theme that had been used throughout the show. The score is intense and fiery, as is expected with the theme that follows Daenerys and her dragons, but also becomes quieter at the more personal at times. This reflects Dany’s inner thoughts and feelings, everything has led to this and her presence in Westeros will change the world. “Dragonstone” not only reflects Daenerys as a person, but also her journey and how she has developed as a person since we first saw her in season one. The intensity mixed with subtle softness reflects Daenerys’s arc throughout the show and fits with her seamlessly.
14. Winter is Here- Season Seven
An eerie interpretation of the shows main theme, “Winter is Here” is played in the last episode of season seven. The music is almost entirely on the piano, increasing the peaceful yet foreboding nature of it. It plays when we see Jaime Lannister choosing to leave Kings Landing and Cersei in favour of going north to support the fight against the Night King and his army of white walkers. We see snow start to gently fall in the capital, not only showing that winter has well and truly arrived but also suggesting the imminent danger from the Night King. As the final episode of season seven, wherein the white walkers finally break down the Wall and make their advance on Westeros, it is fitting that this piece is named as it is. The very first episode of the show was called “Winter is Coming” and although this episode itself is called “The Dragon and the Wolf”, the song title makes the whole scene feel like we have come full circle from the first episode to now. As well as feeling like an allusion to the huge battle between the living and the dead that is looming, this is also a significant character moment for Jaime. The song begins as the first snowflake falls onto his golden hand and he realises that he cannot stay. Throughout the show, every decision Jaime makes usually brings him back to his sister and one true love, Cersei. Despite all of her wrongdoings and the death of their three children, he has stayed by her side and been fiercely loyal to her. When away from her though, he shows a kindness and understanding that she simply does not. This along with his loyalty and dedication to those he cares about proves that he is not an entirely bad man (though admittedly he is an incestuous one!). He has had one of the most interesting character arcs in the whole show. His reputation as a backstabbing Kingslayer, followed by him pushing Bran, a child, from a window and paralysing him in order to keep his relationship with Cersei secret, then to his losing a hand. He had some redemption when he confessed to Brienne of Tarth that he only murdered the Targaryen king to protect the people of Kings Landing, forsaking his honourable reputation to save the city and its inhabitants. He is morally ambiguous but I can’t bring myself to hate him. His character development has all led up to this: he has finally realised what Cersei is and despite his love for her, he has chosen to protect the ordinary people as he did when he stabbed the Mad King in the back. The music continues as he sets off on horseback to continue his redemption story. We see him arriving at Winterfell in episode one of season eight, only to be greeted by the one person he probably never wanted to have to see again: Bran. Jaime’s horrified face as he sees him in his wheelchair suggests that the guilt he feels is still fresh in his mind. He isn’t entirely apathetic to his crimes like his sister. “Winter is Here” is a musical theme that not only signals a change for the Seven Kingdoms, but also a change for a character who has a lot to atone for. By keeping the music familiar but including some eerie and foreboding changes, Djawadi is able to accurately convey the uncertain fate of both Kings Landing and Jaime Lannister.
13. Reign- Season Six
“Reign” is another pivotal moment for our Targaryen princess as she finally conquers Meereen. The Second Siege of Meereen is the last battle in Daenerys’s quest to liberate slavers bay. The remaining masters fight back against Daenerys in a last attempt to restore slavery in the city. Daenerys yet again proves that she is a force to be reckoned and the “Reign” score reflects this. With her three dragons now fully grown, Dany is able to show the forces of Meereen what she is truly capable of. She climbs upon her dragon Drogon and, along with Rhaegal and Viserion, they burn the slavers ships to the ground and decimate the slavers. There is immediately a deep and menacing tone to the track before the main Targaryen riff kicks in. As cliché as it sounds, the piece is so fitting that you can almost imagine yourself riding a dragon into battle as the strong string section and bellowing chorus kick in. The music ties in well with the epic battle moment but also reflects the destructive nature that is inherent within Daenerys due to her family’s penchant for madness. She is willing to do whatever she has to in order to succeed, including burning her enemies like her insane father did. This instability is captured well within “Reign” as well as her fierce, strong attitude. Like Daenerys herself says in the scene, her reign is just beginning.
