So many stories set in the galaxy far, far away burn so brightly that it's difficult to pick out the most luminous of them all. When George Lucas' Star Wars franchise first landed on television, the possibilities seemed as endless as the cosmos. The 1978 "Star Wars Holiday Special" kicked things off, while the 1985 "Droids" and "Ewoks" cartoons marked Lucasfilm's first foray into episodic animated television. The hand-drawn 2003 "Star Wars: Clone Wars" micro-series formed the blueprints for the eventual 2008 CGI series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," and paved the way for Disney-era cartoons like "Star Wars Rebels" and "The Bad Batch," as well as live-action Disney+ series like "The Mandalorian." With thrilling tales full of Jedi, bounty hunters, bizarre creatures, and more, fans have attached themselves to these new stories and their players, many of whom have ties to the grand Skywalker saga.
From impressive cartoons to enthralling live-action shows, we've searched among the stars for the best television episodes set in the Star Wars galaxy. We've ranked the following list based on each episode's emotional resonance, the strength of their storytelling (whether that's contained to a single episode, or is part of a longer, series-long arc), filmmaking techniques, aesthetics, texture, and depth. The main uniting factors, though? They're all good, and they're all Star Wars.
Destiny — The Clone Wars
Even a nine-century-old Jedi Master like Yoda still has much to learn about the Force and his own soul. Burnishing with golden hues, "Destiny" was the faux-penultimate finale to the "Clone Wars" before the cartoon was renewed for a proper final season. And yet, Yoda's quest across a mysterious cosmic plane and his conversations with the spectral Force Priestesses feel like true closure. As he faces a series of deepening temptations, Yoda faces the dark that resides within him. He wins his inner battle simply by accepting that he has his own dark side, which manifests in the form of a Gollum-inspired shade, rather than ignoring it.
After doing so, Yoda explores dreamworlds made up of two extremes: apocalyptic despair and absolute peace. Somewhere, the Jedi Master must let go of both self-deception as well as the comforts of fantasy in order to move forward. It requires quite a bit of pain and guilt, but it's a necessary stepping stone if Yoda and the Jedi are going to find spiritual peace despite the irrevocable damage caused by the Clone Wars. A sage must undergo humility in order to admit defeat.
Part III — Obi-Wan Kenobi
The third episode of "Obi-Wan Kenobi" rewards multiple re-watches. In it, Obi-Wan Kenobi and his charge, the 10-year-old Princess Leia Organa, navigate the planet Mapuzo as they flee the Empire. Compared to the action-packed previous episode, "Part III" features lots of meaningful downtime for Kenobi and Leia, who are both learning more about the galaxy in their own ways.
"Not all people are good, Leia," Kenobi chides his ward. Obi-Wan himself makes a number of human mistakes — accidentally calling out Leia's name in front of stormtroopers, for one — which lead to emotional conversations. Ewan McGregor makes us feel that Obi-Wan regards his Jedi background with bittersweetness. He has a spine-tingling vision in which he sees the image of his former brother-in-arms Anakin Skywalker wearing a Jedi robe. This signifies Obi-Wan's guilt over his former apprentice's fate, and the incoming horror at seeing his beloved Skywalker trapped within Darth Vader's shell.
Here, "Part III" becomes a portrait of a Jedi Master who's learning to trust all over again in an Empire-ravaged galaxy. He's as out-of-practice socially as he is with his lightsaber. Kenobi and Leia's encounters with strangers serve as an invaluable microcosm of the state of the galaxy, starting with the jovial pro-Imperial trucker who gleefully supports the "order" that the Empire has brought to his land, and continuing with the pair's surprise ally, the Imperial turncoat Tala.
A World Between Worlds — Star Wars Rebels
Although "A World Between Worlds" introduces us to an ethereal realm full of portals that could change the currents of history, the episode is less about unraveling the mythos of the Force, and more about the finality and the irresoluteness of grief.
