Game of Thrones

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This article is about the TV series. For the novel, see A Game of Thrones. For other works of the same name, see Game of Thrones (disambiguation).
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones title card.jpg
Created by
Based on A Song of Ice and Fire 
by George R. R. Martin
Starring see List of Game of Thrones characters
Composer(s) Ramin Djawadi
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 40 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Oral Norrey Ottey
  • Frances Parker
  • Martin Nicholson
  • Katie Weiland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Malta
  • Scotland
  • Croatia
  • Iceland
  • Morocco
  • Spain
  • United States[1][2][3]
Running time 50–65 minutes
Original channel HBO
Picture format
Audio format Dolby Digital 5.1
Original run April 17, 2011 (2011-04-17) – present
External links
Production website

Game of Thrones is an American fantasy drama television series created for HBO by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who serve as the showrunners and as executive producers. It is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's series of fantasy novels, the first of which is titled A Game of Thrones. Filmed in a Belfast studio and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco, Spain, Malta, Scotland, and the United States, it premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011. Two days after the fourth season premiered in April 2014, HBO renewed Game of Thrones for a fifth and sixth season.[4] The fifth season is scheduled to premiere on April 12, 2015.[5]

The series, set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos at the end of a decade-long summer, interweaves several plot lines with a broad ensemble cast. The first narrative arc follows a civil war among several noble houses for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms; the second covers the rising threat of the impending winter and the legendary creatures and fierce peoples of the North; the third chronicles the attempts of the exiled last scion of the realm's deposed ruling dynasty to reclaim the throne.

Game of Thrones has attracted record numbers of viewers on HBO and obtained an exceptionally broad and active international fan base. It received widespread acclaim by critics, although its frequent use of nudity, violence and sexual violence towards women has attracted criticism. The series has won numerous awards and nominations, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Drama Series for its first four seasons, a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Television Series – Drama, a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in both Long Form and Short Form, and a Peabody Award. Among the ensemble cast, Peter Dinklage has won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance as Tyrion Lannister.


Power and violence are central themes of Game of Thrones, and the great number of weapons made for the series – some of which are shown in this exhibit – reflects this.

Game of Thrones roughly follows the three storylines of A Song of Ice and Fire.[6] Set in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the series chronicles the violent dynastic struggles among the realm's noble families for control of the Iron Throne. As the series opens, additional threats emerge in the icy North and in the eastern continent of Essos.[2] The first season is a faithful adaptation of the book, later seasons however began to diverge with significant changes. According to David Benioff, the show is "about adapting the series as a whole and following the map George laid out for us and hitting the major milestones, but not necessarily each of the stops along the way."[7]

The novels and their adaptation derive aspects of their settings, characters and plot from various events of European history.[8] A principal inspiration for the novels is the English Wars of the Roses[9] (1455–85) between the houses of Lancaster and York, reflected in Martin's houses of Lannister and Stark. Most of Westeros, with its castles and knightly tournaments, is reminiscent of High Medieval Western Europe. The scheming Cersei, for instance, calls to mind Isabella, the "she-wolf of France" (1295–1358).[8] She and her family, as depicted in Maurice Druon's historical novel series The Accursed Kings, in particular, inspired Martin.[10] Other historical inspirations for elements of the series include Hadrian's Wall (which became Martin's great Wall), the legend of Atlantis (ancient Valyria), Byzantine "Greek fire" ("wildfire"), Icelandic sagas of the Viking Age (the Ironborn) and the Mongol hordes (the Dothraki), as well as elements from the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) and the Italian Renaissance (c. 1400–1500).[8] The series' great popularity has in part been attributed to Martin's skill at fusing these disparate elements into a seamless whole that appears credible on its own terms as an alternative history.[8]

"The Sopranos in Middle-earth" is the tagline showrunner David Benioff jokingly suggested for Game of Thrones, referring to its intrigue-filled plot and dark tone combined with a fantasy setting that incorporates some magic and dragons.[11] In a 2012 study, the series was listed second out of 40 recent U.S. TV drama series by deaths per episode, with an average of 14.[12][13]

Cast and characters[edit]

Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) leads the principal cast from season two onwards.

Like the novels it adapts, Game of Thrones has a sprawling ensemble cast, estimated to be the largest on television.[14] During the production of the third season, 257 cast names were recorded.[15] In 2014, several of the actors' contracts were renegotiated to include the option for a seventh season, and included raises that reportedly made the cast among the best-paid on cable TV.[16] The following overview reduces the list of characters in Game of Thrones to those played by the actors credited as part of the main cast.[17]

Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean) is the head of the Stark family whose members are involved in most of the series's intertwined plot lines. He and his wife Catelyn Tully (Michelle Fairley) have five children: the eldest, Robb (Richard Madden), the dainty Sansa (Sophie Turner), the tomboy Arya (Maisie Williams), the adventurous Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and the youngest, Rickon (Art Parkinson). Ned's bastard son Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his friend Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) serve in the Night's Watch under Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo). The red-haired Ygritte (Rose Leslie), one of the Wildlings led by Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), is Jon Snow's romantic interest, and Sam cares for the young Wildling Gilly (Hannah Murray). Ned's hostage and ward Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) lives with the Starks.

Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) and his sadistic bastard Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) are Stark bannermen. Robb falls in love with the healer Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin), and Arya befriends the blacksmith's apprentice Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the faceless man Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). Catelyn is served by the tall warrior Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).