12. Hold the Door- Season Six
“Hold the Door” is a piece of music that starts off in an epic fashion, like that of a battle theme, but ends up becoming a painfully emotional moment to match the scene in the show. The scene in which “Hold the Door” is used is centred on Bran, Hodor and Meera beyond the Wall as they try to evade the Night King. After a vision goes wrong, the Night King hones in on their location and they become surrounded. Bran finds himself within another vision as Meera and Hodor attempt to get his incapacitated body to safety. Bran’s vision focuses on his father as a child in Winterfell along with his aunt and uncle and none other than Hodor himself, who we are told actually has a proper name: Wylis. To Bran’s surprise, he can talk normally rather than only being able to speak the word “Hodor”. Bran splits his consciousness into present-day Hodor to escape, but in doing so he accidentally wargs into Wylis too, who seems to notice Bran’s presence. This results in Wylis suffering a seizure, merging both past Wylis and present Hodor. Wylis hears Meera’s screams to ‘hold the door’. Hodor does in fact hold the door, leading to the white walkers ripping him apart. The audience quickly realises that this is why Hodor can only say the one word; he saw his own demise as a child, which caused his mind to break. He saw that his whole life has been building to this sacrifice because of Bran. The music begins intensely, depicting the chase and the desperate attempt to escape from the Night King and his wights, which also leads to the death of Bran’s direwolf Summer. As we get to the scene where we jump between an adult Hodor holding the door and a young Wylis convulsing on the floor, his screams of hold the door slowly but surely turn to into the phrase “hodor”. His change from Wylis to Hodor is complete. This is where the music changes pace and tone. It slows and becomes incredibly sombre, with the Stark theme becoming prominent. This shows that Hodor has always been a true Stark and will always be considered as such. Djawadi’s ability to switch from intense action to sudden sombre emotion is what makes this track so impressive. My feelings switched from heart racing anticipation to intense sadness within a few moments with this piece and that is why I feel it is one of the best. Rest in peace, Hodor. Please don’t come back as a white walker.
11. Army of the Dead- Season Seven
The season seven finale had several important moments, but none more so then the final minutes of the episode. After the death of Daenerys’s dragon Viserion, the Night King enlists him into his ranks. With a dragon now by his side, the Night King now seems almost unstoppable. The closing scene shows the white walker army advancing on The Wall, the ancient structure set up to protect Westeros from all the creatures lurking in the north. The Night King is seen flying a now undead Viserion, who proceeds to breathe icy flames on it, causing the once impenetrable Wall to crumble. As the dust clears, the army begins their steady trek to Westeros as the Night King flies ahead on Viserion. The soundtrack for this scene is equally ominous and a tad terrifying to listen to. There is a focus on a certain steady beat, marching through the piece to mirror the marching of the undead army. Djawadi also implements a full orchestra here along with a chorus, whose chanting towards the end of the piece highlights the sense of dread that flows throughout. As the wights succeed in knocking down the only protection Westeros had, the music intensifies and the chorus’s chant becomes faster and more ferocious. This is followed by a moment of pure strings, a cello I believe, playing some dark chords which are quickly joined by the orchestra again. The build-up of intensity within the music corresponds with the action onscreen. The last chilling notes of the music are used for one purpose only: to convey a feeling of hopelessness, of a battle that is already lost before it has even started. The army of the dead are here. They cannot be stopped. In terms of musical scores, I genuinely find this quite frightening to listen too. With “Army of the Dead”, Djawadi creates a track that instils fear, dread and bleakness in one of the best tracks from season seven.
