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All Memes Must Die: The ‘Game of Thrones’ Meme Bracket

‘Game of Thrones’ is the biggest show on TV—it’s also one of the biggest content producers for the internet. From Brace Yourself to “Dracarys,” this is the tournament to decide once and for all which ‘Thrones’ meme is best.

HBO/Ringer illustration

March Madness is almost over, but winter is just beginning. Less than one week remains until the final season of Game of Thrones, and to count down the end of days, The Ringer’s selection committee has whittled down the top 32 memes in Thrones history. With the field settled, we are asking you, the internet, to determine the winner of the Game of Thrones Meme Bracket. We’ll hold voting every day this week until we find one meme to sit on the internet’s Iron Throne on Friday, April 12.

After evaluating a vast number of memes from across the web, the committee was tasked with the following responsibilities:

  1. Select the best at-large memes
  2. Seed the field of 32 memes
  3. Place the memes into the bracket

For memes where there was heavy redundancy (e.g., Tyrion drinking memes, Cersei drinking memes, brooding Jon Snow memes) conference tournaments were held and the winner was given an automatic bid. Otherwise, the committee was charged with determining the “best” memes. We understand the definition of “best” is fluid—it could be defined as “funniest,” “most deserving,” or “dankest.” The interpretation of “best” was left up to individual committee members, though it’s worth pointing out that these are meme templates. We do not have the hubris to point to one specific meme and decide it is the funniest Game of Thrones joke on the internet. For example, our no. 1 overall seed is Brace Yourself, Winter Is Coming.

All past, present, and future derivations of this meme fall under the Brace Yourself umbrella. A meme’s total impact should be considered when you cast your ballot. You can vote here on the website, on Twitter, and on Instagram every day until 5 p.m. ET. Voting will go as follows:

Monday: Round of 32
Tuesday: Sweet 16
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship

And here is your Meme Bracket:

How did we determine which memes to include? This bracket is a legitimized bastard child of The Ringer’s NBA Meme Bracket. In that bracket, The Ringer’s maester, Jason Concepcion, laid out the meme definition we’ll be using: Memes must have the flexibility to be intertextual.

Memes can be GIFs. But not all GIFs are memes. To be considered a meme, the content must have a core set of characteristics that can be recontextualized into other content, while retaining the same identifiers.

For most memes on this list, the image is the intertextual device and the text is subject to change (the Ned Stark image remains, while the words change). In some cases, the text is the intertextual device and the images are the variable (e.g., “You know nothing, Jon Snow” or “Hold the door”).

You’ll surely disagree with our choices, so the rest is up to you. Valar Memeghulis.


Stark Region

(1) Brace Yourself v. (8) Sad Robb and Catelyn

1. Brace Yourself: “Brace yourself, winter is coming” is never said in the books or the TV series, but it still serves as Game of Thrones’s first and most iconic meme. Like Ned, the Brace Yourself meme is a charming remnant of a simpler time.

8. Sad Robb and Catelyn: So much is communicated in so little time. Shock, failure, shame, then blame, but the most jarring part is seeing Robb and Catelyn standing next to each other alive. An excellent reminder that no matter how sad you are now, things will get worse.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    (1) Brace Yourself
    (13122 votes)
  • 9%
    (8) Sad Robb and Catelyn
    (1376 votes)
14498 votes total Vote Now

(4) “You Know Nothing” v. (5) Jon Wakes Up

4.You Know Nothing”: If you’ve ever had an ex say something that still rattles around the inside of your skull like a DVD player’s screensaver, you know how deeply this phrase cuts our boy Jon. “You know nothing, Jon Snow” was Ygritte’s go-to putdown for her southern lover, and they were the final words she said to Jon as she lay dying in his arms. The phrase bothers Jon, but it also bothers actor Kit Harington, who does not understand what the phrase means.

I know what you’re thinking: “Jon Snow was in Pompeii?” But it’s either outstanding method acting or a terrible omen for his marriage to Rose Leslie, the actor who plays Ygritte.