In this "Rebels" episode, Ezra Bridger unlocks a dimension that essentially allows him to time travel; ironically, time is of the essence, and Ezra must take care of what needs to be done — not what he wants to get done. Surrounded by all those possibilities, sticking your hand into the past and future seems like reaching for forbidden fruit. Ezra rescues Ahsoka from a horrible fate; his head reeling, he realizes that he could save Kanan as well, but ultimately learns to respect his master's sacrifice and to not interfere with the unambiguous past.
Ultimately, Hera and Ezra both accept that the one they love is truly gone. Kanan's Force spirit will no longer speak to them, and all hope that he may return is wiped away. The episode concludes in a scenic haze that's both beautiful and sorrowful. "A World Between Worlds" suggests the frustration of being stuck between the past and the future: The past haunts you, and you can't bear to face the future because you can't share it with someone dear to you.
Kamino Lost I And II — The Bad Batch
The Bad Batch" season 1 finale "Kamino Lost" depicts the formative disintegration of the Republic as it makes way for the Empire. In it, the Empire bombards the cloning facility on Kamino, finalizing its transition to stormtroopers and beginning the slow disposal of clone soldiers. On a smaller scale, the members of Clone Force 99 (aka, the Bad Batch) come face-to-face with their former comrade Crosshair, who is now loyal to the Empire.
After questioning Crosshair's motives, the brothers absorb hard truths about his allegiances, which metastasize into teeth-clenching tension. The rapport between the estranged clones ebbs and flows, manifesting as pensive gazes of distrust and bickering, even as the air hangs thick with the looming threats of backstabbing and the merciless seawater roars its way into previously safe chambers.
"Kamino Lost" also reflects on the lives of the clones, engineered as fetuses in test tubes, cloistered in Kamino's labs since birth, and designed for short, age-accelerated lives that typically end in a flurry of blaster fire. It's no wonder that the clones have such mixed feelings about their upbringing on Kamino.
The Wrong Jedi — The Clone Wars
When Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker's apprentice, chose to slink down the steps of the Jedi Temple and head off into the sunset, it changed the Star Wars franchise forever. Throughout Ahsoka's arc, we see firsthand the distortion of the previously heroic image of the Republic's famous peacekeepers. First, protestors accuse the Order of being a corrupted force that's fighting in a morally objectionable war. Second, the Jedi leave the desperate padawan Ahsoka to fend for herself against false accusations.
All of this culminates in a succession of humiliations for Skywalker's padawan. Although Anakin ultimately clears her name, matters are not fixed, and the arrest of the real culprit plunges the Jedi Order into a moral crisis that it'd rather ignore than examine. Ahsoka is left so emotionally battered that apologies and the offer to return her padawan braid are nothing more but extra salt on her wounds. A retreat to the status quo is clearly not going to be the salve that's needed. As the Jedi masters try to persuade Ahsoka that she has "passed a test," she can't accept their words, because they have already failed her. Instead, she realizes that she has to leave. And so, Ahsoka decides to forge her own path away from the Jedi Temple, away from the masters who condemned her, and away from Anakin Skywalker.
Twin Suns — Star Wars Rebels
"Twin Suns" is so sparse that it's easy to go, "Wait, that's it?" when it ends. However, its deeper meaning really sinks in on a rewatch. After receiving a mysterious Force signal from Maul, Ezra Bridger seeks to warn exiled Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi about the former Sith's impending attack. The boy leaves his found family and wanders the Tatooine desert, discovering that he doesn't have a productive purpose there. A silver-haired Kenobi essentially guides Ezra back to the Rebels, where he can tend to his own story. Ezra departs so that Kenobi and Maul can have their final duel together, ending a rivalry that began in "The Phantom Menace" and ramped up during "The Clone Wars."
The showdown that erupts between Kenobi and Maul does not unfold with flash and fury, but rather one precise swipe by Kenobi's blade — a nod to Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai." Then, the unexpected happens. Maul finds not what he wants, but what he needs: peace and hope. Kenobi tells Maul that there's still a chance to destroy Emperor Palpatine, the man who stole Maul's life. Thus, Maul's final words: "He [the Chosen One] shall avenge us." It's a surprising moment of solidarity between the former Sith, who has stolen so many of Kenobi's loved ones, and the old Jedi. Like Kenobi, we realize that, if fate hadn't been so harsh on Maul, maybe the Zabrak would have walked a different path.
