Watch out for clankers as we run down our list of the best Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes.
The Star Wars franchise may be one of the most popular and beloved in all of cinema, but many fans still argue and debate over the quality of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy. From midi-chlorians to stale dialogue, it's hard to love the three films - even when it features some of the saga’s best moments. The introduction of animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, however, recontextualised and redeemed the entire prequel trilogy.
Debuting in 2008, the show ran for seven seasons and followed Anakin, Obi-Wan, new Padawan Ahsoka Tano, various clone troopers and more in the years set between Episodes II and III. The show had a rough first season but quickly grew into an award-winning hit. Lucas juggles a lot of different themes, topics and characters in his trilogy but The Clone Wars uses the show’s long-form format to explore these aspects in detail.
Fans were able to see more of Anakin’s inner conflict, witness the fabled Siege of Mandalore and finally find out exactly how Order 66 was devised. While some story arcs remain unmemorable, the show features some of Star Wars’ best lightsaber fights and character moments in the entire franchise.
To give the show the credit it deserves, below is our ranking of the best Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes. If you’re looking to spend more time in a galaxy far, far away, check out our guide on the best Star Wars Lego sets, and read through our list of the Star Wars movies, ranked worst to best if you want to explore more out of this world stories.
10. The Zillo Beast Strikes Back
- Season 2, Episode 19
Starting out the top ten with one of the more unique episodes, "The Zillo Beast Strikes Back" is a fun episode that evokes Kaiju flicks such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. The Republic captures a Zillo - a giant, nearly indestructible beast that is the last of its kind - in the hopes of using it to enforce clone trooper armor. Of course it isn’t long before the beast escapes and stomps around Coruscant.
Much like the Kaiju films this episode takes inspiration from, there is a lot to be said about the cost of seeking more deadly and powerful weapons. This episode also teases Anakin’s increasing fealty to Palpatine, as he gets caught in the middle of the Chancellor’s and Padme’s politics. It’s the ending though that stands out, showing just how insidious Palpatine truly is.
9. Carnage of Krell
- Season 4, Episode 10
In undoubtedly one of the darkest story arcs in the entire series, Captain Rex and his fellow clone troopers are tasked with taking control of the capital of Umbara whilst under the command of the brutal Master Krell. This four episode arc culminates in an episode that features a truly haunting set piece and challenges the clones in unimaginable ways.
The clone troopers killing each other on the battlefield due to Krell’s false information is absolutely devastating. Krell himself makes for a great villain as he pushes Rex to consider his purpose as a clone created to follow orders, but Krell is physically imposing as a violent Jedi Master who can wield dual double-lightsabers. "Carnage of Krell" certainly puts the "War" into Star Wars.
8. Ghosts of Mortis
- Season 3, Episode 17
The prequel trilogy may have attempted to explain the Force through scientific reasons, "Ghosts of Mortis" caps off a trilogy of episodes that doubles down on the mystical side of the Force. Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka are pulled to a mysterious planet where three powerful Force Wielders test whether Anakin is truly the Chosen One.
Whilst it’s great to dive further into the mythology of the Force, the spotlight on Anakin and the future of the galaxy is what makes this episode so riveting. Hearing echoes of "The Imperial March" and "Battle of the Heroes" as Anakin is shown his destiny is spine-tingling stuff, and feeds into the tragedy of watching The Clone Wars knowing how it all ends. Anakin may forget what lies ahead for him towards the end of the episode, but the audience certainly doesn’t.
- Season 6, Episode 4
No one knew exactly why the clone army turned on their Jedi generals in Episode III - until season six of The Clone Wars. Clone trooper Fives discovers that every clone has a hidden chip implanted in them specifically to enact Order 66 against their will, and he sets out to reveal the truth.
It’s a shockingly tragic end for Fives, who dies after failing to convince Rex, Anakin and the Republic that the conspiracy is in fact true. It tells the audience that the clones are not to blame when they eventually slaughter the Jedi, and further adds to the tragedy of the prequel trilogy.
