Starting with the 2008 computer animated movie, the television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars explored the war years between Attack of the Clonesand Revenge of the Sith. While the film was met with poor reviews, the series that resulted quickly became loved by fans of Star Wars.
Over the course of five seasons (and a half-finished sixth season that was left incomplete due to the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm), The Clone Wars shifted from kid-focused fun to dark, epic, and mature storytelling.
Spearheaded by Dave Filoni and a crack team of writers, directors, and animators, the series breathed real life into the prequel era, a trilogy that left most fans of the franchise bitter and burned. But the quality of the series took the concepts of the battle between The Republic and The Trade Federation and explored them in ways that were far more fascinating, deep, and action packed. It also made characters like Anakin Skywalker actually interesting and real, as well as introduced some fantastic new characters into the franchise.
The following 15 episodes are the best of the best of The Clone Wars. Whether you are a longtime fan of the franchise or are just getting into Star Wars, these stories will show you the power of the series and can stand toe-to-toe with the best of the franchise.
15. The Lair of Grievous (Season 1, Episode 10)
Focusing on Jedis Kit Fisto and Nahdar Vebb, “Lair of Grievous” shows the series’ strengths of focusing on characters outside of the typical purview. Here, the two Jedi and a squad of Clone Troopers track Nute Gunray into the castle of General Grievous, where a trap has been set for them. The earliest episode on this countdown by far, “Lair of Grievous” shows the true potential of the series while turning Fisto and Grievous into actual characters. Grievous in particular is incredibly fierce and often frightening, with his macabre lair exposing small details about his past and transformation into killing machine. Meanwhile, the temptations faced by Jedi are explored in Vebb’s character arc.
Best Moment: Fisto, Vebb, and the Clones fight Grievous, who uses his four arms and spider-like abilities to pick the off one by one. This episode alone makes Grievous into a truly memorable Star Wars villain.
14. Ghosts of Mortis (Season 3, Episode 17)
The finale to the Mortis Trilogy, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka find themselves in the final battle between the mysterious Father and Son. Trapped on a planet that is the living embodiment of The Force leads to insight into the workings of the spiritual side of Star Wars while still maintaining plenty of mystery concerning its nature. The massive scope of the episode makes it one of the series’ most epic narratives and the mysteries explored allow for some interesting interpretations of what it all really meant. In addition, “Ghosts of Mortis” helps set up more of Anakin’s eventual turn to The Dark Side thanks to his temptation and the prophecies surrounding him.
Best Moment: Anakin is surrounded by the Dark Side of the Force by the Son, which overwhelms him with visions of his future. It all culminates in the image of Vader, accompanied by his signature breathing and The Imperial March. Chill-inducing stuff!
13. Wookiee Hunt (Season 3, Episode 22)
Finishing the story that began with “Padawan Lost,” Ahsoka and a group of lost younglings struggle to survive being hunted by a vicious group of Trandoshan hunters. During their battle, Ahsoka and her friends discover Chewbacca, who was also kidnapped and stranded on the planet. There’s an extreme desperation here that is the result of a very dark premise – people being hunted for sport ala The Most Dangerous Game – that is balanced out by the thrills of seeing Chewbacca become part of The Clone Wars. The high stakes, acrobatic action, and healthy levels of fan service make this one of the series’ most satisfying entries for fans.
Best Moment: Ahsoka and her fellow Padawans ambush a Trandoshan ship bringing in new arrivals for hunting, leading to a massive crash. From the wreckage comes Chewie, looking fantastic in Clones Wars animation.
12. Landing at Point Rain (Season 2, Episode 5)
Leading a battalion of Clone Troopers in an invasion of Geonosis in an effort to stop Separatist actions on the planet once and for all, Ki Adi Mundi, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka charge headfirst into a massive and brutal battle. This is all-out war for the entire length of the episode, rarely slowing down and shifting focus multiple times to stay thrilling and surprising. “Landing at Point Rain” shows how well action can be done in an animated version of Star Wars thanks to its massive scope that is brought to life in wonderful fashion. Keeping the focus off Obi-Wan also gives the other characters a chance to shine in battle.
Best Moment: Ahsoka and Anakin storm a crucial wall in their fight to take their location on Geonosis, but are put in a tight spot by Destroyer droids. A timely assist by Captain Rex turns the tide, leading to a leap from a massive explosion.
11. Darkness on Umbara (Season 4, Episode 7)
While this may be the first of the massive Umbaraarc, “Darkness on Umbara” works perfectly on its own as well. At the outset of another major battle for control of a planet, Clone Trooper forces led by Captain Rex under the command of harsh Jedi Knight Pong Krell engage in war on an unfamiliar and treacherous planet. As a planet that exists solely in darkness and illuminated by the bioluminescent plant life, “Darkness on Umbara” looks like nothing else in the series. The oppressive darkness and the idea that Clone forces could be ambushed at any moment gives the entire episode a sense of unease and tension that is frequently punctuated by brutal violence, making this one of Clone Wars’ great war episodes.