5. Jon Wakes Up: Like Jon Snow, this meme came into the world at the right time. Jon’s miraculous resurrection at Castle Black came in May 2016, a month before the 2016 NBA Finals. The number of times this was captioned as “LeBron’s title chances” during the Cavaliers’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors is countless. Like LeBron James, this meme’s ludicrous usage rates in 2016 have been forgotten.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    (4) "You Know Nothing"
    (11353 votes)
  • 22%
    (5) Jon Wakes Up
    (3247 votes)
14600 votes total Vote Now

(3) Jon vs. Everyone v. (6) Arya Laughing

3. Jon vs. Everyone: The premiere meme for any and all hot takes. Jon’s charge toward the Bolton cavalry in the Battle of the Bastards works for any controversial opinion because internet users are bloodthirsty spectators and social media is our virtual colosseum. When a great hot take enters the arena, it doesn’t matter who is unsheathing their sword against the galloping hordes of groupthink. It only matters that we are promised blood.

Don’t be surprised if this meme, like Jon, beats the odds.

6. Arya Laughing: When Arya discovers a family member has died just as she arrived on the scene—again—her laughter echoes throughout the empty ravine, mirroring the feelings bouncing around her hollow soul. It’s a jarring and beautiful, “fuck it, we all die anyway” laugh. Of all the normie Thrones memes, this is the dankest.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    (3) Jon Vs. Everyone
    (11274 votes)
  • 22%
    (6) Arya Laughing
    (3282 votes)
14556 votes total Vote Now

(2) Hold the Door v. (7) Miserable Jon

2. Hold the Door: Yes, we know Hodor is not a Stark, but we’re granting him honorary Stark status for this moment that involved a member of the Stark clan (and to make this bracket fit. U mad?!?!)

Before “The Door,” we had plenty of Hodor memes that were as pure as the man himself.

After “The Door,” we finally learned Hodor’s origin story was, “What if Harry Potter had gone back in time to kill Baby Voldemort but accidentally turned Hagrid into Groot?” Hodor’s demise gave us an appreciation for him in death that will ensure he lives forever. The amount of Hodor doorstops for sale on Etsy is nothing short of stunning.

7. Miserable Jon: This is such a rich genre that we had to create an entire conference to suss out the most miserable Jon face.

Miserable Jon emerged victorious in the Sad Jon Snow conference tournament despite a crowded field from which he barely squeezed out alive. Miserable Jon will be representing all of the sad Jon faces, though he doesn’t look thrilled to have the honor.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    (2) Hold the Door
    (7841 votes)
  • 45%
    (7) Miserable Jon
    (6534 votes)
14375 votes total Vote Now

Targaryen Region

(1) “Dracarys” v. (8) Baby Drogon

1. “Dracarys”: Dany has done so much conquering, killing, city-razing, and slave-freeing over the years that it’s easy to forget how legendary her initial conquest was. She swaps a dragon for an Unsullied army as her advisors openly express doubt, reveals she speaks Valyrian, orders the Unsullied to kill the masters, and then says the word that puts the “fire” in “fire and blood.”

8. Baby Drogon: Drogon’s prepubescent flamethrowing impotence is the perfect burn (no, I’m not sorry for the pun). It works for DC movies trying to compete with Marvel, with Democratic candidates trying to use Instagram Live as if they’re AOC, and for whatever poor guy is in line behind Podrick at the brothel.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    (1) "Dracarys"
    (10508 votes)
  • 24%
    (8) Baby Drogon
    (3342 votes)
13850 votes total Vote Now

(4) “Take Off Your Clothes” v. (5) Tired Drogon

4. “Take Off Your Clothes”: We’re all adults here.

5. Tired Drogon: Khaleesi’s children get crabby when they are tired. Who among us has not been put in timeout for scorching a herd of goats, eating their charred remains, and then chewing on the bones of a toddler? Still, you can’t talk to your mother like this:

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    (4) "Take Off Your Clothes"
    (8671 votes)
  • 36%
    (5) Tired Drogon
    (5078 votes)
13749 votes total Vote Now

(3) “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?” v. (6) “Burn Them All”

3. “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?”: The respect for this meme has rusted in the years since it peaked, but whenever you reach into a McDonald’s bag and can’t find the french fries, the voice in your head shrieks, “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?” Also, kudos to whoever did this.