- Season 6, Episode 13
Originally intended as the series finale before a seventh season was announced, "Sacrifice" focuses on Yoda’s quest to learn the secrets of immortality and delivers a poignant ending. Yoda’s journey brings him to the Sith homeworld of Moraband, where he doesn’t only confront Darth Sidious but also Darth Bane - who until this point was not officially canon.
The Yoda versus Sidious fight is obviously a highlight, and the episode’s ending really captures the main theme of the entire Star Wars franchise: hope. While it’s easy for us to focus on what is soon to come with the events of Episode III, Yoda (and in turn "Sacrifice") has their eyes set on the far future for a long-term victory against the Sith.
- Season 4, Episode 22
The Clone Wars achieved many things and one of its biggest feats was bringing back a beloved character from the grave: Darth Maul. This massive plot twist paved the way for Maul becoming an integral part of not just this series but also Star Wars Rebels.
This season four finale gave us an exciting rematch between Maul and Obi-Wan, which was then escalated by including Maul’s brother Savage Opress and disgraced Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress. This episode also highlighted how much of an incredible job Sam Witwer did with voicing Maul - balancing the insanity and malice that comes with years of hatred bubbling up inside.
4: The Wrong Jedi
- Season 5, Episode 20
Before the sixth season, this episode was to be the last of the series, and what a bittersweet ending this would have been. Pulling out twists and turns throughout the entire episode, "The Wrong Jedi" saw Ahsoka face trial for a murder she didn’t commit and showed that the Jedi Order isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Ahsoka facing a death penalty whilst Anakin frantically hunts down the true murderer makes for a tense watch, but the one-two punch of plot twists is what makes this episode a finale to remember. The reveal that Ahsoka’s long-time friend Barriss Offee was the one who framed her was shocking enough, but Ahsoka leaving behind the Jedi Order was even more devastating. It made for an ending that charted new courses for Ahsoka and Anakin.
3: The Lawless
- Season 5, Episode 16
"The Lawless" felt like a season finale, featuring huge character moments, huge plot twists, and plenty of action. While Bo-Katan’s Death Watch takes on Mandalorian warriors, Obi-Wan shows his rebellious side only to have the love of his life cruelly killed in front of him by Maul.
On top of all of that, there’s the climactic battle seeing Maul and Savage fighting off Palpatine who arrives on Mandalore as Darth Sidious. The choreography is spectacular, and the death of Savage marks another shift in Maul’s tragic journey. These 26 minutes are some of the most exhilarating within the entire Clone Wars series.
- Season 7, Episode 11
The penultimate episode of the entire series places Ahsoka, Rex and Maul in the chaos of Order 66, making for one of the best episodes of the entire series. It’s an episode of two halves, with the latter focused on Ahsoka and Maul surviving a Star Destroyer full of clones and the prior half building towards Palpatine’s order.
That buildup to Order 66 is simply masterful. The slow pacing and haunting score exudes pure dread unlike anything seen in the Star Wars franchise. Even with the knowledge that Ahsoka and Rex come out of the situation alive - thanks to Star Wars Rebels - it was still heart-breaking to see Rex unwillingly betray his dear friend. Order 66 was a monumental event in Star Wars canon, and it was particularly felt in this episode.
1: The Phantom Apprentice
- Season 7, Episode 10
It would be too easy to include the entire Siege of Mandalore arc in this list, but aside from "Shattered", there is only one episode that is more iconic. The second part of the series’ final story arc manages to showcase the Siege of Mandalore in full swing, directly tied to the events of Episode III and gift fans with one of the best lightsaber duels in Star Wars history.
The incredible Maul versus Ahsoka fight can be largely attributed to the motion capture performances from original Maul actor Ray Park and stunt double Lauren Mary Kim - who each give a physicality unlike anything seen in the series. It’s an episode that The Clone Wars has been building towards since the very first episode: epic action that links the fates of these beloved characters to the tragic events of the wider Star Wars story.