Star Wars: The Clone Wars has become essential to franchise lore. Set in the three years between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas' animated creation had a theatrical debut in 2008 before airing on Cartoon Network for six years.
In 2013, the series moved to Netflix for what was believed to be its sixth and final season following its cancellation, and Dave Filioni, the series' supervising director, released a set of unfinished episodes known as Clone Wars: Legacy in an attempt to wrap up unfinished storylines and loose ends.
While fans could argue every episode of Clone Wars as the best episode of Clone Wars, this list breaks down the 15 episodes that made the series a fan favorite.
1. “Rookies” (Season 1, Episode 5)
“The best confidence builder is experience.”
Every list of best Clone Wars episodes needs at least one episode from the first season. Faced with the threat of a droid commando invasion, a unit of five rookie clones must work together to prevent disaster. The episode introduces audiences to Fives and Echoes, clone troopers that eventually become integral to the story.
Until this point, Star Wars hadn't addressed the human element behind the clone trooper helmets, and the episode goes to great lengths to show the effects of war on the clones and explores their personalities.
Tragically, only Fives and Echoes survive, and the loss of their fellow troopers weighs heavily on them when they're inducted into the 501st Legion at the episode's close.
2. “Senate Spy” (Season 2, Episode 4)
“A true heart should never be doubted.”
This is an excellent episode for fans of Anakin and Padmé's relationship. Their time alone is interrupted by the Jedi Council requesting that Padmé spy on a fellow senator, Rush Clovis.
She initially refuses their request but ultimately chooses to follow through with the plan out of anger when Anakin acts jealous about her past relationship with Clovis. During her meeting with Clovis on Cato Nemoidia, Trade Federation Senator Lott Dod poisons Padmé.
Despite being poisoned, Padmé can steal a holodisk with plans for a droid factory and get them to Anakin. Clovis forces Dod to hand over the antidote, and Anakin and Padmé leave. This mission sets up a great arc throughout the season with the tension between Clovis, Anakin, and Padmé.
3. “Weapons Factory” (Season 2, Episode 6)
“A gift is more precious than trust.”
Ahsoka Tano is arguably one of the best additions to the Star Wars universe, and this episode showcases why by displaying her perseverance when faced with a challenge. Anakin and Jedi Master Unduli fend off droids while their Padawans Ahsoka and Barriss attack the droid factory.
When the factory explodes, Ahsoka and Bariss get trapped under the debris, and Unduli believes them dead, but Anakin doesn't give up hope.
4. “The Mandalore Plot” (Seasons 2, Episode 12)
“If you ignore the past, you jeopardize the future.”
The first episode in a three-part storyline surrounds Duchess Satine, leader of the New Mandalorians. Her pacifistic beliefs in the face of the war between the Grand Republic and the Separatists led her to become the target of the rogue Mandalorian group, the Death Watch.
Obi-Wan Kenobi travels to Mandalore to discover the truth behind the rumors, working alongside Satine to unravel the plot. It is revealed that Governor Vizsla, an associate of Count Dooku, is the leader of the Death Watch and behind the plot to overthrow Satine's pacifist regime.
Obi-Wan defeats a Darksaber-wielding Vizsla, who escapes with Satine at the episode's close.
5. “Voyage of Temptation” (Season 2, Episode 13)
“Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.”
Aboard Satine's ship, the Coronet, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker brief the clone troopers on the situation and the importance of protecting the Duchess. As Anakin watches the interactions between Obi-Wan and Satine, he discerns they were once close.
Later in the episode, Satine confesses that she loves Obi-Wan, and he admits he would've left the Jedi Order for her. This revelation comprises one of the most exciting parts of the arc, especially in juxtaposition to Anakin and Padmé's secret relationship.
The plot continues as Senator Tal Merrik takes Satine hostage, rigging the engines of the Coronet to explode if Obi-Wan tries to rescue her. Amid a moral quandary — if Satine kills Merrik, she is not a pacifist, and if Obi-Wan kills Merrik, he loses Satine's respect — Anakin attacks the senator from behind and kills him, as Darth Vader's theme plays in the background, an ominous foreshadowing.