10. Mhysa- Season Three
“Mhysa” is a track which plays in an episode of season three of the same name. It is a beautiful song with almost a gospel sound to it which reflects the solidifying of Daenerys’s position as an emancipator and the growth of her influence. In the episode, Daenerys has freed the Yunkai slaves from their oppressive masters. They form a circle around her and begin to chant ‘Mhysa’ at her, which Missandei translates as ‘Mother’. Daenerys is already known as the Mother of Dragons, so it seems pertinent that she would now take on this role for her people. It suggests that this Targaryen is one who will become a leader of the people as well as a leader of dragons. Daenerys is lifted up by the crowd as they continue to sing ‘Mhysa’ at her, making it clear that she is well on her way to becoming a leader of men and, more importantly, a contender for the Iron Throne. She has liberated the people and in doing so proved that her cause is about more than just obtaining power for her own gains. Of course this is not always so simple, as Daenerys finds out later in the show, but it shows that her intentions are good. The score is incredibly rousing and uplifting, blending Daenerys’s theme with the main theme of the show and growing in power and vocals as it goes on. The choral aspect is so inspiring that it sounds like a song that would be used for a deity of some kind. As the music builds, so does Daenerys’s confidence as she smiles at her people and her dragons circle overhead. Her benevolent nature is tested as the show goes on, but at this point she definitely seemed to have the qualities needed to take the Throne. Djawadi’s peaceful yet inspiring and motivating theme here is essential to setting up the atmosphere of a potential queen and her loyal subjects. Her role as Mhysa to all is becoming a reality.
9. Breaker of Chains- Season Four
I know what you’re thinking. This list is shaping up to be very Targaryen centric. I do apologise if it seems like favouritism is going on here but I can assure you that I’ve combed over all my choices multiple times, written bits for songs that I cut and changed them out and edited heavily. In my honest and unbiased opinion, I genuinely feel that some of Ramin Djawadi’s most incredible work for the show is his work on Daenerys’s theme and the variations of it. All of his work is incredible, but I feel that the Targaryen theme has a certain atmosphere and energy that is incredibly affecting. Now that is out of the way, let’s move on to the song! “Breaker of Chains” is a dramatic and harrowing piece of music that utilises Daenerys’s theme in a distressed way. After one of her dragons kills a child, Daenerys is forced to make the decision to lock them up to keep them from hurting her people. This decision is incredibly difficult for her, her dragons are her children and they mean everything to her. Whilst the perpetrator Drogon has escaped, Daenerys must lock up Rhaegal and Viserion despite their innocence. “Breaker of Chains” (an ironic title for the corresponding scene) plays as she locks the two of them up beneath the great pyramid of Meereen. As Daenerys has gained more of a following and more people to care for after freeing the slaves of Yunkai, she has gained the title of Breaker of Chains. She is considered a liberator and a freedom fighter, but this has come at the cost of her relationship with the dragons and their freedom. Drogon’s unruly behaviour means that she must confine them, despite becoming known for doing the exact opposite. As Daenerys places large chains around their necks, she begins to walk away. Rhaegal and Viserion cry and scream for their mother as she does so, both filled with confusion and fear. Daenerys, who has become a somewhat stoic person due to what she has been through, weeps as she turns around to look at them one last time before they are sealed in. It is clear that she feels that she has betrayed her true children. The music is a slow and steady version of Daenerys’s theme that doesn’t speed up at all but instead intensifies and becomes louder, reflecting the building emotional anguish that both Daenerys and her dragons are feeling. The last moments of the piece as Daenerys turns back to see Rhaegal and Viserion panicking and crying for her are the most affecting. Despite the obvious need for it, you can’t help but feel bad for these fire breathing creatures. Now that their mother is breaking the chains of those around her, she must confine them to the same chains. Djawadi is able to capture the emotion from both Daenerys’s perspective and the dragon’s perspective and by doing so creates one of the more sorrowful Targaryen themes.
8. The Children- Season Four
Season four of Game of Thrones had a fair amount of characters with new beginnings and Arya Stark was a particularly compelling one. Her journey throughout the series up to the season four finale was a tough one, full of strife and heartbreak. She spent most of her time attempting to find what was left of her family, only to be thwarted at every turn. She ends the fourth season by getting on a boat that is sailing to Braavos, finally leaving the north behind. Her loss and pain are still with her, but her future seems more hopeful as she glances back at her homeland one more time before going to the front of the ship to look forward. The musical score that accompanies this scene is perfectly reflective of Arya’s journey so far. The song starts off gently before the familiar Stark theme bellows through the softness, reminding us of Arya’s beginnings and her family ties. It is interesting to note that is the only time that we hear this. Similar to the scene, where Arya only briefly looks back toward land, the music only briefly focuses on her Stark roots. We then hear a choral variation of the main theme music from the show, emphasising the adventure to come, before we hear another familiar tune: “Valar Morghulis”. This is a piece of music from season two of the show based on the saying from Jaqen H’gar, otherwise known as the Faceless man, translating to ‘all men must die.’ Arya has several encounters with him and in season two, he tells her that she must travel to Braavos if she wants to learn to be a faceless assassin like him. She initially refused his offer to go there in order to search for her family so he gave her a special iron coin with the instruction to one day give it to a Braavos native with the phrase Valar Morghulis. This is exactly what Arya does to gain passage on the ship in the season four finale. The inclusion of the “Valar Morghulis” theme further connects her to Jaqen and anticipates their future meeting. The combination of these three music themes creates one perfect theme for Arya and offers something more optimistic for her character, which is definitely a welcome change.