Ned's old friend King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) shares a loveless marriage with Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who has taken her twin, the "Kingslayer" Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as her secret lover. She loathes her younger brother, the clever dwarf Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who is attended by his mistress Shae (Sibel Kekilli) and the sellsword Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Cersei's father is the fabulously wealthy Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), and she has two sons, the cruel Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and the kind Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman). Joffery is guarded by the scar-faced warrior Sandor "the Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann).

The king's "Small Council" of advisors includes the crafty Master of Coin, Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and the eunuch spymaster Lord Varys (Conleth Hill). Robert's brother Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is advised by the foreign priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) and the former smuggler Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham). The wealthy Tyrell family is represented at court by the ambitious Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and her witty grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg).

Across the Narrow Sea, siblings Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) – the exiled children of the king overthrown by Robert Baratheon – are on the run for their lives, trying to win back the throne. Daenerys has been married to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), the leader of the nomadic Dothraki, and is guarded by the exiled knight Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). She is attended to by her loyal servant Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and the charming sellsword Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman). Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), a Dornish bastard, is heavily involved in the actions of House Martell.


Conception and development[edit]

Showrunners D. B. Weiss and David Benioff created the series, wrote most of its episodes and directed some of them.
George R. R. Martin, the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, is attached to the series as a co-executive producer and wrote one episode for each of the first four seasons.

According to David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the two came up with the idea of adapting George R. R. Martin's novels to the screen in 2006, after Benioff began reading the first novel, A Game of Thrones. He called Weiss to share his excitement, and Weiss finished the thousand-page book in "maybe 36 hours".[18] They successfully pitched the series to HBO, and convinced Martin – a veteran screenwriter himself – in the course of a five-hour meeting in a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard to agree to the idea. Benioff recalled they won Martin over with their answer to his question: "Who is Jon Snow's mother?"[18]

The series began development in January 2007.[19] HBO, after acquiring the TV rights to the novels, hired Benioff and Weiss to write and executive produce the series, which would cover one novel's worth of material per season.[19] Initially, Benioff and Weiss were to write every episode save one per season, which Martin, who also joined as a co-executive producer, was attached to write.[19][20] Jane Espenson and Bryan Cogman were later added to each write one episode of the first season.[2]

The first and second drafts of the pilot script, written by Benioff and Weiss, were submitted in August 2007[21] and June 2008,[22] respectively. While HBO found both drafts to their liking,[22][23] a pilot was not ordered until November 2008,[24] with the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike possibly delaying the process.[23]

The pilot reportedly cost HBO between US$5 and 10 million,[25] and the total budget for the first season had been estimated at US$50–60 million.[26] In the second season, the show obtained a 15% budget increase to afford the most important battle in "The War of the Five Kings", the civil war central to the season.[27] The season 2 episode "Blackwater" had an increased budget of US$8 million[28] and the average episode has a budget of US$6 million, which is two-to-three times more than a typical network or cable series costs per episode.[29]

Adaptation schedule[edit]

Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss intend to adapt the entirety of the still incomplete A Song of Ice and Fire novel series. In 2013, they envisioned the series to have a scope of some 80 hours, about eight seasons' worth of material.[30] In March 2015, Benioff and Weiss said that with the fifth season adapting all material from the novels published so far, Game of Thrones might begin outpacing A Song of Ice and Fire in the sixth season. The series would then be based on an outline of the plot of the future novels provided by Martin.[31]

As of 2015, six seasons have been ordered and five have been filmed, adapting the novels at a rate of about 0.8 minutes per page for the first three seasons.[32]

Season Ordered Filming Premiere Novel adapted
Season 1 March 2, 2010[33] Second half of 2010 April 17, 2011 A Game of Thrones
Season 2 April 19, 2011 Second half of 2011 April 1, 2012 A Clash of Kings
Season 3 April 10, 2012 Second half of 2012 March 31, 2013[34] About the first half of A Storm of Swords[35]
Season 4 April 2, 2013[36] Second half of 2013 April 6, 2014[37] The second half of A Storm of Swords, and some elements from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons[38]
Season 5 April 8, 2014[4] Second half of 2014 April 12, 2015[5] A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons[39]
Season 6 April 8, 2014[4] TBA TBA TBA

Seasons 1 and 2 each adapted one novel. For the later seasons, the creators conceive of Game of Thrones as an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire as a whole, rather than of individual novels.[40] This gives them the liberty to move events back and forth across books according to the requirements of the screen adaptation.[41]

The four seasons filmed so far each consist of ten episodes. Most episodes from the first and second season run for about 52 minutes, while many of the third season's episodes are 56 or 57 minutes long. The series' pilot and the second, third and fourth season finales run for more than an hour apiece.[42]

Title sequence[edit]

The series's title sequence was created by production studio Elastic for HBO. Creative director Angus Wall and his collaborators received the 2011 Emmy Award for Main Title Design for their work on the sequence.[43] It depicts a three-dimensional map of the series's fictional world, projected onto the inside of a sphere, which is centrally lit by a small sun contained within an armilla.[44] As the camera swoops across the map and focuses on the locations in which the episode's events take place, complicated clockwork mechanisms let buildings and other structures emerge from the map and unfold. Meanwhile, accompanied by the title music, the names of the principal cast and creative staff are displayed. The sequence concludes after about one and a half minutes with the title card and brief opening credits indicating the episode's writer(s) and director. The composition of the title sequence changes as the story progresses, as new places are introduced they replace others that no longer feature as prominently or at all.