6. “Clone Cadets” (Season 3, Episode 1)
“Brothers in arms are brothers for life.”
Fans looking for episodes exploring the lives and lore of the clone troopers have to look no further. This episode is a prequel to the episode “Rookies.” It also introduces 99, a malformed clone that leads to the creation of Clone Force 99 (or the Bad Batch), who plays a crucial part in the final season of Clone Wars and in their named TV show.
The story follows the Domino Squad as they prepare for graduation from their training on Kamino, but the team is dysfunctional, and they fail their tests. CT-782 (later known as Hevy) attempts to go AWOL but is stopped by 99, who reinforces the importance of brotherhood among the Clones, an interaction that ultimately leads to Hevy sacrificing himself in “Rookies” to save his team.
7. “Nightsisters” (Season 3, Episode 12)
“The swiftest path to destruction is through vengeance.”
Darth Sidious plots with Count Dooku to destroy Asajj Ventress, fearing she has grown too powerful. Ventress rages when Dooku refuses to offer assistance when she faces off against Obi-Wan and Anakin.
Left alone with a malfunctioning ship, a scavenging crew rescues her–a crew she kills when she orders their vessel to return home to the Nightsisters. The episode delves into Ventress' backstory — how her mother sold her to slavers, and a Jedi Knight rescued her, how his death led to her path to the Dark Side when Count Dooku had taken her in.
8. “Overlords” (Season 3, Episode 15)
“Balance is found in the one who faces his guilt.”
In the first of a three-part arc, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka are sent to investigate a mysterious Jedi distress signal. During their journey, the power and communications are cut off on their shuttle, and they awake on an unfamiliar planet where the Force radiates. Only Anakin can hear the disembodied voice of the Daughter who desires to take him to her Father.
The episode focuses on Anakin's path to the Dark Side and his fate as the “Chosen One.” Strange visions visit the three Jedi — Anakin's mother, Shimi, appears, revealing his guilt over her death and his relationship with Padmé. The Force Ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn visits Obi-Wan, who warns him that the planet will corrupt Anakin. One last vision: Ahsoka sees a vision of her future self who warns that she should cut herself off from Anakin's dark path.
The Father forces Anakin to face a test to decide who will live, as the Son and Daughter have taken Ahsoka and Obi-Wan. Ultimately, Anakin uses the Force to free both of his friends.
Fans get chills as the “Imperial March” plays as Anakin attempts to leave the planet with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, yet again alluding to his future path to the Dark Side.
9. “Altar of Mortis” (Season 3, Episode 16)
“He who surrenders hope surrenders life.”
Following ‘Overlords,' fans see their heroes still on Mortis, and the balance of the Force is at stake. The Son attempts to lure Anakin to the Dark Side through a nightmare. When Anakin awakes, the Son attacks and takes Ahsoka prisoner in a cell in the monastery's tower. When Ahsoka refuses to give up hope in Anakin, the Son bites her and infects her with the Dark Side of the Force.
Anakin sets out to rescue Ahsoka but arrives too late — finding her corrupted by the Son. Obi-Wan and Anakin face off against the Padawan, who is eventually killed by the Son when she proves to no longer be helpful to him. Now in possession of the Mortis Dagger, the Son attempts to kill the Father, but the son stabs the Daughter instead, which upsets the balance of the Force.
Anakin begs the Father to save Ahsoka, and the Daughter sacrifices the last of her life to revive her. As the Jedi retreat, the Father warns them that the imbalance in the Force will lead to the Sith gaining control of the galaxy.
10. “Crisis on Naboo” (Season 4, Episode 18)
“Trust is the greatest of gifts, but it must be earned.”
Obi-Wan goes undercover to thwart Count Dooku's plan to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine when he visits Naboo for the Festival of Lights. Palpatine does not seem concerned with the threat against him and proceeds with his plans. Anakin assigns Ahsoka to watch over Padmé and the Queen of Naboo while he and Windu protect Palpatine.
