The Best Animated ‘Star Wars’ Episodes

Some of the best Star Wars stories are in the animated shows

Ahsoka in 'The Clone Wars'
Ahsoka in 'The Clone Wars' (Disney+)

For a lot of people, the “Star Wars” universe begins and ends with the original, prequel and sequel trilogies, and the handful of spinoffs and live-action series on Disney+. But the diehards know that some of the best stories told in a galaxy far, far away actually take place in the various animated shows that have been released.

That’s a lot of episodes to sift through – especially when it comes to “The Clone Wars” – so we put together a guide to some of the very best Star Wars episodes the animated shows have to offer. Every single one of these expand on the lore, introduce something discussed in a live-action property, or are just a damn good time and they’re all streaming on Disney+.

Star Wars Rebels

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“Star Wars Rebels” (Lucasfilm/Disney)

All of it

Lets get the cheat out of the way right at the top. Is it a cop out to list an entire four-season series on a guide for episodes of a franchise that can’t be missed? Yes. Is “Rebels” worth your time in its entirety? Absolutely.

“Rebels” was one of the first things Disney made after acquiring the Star Wars rights and it remains their best contribution. Ezra’s constant struggle between pulls to the light and dark side, Kanan’s survivor’s guilt for surviving Order 66, Hera and Kanan’s love story, a found family trope – the list for why the show rules goes on and on. Plus it introduced us everyone’s favorite psycho droid: Chopper.

Also for fans of Disney+’s “Ahsoka” series, “Rebels” has almost become required viewing.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

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Lucasfilm

The Clones
Episodes: “Clone Cadets” (S3E1), “Rookies” (S1E5), “ARC Troopers” (S3E2)

It wouldn’t be Star Wars if there wasn’t a needlessly convoluted viewing/release order tacked on. A Season 1 episode that received prequel and sequel episodes in Season 3, this arc displayed what made “The Clone Wars” series so special – humanizing the clones.

Where the movies focused on the war from the Jedi perspective, these episodes show a group of clones – Hevy, Echo, Fives, and Cutup – as they go through troop training and grapple with how to stand out as individuals in a war that largely views them as cannon fodder.

The Nightsisters
Episodes: “Nightsisters” (S3E12), “Monster” (S3E13), “Witches of the Mist” (S3E14)

“The Clone Wars” wasn’t afraid to expand the story and mythology into weird new corners. If you thought The Force and Midichlorians were odd, the nightsisters introduced in this arc are wielding full-on magic. The arc also serves as another heavy inspiration for later live action attempts, with nightsisters playing a major role in the back half of the first season of “Ahsoka.”

Mortis
Episodes: “Overlords” (S3E15), “Altar of Mortis” (S3E16), “Ghosts of Mortis” (S3E17)

The Anakin Skywalker Chosen One prophecy sits at the center of the prequel trilogy but it mostly boiled down to a Christ-like immaculate conception brought on by The Force. The Mortis arc makes a valiant and largely successful attempt to retcon the clunkiness of the prequel movies and give it a more Star Wars spin.

A lot of “The Clone Wars” often feels like Dave Filoni attempting to retcon and backfill the weakest moments of George Lucas’s prequels and The Mortis Arc is among the most successful.

General Krell
Episodes: “Darkness on Umbara” (S4E7), “The General” (S4E8), “Plan of Dissent” (S4E9), “Carnage of Krell” (S4E10)

Not all Jedi are paragons of good, and this arc explores that. Another story that puts the clones at the forefront as they deal with the mismanagement of a battle theater by Jedi General Krell. Unlike Jedi we’re used to seeing, Krell doesn’t see the clones as anything more than a tool to win the war. He starts terrible and gets worse throughout the arc which makes for an interesting watch.

The Return of Darth Maul
Episodes: “Brothers” (S4E21), “Revenge” (S4E22)

The preferred anecdote to anyone watching “The Clone Wars” while it was airing or shortly after was “did you know that Darth Maul didn’t die in ‘The Phantom Menace?’” Well, these are the episodes where that reveal happens and they’re phenomenal whether you know the twist or not.

Shocker: being cut in half and stranded on a planet that functions as a garbage dump for over a decade left Maul pretty messed up. The episodes have a horror movie feel as Maul scuttles around the scenes on spider legs he build out of machine parts to replace his lower half. Sam Witwer gives the first of many powerhouse performances as Maul, who spends large parts of the episode manically muttering to himself in between bouts of rage.

Order 66’s Close Call
Episodes: “The Unknown” (S6E1), “Conspiracy” (S6E2), “Fugitive” (S6E3), “Orders” (S6E4)

One of the big reveals of Season 6 – which was a hodgepodge of completed episodes released on Netflix after Cartoon Network canceled the show following Season 5 – was that Order 66 was almost thwarted by a single clone. After a programming error causes a clone to initiate Order 66 on his own, a separate clone takes it on himself to investigate. What follows is an arc that feels almost like a crime noir.

Ahsoka’s Decision
Episodes: “Sabotage” (S5E17), “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much” (S5E18), “To Catch A Jedi” (S5E19), “The Wrong Jedi” (S5E20)

“The Clone Wars” is largely Ahsoka’s story and this final arc of Season 5 wrapped that story up – at least the story of Ahsoka Tano, Jedi Knight. The last couple seasons saw Ahsoka – like her master Anakin – realize that the Jedi Order really doesn’t have all the answers and in a lot of ways are a largely hypocritical group.

That all comes to a head here when the Order accuses her of a crime and strips her of her status, only to try giving it back with an “our bad” when she proves her innocence. She doesn’t accept and leaves the Order for good. Seeing Ahsoka walk away from Anakin while he pleads for her to stay is one of the most memorable moments from the show.

Added bonus: the arc answers the question that cropped up immediately after the show started back in 2008: “If Anakin had a Padawan, where was she during Order 66?”

The Siege of Mandalore
Episodes: “Old Friends Not Forgotten” (S7E9), “The Phantom Apprentice” (S7E10), “Shattered” (S7E11), “Victory & Death” (S7E12)

The Siege of Mandalore arc is as good as any of the Star Wars films Disney’s put out and better than at least half of them. It ties up many lingering story threads and eventually runs in tandem with the back half of “Revenge of the Sith.” Ahsoka vs. Maul is a stellar fight, Rex fighting the effects of Order 66 will put tears in your eyes and the final episode’s closing moments will stick with you long after the ending.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch

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“Star Wars: The Bad Batch” (Disney+)

“The Solitary Clone” (S2E3)

The show may be called “The Bad Batch” but in a lot of ways it’s Crosshair’s story. He served as the villain of the first season – believing he was a “good clone” and following orders by staying with the new Empire while the rest of the Batch fled – but this early Season 2 episode shows the fallout of that choice. He’s alone in a world that’s changing too fast and clones are being phased out for Stormtroopers. He struggles to find his place and slowly realizes he already had it with the Batch.

“The Outpost”(S2E12)

Clones are a thing of the past and in “The Outpost,” Crosshair finally realizes he picked the wrong side. He’s assigned to an outpost where another clone named Mayday is posted – and after being chastised for losing crates, the two go off searching.

They’re hit by an avalanche shortly after finding the lost crates (which just had Stormtrooper gear for newly conscripted soldiers) and Mayday is nearly killed. Crosshair refuses to leave the clone behind and the two barely make it back. Instead of a hero’s welcome, an Imperial lieutenant says using resources to save Mayday would be a waste and the clone dies.

Watching Crosshair finally realize he’s not on the right side of the war and drop his “good clones follow orders” mentality is satisfying, but the road to get there is brutal.

“Plan 99” (S2E16)

Star Wars does the found family trope very well and “The Bad Batch” is no exception. So when one of the members of that family is lost, it leaves a mark. The show’s second season did a lot to flesh out every member of The Batch but Tech stood out behind only Crosshair – which makes his sacrifice in the Season 2 finale equal parts effective and gutting.

“The Harbinger” (S3E9)

It’s fun seeing unexpected faces pop up in these shows, and getting to watch Asajj Ventress interact with the Batch is a joy unto itself. Not only does this episode mark Ventress as safe post-Order 66, but her scenes with Omega show she’s softened just enough in all the right spots and stayed hardened in others to cement her as one of the best contributions from the animated shows.

Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi

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“Tales of the Jedi” (Disney+)

The Dooku Tale
Episodes: “Justice “(S1,E2), “Choices” (S1,E3), “The Sith Lord” (S1E4)

To strictly movie watchers, little is known about Count Dooku. He just sort of shows up in “Attack of the Clones” to antagonize Anakin and Obi-Wan until his beheading in the opening moments of “Revenge of the Sith.” Animated fans – mostly through “The Clone Wars” series – got quite a bit more on what the former Jedi was up to between those movies.

It wasn’t until the three Dooku-centric episodes in “Tales of the Jedi” that we learned about the young Count. If you were curious about his early days in the Order, how he took his apprentice Qui-Gon Jin’s death and ultimately his fall to the darkside, these new are the episodes for you.

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