Best Moment: Krell orders the Clone Troopers to launch a full frontal assault on the capitol, which leads Rex and his men directly into danger. Tons of action, danger, and casualties due to the uncaring actions of Krell.
10. Massacre (Season 4, Episode 19)
Easily one of the craziest Clone Warsepisodes ever, the long-simmering battle between Asajj Ventress and Count Dooku reaches the breaking point. While Ventress is finally accepted into becoming a full-fledged Nightsister, a massive invasion is launched by Dooku and spearheaded by General Grievous. This leads to a massive battle full of twists and turns as both sides strikes major blows against one another. While Ventress started out as a pure villainess, she quickly became a much more complex character. It’s here that we see her become a full-fledged anti-hero through the tragedy that befalls her fellow Nightsisters. It’s both a great solo episode and a story that deeply enriches the series as a whole.
Best Moment: Mother Talzin unleashes the fury of the Nightsisters’ power by resurrecting their dead members as a legion of bloodthirsty zombies. It’s both scary and exciting to see them rip through countless members of the droid army, even though their mission is doomed.
9. Bounty Hunters (Season 2, Episode 17)
Inspired by Seven Samurai, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka form a tenuous alliance with a group of bounty hunters who have been hired to protect a village from the pirate Hondo Ohnaka and his men.While much of the main Star Wars saga deals with the struggle between good and evil, it’s often the morally grey characters that end up being the most interesting, with bounty hunters often being fascinating. Introducing a whole swath of them here in a classic narrative plays on the strengths of the series – blending fantasy elements with the works of Akira Kurosawa. George Lucas has stated that Kurosawa’s films were a major influence on Star Wars, with Hidden Fortress specifically having the greatest impact. So it’s only natural that Seven Samurai fits splendidly into the series.
Best Moment: The pirates attack, leading to a thrilling battle that sees the Jedi, bounty hunters, and newly-trained villagers all work together to fight off invading forces. Plus, the acrobatic and lethal attacks of the bounty hunter Embo quickly make him into a great new addition to the series.
8. Monster (Season 3, Episode 13)
After failing to assassinate her former master Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress works with Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters of Dathomir to create a new apprentice for Dooku who will betray and kill him. In order to do so, they submit the Nightbrothers (of the same bloodline as Darth Maul) to trials that will determine the next Sith apprentice. Of the many men, Savage and Feral fight to survive Ventress’ deadly tests, which kill the men off one by one and instill evil into the survivors. In the end, Savage’s cunning and teamwork with Feral lead to his victory and selection to become the newest apprentice. In the course of a single episode, Savage quickly becomes a compelling character and great addition to The Clone Wars.
Best Moment: Savage is imbued with Talzin’s Dark Side powers, turning him into a massive and powerful warrior. In a final test, Savage is told to kill Feral, which he quickly does by breaking his neck. His transformation into a monster is complete.
7. Bounty (Season 4, Episode 20)
Directly following “Massacre,” this episode picks up with the now directionless Asajj Ventress trying to find her way in the world. No longer a Sith and with her Nightsisters she just joined having been wiped out, Ventress finds herself pulled into a heist orchestrated by bounty hunters including Bossk and Boba Fett. Being the last appearance of Boba Fett on Clone Wars it’s great to see how far the young bounty hunter has developed in his story arc across the series, with his transformation into legendary bounty hunter underway here. But this is really Ventress’ story, as she makes crucial decisions that move her further into being a heroic figure. Best of all, it’s all done during the span of one long action setpiece set aboard an underground train, filled with amazing action and dynamic camerawork. This is Clone Wars action at its very best.
Best Moment: Ventress discovers the true nature of the cargo she has been protecting and makes a decision that shows how far she has come since the series’ beginning, solidifying her as one of Clone Wars’ most complex and fascinating characters.
6. ARC Troopers (Season 3, Episode 2)
Concluding a trilogy following a group of five Clone Troopers who form Domino Squad that began in season 1, “ARC Troopers” sees the surviving members of the group take part in a battle on Kamino led by both General Grievous and Asajj Ventress. Being the finale of the trilogy, the episode is filled with character-focused moments that punctuate some of the most brutal action scenes ever seen on the series. Having invested so much time in characters that would have otherwise been dismissed as cannon fodder gives the deaths and victories experienced here unexpected weight. Ranging from massive outer space battles to one-on-one duels, this one has it all. The fates of Domino Squad create a running narrative thread that helps strengthen the series, even when they are not the focus of the episodes that feature them, with “ARC Troopers” being their greatest moment.
Best Moment: Fives and Echo make a stand against overwhelming Droid forces with the deformed clone 99 helping them along the way, but tragedy strikes, leading to one of their deaths, which spurs on even more intense fighting.