Obi-Wan obtains vital information about the plot and relays it to Windu, but of course, Dooku can overhear. The episode reveals that Palpatine set up the entire scenario to turn Anakin against the Jedi Council, fueling his anger and frustrations. Fans of the movies know how important this is when it relates to Anakin's fate.
The episode is an excellent example of how Palpatine manipulates Anakin. This plot point is even more relevant to Palpatine's role in The Rise of Skywalker.
11. “Brothers” (Season 4, Episode 21)
“A fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.”
Savage Opress locates a clue in the search for his lost brother, Darth Maul, leading him to Lotho Minor. Using an amulet gifted to him by Mother Talzin, Opress scours the planet, looking for Maul. In the tunnels beneath the planet's junk lands, a half-spider-like cyborg stalks Opress, later revealed as Darth Maul.
Having survived his death at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace, Maul vows vengeance against the Jedi, who left him in his half-mad state. When a disturbance in the Force is felt, Yoda reveals to Obi-Wan that his foe has returned from the dead.
12. “The Gathering” (Season 5, Episode 6)
“He who faces himself finds himself.”
Ahsoka escorts a new class of younglings to The Gathering on Ilum, a rite of passage for younglings to find their kyber crystal. They have a short period to retrieve their crystal or are trapped behind the Crystal Caves' frozen doors.
Each youngling faces their insecurities, whether self-doubt or overconfidence. The actual test, Yoda later reveals, was not to get out of the caves before the doors froze but to face their fears and find trust, courage, and compassion within their hearts and minds.
This episode provided audiences with a rare look into the early training of Jedis and introduced them to the rowdy group of younglings. It's an exciting look into how Jedi are formed and tested.
13. “To Catch a Jedi” (Season 5, Episode 19)
“Never become desperate enough to trust the untrustworthy.”
The stakes are high in this episode. After an attack on the Jedi Temple, Ahsoka finds herself on the run and accused of murder. Anakin and Plo Koon are the only members of the Jedi Council who are skeptical of her guilt, and Yoda sends them to track her down.
Asajj Ventress manages to capture Ahsoka, but she convinces the new bounty hunter to help prove her innocence in return for Ahsoka requesting a pardon for Ventress. With help from her friend Barriss, Ahsoka and Ventress locate a warehouse where the nano-droids behind the attack were obtained.
Before Ahsoka can investigate thoroughly, she is captured by Anakin and Plo Koon and returned to the Jedi Temple.
14. “The Wrong Jedi” (Season 5, Episode 20)
“Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.”
The drama continues in the following episode. As Ahsoka goes on trial, Anakin works to prove her innocence. Following Ahsoka's lead, he sets out to track down Asajj Ventress. After a brief fight, Ventress reveals what she knows about Ahsoka's situation.
While she had intended to turn Ahsoka in for the bounty on her head, she chose not to because she saw herself in the Padawan. She accuses Anakin of abandoning Ahsoka, just as Ventress' Master left her. She ultimately explains to Anakin what happened at the nano-droid warehouse and that Barriss helped them.
Anakin confronts Barriss and discovers she is behind the attack on the Jedi Temple. Just as Chancellor Palpatine is set to deliver the conviction against Ahsoka, Anakin arrives with the real criminal, and the charges dropped against Ahsoka. This situation leads to Ahsoka's devastating decision to abandon the Jedi Order. Of all the Clone Wars episodes, this one might have the most significant ramifications for future series.
15. “The Unknown” (Season 6, Episode 1)
“The truth about yourself is always the hardest to accept.”
During a mission, clone trooper Tup falls into a strange trance-like state and murders Jedi Master Tiplar, stating, “Good soldiers follow orders.” When they cannot identify what happened to Tup, Anakin suggests sending him back to Kamino for a complete medical check.
Count Dooku is alarmed to discover that a clone has killed a Jedi and contacts Darth Sidious, concerned that their plan is starting prematurely. Dooku sends droids to destroy the transport carrying Tup, leading Anakin and the clones to believe Tup's malfunction is a Separatist plot.