The walled city of Dubrovnik stands in for King's Landing from season 2 onwards
Ballintoy Harbour was redressed as Lordsport on the Iron Islands
The Azure Window in Malta was the site of the Dothraki wedding in season 1

Principal photography for the first season was scheduled to begin on July 26, 2010.[2] The primary location was the Paint Hall Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland.[45] Exterior scenes in Northern Ireland were filmed at Sandy Brae in the Mourne Mountains (standing in for Vaes Dothrak), Castle Ward (Winterfell), Saintfield Estates (the Winterfell godswood), Tollymore Forest (outdoor scenes), Cairncastle (the execution site), Magheramorne quarry (Castle Black) and at Shane's Castle (the tourney grounds).[1] Doune Castle in Stirling, Scotland, was also used in the original pilot episode for exterior and interior scenes at Winterfell.[46] The producers initially considered shooting the whole series in Scotland, but eventually chose Northern Ireland because of the availability of studio space.[47]

The first season's southern scenes were filmed in Malta, a change in location from the sets in Morocco used for the pilot episode.[2] The city of Mdina was used for scenes in King's Landing, and filming also took place at Fort Manoel (representing the Sept of Baelor), at the Azure Window on the island of Gozo (the Dothraki wedding site), and at San Anton Palace, Fort Ricasoli, Fort St Angelo and St. Dominic monastery (all used for scenes in the Red Keep).[1]

For the second season, shooting of the Southern scenes shifted from Malta to Croatia, where the city of Dubrovnik and nearby locations allowed exterior shots of a seaside walled medieval city. The Walls of Dubrovnik and of Fort Lovrijenac were used for scenes in King's Landing and the Red Keep. The island of Lokrum, the St. Dominic monastery on the island of Trogir, the Rector's Palace in Dubrovnik and the Dubac quarry a few kilometers to the east were used for scenes set in Qarth. Scenes set north of the Wall, in the Frostfangs and at the Fist of the First Men, were filmed in Iceland in November 2011, on the Svínafellsjökull glacier and near Smyrlabjörg and Vík on Höfðabrekkuheiði.[1]

For the third season the production returned to Dubrovnik in Croatia. The Walls of Dubrovnik, Fort Lovrijenac and nearby locations were used for scenes in King's Landing and the Red Keep. One new location Trsteno Arboretum is the garden the Tyrells use in King's Landing. The third season also returned to Morocco (previously used in the pilot episode), including the city of Essaouira, to film Daenerys's scenes in Essos.[48] The production employed three units ("Dragon", "Wolf" and "Raven") filming in parallel, six directing teams, 257 cast members and 703 crew members.[15] One scene featuring a live bear, Little Bart, was filmed in Los Angeles.[3]

The fourth season returned to Dubrovnik and included new locations in Croatia, such as Diocletian's Palace in Split, Klis Fortress north of Split, Perun quarry east of Split, Mosor mountain and Baška Voda further down to the south.[49] Filming took 136 days, ending on November 21, 2013.[50]


The costumes of Ygritte, Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane reflect the harsh climate in which they are worn.
The rich dresses worn at the royal court in King's Landing advertise their wearers' wealth and status.
Functional weapons and armor, like Brienne of Tarth's (left), were manufactured for the series.

The show's costumes are inspired by many cultures, such as Japanese and Persian. Dothraki outfits resemble the Bedouin's (one was made out of fish skins to resemble dragon scales), and the Wildlings wear animal skins inside out like the Inuit.[51] Wildling bone armor is made of molds taken of real bones and assembled with string and latex resembling catgut.[52] While extras who portray Wildlings and the Night's Watch wear hats as would be normal in a cold climate, main actors usually do not so viewers can identify the characters. Björk's Alexander McQueen high-neckline dresses inspired Dormer's unusual funnel-neck outfit, and prostitute costumes are designed to be quickly removed.[51] All clothing, whether for Wildlings or for women at the royal court, is aged for two weeks to improve realism on high-definition television.[52]

About two dozen wigs are used for the actresses. Made of human hair and up to 2 feet (61 cm) in length, they cost up to $7,000 each and are washed and styled like real hair. Applying the wigs is a lengthy process; Clarke, for example, requires about two hours to style her brunette hair with a platinum-blonde wig and braids. Other actors such as Gleeson and Turner receive frequent haircoloring. For characters such as Clarke and her Dothraki, hair, wigs, and costumes are processed so they appear as if they have not been washed for weeks.[51]


Unusually for television shows, the sound team receives a rough-cut of a full season to work on, and they approach it like a ten-hour feature film. Season 1 and 2 each had a different sound team, but for the third, fourth - and going into the fifth - season, the same team has been working on the sound.[53] For the show's blood and goo sounds, the sound team often uses a shammy. For dragon screams, they have used the sounds of two tortoises mating, as well as dolphin, seal, lion and bird sounds.[54]

Visual effects[edit]