7. Winds of Winter- Season Six
As with “The Children”, “Winds of Winter” is another epic finale piece. This one is similar to “Dragonstone” from season seven in that it is years’ worth of build-up leading to a singular moment. Whilst “Dragonstone” is a quieter moment, “Winds of the Winter” is the spectacle that it deserves to be. Following years of amassing her army, facing difficulties of all kinds and losing loved ones along the way, Daenerys Targaryen has finally amassed enough of a following to be able to sail to Westeros. In the final scene of season six, there are no spoken words. All we hear is Djawadi’s score but we see the full extent of Daenerys’s army. We get a clear view of the vast array of ships in the Targaryen fleet, including the army of the Unsullied and Dothraki Bloodriders, the Greyjoy’s and the Martell’s. We also see Daenerys along with Tyrion, Varys and Missandei as well as Yara and Theon on their own ship with their Greyjoy army. As her dragons fly overhead, the ships ready themselves for a long sail and Daenerys looks ready for a fight. She has a look in her eye that tells you more than words ever could: that this is what it has all been leading up to. The music is equally large in scale. A huge orchestral number with a chorus to go with it, the song mashes up Daenerys’s theme, the dragons theme, the Greyjoy theme and the shows main theme to produce a foreboding and brazen piece that is all about representing the power of Daenerys’s army. It exudes confidence and excitement which is sure to draw the audience in even further, even those who may not know the entirety of Daenerys’s story. For a character who has come so far from basically being sold off by her brother, it is incredible to see her as a powerful leader with an army, three dragons and a wealth of allies by her side (including a Lannister as her hand of the queen). As the music finishes on a grandiose note, there is one thing that everyone can be certain of: Daenerys is finally on her way to Westeros and no power in the whole of the Seven Kingdoms is going to stop her after coming so far. It is a moment that deserved a bombastic soundtrack and Djawadi definitely does not disappoint.
6. Truth- Season Seven
“Truth” is a new musical theme for season seven. It is one of prettiest musical scores from the show but there is a subtle sense of uncertainty to it that corresponds well with the characters that the theme is written for. “Truth” is a romance theme for Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, who meet at the beginning of season seven and fall in love by the end of the season. After a tense meeting between the two, Jon makes it his mission to convince Daenerys that the white walker threat is far more pressing than any political matter. Jon travels beyond the Wall in an attempt to capture a wight as proof of their existence. After a fearsome battle, resulting in the loss of Daenerys’s dragon Viserion, Dany is convinced and pledges herself and her army to Jon’s fight against the Night King. Jon, who never really wanted to be in a position of great power anyway, bends the knee to her and the two find that they have a connection. Their love is cemented despite the horrible losses that both experience, Viserion especially. Elements of “Truth” act as a theme which plays in several different moments in season seven, such as in the dragonglass cave or when Jon is able to touch Drogon without getting roasted. However, the theme is used in its entirety in one of the most important moments of the show. Samwell Tarley and Bran Stark (who has at this point taken on the role of the all-seeing Three-Eyed Raven) are discussing Jon and come to the realisation that he is not a bastard after all. They realise what the audience already know: he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Bran has a vision of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding which confirms that they were in love and that Lyanna was not kidnapped and brutalised by Rhaegar, as was the story known across Westeros. This not only means that Jon has a stronger claim to the throne then Daenerys, but also that he is her nephew. The music swells as Bran and Sam come to this realisation and at the same time, we see Jon and Daenerys consummate their relationship on the ship on their way to Winterfell. A moment that is meant to be touching quickly becomes sour and the music reflects this as the last few notes turn a little bit ominous, suggesting the pain that this revelation will cause. Just as the scene begins small with Bran and Sam in a discussion, the music begins intimately too and gradually picks up to the big reveal. The theme itself combines both the Stark and Targaryen themes as well as a new melody which binds them together in a romantic ballad of a score. Although this would seem to be representing Jon as the Stark and Daenerys as the Targaryen, the combination of themes could also be highlighting Jon’s newfound position as both Stark and Targaryen. We’ve already heard the piece again in the eighth season (when Jon and Daenerys go dragon riding on Rhaegal and Drogon) but now that Jon knows his true parentage, I have no doubt that “Truth” will be used again and that it will not necessarily be in a happy context.