5. The Wrong Jedi (Season 5, Episode 20)
While Clone Wars would continue into the half-finished Season 6, the finale of Season 5, “The Wrong Jedi” works well as the series finale thanks to the closure of Ahsoka Tano’s story. From the very beginning of the series, the biggest question was what happened to Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi apprentice due to her complete lack of presence in Revenge of the Sith. After being charged with an attack on the Jedi Temple, Ahsoka stands trial for a crime that she was framed for committing. Anakin’s ruthless investigation of the crime and the reveal of who was responsible for it all casts doubt on the morality of the Jedi Order as a whole, leading to major decisions on the parts of several characters. Together, it forms a cohesive and thematically strong conclusion to the series.
Best Moment: While Ahsoka is acquitted of the charges, her faith in the Jedi Order is permanently shaken, leading to her refusal of a readmittance. Despite Anakin’s plea for her return, his former Padawan walks away forever, ending the series on a heartbreaking and powerful note.
4. Carnage of Krell (Season 4, Episode 10)
The finale to the epic Umbara arc sees a dissenting group of Clone Troopers work to undermine the command of Jedi Pong Krell after he orders the execution of two of them for insubordination. The clash of wills and ideologies underlines the humanity of the Clone Troopers as they butt heads with the increasingly erratic Krell. While there’s plenty of action through “Carnage of Krell,” what makes the episode truly great are the tragedies and hard decisions made by the Clones throughout the story. For the first time, we see Clones against a Jedi in a story that hints at why they may see the Jedi as a real threat by the time of Revenge of the Sith. This is easily the defining Clone Trooper story in the series.
Best Moment: Rex and his squad decide to arrest Krell for treason, leading to a deadly battle with the Jedi, revelations, and a shocking decision on behalf of the Clones.
3. The Box (Season 4, Episode 17)
Continuing a story arc that sees Obi-Wan Kenobi go undercover as a bounty hunter to infiltrate a plan to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine, Kenobi and Cad Bane join a competition with fellow outlaws to see who will be selected as part of the plan. The challenge? Survive a series of trials inside a specially-designed deathtrap known as The Box, which will kill them off one by one until only the best remain. “The Box” has everything that Star Wars fans who enjoy the outlaw side love – colorful characters, brutal fights, and unexpected deaths. Having established bounty hunters like Cad Bane and Embo mixed in with a dozen more outlaws fills the episode to the brim with new ideas and fascinating characters.
Best Moment: Obi-Wan and the bounty hunters are placed in a trap that sees a ray shield slowly close in on them from all sides. To escape, the right person must take a serum that allows him to pass through and deactivate the trap, but time is running out fast and one slip-up could (and does) and in death.
2. Revenge (Season 4, Episode 22)
After having been found by his brother Savage Opress in the previous episode, “Brothers,” Darth Maul is restored physically and mentally by Mother Talzin. His first course of action? Find Obi-Wan Kenobi and exact his terrible vengeance on the man that nearly killed him. Obi-Wan has a score to settle as well with the man who killed his master, but must temper his anger to resist the Dark Side of the Force. Meanwhile, Asajj Ventress is pulled into the hunt for Savage as a bounty hunter and seeks to exact revenge on the man who betrayed and nearly killed her. These tales of revenge intertwine in a final battle that thrills fans of the series and elevates the show to a whole new level.
Best Moment: Trapped by Maul and Savage, Obi-Wan finds help in the most unexpected source – Ajaj Ventress, who has her own score to settle with Savage. The two grab Sith lightsabers and engage in a two-on-two all-red-lightsaber duel that blows minds.
1. The Lawless (Season 5, Episode 16)
This is the big one. The episode where so many plotlines that have been slowly simmering over the course of The Clone Warscome to a head once and for all. With Death Maul and Savage Oppress having seized control of the planet Mandalore, imprisoned Dutchess Satine attempts to take back the planet with the help of rogue Death Watch members and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The emotional ties between Obi-Wan and Satine provide the personal core of the story, which is jampacked with huge battles and the culmination of the feud between Kenobi and Maul. Unexpected twists and devastating losses punctuate “The Lawless” from start to finish, making this the best of the incredible Darth Maul storyline and the very best of the entire Clone Wars series, which rewards and fulfills the series’ long-term storytelling structure.
Best Moment: Maul and Savage fight Darth Sidious, whose powers of The Dark Side of the Force are too much even for these two ferocious combatants. Having sensed the growing powers of his former apprentice, Sidious has come to put an end to his potential rival and the resulting battle is spectacular.
Honorable Mentions: Assassin, Lightsaber Lost, Hostage Crisis, Hunt for Ziro, Shades of Reason, Revival, To Catch a Jedi, The Mandalore Plot, Lethal Trackdown, Cat and Mouse, Nightsisters, Witches of the Mist, Clone Cadets