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How Game Of Thrones filmed a battle that’s never been done before

Photo: HBO

On last week’s Game Of Thrones, viewers witnessed an encounter between three drastically different forces that, until that point, had never graced the screen at the the same time. The episode’s final set piece saw the disciplined and resolute Lannister army come face-to-face with both the untethered chaos of a Dothraki hoard and the unparalleled power of a flying, fire-breathing dragon in a skirmish that will forever be known as “The Battle Of Holy Shit Everyone Is On Fire And Dead.” So, how did director Matt Shakman manage to successfully depict a battle that could generously be called unimaginable? Like all good directors, he took a little bit from this and a little bit from that.

In the newest video from The Nerdwriter, we see how every cinematic battle sequence in history takes from and builds on its predecessors. Game Of Thrones is no exception. The sudden appearance of thousands of horse-bound Dothraki is reminiscent of the Rohirrim’s arrival in Return Of The King, while their whooping and hollering as they charge is a direct homage to the Native Americans in John Ford’s Stagecoach. The shots of Daenerys swooping in on Drogon to lay waste to the Lannister loot train with fire and fury closely resemble the famous helicopter and napalm sequence from Apocalypse Now. All that’s missing is Dany wearing a cowboy hat and aviator sunglasses, rejoicing at the smell of dragon’s breath in the morning.


By intermingling these familiar visual touchstones with some wholly original Game Of Thrones flourishes, Shakman was able to create a battle that was not only emotionally gripping but easy for the viewer to follow. That’s a quality that’s often lost in the age of fast cuts and excessive CGI. Now, whether Daenerys should feel satisfied with her apparent victory is still up for debate. But spectators certainly walked away happy.

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