5. Goodbye Brother- Season One
The House Stark theme is the most solemn of all the musical themes in Game of Thrones, but I would argue that “Goodbye Brother” is a one of the most emotional of them all. It plays during a key moment from the show in the first season: when Jon Snow bids farewell to his family, including his brother Robb, and heads further north to the Wall. Robb then leads his father’s army to march on Kings Landing. Their goodbye is the last time that they see each other as Robb is later brutally murdered alongside his fiancée Talisa and his mother Catelyn at the Red Wedding. The “Goodbye Brother” piece has been brought over to several other tracks that come under the Stark theme and has a connection with all of the Stark characters. It holds a certain sadness that has carried over to every family member during their struggles. The theme is bound to the Starks and represents their pain and loss, but also their growth in the later seasons and their ability to overcome the tragedy that has befallen their family. The music is entirely string based, focusing on solemn violin and cello sections. This formula is sometimes switched up in the various iterations of it throughout the show, often being intensified. However, it is this softer and quieter version that packs the biggest emotional punch as it always brings us back to the Stark family parting ways for the last time back in season one. I tend to be reminded of Robb’s last words to Jon when I hear this theme, “Next time I see you, you’ll be all in black.” It is heart-breaking knowing what we know now, but it is this emotional strength that makes it one of the best pieces of music in the show. In a theme that has continued to be incredibly utilised throughout, “Goodbye Brother” will always be the remembered just as we continue to remember the Starks that have been lost.
4. A Lannister Always Pays His Debts- Season Three
“A Lannister Always Pays His Debts” is similar to “Goodbye Brother” in that it has come to be a musical theme played throughout the show which has been adapted and used multiple times. This theme is for House Lannister and is far more menacing but just as fitting for the family it is intended for. Djawadi mostly utilised violins and cellos here in an intimidating fashion, the eeriest part arguably being the opening with one, ominous cello. There is a steady drumbeat which intensifies throughout and works well with the string section to create a theme for a manipulative and conniving house. Arguably the most notable use of this theme is for the Red Wedding, where a live version of the theme plays known as “The Rains of Castamere” (I consider the main version of that song the one with lyrics which is why it isn’t included in this list). The scene shows the decimation of part of the Stark family, with Robb, Catelyn and Talisa Stark being viciously murdered by Walder Frey. Tywin Lannister plotted the multiple murders alongside Frey to cripple the northern army, and the musical score accurately represents this deception. The Lannister’s are a more complex family in a way, with characters like Jaime and Tyrion showing that they are willing to work with other houses, and I believe this theme portrays that also. It is a very beautiful and strong piece of music, suggesting a proud and noble house much like the lion that represents them. But as it builds to the conclusion, the treachery and deceit contained within cannot be denied and leaves you with a feeling of dread. It was the last piece of music that Robb Stark heard before his death, and whilst it is enjoyable to listen to, it certainly instils that impending doom sensibility. I feel that Djawadi truly managed to capture the mixed feelings that surround House Lannister with this theme and I look forward to hearing more of it in season eight.