6. “Burn Them All”: The Mad King’s command to torch the citizens of King’s Landing is also an excellent way to express your feelings about people who slice bagels St. Louis style.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    (3) "WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?"
    (5444 votes)
  • 59%
    (6) "Burn Them All"
    (8160 votes)
13604 votes total Vote Now

(2) Drogon vs. Loot Train v. (7) Dany’s Titles

2. Drogon vs. Loot Train: A highlight tape of Golden State Warriors playoff games.

7. Dany’s Titles: Making fun of Dany’s name is a cathartic exercise for those who didn’t read the books. If you’ve ever called Dany “Khaleesi” and been corrected by a book reader, these are the memes for you.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    (2) Drogon vs. Loot Train
    (7370 votes)
  • 46%
    (7) Dany’s Titles
    (6456 votes)
13826 votes total Vote Now

Lannister Region

(1) Tyrion Dancing v. (8) Joffrey Clapping

1. Tyrion Dancing: Tyrion’s trial in Season 4 is among the tensest scenes of the entire series. The bloopers, not so much.

I assume this is how Paul Manafort walked into his various trials.

8. Joffrey Clapping: Joffrey is applauding a singer in this scene. Seconds later, he orders his goons to cut out the singer’s tongue. This moment is not quite the same without the snipping noise.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    (1) Tyrion Dancing
    (10461 votes)
  • 24%
    (8) Joffrey Clapping
    (3316 votes)
13777 votes total Vote Now

(4) Podrick Smiling v. (5) “More Wine”

4. Podrick Smiling: In the episode, the camera zooms out from Pod, but in the most widespread version of the meme it is reversed, as the camera zooms in on his grin. Pod does not care about these semantics. He is a sex God with a hefty log. It’s surprising he ever stops smiling.

5. “More Wine”: Cersei’s defining character trait (after incest and murder) is functional alcoholism, so whittling it down to one meme was nearly as tough as finishing this whole bracket. Thus, we created another conference for all the Cersei wine memes to earn an automatic bid. “More Wine” emerged from a crowded Cersei Drinking Wine conference to defeat Drink, Regret Drinking 1, Feeling Cute, Might Delete Later, Regret Drinking 2, and an upset win over Victory Sip.

Congratulations to “More Wine,” which will represent all Cersei drinking wine memes in this tournament. (And it won without blowing anybody up!)

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    (4) Podrick Smiling
    (4090 votes)
  • 69%
    (5) "More Wine"
    (9541 votes)
13631 votes total Vote Now

(3) Drunk Tyrion v. (6) Tyrion Slapping Joffrey

3. Drunk Tyrion: Our third conference tournament winner is Drunk Tyrion, who will represent all Tyrion drinking memes after winning the hyper-competitive Tyrion Drinking conference tournament that included “I Drink and I Know Things,” Tyrion Vomiting, and “Drink Until You Feel Like You Did the Right Thing.” Drunk Tyrion’s upset victory over “It’s Not Easy Being Drunk All the Time” was an extremely controversial victory (and some maintain a double-dribble should have been called) but the Drunk Tyrion meme stands out because of the classic drunk concentration he employs when he tries not to spill the wine followed by the immense satisfaction of completing a basic task. Every man who has tried to pee while hammered without sploshing the toilet rim knows this feeling.

6. Tyrion Slapping Joffrey: Nothing short of mesmerizing. It’s Game of Thrones ASMR.

This could be on a loop for two hours in a movie theater and it would be better than watching Green Book.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    (3) Drunk Tyrion
    (4199 votes)
  • 69%
    (6) Tyrion Slapping Joffrey
    (9436 votes)
13635 votes total Vote Now

(2) “Shame” v. (7) Jaime’s Hand Wave

2. “Shame”: With Cersei’s shame walk, Game of Thrones answered the question, “What if everyone acted in real life like they do on the internet?”

