13 most gut-wrenching 'Game of Thrones' moments ever (pictures)

Presented with extreme prejudice and lots of feels, here are the top (bottom?) least-fun, most-gut-wrenching, "can't bear to watch but can't take my eyes off the screen" moments of the entire series. Spoilers abound.

Caitlin Petrakovitz
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
Caitlin Petrakovitz
1 of 15 HBO

Welcome to Westeros

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the "Game of Thrones" series.

Almost every season of the HBO show is represented here (including, of course, the dramatic Season 5 that just ended), so it's important to note that before you begin this journey of emotional and physical turmoil, you should have seen every season (or at least not care about spoilers).

This is it, this is your last warning. Turn back now, all ye faint of heart. For the braver souls, here are the hardest moments of the entire series, ranked from slightly creepy but still watchable to "could barely watch through my fingers." Good luck.

2 of 15 HBO

13. Lysa Arryn breast-feeding

Mostly for the ick-factor, Lysa Arryn feeding "baby" Robin kicks off my list of hardest-to-watch moments. If the kid can walk, talk and sass family, he really should not be sucking anything anymore.

3 of 15 HBO

12. Bye bye, Lady

The moment the series ripped the soft rug of comfort out from under us was in Season 1, Episode 2, when Ned Stark gives daughter Sansa's direwolf Lady a merciful death. Not only was Lady a totally innocent party, the move made it clear this show was not above killing off its most beloved characters at any time.

4 of 15 HBO

11. The death of Ser Rodrik

After taking over Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy's men capture Ser Rodrik Cassel, the Starks' master-at-arms. When the old man insults Theon in front of his men (twice!), the Ironborn prince is forced to put his money where his mouth is and behead Cassel. The problem is, that's not as easy as faux-father Ned Stark made it look and it takes Theon three thwacks and one fierce kick to decapitate the old warrior.

5 of 15 HBO

10. Beheading Ned

As season 1 comes to an end, so too does Ned Stark. He was doomed as one of the most honest men in King's Landing, and viewers had grown fond of the Stark family head over the course of the season. To add serious insult to injury, Ser Ilyn Payne kills Ned with Ice, Ned's very own Valyerian-steel sword.

6 of 15 HBO

9. Theon's torture

After Ramsay Snow captures the Lord of the Iron Islands, he begins to systematically torture him both physically and mentally. Turning arrogant Theon Greyjoy into meek Reek the freak is no easy task -- and it was definitely not easy to watch.

7 of 15 HBO

8. The Red Wedding

Sure, the Red Wedding was a serious buzzkill. But what really slayed me was not just seeing our King in the North and his family get killed, but having to watch Robb see new wife Talisa and baby Stark get butchered just to ensure no heir could rise. Really Freys? All just to show the king what a terrible mistake he'd made simply falling in love??

8 of 15 HBO

7. The Hand of the King(slayer)

Locke, master-at-arms for House Bolton, cuts off Jaime Lannister's hand in a show of power and payback. The worst part isn't just seeing the sword slice off Jaime's most (second-most?) important body part, but hearing Jaime's surprised and tortured screams.

Even Roose Bolton was furious and disgusted by Locke's decision to dismember Jaime and then force the Lannister to wear his own rotting hand as they traveled the North. And grossing out a Bolton takes some serious "skill."

9 of 15 HBO

6. Poor Shae

The real question here is why Tyrion even heads for his father's chambers. Once there, he sees Shae sleeping contentedly in his father's bed and he's so hurt and stunned. She picks up a weapon to fight him off, and he attacks, strangling her in self-defense. Forget killing Papa Lannister. Killing Shae was the real heartbreaker, especially considering how much he loved her and how hard he tried to protect her from this exact fate.

10 of 15 HBO

5. Oberyn's...migraine

With shades of "The Princess Bride" and a win within reach, Oberyn Martell keeps shouting at his opponent, The Mountain, to confess his sins in public -- namely the rape and murder of his sister, Elia Martell.

Oberyn's hubris gets the best of him though, and The Mountain rises up to give the Red Viper his worst (and last) headache ever. Even knowing it was coming, I was screaming right in time with Ellaria Sand.

11 of 15 HBO

4. Brutalization of two

Maybe this is the moment Reek snapped and Theon Greyjoy finally began to come back. Maybe it was just a horribly, terribly hard-to-watch scene where a seriously sadistic man-child uses his ever-growing power to both overpower and rape his new wife and force his servant to watch. And the fact that Ramsay now-a-Bolton is able to do it all without drawing any blood makes it even scarier.

12 of 15 HBO

3. 'You know nothing'

I can't even discuss this moment without getting teary-eyed. Olly's first attempt to fight for the Night's Watch, and she is his first kill?! And with a bow and arrow, no less! The fact that Jon tries so hard to forgive dumb Olly makes the Lord Commander a much better person than most.

Ygritte's death...I just...excuse me I have something in my eye. Talk quietly amongst yourselves.

13 of 15 HBO

2. Princess Shireen

Shireen's slow walk to the pyre was so heartbreaking. You could feel the impending doom, but looking at her sweet face, you knew she had no idea what was coming. Then came her realization, her disbelief and her fear.

Melisandre's cold, unflinching gaze was nothing compared with watching Shireen's cold-hearted, hateful mother break down in tearful regret. I feel like I can still hear the girl's screams as she cried out for her father as the flames consumed her. And for what Stannis?!? Where did your sacrifice get you?!

14 of 15 HBO

1. Seriously, Night's Watch?


In tricking the Lord Commander downstairs, Olly is seriously competing with Ramsay for most-hated manchild in the realm. Oh, and all the brothers claiming, "For the Night's Watch" as the cowards stabbed him?? None of them are any better than brother Rast stabbing Lord Commander Jeor Mormont in the...wait, when was the last time a Lord Commander wasn't killed in a mutiny??

15 of 15 HBO

Honorable mentions

With a show like "Game of Thrones," this list could be a lot longer -- I probably could have picked an epically terrible moment from every episode.

Honorable mentions that didn't make the cut include Viserys getting his golden crown from Khal Drogo (pictured), King Joffery using Ros as target practice, and pretty much anything Ramsay did in Season 5.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features You Should Definitely Know About

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos