3. The Death of Ned Stark
Season 1, Episode 9: "Baelor"
… and here's where they proved it, once and for all. Played by Sean Bean, the cast's best-known actor, Ned Stark was the undisputed, top-billed hero of the show and its source novel, the face on all the posters, the heroic figure standing for truth and justice against an unjust new regime. None of that saved him. When King Joffrey's executioner dropped the axe on Ned's neck, he shocked the world, both on-screen and off. No other moment is as responsible for the cultural phenomenon that the novels and the show have become.