On paper, Star Wars: The Clone Wars could’ve been a flash in the pan, a forgettable and unnecessary addition to Star Wars, cast aside with the rest of the Expanded Universe. Overcoming a rocky cinematic debut, the series had an underrated run on Cartoon Network, a season on Netflix, and its final season on Disney+.
From the beginning to its triumphant end, the creative team behind The Clone Wars was unwavering when it came to the thematic and narrative integrity of the story they needed to tell. As a result, its legacy cemented itself as one of the defining pieces of continuity and a vital aspect of the central ideas behind the Prequel Era.
Updated on May 16th, 2023 by Casey Coates: This list has been updated to reflect IMDbs current episode scores and to include preview clips for the best Clone Wars episode.
10 Season 5, Episode 518 “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” (9.0)
This episode marks an irreversible shift in both the Temple Bombing storyline and the series as a whole. Ahsoka Tano, arguably the introductory and/or point of view character for the show’s younger target audience, is now at odds with the Jedi Order, framed for a crime she didn’t commit.
In many ways, it’s an episode about being forced to grow up. A vital part of one of the series’ most important arcs, it forces the audience to question the judgments of Jedi they trust the most, hitting hard for those who grew up with Tano.
9 Season 5, Episode 15 “Shades of Reason” (9.1)
This episode is arguably the most momentous entry in the Shadow Conspiracy story arc. Former Sith Lord Maul and his brother Savage Opress work with Pre Vizla, Bo Katan, and the Death Watch to overthrow Mandalore’s current political leaders.
The episode balances everything that made The Clone Wars great: political intrigue, guerilla warfare, shocking twists, and decisive duels. It proved Maul was a worthy and engaging protagonist in his own right, and his climactic duel against Pre Vizla was immediately recognized as a series highpoint.
8 Season 6, Episode 13 “Sacrifice” (9.1)
The second of The Clone Wars’ three series finales, this episode premiered on Netflix along with the rest of season six, dubbed “The Lost Missions.” It followed Yoda as he underwent spiritual trials on the Sith homeworld of Moraband, resulting in his ability to achieve life after death through the living force.
“Sacrifice” not only serves as a decent thematic and tonal finale for The Clone Wars, but a surprisingly satisfying conclusion to Yoda’s character arc throughout the prequels. In Episode I, Yoda believes the Jedi can control and solve the galaxy’s problems, and that victory can only be achieved by unmasking and defeating Sidious. Here, Yoda lets go of his fears and his need for immediate victory, sees the error of the Clone Wars, and submits to something greater than himself.
7 Season 4, Episode 10 “Carnage of Krell” (9.3)
The chilling conclusion of the infamously dark Battle of Umbara storyline, “Carnage of Krell” is one of the series’ most devastating episodes and a defining moment in Captain Rex’s character arc. All at once, it reinforces themes of clone humanity and ethical warfare, while subjecting the soldiers to tragedies unlike anything seen before.
Under the command of the dangerously incompetent (and ultimately treasonous) Jedi General Pong Krell, Rex is constantly forced to choose between his loyalty to the Republic and his moral duty to his men. After revealing his true nature, Krell states he has been succeeding by taking advantage of Rex’s blind loyalty, subtly foreshadowing the impending Order 66.
6 Season 5, Episode 20 “The Wrong Jedi” (9.6)
The final episode to air on Cartoon Network and briefly serving as a somewhat conclusive but premature series finale, “The Wrong Jedi” ends the Ahsoka Tano’s story on a surprisingly bleak note. In the aftermath of “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” Tano is captured and — through a carefully contrived conspiracy — cast out from the Jedi Order, so she may be tried by the corrupt Galactic Senate.
As Ahsoka faces the death penalty, Anakin Skywalker clears her name by uncovering Padawan Barriss Offee as the true culprit. Offee’s confession is a chilling summation of the show’s stance on war and a brutal indictment of the Jedi Order. Unable to shake the Jedi Order’s mistrust, the series end as Tano refuses to rejoin, leaving Skywalker for good.
5 Season 5, Episode 16 “The Lawless” (9.7)
Echoed through its title and preceding moral, “The Lawless” challenges the notion that laws and codes are what define good and bad. As the citizens of Mandalore rebel against their unjust yet technically legal new rule, Obi-Wan Kenobi defies the Jedi and the Republic to intervene on the neutral planet.
With Satine in Maul’s clutches, Kenobi’s adherence to Jedi values instead of his own feelings results in inaction, costing the Duchess’ life. Even Maul loses his brother to the Sith’s strict “Rule of Two,” yet holds his own against Darth Sidious when using the Darksaber, a symbolic deviation from Sith tradition. In the end, Bo Katan sacrifices Mandalore’s neutrality in the hopes of overthrowing the Deathwatch, and Obi-Wan realizes she’s been Satine’s sister all along.
4 Season 7, Episode 09 “Old Friends Not Forgotten” (9.7)
This episode marks the beginning of The Clone Wars cinematic final arc — The Seige of Mandalore — overlapping with the events of Revenge of the Sith. The following episodes are unwaveringly dark, while boasting some of the last heartwarming moments of the Republic Era. Ahsoka’s reunion with Anakin and the 501st is especially tear-jerking.
First signaled through this and subsequent episodes’ uncharacteristic lack of an opening moral, this final arc strove to challenge fans more than ever. In a series that carefully guided its once young audience, it now asks them to judge its most morally complicated narrative for themselves. Fans must decide on their own what lessons, if any, are to be learned from seven seasons of bloodshed.
3 Season 7, Episode 11 “Shattered” (9.9)
Part III of The Siege of Mandalore, the episode picks up with Maul’s capture. This brief triumph is eerily overshadowed by the looming specter of the Galactic Civil War: specifically, the Chancellor’s refusal to relinquish his emergency powers after General Grevious’ death.
Fans watched with dread as Ahsoka boarded a ship full of clones, alone, with Order 66 on the horizon. Although they tried to resist, her loyal squadron was forced to turn on her, forcing her to release Maul as a distraction. Ever the scene-stealer, Maul’s vicious hallway battle in this episode became one of the series’ most memorable moments.
2 Season 7, Episode 10 “The Phantom Apprentice” (9.9)
Part II of The Siege of Mandalore, “The Phantom Apprentice” feels like the climax of The Clone Wars as a whole. It features the series’ primary protagonist facing off against its most persistent antagonist in the most spectacular duel yet to be seen in its seven-season run. Ahsoka and Maul’s battle was a display of beautiful cinematography and impressive choreography (with Ray Park returning to perform motion-capture for Maul).
The battle was also the outcome of Ahsoka’s hardest choice yet. In trusting her friendship with Anakin over Maul’s testimony, she failed to stop a greater threat than Maul. Yet if she had trusted Maul, there’s no telling what he’d do. Once again, the series’ final arc eschewed easy answers in favor of uncomfortable reality.
1 Season 7, Episode 12 “Victory and Death” (9.9)
Part IV of The Seige of Mandalore and the definitive series finale, “Victory and Death” is somehow The Clone Wars at its most focused and most chaotic. Having barely managed to save Rex from his traitorous programming, Ahsoka works with him to escape a crashing Republic cruiser while trying to prevent Maul from escaping.
This episode cements The Clone Wars as a true tragedy. Ahsoka and Rex are forced to kill the very clones audiences spent seven seasons empathizing with, now instruments of a system the heroes failed to stop. Everything about the episode — from the music to the acting to the cinematography — is peak Star Wars, and will likely be remembered as one of its most effective stories across any medium.
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