3. Dance of Dragons- Season Five
The theme connected to Daenerys and her dragons has had several iterations during the show (and many inclusions on this list) but the track that is the most spectacular has to be “Dance of Dragons”. In the penultimate episode of season five, Daenerys finds herself and her allies trapped in a fighting pit in Meereen by the Sons of the Harpy, a group of insurgents who oppose Daenerys’s rule. With two of her dragons locked away by her own hand and Drogon missing, Daenerys seems to accept her fate as the Sons of Harpy block the exits. Just as it seems that all is lost, we hear a roar and see Drogon fly down into the pit to protect his mother. Not only is it a touching moment, it has an amazing soundtrack to accompany it. Variations on “Dracarys” and “Breaker of Chains” are included in “Dance of Dragons” and it is utilised in such a way that it creates emotion and stirs up excitement at the same time. The music starts off somewhat frantic with beating drums as Daenerys is surrounded. Once Drogon and Daenerys are face to face after he has fended off her attackers, the score slows down and creates a striking moment between the two. The love that Drogon and Daenerys have for each other is potent , with both willing to risk their lives for one another (we see Daenerys do this in season seven when she pulls a spear from Drogon’s wing whilst being charged at on the battlefield). This strength is emphasised all the more by the music theme that bonds them. After a brief pause to emphasise their special bond, the theme swells before booming with a choral addition as Daenerys climbs on Drogon and is flown out of the arena to safety. Her allies look on in awe as they soar into the distance, and the theme is equally awe-inspiring. An epic variation of the Targaryen theme was needed for a moment like this and Djawadi truly delivered in this rousing and perfect piece of music which gives me chills every time.
2. Main Theme- All Seasons
When it comes to theme songs, it’s always important to have something catchy and fitting to capture the audience’s attention immediately. When I first watched Game of Thrones, I was struck instantly by the bold, brilliant and incredibly epic theme song. It made the show seem all the more compelling as the main theme was so grandiose. I remember thinking that maybe this was a sign of great things to come. I wouldn’t say I’m someone who often gets things right, but this time I’m glad I was. Ramin Djawadi captures the audience and drags them into the Seven Kingdoms with a score that utilizes a full orchestra. There is a significant focus on percussion, with a beating drum maintaining a steady rhythm, and strings. The strings section not only carries the main theme, but most of the music on the show. This creates a tune that is exploding with high fantasy elements and creates a feeling of excitement and wonder. The chorus that kicks in towards the end of the theme is an added spark which further fuels the fire of fascination. The accompanying title sequence perfectly reflects the epic nature of the tune without actually showing any of the characters. Instead, the title shows a three-dimensional clockwork style map which shows key areas of the Seven Kingdoms. This can differ from episode to episode depending on what events have occurred. The map got an awesome revamp for the final season, which included a miniature Iron Throne popping up clockwork style. We also see an astrolabe style device which depicts various important historical events in the kingdom as well as displaying the sigils of the major houses and the title of the show. This wonderfully crafted opening combined with the stirring theme music creates an opening sequence which succeeds in immersing the viewer within the fantasy world before the show has even started. Djawadi has well and truly created one of the most memorable and recognizable television theme songs of our generation.
1. Light of Seven –Season Six
Despite the iconic nature of the main theme music for the show, “Light of the Seven” has to take the top spot as the best track from Game of Thrones. “Light of the Seven” is the first piece of music in Game of Thrones to make significant use of the piano during an almost ten minute scene in which there is very little dialogue. With Cersei due to be on trial in the Great Sept of Baelor, the audience awaits her arrival. The audience includes the High Sparrow, who forced Cersei to do the Walk of Shame through Kings Landing, and Queen Margaery, a long-standing rival of Cersei who is married to her son King Tommen. The theme begins softly but coldly. You can tell that something big and bad is going to happen, but we are still wondering what that may be. The tune feels even softer than most of the other music in the show due to the piano being the major instrument. As Margaery begins to realize that something is not quite right as both Cersei and Tommen have still not arrived at the Sept (and a good deal of Cersei’s enemies all just so happen to be there under one roof), the music escalates and becomes even more tense and chilling. Due to the length of the songs, it is a slow burn but it is even more effective this way. We also hear some soloists singing a choral section, but Djawadi only had two boy soloists here as he felt “the two of them were more haunting than using a full choir.” As the scene goes on, the High Sparrow insists that Cersei will be forced to pay the consequences of not attending her trial, but Margaery argues that Cersei is fully aware of what the consequences will be and yet she is still not there. Margaery knows that Cersei has no intention of facing those consequences. This realization leads to her attempting to get everyone to leave the Sept. Cersei’s nephew Lancel Lannister, now a devout member of the Faith of the Seven, is stabbed chasing a child down to the Sept’s catacombs leaving him unable to walk. It