Two Films That Inspired The Incredible “Game Of Thrones” Battle Scene

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Did the most recent episode of “Game of Thrones” look familiar?

This should go without saying, but spoilers for Season 7, Episode 4 (“The Spoils of War”) ahead.

HBO (via IMDb)

At the end of “The Spoils of War,” Game of Thrones fans finally saw what they’d been waiting seven seasons for: a dragon. Not ominous, far-off shots of a winged reptile flying through the sky, but an up-close, in-your-face, fire-breathing monster wreaking havoc on Lannister forces. It was, in a word, awesome.

But if it looked a bit familiar, that was by design. The New York Times interviewed the episode’s director, Matt Shakman, about his plan for the scene. As it turns out, the plan came from two well-known films.

Shakman, by the way, is an accomplished director.

While he’s probably best known for his work on the FX comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, he has also directed episodes of Mad Men and Fargo, so this wasn’t his first foray into dramatic TV. In many ways, however, it was his most challenging, as Game of Thrones is known for its enormous, hard-hitting battle sequences.

To prepare for “The Spoils of War,” Shakman revisited earlier episodes of Game of Thrones, including “The Battle of the Bastards” and “Hardhome.” Those two episodes were critically acclaimed, but Shakman told The New York Times that he wanted “The Spoils of War” to have a distinct tone.


“[The final scene] was the first time we saw a battle with the dragons between people that we actually like,” Shakman said. “We’ve seen them in heroic situations—Daenerys taking on the slavers in Meereen and watching from above as she deals death from the sky. But this was a chance to frame it in a different way.”

“One of the first decisions I made was to focus more on Jaime and Bronn than on Daenerys—to focus on what it was like to be with these men on the ground in the middle of this horrific moment when war changes forever, when traditional fighting goes out the window and suddenly you have the introduction of something like napalm,” he continued. “That was the chief thematic focus of the episode. To hang it on Jaime’s shoulders as he sees his men dying was the most important thing for me.”


That provided quite a bit of character development for Jaime, who has gradually separated from his sister (and, ahem, lover) Cersei over the last season.

But to really drive his points home, Shakman turned to classic war films.

“What I looked at more were things like Apocalypse Now, the helicopter attack on the village, which felt very similar in terms of shifting points of view and the horror on the ground,” he told the newspaper. “Dealing death from above—going through swirling clouds of smoke and napalm and all of that—felt much more like what I was trying to create.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum

“I looked at Saving Private Ryan, the opening battle on the beach, where the sound drops out and Tom Hanks is watching men being burned alive and shot to death,” Shakman said. “That to me was very much what it should feel like for Jaime, watching men die left and right around him.”

Shakman also referenced the epic dystopian science fiction film Children of Men, concluding that he “looked at a lot of different references” to find inspiration. Check out the full interview here; it’s a fascinating look behind the scenes of HBO’s biggest show.

The Athena Cinema

And while the final battle was certainly the highlight of “The Spoils of War,” it wasn’t the only scene worth revisiting. Check out our recap of four easy-to-miss details from the episode here.

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