For the large amount of visual effects in the series, HBO hired the VFX companies BlueBolt, based in Great Britain, and Screen Scene, based in Ireland, for season one. Most of the environment builds were done as 2.5D projections, to give the viewer a good sense of perspective, but also to keep the amount of programming from becoming too overwhelming.[55] The season one finale "Fire and Blood" was nominated for an Emmy Award for Visual Effects in 2011. Due to the effects becoming more complex in the upcoming seasons, including CG-creatures, -fire, and -water, the job was given to German-based Pixomondo. Pixomondo served as lead VFX producer for seasons two and three. Nine of its twelve facilities contributed to the project, with Stuttgart serving as the lead.[56][57] Additionally, some scenes were produced by Peanut VFX (Great Britain), Spin VFX (Canada) and Gradient Effects (USA). The episodes "Valar Morghulis" and "Valar Dohaeris" earned Pixomondo the Emmy Award for Visual Effects in 2012 and 2013, respectively. For season four, HBO again switched VFX companies, this time to Mackevision, also based in Germany.[58] The season four finale "The Children" won the Emmy Award for Visual Effects in 2014. Additional producers for season four include Rodeo FX (Canada), Scanline VFX (Germany) and BAKED FX (USA).


The Westerosi characters of Game of Thrones speak British English, often (but not consistently) with the accent of the English region whose geographic location corresponds to the character's Westerosi region. For instance, Eddard Stark, as Warden of the North, speaks in actor Sean Bean's native northern accent, while the southern lord Tywin Lannister speaks with a southern accent. Characters foreign to Westeros are often (although not always) played with a non-British accent.[59]

While English is used to convey the common language of Westeros, the producers charged linguist David J. Peterson with developing the Dothraki and Valyrian languages as constructed languages, based on the few words used in Martin's novels.[60] Dothraki or Valyrian dialogue is subtitled in English. The BBC estimated that, through the series, these fictional languages were heard by more people than the Welsh, Irish and Scots Gaelic languages combined.[61]

Effect on location[edit]

Game of Thrones receives funding from Northern Ireland Screen, a government agency financed by Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund.[62] As of April 2013, Northern Ireland Screen has awarded the show £9.25 million and according to government estimates, benefited the Northern Ireland economy by £65 million.[63]

Tourism Ireland has a Game of Thrones-themed marketing campaign similar to New Zealand's Tolkien-related advertising,[64] and Invest NI and the Tourist Board[63] also expect the series to generate tourism revenue. According to a government minister, the series has given Northern Ireland the most publicity in its history outside politics and the Troubles.[65] The production of Game of Thrones and other TV series has also provided a boost to the creative industry in Northern Ireland, contributing to a growth of 12.4% in arts, entertainment and recreation jobs from 2008 to 2013 (as opposed to 4.3% in the whole of the UK).[66]

Tourism organizations in other filming locations also reported notable increases in bookings after their locations appeared in Game of Thrones. Bookings through one web portal in 2012 increased by 13% in Iceland and by 28% in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In 2013, bookings increased by 100% in Ouarzazate, Morocco, where Daenerys's season 3 scenes were filmed.[67]



Game of Thrones is broadcast by HBO in the United States, and through its local subsidiaries or other pay TV services in other countries, either at the same time as in the U.S. or some weeks or months later. The series's broadcast in China on CCTV, beginning in 2014, was heavily edited to remove scenes of sex and violence, in accordance with a Chinese practice of censoring western TV series to prevent "negative effects and hidden security dangers", according to the People's Daily. This resulted in viewer complaints about the incoherence of what remained of the series.[68]

The broadcasters carrying Game of Thrones include Showcase in Australia, HBO Canada, Super Écran, and Showcase in Canada, HBO India in India, Sky Atlantic in Ireland, SoHo and Prime in New Zealand, HBO Pakistan in Pakistan, HBO Philippines in the Philippines, M-Net in South Africa, and Sky Atlantic and Sky1 in the United Kingdom.[69]

Home video[edit]

The ten episodes of the first season of Game of Thrones were published as a DVD and Blu-ray box set on March 6, 2012. The set includes extra background and behind-the-scenes material, but no deleted scenes, because almost all the footage shot for the first season was used in the show.[70] The box set sold 350,000 units in the first seven days of its release, the largest first-week DVD sales ever for an HBO series. The series also set an HBO series record for digital download sales.[71] A "collector's edition" of the box set combining the DVD and Blu-ray versions, a dragon's egg paperweight and the first episode of season two was released in November 2012.

DVD/Blu-ray box sets and digital downloads of the second season were made available on February 19, 2013.[72] First-day sales again broke HBO records, with 241,000 box sets sold and 355,000 episodes downloaded.[73]

The third season was made available for purchase as a digital download on the iTunes Store, in Australia only, in parallel to the US premiere.[74]


Game of Thrones is notorious for being widely pirated. File-sharing news website TorrentFreak estimated Game of Thrones to be the most-pirated TV series of 2012,[75] 2013[76] and 2014,[77] and the second-most in 2011.[78] One episode was downloaded about 4,280,000 times through public BitTorrent trackers in 2012, about equal to the number of broadcast viewers.[79][80] Piracy rates were particularly high in Australia.[81] This led US Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich to issue a public statement[82] condemning Australian piracy of the series in 2013.[83] One copy of the third season's premiere was the most simultaneously shared file in the history of the BitTorrent filesharing protocol, with over 160,000 sharers and more than a million downloads.[84] The season four finale episode was downloaded via BitTorrent approximately 1.5 million times within 12 hours, setting a new record for illegal downloads.[85]

