August 11, 2017

How Many Movies Did 'Game of Thrones' Rip Off in its Most Epic Battle Yet?

Saving Private Ryan Game of Thrones
Here’s a drinking game that Tyrion Lannister could get behind.

[Caution: Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 4 below.]

As one of our top in-house, self-diagnosed Game of Thrones addicts, I have to admit that I had been a little disappointed by the pace of Season 7. For the first time, I found my mind wandering during heavily expository episodes. That is, until…the battle. Showrunners call it "The Loot Train Battle," but that doesn’t nearly describe just how extraordinary it was. 

We’ve already covered how the incredible battle was created, but just why was it so darned satisfying?

One of our favorite video essayists, Nerdwriter, makes a strong case that it’s because almost every scene within the battle would have been comfortingly familiar to any respectable geek. In his latest work, Nerdwriter lives up to his name by proving with cinematic evidence that almost every scene within this battle was plucked from another movie—and some of the sources may surprise you.

Of course, other fantasy works are directly referenced, from The Hobbit to Harry Potter. For the early part of the scene when the Dothraki horde approaches the Lannister Army, Nerdwriter makes reference to Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, reminding us that “The Orcs, like the Lannisters, have to reform ranks at a moment’s notice to face an enemy that’s just about to appear over the ridge.”

There are also obvious references to war movies like Saving Private Ryan where historic battles have been recreated, but even these come into play in unexpected ways. For example, Nerdwriter makes a clear link between the helicopter attacks in Apocalypse Now and the aerial devastation wrought by Dany and Drogon. Other scenes—and even the dramatic landscape—are lifted right out of old American Westerns, like Stagecoach.

Game of Thrones
'Game of Thrones' and 'Stagecoach'Credit: The Nerdwriter

Nerdwriter isn’t knocking these rip-offs—er, homages. Rather, he argues, the production team “did a wonderful job of combining multiple sources to make a battle that’s tense, intelligible, and more than the sum of its parts.”

He even uses this “Frankenstein” of a battle to advise other filmmakers looking to depict war on screen: “War cinematography is like language. Most of the words have been used before, but that doesn't mean that something new can’t be written.”

How many of the references did you catch? Did he miss any? Are you drunk yet? Let us know in the comments.      

Your Comment

9 Comments

I wish the example in this article was stronger. Really? They can't put a beautiful plateau in the background of a scene? Everything is influenced by something else. Also, calling a female-driven dragon in the sky is in no way comparable to a helicopter. I think there is too much focus on the details in the fabric. I thought it was interesting, however, that the only scenes cited in this video essay were from movies, not another TV series.

August 11, 2017 at 3:39PM, Edited August 11, 3:48PM

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Dylan Tidmore
Documentary Director
127

You are so right. Influence is everything in visual storytelling. If someone else has already developed a visual language that worked well and took the audience to the emotion that the writers/director wanted, then why reinvent it?
In behind the scenes mini-doc released by HBO the showrunners, and department heads all openly speak about being influenced by a number of different genres, including heavily leaning on the style of Westerns. One even said that it was like shooting an epic Western/War film, but with dragons.

August 11, 2017 at 3:51PM

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Andi Ramsay
Creative Director
74

Right? Also, some of the shots just seemed necessary i.e. there's a dragon in the sky, lets do an aerial shot of the battlefield. But WAIT, that's a rip-off from "xapodapkf." I'd like him to do a similar video about romantic comedies. Now, you could really tear apart that genre!

August 12, 2017 at 8:35AM

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Dylan Tidmore
Documentary Director
127

Most of these seem pretty thin, especially the apocalypse now reference. Calling any of these "Rip offs" is being over dramatic.

August 11, 2017 at 4:17PM

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"Rip off" in this context is borderline fake news.

August 11, 2017 at 11:38PM

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Indie Guy
871

You gotta calm down. He ends his video with "Thats how war scenes should be made... its like language, where the words have been spoken" Isnt it clear that it is not about ripping sth off but paying hommage and giving context to the new scene? Like... the dothraki in this wild west like valley totally reminded me of the Ford films like he said.
Apocalypse Now is like the perfect reference as it really shows the horror Daenaerys brings upon the people with their dragons. Much like a foreign invader would with napalm.

August 12, 2017 at 4:30AM, Edited August 12, 4:32AM

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You forgot the last part, where Jamie lannister channels Trainspottings toilet scene when it comes to percieved water depth. https://youtu.be/7RoMaS1pzOE?t=160

August 12, 2017 at 7:24AM

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Bjørn Hagen Aakre
Photographer
74

Yeah, the term "rip off" is just incorrect here. The GoT team used ideas, they didn't rip off shots.

The video maker missed an homage/reference, though. The unveiling of the turbo-crossbow reminds me of the scene in The Wild Bunch in which they reveal the Gatling gun.

August 12, 2017 at 3:10PM, Edited August 12, 3:10PM

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Clay Smith
Wannabe screenwriter, film editor, director
212

What a load of weak sauce this little "recreation" is...

August 14, 2017 at 12:43PM

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Home Alone in the shot where Bron fires the scorpion at the unsuspecting Dothraki
https://ibb.co/ngAXHF

August 15, 2017 at 12:14AM, Edited August 15, 12:14AM

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Simon Wilches Castro
Animation Director
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