25 Best Performances in Game of Thrones (and One Hodorable Mention)

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One of the most amazing things about Game of Thrones is that almost everyone there brings their A-game in the acting department.  All too often, genre shows borrow from the Shatner School of Acting and bring the ham and cheese.  Since everyone is so amazing, the competition is fierce for the title of The Best Performer.  Who wins THIS Game of Thrones?  Here’s a surprise:  It’s NOT Peter Dinklage.

First let’s start with an honorable mention.

Kristian Naim      HODOR!

hodor

If measured by a per word delivery style, Hodor is the best.

Good But Not Great Performances

25           Carice Van Houton  Melisandre

Melisandre

She’s kind of a one note character, so Van Houton doesn’t have much to work with.  But she hits that note admirably.

24           Jason Momoa    Drogo

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In this role, his physical presence did most of the acting. I’m sure he’ll get more to work with in Aquaman.

23           Sophie Turner Sansa

sansa

I’m not sure if it is the character or the actress that leaves me iffy on this performance. She’s gotten better so it might be the growth of the character OR the growth of the actress.  I am so confused…

22           Emilia Clarke       Daenerys

emilia

Kind of low?  I’m not sure Emilia Clarke is that good of an actress.  I’m very aware she’s acting when I watch her scenes.  She’s more Star Trek than Harry Potter.

Intriguing Performances

21           Rory McCann      Hound

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A small part, but he brought a flavor to it every time.  Had he been more prominent in the series, he’d either be higher…or have outstayed his welcome…

20           Kit Harrington     Jon Snow

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I like Kit Harrington when I see him on talk shows.  I love the character Jon Snow.  But Harrington doesn’t strike me as a very good actor.

19           Indira Varma       Ellaria

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I like Indria Varma as an actress and she goes above and beyond in this role.  As Ellaria, she is a confident and dangerous player.  She shows great range, differing radically from her work in Rome.

18           Mark Addy           Robert

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Mark Addy chews the scenery as Robert Baratheon, but it is a performance that would only work in the first season.  He’d clash with the upgraded talent of the last few years.

17           Conleth Hill         Varys

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The spider has a subtle performance that borders between cheeky and terrifying.  He threads the needle perfectly.

Unique Performances

16           Natalie Dormer  Margery

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There is something about Natalie Dormer herself that allows Margery to be both charming and conniving at the same time.  Margery is NOT as big a character in the books as the show and the very reason Margery was developed further was because Natalie Dormer is that damn good.

15           Jerome Flynn      Bronn

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Tyrion’s hired hand provides a great commoner’s POV on the Game of Thrones that the nobles are all playing.  His answer is usually to put a sharp sword into someone’s gullet rather than whisper a secret in their ear.

14           Gwendoline Christie         Brienne

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Brienne is pretty much one of the only truly noble characters after the untimely death of Ned Stark.  Christie plays her as an idealist without making the character seem totally naive.

13           Charles Dance    Tywin

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One of the first deviations the show took from the novels was to make Tywin the master of the keep where Arya was serving as a boy.  It was a great move because it wasn’t a critical change to make it Tywin and it gave a brilliant actor more screen time.

12           Liam Cunningham             Davos

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Like Bronn, Davos comes at the GoT from a less lofty station.  He, however, rises much higher becoming hand of the king in Stannis’ camp.  Cunningham has such a quiet gravitas that you believe he is a man that would rise so far.

11           Nikolaj Coster-Waldau    Jamie

Jaime_Lannister

No character has evolved as much as Jamie Lannister in the show.  In the first season, he was a cartoonish villain who smirked as he tossed kids out of windows.  But Coster-Waldau really took the changes provided by the show’s excellent writers and developed a character who is trying to figure out what kind of man he should be.

Exceptional Performances

10           Pedro Pascal       Oberyn

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A one season wonder.  Pedro Pascal owned every minute he was on screen.  As the brother of a murdered sister, he blends charm with grief to create one of the show’s most memorable characters.

9             Maisie Williams  Arya

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Maisie is great actress. Arya is a great character. A match made in heaven. Bonus points for how cool Williams is on social media.

8             Jack Gleeson       Joffrey

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He seems like a nice guy, but Gleeson will forever be branded as the most sadistic little punk that caused Jenny to cheer at a young boy’s death. This performance went JUST up to the edge of cartoonish but stopped short at terrifying.

7             Iain Glen              Jorah

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He’s sooooooooo in love with her that his ever look is brooding. Glen brings a world weariness to Jorah that only Khalesi can cure.

6             Sean Bean           Ned

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Sean Bean was the star of the show. He was going to be around to keep things moving toward the show’s climax. This is Sean Bean, so he had to face death in his own series. Didn’t even make the finale of season one!

The Cream of the Crop Performances

5             Lena Headley      Cersei

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She’s evil. She’s conniving. But she loves her family and that makes her interesting. She loves her brother a little too much though…

4             Aidan Gillen         Petyr

petyr

I loved Gillen in The Wire. He was the ultimate politician. I didn’t think he could be more Machiavellian. Then came Littlefinger!

3             Diana Rigg           Olenna

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You can see where Margery gets her A-game. Grandma can play. I didn’t even remember her from the books. This was a great addition to the series and Rigg nailed it.

2             Peter Dinklage    Tyrion

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What? Not number 1? Shocking I know! Don’t take this as a slight. Dinklage is amazing. The book gives him a great character and Dinklage takes it to the next level. The series hinges on his excellence.

1             Stephen Dillane  Stannis

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What? Stannis? He’s the lame character that has no personality, you say? That’s right. And that’s why Stephen Dillane’s performance is so amazing. He takes a dud and makes him a pacing Tiger. I get Stannis’s motivation with Dillane (who played a polar opposite Thomas Jefferson in HBO’s John Adams) in a way even multiple 1000 page books couldn’t convey. Excellent in every moment.

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One thought on “25 Best Performances in Game of Thrones (and One Hodorable Mention)”

  1. Apparently, everyone in the various DVD commentaries, ranging from all the kid actors right on up to GRR Martin himself all say the same thing: Jack Gleeson is the nicest guy in the world. That he can play so effectively such a rotten, evil character says a lot for him. He apparently has decided to retire from acting now that Joffrey is dead and actually do charity work.

    Its not a bad list. I would also not put Dinklage at #1, but don’t know about Dillane as the best of the cast. I’d probably put Glen and Cunningham closer to 25 and promote Dance higher, plus try to make room for Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) and Jonathan Price (the High Sparrow). Rheon is a bit too unstable, but Ramsay makes Joffrey look sane in comparison even on the page, while Price plays down everything in a manner that works well with a character who is honestly supposed to be a humble cleric.

    For what it is worth, Diana Rigg’s Queen of Thorns character really doesn’t appear too much after book three from what I can recall, so you’re right if you don’t remember her that well from there. There were a heck of a lot more Tyrels in general, and even with this show’s vast budget, it still has limits on how many characters in can include over a series of ten one hour episodes as well as limits on how many people they can afford to hire.

    Like

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