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Game of Thrones' most shocking moments, ranked (spoilers)

From despicable to diabolical, we count down Game of Thrones' most jawdropping scenes

By Sophie Harris
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Just when you think your favorite dragon-starring, nudity-loving, medieval-violence-digging TV show can’t get any more shocking, lo and behold, it does. And how. To say that the final episode of Game of Thrones' current season left viewers worldwide askance would be a massive understatement. Pizza was left uneaten, plots were discussed until the wee hours and weird dreams were had everywhere. We simply can't believe it! But it’s always been the way with George RR Martin’s addictive show. In celebration of its power to surprise (and, often, horrify), here are the ten most shocking moments on Game of Thrones, ranked from 10 to 1. Brace yourselves!

Photograph: Courtesy HBO

10. Bran gets pushed out of a window

Season one, episode one: A curious little boy climbs up the walls of the castle he’s grown up in, and hears noises coming from one of its chambers. He makes his way to the window, looks in and sees Jaime Lannister having sex with his twin sister, Cersei. Unfortunately for Bran, the siblings see him, too. Jaime strolls to the window, makes some lighthearted small talk, and then—casual as anything, as if he’s doing the dusting—shoves Bran out, without even looking, as he does it. Whoa.

Photograph: Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO

9. Joffrey chokes to death

We had waited sooo long for wicked King Joffrey to get his due: He had committed an astonishing amount of sadistic, terrible deeds in his relatively short lifetime (torture, murder, more torture, more murder, etc.). He survived show after show, even as the great and the good around him perished. He had to die! But how would he die? No one—but no one—could’ve imagined he’d choke on a piece of poisoned pigeon pie at his own wedding.

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Photograph: Courtesy HBO

8. Littlefinger pushes Lysa through the moon door

Poor, mad old aunt Lysa: devotedly in love with the slime-some Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger) and driven beyond even her usual craziness by jealousy. She accuses her new husband of loving her niece Sansa Stark. “Oh my sweet wife,” soothes Littlefinger. "I have only loved one woman, only one, my entire life…" Lysa starts to smile, then Baelish whispers, “Your sister!” And shoves her through the moon door, thousands of pazillions of feet to her death. Wow. An evil version of the Carly Simon song “Nobody Does It Better” could and should have been written for Littlefinger.

Photograph: Courtesy HBO

7. Viserys gets his golden crown

There are few things more satisfying in any great story than a villain—or in this case, really annoying, obnoxious person—getting their comeuppance, and the fate of Daenerys Targaryen’s horrible brother Viserys in episode six of Game of Thrones’ first season was pretty spectacular. Foolish Viserys goads his sibling at a Dothraki feast in the presence of her husband, Khal Drogo. “I want the crown he promised me,” he whines, threatening Daenerys’s unborn child. “He says yes,” she says coldly, “You shall have a golden crown that men will tremble to behold.” Viserys looks delighted. Khal Drogo melts down the golden crown, and pours it on Viserys’s head. Viserys falls over with a loud clunk.

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Photograph: Courtesy HBO

6. Jaime’s hand gets chopped off

Up until this point, Jaime seemed untouchable: handsome, suave and blessed with a Houdini-like ability to get out of any sticky (or literally shitty) situation. He was fun! A winner! A bit of light relief from the grim goings-on everywhere else in Westeros. Then he got too cocky around his captor, Locke, and WHOMP! Down came the cleaver. With almost comic timing, the credits ran to the sound of an Irish punk song. Collective jaws dropped.

Photograph: Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO

5. Sir Gregor Clegane crushes Oberyn Martell’s skull and squishes his eyes out

Fairly self-explanatory in terms of content, but oh, the buildup! Charismatic, morally decent upholder of values Oberyn Martell is in the battle ring for a fight that will decide the fate of Tyrion Lannister (falsely accused of murdering King Joffrey), pitted against the gigantic Sir Gregor—who had raped and murdered Oberyn’s sister, along with her children. Against the odds, he appears to win the fight. Sir Gregor lies defeated on the ground, but Oberyn can’t resist asking Sir Gregor to confess. In a horrendous GoT take on the Basic Instinct bathtub resurrection scene, Sir Gregor comes back from the brink, and makes his confession while crushing the Dornishman’s skull. Utterly diabolical and completely shocking.

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Photograph: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

4. Stannis Baratheon burns his own daughter at the stake

We never thought it would happen. Okay, we knew it might—we saw Stannis thrown into turmoil when red witch Melisandre told the would-be king that the Lord of Light would only be satisfied with the sacrifice of his royal daughter. But Stannis dismissed her, there and then, and he’s become progressively more human and personable throughout this most recent season. Also, dude—who burns their own daughter at a stake? Shireen’s desperate screams made this scene pretty much unwatchable unless viewed through fingers over the eyes, and it’s been Game of Thrones' most chilling moment.

Photograph: Courtesy HBO

3. The Starks are massacred

As grim as Game of Thrones has gotten, there are very few moments that a committed viewer wishes they could un-see. This is one of them. If you haven’t yet watched "Red Wedding," consider this spoiler your chance to opt out. The Starks are gathered at the Twins, Walder Frey's castle, for the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey, but Lord Frey carries a grudge that Robb, the King of the North, married someone he actually loves, Talisa Stark, who is now pregnant. Robb’s mother, Catelyn, senses something is amiss, and sees that Roose Bolton is wearing chain mail under his clothes, a chilling moment in and of itself. She raises the alarm too late.  Talisa is stabbed in the stomach repeatedly, Robb is shot with a crossbow, and Catelyn’s throat is cut. It is Shakespearean in its blood-letting, utterly horrendous, and based on true events from the medieval era.

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Photograph: Courtesy HBO

2. Ned Stark is beheaded

In comparison to some of the graphic horrors that have occurred in Game of Thrones, Ned Stark’s public beheading in the show’s very first season seems almost plain. But it was the first time that viewers became aware that really bad, amoral things were going to happen on the show: The good guys aren’t always going to win, your favorite characters will get killed off by the villains, someone isn’t going to turn up on a white stallion and make everything better. This was the moment that changed everything on Game of Thrones, and no true fan will forget it.

Photograph: Courtesy HBO

1. Jon Snow is stabbed by the Night's Watch

Ugh. Game of Thrones fans were left speechless—or stuttering expletives—at this horrible, horrible turn of events. Who could've seen it coming? We know that no character is truly "safe" in GoT: not the good guys like Robb Stark, nor such despicable (but resiliant) villains like Joffrey Baratheon. But most of us have been so sure that Jon was the true hero of GoT, the one to save the day, that it didn't even cross our minds he might be bumped off. And what a grim way to go: Snow is lured outside by his squire, Olly, where he's brutally stabbed by mutineering Night's Watch men and left to die in the snow. But can he really have been killed? Showrunner Dan Weiss has commented, bluntly, that "Dead is dead," but writer George R.R. Martin has said, “If there’s one thing we know in A Song of Ice and Fire is that death is not necessarily permanent." All we'll say is: Melisandre. It's not for nothing that she's back at Castle Black, and remember, Thoros resurrected Beric Dondarrion via the powers of the Lord of Light, way back. But given the show's horrifying history, we'll admit it's a slim hope indeed. Game of Thrones, we knew you were shocking, but this scene is something else.

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