The Rescue — The Mandalorian
What's a beskar-wearing father to do when his son has been kidnapped by the Empire? Take your strike team, go up against a squadron of nearly unbeatable droids that can punch dents in your armor, and rescue the little guy, of course. Flanked by a cast of formidable mercenaries, Din Djarin heads to Moff Gideon's ship and takes care of business. Then, just when the father and son are reunited, they're surprised by Grogu's Force-contact: a Jedi named Luke Skywalker. At Luke's behest, the pair ultimately have to go their separate ways, for Din Djarin's duty should be completed. But then, Din breaks his creed so that his adopted son may know his face. This act of affection shows his growth as a man who is now wandering his own spiritual path.
"The Rescue" also introduces some intriguing cultural entanglements when the Mandalorian gets his hands on the Darksaber which creates an ironic and amusing situation in which the haughty, noble-born Mandalorian princess Bo-Katan, who looks down on Din's cultish Mandalorian sect, must refuse the coveted blade due to her own traditions.
Return Of The Mandalorian — The Book Of Boba Fett
"Return of the Mandalorian" has a questionable placement in the overall Star Wars saga, and it dashes all notions that Boba Fett's series could stand on its own. However, this chapter of "The Book of Boba Fett" is a satisfactory stand-alone adventure. While die-hard fans may gush about the fan service, the glimpses of Din Djarin's new pod racer are not as fascinating as his subtle upward climb as he emerges from his funk and rebuilds his life. Across the galaxy, Din Djarin undergoes a series of humiliations. Most notably, he is ejected from his sect, the Children of the Watch, for removing his helmet, a fate that he accepts sorrowfully but with integrity.
We understand Din's anguish even without seeing his face under that helmet. But then, we also watch Mando put his life back together using new pieces — and some old friends. We also get a few callbacks to his previous adventures (the Rebel pilots who stop him for a traffic infraction, for example) that remind us that Din is still beholden to the larger galactic order, and will continue to float around on its fringes.
Twilight Of The Apprentice — Star Wars Rebels
Nothing is the same after the two-part "Star Wars Rebels" season 2 finale, "Twilight of the Apprentice." Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka Tano slink into the dark Sith stronghold on Malachor to search for answers. But where they were supposed to attain knowledge, they only find loss. Ezra and Kanan's mentor-apprentice relationship is strained, lesser antagonists meet nasty ends, a shadow named Maul lurks for revenge, a Force-sensitive hero suffers an ambiguous fate, and the two Jedi survivors are forever scarred. In the aftermath, Ahsoka goes face-to-face with her former master, Kanan's eyesight is permanently damaged, and Ezra is wracked with guilt.
As the title indicates, this episode is all about the apprentices, each of whom reacts to the world according to how their masters (and their tragic lack thereof) prepared them. There's Kanan, whose training was cut short by Order 66. There's Ezra, who's disgruntled with Kanan's teachings. There's Ahsoka, who mourns her master's downfall, and there's Maul, who has abandoned the Sith but still falls back on Darth Sidious' teachings. Both parts of "Twilight of the Apprentice" leave us in darkness, but carry a sense that life is forced to continue regardless. What knowledge did our heroes ultimately find? Maybe it was just another vicious lesson in survival — or maybe it all comes down to the Sith holocron that could decide the fate of Ezra's soul.
The Tribes Of Tatooine — The Book Of Boba Fett
Star Wars has not been particularly dignified in its treatment of the Tusken Raiders, an Indigenous-coded group that first appeared in "A New Hope." "The Mandalorian" began the process of reforming their image, depicting them as mercurial but multifaceted souls. While the conversation among Indigenous fans and critics of Star Wars is more nuanced than can be discussed here, "The Tribes of Tatooine" understands the richness of Star Wars universe's worldbuilding, which largely comes from exploring non-human cultures and their complexities. Watching Boba Fett construct his criminal empire will never be as interesting as his time with the Tuskens of Tatooine, which features an inverted white savior story as Temuera Morrison, a Māori actor, helps a tribe regain their land.