is through him that we see that Cersei has planted three barrels of wildfire beneath the Sept along with some candles that are slowly burning down. As Lancel agonizingly crawls towards it, hoping to extinguish the flames before it can catch the wildfire, the music becomes painfully tense and desperate. At the same time, Margaery is still attempting to get out of the Sept, she knows what is coming and the intensity of the music reflects this. We get the addition of a strings section and an organ, which climb higher and higher as the terror and panic sets in amongst the crowd in the Sept. Watching this for the first time and listening to the music, I couldn’t help but feel the tension rising myself. The music continues to build and the last minute or so of the track is nothing but pure human panic and fear. As Margaery and her brother Loras turn to look at the High Sparrow, who has finally come to the realization that he has lost to Cersei, the music escalates to its highest point, just as the audience is at the highest point of outright shock that Cersei has actually done this. We know that no one is getting out of this alive, that Cersei did what even the Mad King couldn’t do. She has burned them all. As the Sept explodes with an eerie green glow, the music stops and we see the High Sparrow consumed by the emerald fire before the entire building is engulfed. Everyone is dead and Cersei has won.
“Light of the Seven” is the most incredible track from Game of Thrones. The way that Ramin Djawadi is able to tell the story of the destruction of the Sept of Baelor is impressive as it is but I feel that you wouldn’t even have to watch the scene to get an idea what is happening. He is able to convey so many emotions throughout the piece. The initial tension and wonder that we get as we hear the piano take precedence for the first time; the building fear that something bad is going to happen; the shock when we realize what Cersei has planned; the disbelief that she will actually get away with this; the desperation and rising fear when it becomes clear that she has already won. This is a testament to Djawadi’s talent and skill as a musician and composer as well as his ability to bring this fantasy world to life. “Light of the Seven” is an extraordinary piece of music from one of the most extraordinary moments in Game of Thrones and has definitely earned its place at the top of this list.
Thanks for reading my list of the top twenty music pieces from Game of Thrones! There is so much great music throughout the show and I know there are brilliant tracks that I haven’t included. Ramin Djawadi has done amazing things with the music and I believe it will be remembered as one of the best television soundtracks out there. I’m very much looking forward to the release of the season eight soundtrack and will update this list when it has been released if there are any entries that top my inclusions in this list.
The Night King- Season Eight
The first piece of music to be released for downloading and streaming from season eight, “The Night King” is a fitting theme for the villain whom it is named for. This is another long piece, similar to “Light of the Seven” at almost nine minutes. It is also similar in that it is very piano-centric, making it stand out amongst the usual soundtrack, and has a long build-up with an epic pay off as the music continues. The corresponding scene is incredibly suspenseful as we see the characters that we have grown to love struggling to fight off the hordes of the undead. The music begins with Sansa and Tyrion in the crypts of Winterfell, hiding from the undead who have broken free of their tombs and are ravaging those who had taken refuge there. As we hear their screams and see Sansa and Tyrion hold hands whilst Sansa grabs hold of the dragonglass dagger that Arya gave her, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is the end for these two characters. Fortunately, it isn’t, but the soft and somber start of the piano reflects the mournful moment. We then see Jon getting pinned down by the ice dragon Viserion as well as Danerys and Jorah fighting for their lives against a wave of wights. Jaime, Brienne, Podrick, Torumund, Sam and Greyworm all appear to be getting savagely overwhelmed also. As the piano slowly but surely begins to escalate and introduce some strings, I was left thinking that there was no way they were getting out of this. Then we see the Night King finally reach Bran Stark, who he has been searching for. Theon bravely protects Bran but does not survive the encounter with the Night King. As he is killed, we hear the familiar main theme of the show and the strings section becomes more potent and sorrowful. The music intensifies further as the Night King approaches Bran and we get more shots of the other characters being swamped by ice zombies. As the music speeds up and becomes more frantic, it seems certain that this is the end of the line for everyone in Winterfell. But as the music grinds to a halt with a sweeping crescendo, Arya Stark leaps from behind the Night King. He grabs Arya by the throat but with a simple sleight of hand, she is able to stab him with her dragonglass dagger. She kills him and the rest of the army of the undead fall. In a scene that will be long remembered by Game of Thrones fans, Ramin Djawadi yet again creates an epic soundtrack which not only reflects the titular antagonist, it also manages to capture the various story elements within the corresponding scene.”The Night King” is most definitely one of the most striking pieces of the entire Game of Thrones soundtrack despite it being a recent addition. I would say that it even stands up against “Light of the Seven” which is primarily a theme for Cersei and her horrendous crimes. Djawadi’s themes for the shows big bad characters are incredibly strong and I feel that “The Night King” was certainly worthy of inclusion here.