7. Jaime’s Hand Wave: This wave comes from the scene where Qyburn attaches Jaime’s golden hand for the first time, but the best part is that after Jaime waves Qyburn out of the room, he calls Qyburn an “odd little man.” But based on the sound of the door opening and closing, Qyburn clearly had not left the room yet. He definitely heard Jaime’s remark. Did Jaime not realize Qyburn could hear? Or did he not care? Either a dick move or sloppy comms by Jaime.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    (2) "Shame"
    (10810 votes)
  • 20%
    (7) Jaime’s Hand Wave
    (2773 votes)
13583 votes total Vote Now

The Field Region

(1) Night King Raises Arms v. (8) Gendry Rowing

1. Night King Raises Arms: The end of “Hardhome” was seared into our corneas, and the ensuing meme of the Night King raising his arms immediately replaced Brace Yourself as the best (and most overused) meme on the Thrones power rankings.

8. Gendry Rowing: A surprisingly rich text. Gendry was last seen in a rowboat at the end of Season 3. He did not return until four real-life years later, in Season 7. To put Gendry’s absence in perspective, he got into that boat when Carmelo Anthony led the NBA in scoring, and he returned weeks before Kyrie Irving became a Boston Celtic. In Gendry’s absence, he gained a true-crime-like cult following, and, well, cults are great with memes.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    (1) Night King Raises Arms
    (11996 votes)
  • 11%
    (8) Gendry Rowing
    (1502 votes)
13498 votes total Vote Now

(4) Lyanna Mormont Glare v. (5) The Hound Drinks Ale

5. Lyanna Mormont Glare: Lyanna Mormont’s stare at Ramsay Bolton before the Battle of the Bastards is reason 6,784 that the only good ending to the series would be Lyanna Mormont on the Iron Throne.

6. The Hound Drinks Ale: Arya and the Hound’s sojourn through the countryside is the most endearing plotline in the entire series. They reach an inn where a few Lannister soldiers are terrorizing the owner and his family, and one of the soldiers attempts to bond with the Hound over the spoils of war. The ensuing exchange is one of the best moments in the series. In a conversation that devolves from friendly to deadly in two minutes, the Hound:

  1. Says “Fuck the King.”
  2. Gulps his entire beer
  3. Demands a chicken
  4. Reaches across the table and takes the soldier’s beer
  5. Chugs it
  6. Demands a second chicken
  7. Tells the soldier that, “If any more words come pouring out of your cunt mouth, I’m gonna have to eat every fucking chicken in this room.”
  8. Says someone is going to die over chickens
  9. Kills people over chickens

That is the king’s justice if I’ve ever seen it, and the Hound chicken memes from this scene are some of the best the show has ever produced.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (4) Lyanna Mormont Glare
    (7573 votes)
  • 43%
    (5) The Hound Drinks Ale
    (5778 votes)
13351 votes total Vote Now

(3) “Tell Cersei It Was Me” v. (6) “Pork Sausage”

3. “Tell Cersei It Was Me”: Olenna’s dying confession went viral when it became the rallying cry for people who put clothes on their cats.

Winning in Thrones requires allies, and there is no alliance on the internet quite like Game of Thrones and cats.

6. “Pork Sausage”: “Pork sausage. You think I’m some sort of savage?” is the most savage line in the entire show. Ramsay’s face is key, but the sausage wiggle drives the meme home. Shakespeare said it’s better to have loved your big dick and lost it than to have never had one at all, but, well, that’s not working out so well for Theon.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    (3) "Tell Cersei It Was Me"
    (5309 votes)
  • 60%
    (6) "Pork Sausage"
    (8042 votes)
13351 votes total Vote Now

(2) Tormund and Brienne v. (7) Ice Viserion

2. Tormund and Brienne: The unrequited love that launched a thousand memes.

7. Ice Viserion: One of the newest entries in the canon is the perfect meme for a heel turn. Think Antonio Brown remembering to subtweet JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Poll

Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    (2) Tormund and Brienne
    (12459 votes)
  • 7%
    (7) Ice Viserion
    (1067 votes)
13526 votes total Vote Now
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