The significant delays in availability outside of HBO or its affiliates[86] and the cost of subscriptions to these services are thought to contribute to the series' widespread illegal distribution. According to TorrentFreak, this cost ranges from 15 to 25 U.S. dollars per month in the U.S. up to 26 pounds per episode in the UK and 52 Australian dollars per episode in Australia, if somebody were to subscribe to a service exclusively for Game of Thrones.[87]

Observers, including series director David Petrarca[88] and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said illegal downloads did not hurt the series' prospects, as it benefited from the resulting "buzz" and social commentary, while the high rates of piracy did not significantly translate to lost subscriptions. According to Polygon, HBO's relatively relaxed attitude towards piracy and sharing login credentials amounted to a "free-to-play" model for premium television.[89] To counteract piracy, HBO said in 2013 it intended to make its content more widely available within the week of the US premiere, including through its digital service HBO Go.[90]


Beginning January 23, 2015, the last two episodes of season four were shown in 205 IMAX theaters in the U.S. Game of Thrones is the first TV series released in this format.[91] The show earned $686,000 in its opening day at the box office[92] and $1.5 million during its opening weekend.[93]

Other media and products[edit]


The music for the series is composed by Ramin Djawadi. The first season's soundtrack, written in about ten weeks before the show's premiere,[94] was published by Varèse Sarabande in June 2011.[95] Soundtrack albums for the subsequent seasons have also been published, featuring tracks performed by the bands The National, The Hold Steady and Sigur Rós. The series's instrumental title music has been much covered.

Accompanying material[edit]

Thronecast: The Official Guide to Game of Thrones, a series of podcasts presented by Geoff Lloyd and produced by Koink, was released on the Sky Atlantic website and the UK iTunes store. A new podcast was released after each episode, featuring analysis and cast interviews.[96] In 2014, HBO commissioned a free album of rap songs about the series, Catch the Throne.[97]

A companion book, Inside HBO's Game of Thrones by series writer Bryan Cogman (ISBN 978-1-4521-1010-3), was published on September 27, 2012. On 192 pages, illustrated with concept art and behind-the-scenes photographs, the book covers the creation of the series's first two seasons, as well as its principal characters and families.[98]

Merchandise and exhibition[edit]

A selection of Game of Thrones merchandise sold in HBO's New York City store

HBO has issued licenses for a broad range of merchandise based on Game of Thrones. These include various games, replica weapons and armor, jewellery, bobblehead dolls by Funko, beer by Ommegang, and various items and apparel.[99] Top-end merchandise includes Ulysse Nardin wristwatches for $10,500[100] and resin replicas of the Iron Throne for $30,000.[101]

In 2013 and 2014, a traveling exhibition of costumes, props, armor and weapons from the series visited several major cities in Europe and the Americas.[102]

Other works based on the series[edit]

The series has also inspired other works, including four video games based on the TV series and novels. The strategy game Game of Thrones Ascent ties in particularly closely with the series, making characters and settings available to players as soon as they appear on air.[103]

The fall 2012 ready-to-wear collection by the fashion brand Helmut Lang was inspired by Game of Thrones.[104][105] In March 2012, Wiley-Blackwell published Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper than the Sword (ISBN 978-1-118-16199-9). This entry in Blackwell's Pop Culture and Philosophy series, edited by Henry Jacoby and William Irwin, aims to highlight and discuss philosophical issues raised by the show and its source material.[106]

In 2013, Game of Thrones was notably parodied on the cover of Mad on April 30,[107] as well as by a web series, School of Thrones, which set the story in a high school whose students vie for the title of prom king and queen.[108] Two pornographic parodies of the series were also announced in 2013.[109] The "One World Symphony" company announced, in 2014, a musical production based on television series including Game of Thrones.[110]


Game of Thrones was highly anticipated by fans before its premiere.[111][112] It has since become a critical and commercial success. By 2014, according to The Guardian it had become "the biggest drama" and "the most talked about show" on television.[113]

Cultural influence[edit]

Although the series was dismissed or patronizingly reviewed by some critics prior to being aired on account of its genre trappings,[113] its subsequent success has been credited with an increased popularity of fantasy themes and mainstream acceptance of the fantasy fandom. "After this weekend", wrote on the eve of the second season's premiere, "you may be hard pressed to find someone who isn't a fan of some form of epic fantasy". According to Ian Bogost, Game of Thrones continues a trend of successful screen adaptations, beginning with Peter Jackson's 2001 The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and continuing with the Harry Potter films, that have established fantasy as a lucrative mass market genre and serve as "gateway drugs to fantasy fan culture".[114] The series' success in overcoming prejudices against fantasy was attributed by writers interviewed by The Guardian to a general longing for escapism in popular culture, the series' frequent use of female nudity, and its skill in balancing light-hearted and serious topics – dragons and politics – that allowed it to claim the sort of prestige enjoyed by conventional top-tier drama series.[113]

The series' popularity greatly boosted sales of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, soon republished as tie-in editions, which remained at the top of bestseller lists for months on end. The Daily Beast wrote that Game of Thrones was a particular favorite of many sitcom writers, and consequently the series has been referenced in many other TV series.[115] Together with other fantasy series, Game of Thrones has been deemed responsible for a substantial increase in purchases (and abandonments) of huskies and other wolf-like dogs.[116]

