As the slate of Disney+ Star Wars shows grows it’s becoming clear that not only the core films are required viewing for understanding the complete context of the stories but The Clone Wars animated series too. While the live-action shows should work well enough for new viewers, to understand them completely one must go back and watch the animated series that preceded them. As the first canon television series, The Clone Wars introduced a huge number of new characters and stories that are now weaving into the latest shows, whether it be the backstory of the Mandalorians or Cad Bane appearing in The Book of Boba Fett.
Beginning all seven seasons (and a movie) is a daunting task so I’ve created a curated viewing guide of the best and most essential episodes that give both a complete overview of the story of the show itself and everything necessary to understand the stories that have since grown from it.
A note to remember: much of the show was not in chronological order (Lucas up to his old tricks) so I’ve moved some arcs around for viewing ease.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The 2008 Movie)
On this list I’ve made an effort to remove the weaker episodes and arcs and offer up the best of the best. Yet there can be no skipping the movie that kicks off the series in disappointing style. It can be a rough watch, not indicative of the quality of the series to come, and make you question whether you want to continue. But do! It gets better but the film should still be the beginning of your Clone Wars journey because it introduces the show’s dual protagonists: Ahsoka and Rex.
S2E12 The Mandalore Plot
S2E13 Voyage of Temptation
S2E14 Duchess of Mandalore
There’s no better place to start the show proper than the first Mandalorian arc of the series, especially for fans of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. So much ongoing lore and storytelling originate from this arc, such as the Darksaber, making it vital viewing.
S2E1 Holocron Heist
S2E2 Cargo of Doom
S2E3 Children of the Force
This is a solid arc notable for being Cad Bane’s first chronological storyline in the show, a character who will become a major presence in the series and has now crossed over to live-action in The Book of Boba Fett. We also get the Jedi making questionable decisions and Sidious having an interest in force-sensitive babies (Grogu, anyone?)
S2E20 Death Trap
S2E21 R2 Come Home
S2E22 Lethal Trackdown
This may not be the strongest arc but if you’ve been clamouring for Boba Fett vs Mace Windu then look no further. It has nice development for Boba and is a key piece of his character journey. Plus, Aurra Sing is pretty cool.
S3E1 Clone Cadets
S3E2 ARC Troopers
This out-of-order trilogy of episodes introduces a clone squad that will become a huge part of the series. Those who survive anyway. The clones are the heart of the show and this is necessary viewing to understand their perspective on the war.
S3E10 Heroes on Both Sides
S3E11 Pursuit of Peace
Come on, you’ve got to watch at least one Padme political arc and it might as well be this one. The Clone Wars expands on the politics of the prequels and this is the best example of that examination done right. A semi-regular character is introduced and the two-parter offers a fascinating new perspective on the separatists.
S3E14 Witches of the Mist
This is where the show gets great! The beginning of the Dathomir arc that expands Asajj’s role in the story and leads to so much more. Truly different, brilliant Star Wars.
S3E16 Altar of Mortis
S3E17 Ghosts of Mortis
The less said about the ‘Mortis Trilogy’ the better. Not because it’s bad, quite the opposite, but because I don’t want to spoil anything. Go in with an open mind and you’ll come out with a brand-new outlook on Star Wars.
S3E18 The Citadel
S3E19 Counter Attack
S3E20 Citadel Rescue
A fun arc that introduces Tarkin to the series, drawing many elements of Star Wars together and hinting at Anakin’s future. It’s also important viewing for the storyline of a certain clone trooper, but may not seem like it at the time.
S3E21 Padawan Lost
S3E22 Wookie Hunt
Predator starring Chewbacca. Who doesn’t want to watch that? This two-parter may seem disposable but it’s actually the middle point of Ahsoka’s arc and the final scene will have so much more impact later on.
S4E7 Darkness on Umbara
S4E8 The General
S4E9 Plan of Dissent
S4E10 Carnage of Krell
This is my favourite arc of the show. Clone-centric Band of Brothers. The perspective of the troopers is examined by forcing them through a gauntlet of extreme physical and emotional trials that leads to treason. It’s shockingly dark, beautiful, and some of the best Star Wars ever produced.
S4E14 A Friend in Need
This is a vital bridge episode between Mandalorian arcs and introduces one of Star Wars television’s best characters: Bo-Katan.
S4E16 Friends and Enemies
S4E17 The Box
S4E18 Crisis on Naboo
This arc is great on two accounts. It’s a good bounty hunter story including the likes of Cad Bane and Boba Fett but also is important for Anakin’s eventual fall, with the Jedi’s flaws and Palpatine’s machinations being highlighted.
The Dathomir arc continues and gets darker, stranger, and even better. Asajj develops into a deeper character and Maul makes his long-awaited return. A huge, important arc.
S5E2 A War on Two Fronts
S5E3 Front Runners
S5E4 The Soft War
S5E5 Tipping Points
A solid story notable for introducing Saw Gerrera, making it vital viewing for understanding the full context of his appearances in other media, such as Rogue One and the upcoming Andor.
S5E15 Shades of Reason
S5E16 The Lawless
These are some of the best episodes of the series. A fantastic merging of the Maul and Mandalorian arcs.
S5E18 The Jedi Who Knew Too Much
S5E19 To Catch a Jedi
S5E20 The Wrong Jedi
For a while this was the original finale of the show when it was cancelled. Thankfully we got more episodes but even so it still has the weight of a final arc and closes a chapter on Ahsoka’s journey.
S6E1 The Unknown
Want more details on Order 66? Then this is the arc for you! A surprisingly emotional storyline featuring Fives that answers questions while setting up elements for future storytelling.
S6E10 The Lost One
A trippy, weird odyssey into the heart of the force with Yoda that goes some way into explaining force ghosts. It also tries to explain what the deal with Sifo Dyas was but I’m still not sure I understand it. Enjoyable nonetheless.
S7E1 The Bad Batch
S7E2 A Distant Echo
S7E3 On the Wings of Keeradaks
S7E4 Unfinished Business
If you want to watch The Bad Batch after The Clone Wars then this backdoor pilot is necessary viewing. But even if you don’t it’s a good arc that feels like the beginning of the end for the clones and the war.
S7E9 Old Friends Not Forgotten
S7E10 The Phantom Apprentice
S7E12 Victory and Death
The end of the series, and a satisfying one at that, bringing together several threads and offering the right balance of closure and set-up for future shows. The level of improvement in every aspect from the movie to this final arc is incredible.
Going to follow my episode guide? Think I’ve left off a vital episode? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.