Fett undergoes a series of rites of passages: a drug-induced trip to pull a branch off a sacred tree, the craving of his gaffe stick (the weapon that will eventually save his life), and a tribal dance (influenced by Temuera Morrison's haka). Ignoring the episode's foray into Tatooine's politics, Boba Fett's process of learning about the storied lives of the Tuskan tribe achieves a musicality that no other live-action Star Wars production has reached. Yes, fans may feel that Boba's time with the Tuskens is undermined later in the series, but this chapter can be replayed and enjoyed repeatedly.
The Ninth Jedi — Star Wars: Visions
The animated "Star Wars: Visions" anthology was a gust of fresh air for the Star Wars universe, and one of the best representations of its strengths is the clever episode "The Ninth Jedi," which is set centuries after the events of the sequel trilogy and reconfigures the mythos of the lightsaber. In this installment, written and directed by Kenji Kamiyana, lightsabers do not flash their default colors. In Kamiyana's vision, the hues pertain to the user's loyalties to either the dark or light sides of the Force, and their corresponding spiritualities.
Interweaving wonder with suspense, "The Ninth Jedi" begins with a mystery and ends with a twist. Force-sensitive recruits assemble at the behest of Margrave Juro, who hopes to restore the long-lost Jedi Order. The daughter of a sabersmith, Kara, is tasked with delivering lightsabers to the new Jedi, but meets trouble along the way. There is so much potential contained in "The Ninth Jedi" that it's almost impossible not to love it.
Chapter 19 — Star Wars: Clone Wars
Animator Genndy Tartakovsky is regarded as a master of both reveals and high-octane action. In one of the pivotal combat scenes in his 2003 2D-animated "Clone Wars" cartoons, which originally bridged the gap between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," Anakin charges at the aspiring Sith Asajj Ventress, who views the match as her ticket into the ranks of the Sith. Their meeting unfolds as a symphonic experience, starting with the quasi-comedic nightmare of Anakin Skywalker's clone soldiers being flung around like ragdolls among the jungle trees by Asajj's nearly invisible Force. The combatants' respective furies culminate when Anakin zips after her, leading to the duel of a lifetime.
Tartakovsky bombards the viewer with details at a devilish speed. Rain drips and sizzles on lightsaber blades. Halos ripple through water as Asajj and Anakin fight on puddles. Falling vines make elaborate spirals. Most bone-chilling, however, are the lightning-quick flashes of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Master Yoda as Anakin Skywalker focuses his rage. It is as if Anakin's Jedi masters are leering with omnipotent disapproval at Skywalker's path, judging him like gods in the sky.
Trials Of The Darksaber — Star Wars Rebels
"Star Wars Rebels" is an all-ages cartoon about a found family, and "Trials of the Darksaber" packs much into its 22-minutes: Over that time, it tackles the burden of dual heritage, family in-fighting, lingering resentments, and the criss-crossing web of insecurities that inform the characters' relationships with their loved ones.
It's consequential that one of the few lightsaber-training episodes in Star Wars' television canon focuses on a non-Force-sensitive character, the young Mandalorian Sabine Wren. During a training session with the Darksaber (a special lightsaber imbued with a complicated history), Sabine prepares for the cumbersome pressure that comes wielding the sacred saber, hoping to bring unity to the fractured Mandalorian people. At its core, it's an episode about how Sabine's "Rebels" family supports her, bringing their personal perspectives to light an attempt to heal her mental wounds and get her ready for a cathartic lightsaber fight.
The millennia-old tension between the Mandalorians and the Jedi is not a distant specter. It imbues and informs every relationship here, even the nurturing one between Kanan and Sabine. As a Jedi, Kanan is aghast at Sabine's hot-bloodedness and her Mandalorian-style weapons, although they're both important components of background. While Sabine and Kanan are the focus of the episode, almost everyone gets in on the action, giving us further insights into the layered personal conflicts that drive "Rebels."