Game of Thrones has also been the basis of additions to the popular vocabulary. The first season's frequent scenes in which characters explain their motives or background while having sex with prostitutes gave rise to the term "sexposition" to describe the practice of providing exposition against a backdrop of sex and nudity.[117] "Dothraki", the name of the nomadic horsemen appearing in the series, was listed fourth in a list of words from television most used on the Internet, compiled in September 2012 by Global Language Monitor.[118] After the second season, the media began using "Game of Thrones" as a figure of speech or as a comparison for situations of intense conflict and deceit, e.g., the court battles about US healthcare legislation,[119] the Syrian civil war[120] or power struggles in the Chinese government.[121]

Critical response[edit]

In general[edit]

Metacritic ratings per season
Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4
Rating 80[122] 90[123] 91[124] 94[125]

The critical response to the four aired seasons of Game of Thrones has been very positive. All seasons were listed on several yearly "best of" lists published by US media, such as the Washington Post (2011), TIME (2011 and 2012) and The Hollywood Reporter (2012).[126][127][128] Seasons 2 through 4 obtained a Metacritic rating of 90 or more, which the website rates "universal acclaim". Each season from 2 onwards has also achieved a higher Metacritic score than the previous one. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America placed Game of Thrones in the fortieth place on the list of the 101 best-written TV series.[129]

The performances of the very large, predominantly British and Irish cast have been widely praised. American actor Peter Dinklage's "charming, morally ambiguous, and self-aware"[130] portrayal of Tyrion, which won him an Emmy and a Golden Globe award, among others, was particularly noted. "In many ways, "Game of Thrones" belongs to Dinklage", wrote Mary McNamara of the L.A. Times[131] even before, in season 2, the "scene-stealing actor's"[132] character became the series' most central figure.[132] Several critics highlighted the performances of the women[131] and child actors.[133] 14-year-old Maisie Williams, already noted in the first season for her debut performance as Arya Stark, received particular praise for her work opposite veteran actor Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) in season 2.[134]

Reviewing the first season, critics noted the high production values, the well-realized world and compelling characters.[135] Variety wrote "there may be no show more profitable to its network than 'Game of Thrones' is to HBO. Fully produced by the pay cabler and already a global phenomenon after only one season, the fantasy skein was a gamble that has paid off handsomely."[136]

The second season was also very well received by critics. Entertainment Weekly praised the "vivid, vital, and just plain fun" storytelling,[137] and The Hollywood Reporter said the show made a "strong case for being one of TV's best series", its gravitas making it the only genre show dramatically comparable to shows such as Mad Men or Breaking Bad.[138] The New York Times published a mixed review, disapproving of the characters' lack of complexity and their confusing multitude, as well as the meandering plot.[139]

Use of sex and violence[edit]

Despite its otherwise enthusiastic reception by critics, Game of Thrones has been criticized for the amount of female nudity, violence and torture, and sexual violence against women it depicts, and for how it depicts these themes.

The amount of sex and nudity in the series, especially in scenes that are incidental to the plot, was the focus of much of the criticism aimed at the series in its first and second season. Actor Stephen Dillane, who portrays Stannis Baratheon, likened the series's frequent explicit scenes to "German porn from the 1970s".[140] Charlie Anders wrote in io9 that while the first season was replete with light-hearted "sexposition", the second season appeared to focus on distasteful, exploitative and dehumanizing sex with little informational content.[141] According to the Washington Post's Anna Holmes, the nude scenes appeared to be aimed mainly at titillating heterosexual men, right down to the Brazilian waxes sported by the women in the series's faux-medieval setting, which made these scenes alienating to other viewers.[142] And in the Huffington Post, Maureen Ryan likewise noted that Game of Thrones mostly presented women naked, rather than men, and the excess of "random boobage" undercut any aspirations the series might have to address the oppression of women in a feudal society.[143] Saturday Night Live parodied this aspect of the adaptation in a sketch portraying the series as retaining a thirteen-year-old boy as a consultant whose main concern was showing as many breasts per scene as possible.[141][144]

In the third season, which saw the character Theon Greyjoy tortured at length and eventually emasculated, the series was also criticized for its use of torture.[145] Madeleine Davies wrote in Jezebel that "it's not uncommon that Game of Thrones gets accused of being torture porn — senseless, objectifying violence combined with senseless, objectifying sexual imagery". But, according to her, the series' violence tended to serve a narrative purpose, except for the titillation and torture of Theon Greyjoy in "The Bear and the Maiden Fair".[146]

A scene in the fourth season's episode "Breaker of Chains" in which Jaime Lannister rapes his sister and former lover Cersei triggered a broad public discussion about the series's depiction of sexual violence against women. According to Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times, the scene caused outrage, in part because of comments by director Alex Graves that the scene became “consensual by the end.”[147] To Sonia Saraiya, writing in the A.V. Club, the series's choice to portray this sexual act and one between Daenerys and Khal Drogo in the first season – both described as consensual in the source novels – as a rape appeared to be an act of "exploitation for shock value".[148] The Times wrote that critics fear that "rape has become so pervasive in the drama that it is almost background noise: a routine and unshocking occurrence".[147] George R. R. Martin responded that rape and sexual violence are common in war, and that omitting them from the narrative would have undermined one of his novels' themes: that "the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves."[147]


Two fans costumed as Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen. Cosplay is a popular activity at fan conventions.
In this manipulated image published by the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama, a fan of the series, sits on the Iron Throne in the Oval Office with the King's crown in his lap.

