10 Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Quotes, Ranked

Game of Thrones has no shortage of memorable quotes. Some are funny – think Renly asking, “Is he a ham?” after hearing how Stannis was born amidst “salt and smoke.” Others are ominous – like Melisandre’s perennial warning about how “the night is dark and full of terrors.” And some are cheeky, like Tyrion’s claim about how he “drink(s) and know(s) things.”

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Then there are those quotes that have become iconic and entered television’s larger vocabulary. These unforgettable lines are synonymous with the show itself, perfectly representing its main themes while being clever enough to become crucial parts of modern pop culture.

10 “Not today.”

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark looking up in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

“Not today” is the answer to the question, “What do we say to the God of Death?” Arya learns this from her first swordmaster, Syrio Forel, the First Sword of Braavos. She keeps this lesson throughout her journey, using it as fuel for her vengeance and inspiration during her intense training in the House of Black and White.

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The quote makes its long-awaited comeback during the Long Night when Melisandre uses it to remind Arya of her killing instincts. “Not today” is a simple yet highly effective quote that perfectly summarizes Arya’s character development. It’s also fitting of Game of Thrones‘ main themes, making it one of the show’s most impactful quotes.

9 “Any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king.”

Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister skinning a stag in Game of Thrones.

Tywin Lannister is one of Game of Thrones‘ most cunning characters. Stoic, intimidating, domineering, and utterly terrifying, Tywin is straightforward and ruthless, one of the show’s best players who manipulates every one around him and stands up to even the most powerful figures in Westeros.

During a confrontation with his useless nephew, Joffrey, Tywin diminishes his worth as a leader, leaving him angry and speechless. The quote is striking and biting, bringing Joffrey to his knees; it also captures the show’s themes of worthiness, especially when talking about the legitimacy of the many claimants for the Iron Throne.

8 “Yes, all men must die. But we are not men.”

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in a blue robe stands before a temple with a chained screeching dragon flying behind her.

“Valar morghulis” is High Valyrian for “All men must die.” It’s one of the show’s most famous quotes, appearing several times throughout the show, spoken by numerous characters. It’s a customary saying in Essos, usually followed by the expression “Valar dohaeris,” meaning “All men must serve.”

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When Missandei says “valar morghulis” to Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons replies with this cheeky quote. 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.”

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion looking somber in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

Tyrion Lannister 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, 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; many in the audience will surely relate to the line’s vulnerability. 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 the audience.

6 “Power resides where men believe it resides.”

Conleth Hill as Lord Varys looking to the distance in Game of Thrones.

Out of all the players in Game of Thrones, Varys was the most elusive and interesting. The Spider was behind many of the show’s most important events, manipulating events from the dark and outliving nearly everyone that opposed him. Varys’ influence came from understanding the game’s true nature; he explains his views to Tyrion, telling the dwarf how power is “a shadow on the wall” and how “a very small man can cast a very big shadow.”

Varys’ quote is the perfect description of Game of Thrones. The show’s many figures struggle for a vague and elusive concept, ruthlessly killing their way to claim the ultimate power. Yet, 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.”

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister sitting down and drinkin from a goblet in Game of Thrones.

Tyrion’s journey wasn’t easy; at times, it seemed like the character couldn’t catch a break with all the tragedy surrounding him. However, Tyrion remained on top of things thanks to his considerable intelligence, which he always nurtured through a healthy dose of books.

When Jon questions him about his reading habits, Tyrion replies with this pearl of wisdom. Few characters on Game of Thrones bothered with reading, thinking their strength or “power” would keep them alive. However, Tyrion was the only one who understood what his father always said (in the books): “Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.”

4 “Chaos is not a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”

Aiden Gillen as Petyr

Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish was one of television’s most frustrating fan-favorite characters. The devious and cunning man caused most of the show’s problems, sowing the seeds for the Lannister-Stark animosity that kickstarted the War of the Five Kings. Littlefinger also manipulated his way to the top, with many fans believing he was also behind Robert’s Rebellion.

It makes perfect sense that Littlefinger would have caused so much destruction; after all, “chaos is a ladder” was his motto. The quote is also a spot-on explanation of how Westeros works: every major war brings a new beginning, with new people in power and new families in control. Littlefinger knew how to harness the chaos in his favor – until he didn’t.

3 “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen looking at the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones

Season 5 saw Daenerys meeting Tyrion Lannister. After exchanging thoughts and watching each other in action, she agrees to accept his council after he explains, in detail, how she won’t win over the noble houses of Westeros. She claims she doesn’t want to maintain the status quo; instead, she wants to upend it, making Tyrion, and the audience, believe in her more than ever.

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The quote accompanies one of Daenerys’ defining moments, with the show placing her as the ultimate savior who would turn the Seven Kingdoms upside down and bring some much-needed change. And although it ultimately broke that promise, Daenerys’ wheel metaphor remains one of the most powerful and fitting explanations of the show’s dogma.

2 “Winter is coming.”

Sean Bean as Ned Stark holding a sword in Game of Thrones
Image via HBO

“Winter is coming” is one of Game of Thrones‘ most significant phrases. It’s the name of the Pilot episode; they’re also the words of the beloved and powerful House Stark; lastly, the line is the pledge the show made from the beginning, the promise that a threat from the North would come, uniting everyone against a common cause.

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.”

A blonde woman is standing by the balcony

If there’s one line that captures the very essence of Game of Thrones, it’s Cersei’s eye-opening statement to Ned Stark about Westeros’ nature. Ned, ever the honorable man, made a foolish mistake by showing all his cards, and Cersei repaid him in the only way she could.

The game is ruthless, unforgiving, brutal, and relentless. It claims lives left and right and cares nothing about the misery it leaves behind. More importantly, the game leaves no losers, only corpses left to rot under the scorching sun. It’s fitting that Cersei would speak this line, and Ned would hear it, as they both represent the opposite sides of the violent and devastating game.

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