The Iron Throne- Season Eight
Season eight of Game of Thrones has come to a close, signalling the end of the show entirely. Whilst season eight definitely had its issues, one constant excellent factor has been Ramin Djawadi’s score. The full soundtrack has officially been released and with it, more of the brilliant tracks from this season to follow my last entry, “The Night King”. “The Iron Throne” is an extraordinary peace that represents the end of one of the major characters. Jon Snow confronts Daenerys after her decision to burn Kings Landing and its innocent inhabitants. Daenerys attempts to coerce Jon into ruling alongside her and build a better world. Jon knows full well that Dany can never forget Jon’s true identity as rightful heir to the Iron Throne and that she would be willing to harm not only him, but the rest of his family too to stop the truth coming out. Jon also knows that Sansa would never allow Jon’s parentage to be hidden, so he does what he thinks he has to protect his family. As Daenerys embraces him, Jon stabs her through the heart and kills her. The accompanying score starts off fittingly with a soft version of the romance theme created in season seven for Jon and Daenerys. It is a sweet melody, juxtaposing with the painful scene of Jon holding Daenerys’s body. We then hear hints of her Targaryen theme as Drogon approaches and mourns for his mother. This theme, which represents Dany and her dragons, then blends with the main theme music of the show as Drogon burns the Iron Throne, reducing it to molten metal. Drogon knows that the desire for the throne is what has led to his mother’s death and the music reflects the mournful yet furious tone of the scene. The last few minutes of the piece is comprised entirely of the Targaryen theme. It starts off slow and sombre with a choral element before becoming stronger and more emotional as Drogon gently picks up his mother’s body and flies away in what is the final shot of both of them. It’s a fantastic variation of Daenerys’s music, which if you’ve read the rest of my list you will know I have a soft spot for. It is also the final variation of the theme and Djawadi made it fittingly tragic to reflect the tragic downfall of Daenerys Targaryen and the heart-breaking sorrow of her only surviving child Drogon.
The Last of the Starks- Season Eight
One of the more tragic houses of Westeros managed to get a relatively happy ending in the finale. “The Last of the Starks” is a piece that plays as we see the remaining Stark children in their roles after the war. Bran is named King of the Seven Kingdoms (an odd decision by the writers in my opinion but moving on). Sansa is able to give the North its independence and she takes her place as the Queen in the North. Arya plans to set sail to discover what is west of Westeros and Jon goes back north to the Nights Watch and heads beyond the Wall. It is suggested that he will become the new leader of the Free Folk as he reunites with the wildlings, Tormund Giantsbane and his direwolf Ghost. We get several themes intermingling here, with the main Stark theme taking precedence. There are hints of The Children, Arya’s theme from the end of season four, as well as the main theme of the show. The track is a farewell to the long suffering Starks, even if their happy ending is a little unbelievable in terms of writing (Arya’s plot armour is the main offender) but it is good to see Jon, Arya, Sansa and Bran succeed in getting what they wanted after all they have been through. Djawadi manages to inject a feeling of optimism into the piece due to the positive outcome for the last Starks, despite the families theme being a naturally solemn tune. Even the name of the track suggests that it will be a melancholy one, so to hear it with a lighter tone is a nice change. “The Last of the Starks” wraps up the Stark family perfectly and gives them a brilliant theme to rally under as they take their final bows.
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