The novel series A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV adaptation Game of Thrones have an exceptionally broad and active international fan base. In 2012, Vulture ranked the series's fandom as the most devoted in popular culture, ahead of Lady Gaga's, Justin Bieber's, Harry Potter's or Star Wars'.[149] Fans include political leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama,[150][151] former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard,[152][153] and Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who, in a 2013 speech, framed challenges of European politics in terms of quotes from Martin's novels.[154]

In 2013, BBC News said "the passion and the extreme devotion of fans" had brought about a phenomenon unlike anything related to other popular TV series, manifesting itself in a very broad range of fan labor, such as fan fiction,[155] but also Game of Thrones-themed burlesque routines, or people naming their children after characters from the series:[156] "Arya" was the girl's name rising the fastest in popularity in the US in 2012, from 711th to 413th position.[157] Writers cited by the BBC attributed this success to the rich detail, moral ambiguity, sexual explicitness and epic scale of the series and novels.[156]

In 2013, it was reported that 58 percent of its viewers were male and 42 percent were female, and the average male viewer was 41 years old.[158][159] According to the marketing director of SBS, Game of Thrones has the highest fan engagement rate of any TV series known to her: 5.5% of the series's 2.9 million Facebook fans were talking online about the series in 2012, compared to 1.8% of the more than ten million fans of HBO's other fantasy series True Blood.[160]

Among the many fan sites dedicated to the TV and novel series, Vulture noted in particular and (which provide news reports and discussion forums), (which organizes communal readings of the novels), and[149] There are also many podcasts covering the series.[161]

Viewer numbers[edit]

The first season of Game of Thrones had an average of 2.5 million viewers for its first Sunday night screenings, and an average gross audience of 9.3 million viewers per episode including all repeats and on-demand viewings.[162] For its second season, Game of Thrones had an average gross audience of 11.6 million viewers.[163] The third season was watched by 14.2 million, making Game of Thrones the second most-viewed HBO series after The Sopranos.[164][165] In the fourth season, HBO said that its average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers, later adjusted to 18.6 million, had beaten The Sopranos for the record.[166][167]

The following graph shows viewer numbers for the first airings:

Game of Thrones: Viewers per episode (in millions)[a]

Season:     1 (2011)    2 (2012)    3 (2013)    4 (2014)

Ep. 1 Ep. 2 Ep. 3 Ep. 4 Ep. 5 Ep. 6 Ep. 7 Ep. 8 Ep. 9 Ep. 10
Season 1 2.22 2.20 2.44 2.45 2.58 2.44 2.40 2.72 2.66 3.04
Season 2 3.86 3.76 3.77 3.65 3.90 3.88 3.69 3.86 3.38 4.20
Season 3 4.37 4.27 4.72 4.87 5.35 5.50 4.84 5.13 5.22 5.39
Season 4 6.64 6.31 6.59 6.95 7.16 6.40 7.20 7.17 6.95 7.09
  1. ^ Viewers of the first airing on HBO in the US on Sundays 9:00 pm


The first season of Game of Thrones was nominated for thirteen of the 2011 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. It won two, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Main Title Design. Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, was named best supporting actor by the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the Scream Awards and the Satellite Awards. In 2012, the second season won six of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