Part VI — Obi-Wan Kenobi
There's no unknowing that Obi-Wan Kenobi, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker will live to reunite in "A New Hope." So, "Obi-Wan Kenobi," which bridges the gap between the prequels and the original trilogy, has to fight an uphill battle in order to make its moments matter. It's Ewan McGregor's warmth — as well as his dynamic with Vivien Lyra Blair's Leia — that makes the series succeed.
The "Obi-Wan Kenobi" finale ties up a crowd-pleasing Star Wars series by devoting itself to the themes of choice and balance while also ramping up the tragedy. McGregor's twinkling gazes and his tear-stricken anguish make up the heart of "Part VI." In a conversation that mirrors "Twilight of the Apprentice," Kenobi accepts that his Skywalker brother is truly gone; his resulting expression is one of both heartbreak and release, because he finally accepts that Anakin Skywalker is responsible for his own downfall. To truly win, Kenobi relies on his paternal love for the Skywalker twins to renew his sense of purpose.
In a poignant parallel, the Inquisitor Reva makes a choice at the lowest point of her downward spiral and decides not to become a monster. Through Moses Ingram's exquisite performance, Reva's epiphany balances out Darth Vader's sorrowful fate and injects hope into a galaxy ruled by the dark side. Her moral rehabilitation is what helps Obi-Wan see the good in Anakin Skywalker, as he tells Leia that she carries the late Anakin's positive qualities. In the end, "Obi-Wan Kenobi" is about healing and making peace with those contradictions within our loved ones.
Carnage Of Krell — The Clone Wars
Even though they serve alongside the legendary Jedi, the clone soldiers are the most disposable and ignored in Republic society. Politicians and Jedi alike decide their fates while raising them to do nothing but fight, resulting in a group of soldiers who only know war. The finale of the clone-centric Umbara arc, "Carnage of Krell," is a dark dive into the clones' agency, the effect of their mental conditioning, and their resulting ambivalence. Throughout the arc, the clones put too much faith in their corrupt Jedi commander, the nasty Pong Krell, who spends four episodes exhausting his troops' morale. Then, Krell does the unspeakable: He tricks the soldiers into shooting their own brothers. As a result, the clones finally resolve to do something unprecedented. They defer to their own judgment, and arrest the Jedi in a spectacular combat sequence.
The ending of this episode underlines the tragedy of the Clone Wars. The clone soldiers, if they don't die in battle, don't know how to live without a war to fight. But nothing is as haunting as the moment when one of Krell's most loyal clones, Dogma, decides to execute his superior after Rex hesitates to pull the trigger. The delayed execution says everything about how the clones second-guess their own principles and decisions because life hasn't given them space to challenge the status quo.
Victory And Death — The Clone Wars
In the end, what were the Clone Wars for? "Victory and Death" begins with Ahsoka and Rex holding as tightly as they can to their principles — and their hope — as Order 66 closes in on them, but letting a wild card like Maul loose comes with a colossal price. Ahsoka Tano made a questionable decision in order to survive, and "Victory and Death" encourages viewers to contemplate how that choice weighs on her soul, much as the war has taken a toll on both the clone soldiers and the Jedi. It's telling that Rex has to force himself to swallow his loyalty to turn on his fellow soldiers.
"Victory and Death" is cruel. It's cruel because it dangles hope in front of the audience, floating the idea that Ahsoka and Rex could save every clone soldier, even though we know that outcome isn't really an option. Despite the knowledge that Ahsoka and Rex will survive and join meaningful causes, "The Clone Wars" ends on the clone soldier and former Jedi staring at the burial mounds and the ashes left in the air. In the series' final shot, the titular clones are revealed for what they truly are: mere tools that are easily discarded, their lives shortened by politics and warfare.
Chapter 12 — Star Wars: Clone Wars
Every episode of the 2003 "Star Wars: Clone Wars" micro-series is a brief three-to-five minutes in length, yet each has the visual impact of a supernova. While the series is now in proto-canon territory, it's still an experience not to be missed, if only to see Mace Windu engage in a battle that should be the stuff of legends.