Year Award Category Recipient Ref.
2011 AFI Awards AFI TV Award Game of Thrones [168]
Emmy Awards Outstanding Main Title Design Angus Wall, Hameed Shaukat, Kirk Shintani and Robert Feng [169]
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Peter Dinklage
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Peter Dinklage [170][171]
Peabody Award Game of Thrones [172]
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Peter Dinklage [173]
Scream Awards Best Supporting Actor Peter Dinklage [174]
Best TV Show Game of Thrones
Breakout Performance – Female Emilia Clarke
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series Game of Thrones [175]
TCA Awards Outstanding New Program Game of Thrones [176][177]
2012 AFI Awards AFI TV Award Game of Thrones [178]
Emmy Awards Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series Gemma Jackson, Frank Walsh, and Tina Jones for "Garden of Bones", "The Ghost of Harrenhal" and "A Man Without Honor" [169]
Outstanding Costumes for a Series Michele Clapton, Alexander Fordham, and Chloe Aubry for "The Prince of Winterfell"
Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) Paul Engelen and Melissa Lackersteen for "The Old Gods and the New"
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series Peter Brown, Kira Roessler, Tim Hands, Paul Aulicino, Stephen P. Robinson, Vanessa Lapato, Brett Voss, James Moriana, Jeffrey Wilhoit, and David Klotz for "Blackwater"
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series (1 hour) Matthew Waters, Onnalee Blank, Ronan Hill, and Mervyn Moore for "Blackwater"
Outstanding Special Visual Effects Rainer Gombos, Juri Stanossek, Sven Martin, Steve Kullback, Jan Fiedler, Chris Stenner, Tobias Mannewitz, Thilo Ewers, and Adam Chazen for "Valar Morghulis"
Golden Nymph awards Outstanding International Producer David Benioff, Frank Doelger, Carolyn Strauss and D.B. Weiss [179]
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing — Short Form Dialogue and ADR in Television Game of Thrones for "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things" [180]
Best Sound Editing — Short Form Sound Effects and Foley in Television Game of Thrones for "Winter is Coming"
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, George R. R. Martin, Tim Van Patten, Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan and Alan Taylor for Game of Thrones - Season 1 [181]
Kerrang! Awards Best TV Show Game of Thrones [182]
TCA Awards Program of the Year Game of Thrones [183][184]
2013 ADG Excellence in Production Design Award One-Hour Single Camera Television Series Gemma Jackson for "The Ghost of Harrenhal" [185]
AFI Awards AFI TV Award Game of Thrones [186]
British Academy Television Awards Radio Times Audience Award Game of Thrones [187]
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Drama Series Game of Thrones [188][189]
Emmy Awards Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) Paul Engelen and Melissa Lackersteen for "Kissed By Fire" [169]
Outstanding Special Visual Effects Doug Campbell, Rainer Gombos, Juri Stanossek, Sven Martin, Steve Kullback, Jan Fiedler, Chris Stenner, Tobias Mannewitz, Thilo Ewers, and Adam Chazen for "Valar Dohaeris"
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing — Long Form Dialogue and ADR in Television Game of Thrones for "Valar Morghulis" [190][191]
Best Sound Editing — Long Form Sound Effects and Foley in Television Game of Thrones for "Valar Morghulis"
Hollywood Post Alliance Awards Outstanding Sound – Television Paula Fairfield, Brad Katona, Jed Dodge, Onnalee Blank and Mathew Waters for "The Climb" [192][193]
Outstanding Visual Effects – Television Joe Bauer and Jabbar Raisani, Jörn Grosshans and Sven Martin, and Doug Campbell for "Valar Dohaeris"
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Neil Marshall (director) and George R. R. Martin (writer) for "Blackwater" [194]
Satellite Awards Best Television Series – Genre Game of Thrones [195][196]
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series Game of Thrones [197]
TCA Awards Outstanding Achievement in Drama Game of Thrones [198][199]
Visual Effects Society Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial or Broadcast Program Irfan Celik, Florian Friedmann, Ingo Schachner, Chris Stenner for "Training the Dragons" [200]
Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program Falk Boje, Esther Engel, Alexey Kuchinsky, Klaus Wuchta for "White Walker Army"
Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial or Broadcast Program Rene Borst, Thilo Ewers, Adam Figielski, Jonas Stuckenbrock for "Pyke"
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program Rainer Gombos, Steve Kullback, Sven Martin, Juri Stanossek for "Valar Morghulis"
2014 ADG Excellence in Production Design Award One-Hour Single Camera Television Series Gemma Jackson for "Valar Dohaeris" [201][202]
American Society of Cinematographers One-Hour Episodic Television Series Jonathan Freeman for "Valar Dohaeris" [203][204]
Cinema Audio Society Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing - Television Series – One Hour Ronan Hill, Onnalee Blank, Mathew Waters, and Brett Voss for "The Rains of Castamere" [205]
Emmy Awards Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Fantasy Series Deborah Riley, Paul Ghirardani, and Rob Cameron for "The Laws of Gods and Men" and "The Mountain and the Viper" [169]
Outstanding Costumes For A Series Michele Clapton, Sheena Wichary, Alexander Fordham, and Nina Ayres for "The Lion and the Rose"
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series Jane Walker and Barrie Gower for "The Children"
Outstanding Special And Visual Effects Joe Bauer, Joern Grosshans, Steve Kullback, Adam Chazen, Eric Carney, Sabrina Gerhardt, Matthew Rouleau, Thomas H. Schelesny, and Robert Simon for "The Children"
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing — Short Form Dialogue and ADR in Television Jed Dodge and Tim Hands for "The Rains of Castamere" [206][207]
Best Sound Editing — Short Form Music David Klotz for "The Rains of Castamere"
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form David Benioff, David Nutter, and D. B. Weiss for "The Rains of Castamere" [208]
Location Managers Guild Awards Outstanding Location Television Program Game of Thrones [209]
Outstanding Achievement by a Location Professional – TV Program Robert Boake
Royal Television Society International Program Game of Thrones [210]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series Game of Thrones [211][212]
TV Choice Awards Best International Show Game of Thrones [213]
Visual Effects Society Outstanding Compositing in a Broadcast Program Kirk Brillon, Steve Gordon, Geoff Sayer, Winston Lee for "The Climb" [214][215]
Outstanding Created Environment in a Broadcast Program Patrick Zentis, Mayur Patel, Nitin Singh, Tim Alexander for "The Climb"
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program Steve Kullback, Joe Bauer, Jörn Großhans, Sven Martin for "Valar Dohaeris"
2015 ADG Excellence in Production Design Award One-Hour Single Camera Fantasy Television Series Deborah Riley for "The Laws of Gods and Men" and "The Mountain and the Viper" [216]
Cinema Audio Society Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing - Television Series – One Hour Ronan Hill, Richard Dyer, Onnalee Blank, Mathew Waters, Brett Voss [217]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series Michele Clapton for Game of Thrones [218]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series Game of Thrones [219][220]
Visual Effects Society Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program Game of Thrones for "The Children" [221][222]
Outstanding Created Environment in a Commercial, Broadcast Program, or Video Game Rene Borst, Christian Zilliken, Jan Burda, Steffen Metzner for "Braavos Establisher"
Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal/Live Action Broadcast Program Dan Breckwoldt, Martin Furman, Sophie Marfleet, Eric Andrusyszyn for "The Watchers on the Wall"


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