Under the eye of Genndy Tartakovsky, "Chapter 12" is a synergized symphony of sound, speed, and grandeur. The shapes within Tartakovsky's Star Wars build over time, starting with the ship-churner that crushes specks of soldiers beneath its ruthless weight, and continuing with the sonic swiftness of Mace Windu as he punches droids with his bare knuckles. It's a great argument for mixing Star Wars with animation; the impact of these moments wouldn't be nearly as visceral if rendered in live-action using visual effects. Then, the chapter is capped off with the Jedi Master accepting a drink of water from a civilian, reminding us that even legends need nourishment. As viewers, we're much like that kid on the cliffside, watching a legendary battle from a distance with awe, and committing it to our everlasting memories.
The Child — The Mandalorian
Everything fell into place for "The Mandalorian," the first live-action Star Wars television series, with "Chapter 2: The Child." It begins with the pulsing heart of "The Mandalorian": the burgeoning bond between Din Djarin and the mysterious youngling he has to deliver to the Empire. If you didn't have faith that a faceless lead could carry a show, your doubts should've been assuaged by the dynamics between the armored Mandalorian and the tiny creature in his care.
Under Rick Famuyiwa's watchful direction, the atmosphere is sparse as numerous obstacles block the Mandalorian's path. But most of all, we feel Din Djarin's own history and cultural allegiances come to the forefront when he faces down the roaring mudhorn, a battle that's considered sacred in his Mandalorian creed. At a critical moment, the staggering Mandalorian reverently bends down on one knee, his helmeted head bowed, and waits for the moment to strike. We can glimpse the entirety of Din Djarin's spiritual conviction in that silent pose.
Whereas additional episodes of "The Mandalorian" ask the audience to know their Star Wars history ahead of time, "The Child" neatly re-introduces the Force to casual or lapsed fans. When the Child unleashes his Force abilities, his powers are completely unknown to the Mandalorian, allowing the audience to see this familiar magic in a new light.
The Duel — Star Wars: Visions
Directed by Takanobu Mizuno, "The Duel" plays with your expectations in order to surprise you. As the first installment of the eclectic "Star Wars: Visions" anthology, "The Duel" cracks down on the familiar lore surrounding the kyber crystals and the Force and remakes it in its own image.
In a noirish, Kurosawa-inspired gray-and-black landscape, a ronin travels to a village besieged by Sith bandits. By now, viewers have become used to associating the red kyber crystal with agents of evil: Darth Maul, Darth Sidious, Darth Vader, and so on. As such, our presumptions begin to change when we see the Ronin draw a red blade, the mark of the Sith. But in the final minutes, the red sword becomes not just an omen of the dark side, but a token of protection that the ronin grants to the young village chief. From then on, the viewer realizes that "Visions" will dissect Star Wars' most fundamental tropes, and will introduce a more fluid understanding of the Force, the kyber crystals, the Jedi, and the rest of the Star Wars universe.
The Phantom Apprentice — The Clone Wars
As the events of "Revenge of the Sith" unfold offscreen, Anakin Skywalker is destined to fall to the dark side. So, what of those who fight on the fringes of the Clone Wars? What of those like Ahsoka Tano, Maul, and the clone soldiers, who aren't main players in the Skywalker saga, but who still have pivotal roles in the larger story? There is not one soul in "The Phantom Apprentice," be they a main or supporting character, who is not trying to take control of their fate in the face of a galactic catastrophe. Bo-Katan Kryze is reclaiming Mandalore. The Mandalorians loyal to Maul opt to die in glory. Ahsoka performs her duties while distancing herself from the Jedi. And as for Maul, well, he knows that the end is coming, and he's taking desperate measures. While almost none of the characters will know what will transpire next, the audience does, and it gives the entire episode a sense of foreboding, inevitable doom.
Watching "The Phantom Apprentice" is like seeing these characters realize that they've been sitting in the belly of a beast all this time, slowly getting digested. Ahsoka wins her legendary duel against Maul, but in these dark times, no one is really the victor. Fractured glass is a recurring motif in "The Phantom Apprentice," starting with the shattering of windows that signify something unfathomable breaking, and culminating in the final shot of Ahsoka contemplating a chasm in the ceiling.
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