One of my friends is a massive Star Wars fan, like myself, and though I’ve managed to make him start watching Rebels (which he loved) and he knows Legends well, he has never seen the Clone Wars. The Clone Wars TV show (and the TV film that acts as a first episode) is clearly aimed at a much younger audience than both the films and Rebels, but it’s still an enjoyable watch. The second season of Rebels started bringing a lot of references from the Clone Wars TV shows, from Stormtroopers like Wrex, Hondo Ohnaka, and Ahsoka Tano. However getting my friend to watch all 6 seasons, totalling 121 episodes feels somewhat unnecessary – especially when you can easily narrow Clone Wars down into the most essential episodes to watch. Seen as I was spending my time listing these episodes for my friend, why not share it with everyone here?
There are a lot of amazing and important episodes missing from the list (and I would still recommend watching the entire series!), but I wanted to ensure that the list is as small as possible. In order to do that I am going to split it into two separate lists. Episodes to watch between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and Pre-Rebels Watchlist. Because the lists are separate and serve a different purpose, some of the episodes on those lists will overlap.
Regardless of which list you want to follow, I recommend watching the Clone Wars movie. The plot of the story isn’t necessarily important to the series as a whole. I recommend it mostly as an introduction to the series, and most importantly an introduction to Anakin’s padawan; Ahsoka Tano.
Episodes that are bolded, I consider to be the most important Clone Wars episodes.
Essential Viewing Between Episode II Attack of the Clones and Episode III Revenge of the Sith.
(aka. the episodes that help Revenge of the Sith make sense)
3.01 Clone Cadets: An introduction of the Clone Troopers who are prevalent throughout the entire Clone Wars series. Many of the episodes were shown out of chronological order, making this chronologically their first appearance.
2.11 The Mandalore Plot/ 2.12 Voyage of Temptation/ 2.13 Duchess of Mandalore: An introduction to the Mandalorian Empress, Satine Kryze. It also is a deeper look into the culture of the Madalorians, as though a warrior race, Satine led a pacifistic Empire that remained neutral during the Clone Wars.
3.10 Heroes on Both Sides: Showing a heavier political approach, and a key part for Padme, this episodes looks at both sides of the Clone Wars. Padme attempts to end the war by meeting with one of her Separatist friends, and is accompanied by a skeptical Ahsoka.
3.15 Overlords/ 3,16 Altar of Mortis/ 3.17 Ghosts of Mortis: This episode looks at the Force in a completely different way. Having the Light and the Dark Side of the Force appear as physical entities (the Daughter and the Son) and taking a closer look at Anakin being the Chosen One.
4.07 Darkness on Umbara/ 4.08 The General/ 4.09 Plan of Descent/ 4.10 Carnage of Krell: Looking at the Clone Troopers who regularly served under Anakin when they get a new General. It shows them more personally, helps you see the nitty gritty of war, along with a contrast of how some of the Jedi treated the Clones.
4.15 Deception/ 4.16 Friends and Enemies/ 4.17 The Box/ 4.18 Crisis on Naboo: This episode arc mostly follows Obi-Wan after he fakes his own death and plays the part of his own assassin. It puts a barrier between Anakin and Obi-Wan (in that Obi-Wan was unable to tell Anakin about this plot) and also gives a further insight into the Separatist movement, Dooku and Darth Sidious’ plots.
5.14 Eminence/ 5.15 Shades of Reason/ 5.16 The Lawless: If you’re skipping the return of Maul storyline then this might throw you, but these episodes touch on the relationship between the Sith and their Apprentice (including Maul and Sidious) and also the relationship between Obi-Wan and Satine Kryze.
5.17 Sabotage/ 5.18 The Jedi Who Knew Too Much/ 5.19 To Catch a Jedi/ 5.20 The Wrong Jedi: I find this one of the most important storylines because it shows the flaws within the Jedi. It was also one of the earlier instances of the Senate gaining power over the Jedi. I also think that this storyline brought those very flaws to the attention of Anakin and so influenced his turn towards Palpatine and the Dark Side. And I still feel emotional every time I think of this arc.
6.01 The Unknown/ 6.02 Conspiracy/ 6.03 Fugitive/ 6.04 Orders: This episodes introduces Order 66 from the point of view of the Clones. Explaining why loyal Clone Troopers would turn against the Jedi.
6.05 An Old Friend/ 6.06 The Rise of Clovis/ 6.07 Crisis at the Heart: Showing more the political workings of the Senate and the Separatists.
6.10 The Lost One/ 6.11 Voices/6.12 Destiny/ 6.13 Sacrifice: This arc focuses on the Force and answers a few questions not particularly relevant to Revenge of the Sith but the Original Trilogy, such as the Force Ghosts.
(introduces some of the characters that have so far appeared in Rebels and ones set to appear in the future)
1.11 Dooku Captured/ 1.12 The Gungan General: Introduces Hondo Ohnaka who is a recurring character in Rebels. It’s also worth watching for a hilarious moment between Dooku, Obi-Wan and Anakin.
1.19 Storm Over Ryloth/ 1.20 Innocents of Ryloth/ 1.21 Liberty on Ryloth: Introduces a young twi’lek on Ryloth called Numa, who appears in Rebels 2.14 Homecoming. This little girl had a profound impact on the two Troopers, Waxer and Boil, and it’s worth noting that Boil had a drawing of Numa on his helmet.
2.01 Holocron Heist/ 2.02 Cargo of Doom/ 2.03 Children of the Force: Demonstrates the importance that Holocrons (which have been repeatedly referenced in the Clone Wars) had in the Jedi order. It also further develops the relationship between Ahsoka and Anakin.
2.05 Landing on Point Rain/ 2.06 Weapons Factory/ 2.07 Legacy of Terror: This episode looks at the Clone Wars more broadly and shows the relationship between Jedi and Padawan, and more importantly how different some of those relationship are. Though it is mostly on this list as a pre-cursor to the following episodes.
2.08 Brain Invaders: Continuing on from the episode before this, this episode focuses on Ahsoka and her friend, Barris Offee and it is worth watching for that alone.
2.11 The Mandalore Plot/ 2.12 Voyage of Temptation/ 2.13 Duchess of Mandalore: An introduction to Duchess Satine Kryze of Mandalore. Though she won’t be in Rebels, her sister Bo-Katan Kryze has been confirmed for season 3!
3.12 Nightsisters/ 3.13 Monster/ 3.14 Witches of the Mists: This arc starts it’s focus on Asajj Ventress, Dooku’s Apprentice, but then moves on to introduce Savage Opress who plays a big part in the return of Maul.
3.15 Overlords/ 3.16 Altar of Mortis/ 3.17 Ghosts of Mortis: These episodes are so important to the relationship between Ahsoka and Anakin, to the choice Ahsoka makes in the Wrong Jedi (and likely between the Clone Wars and Rebels) and to our understanding of the Force. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was referenced in Rebels at some point as there is a lot of theories about symbolism that directly relates to this.
4.21 Brothers/ 4.22 Revenge/ 5.01 Revival: The return of Darth Maul and some more Hondo Ohnaka.
5.06 The Gathering/ 5.07 A Test of Strength/ 5.8 Bound for Rescue/ 5.9 A Necessary Bond: With these episodes you see more of Ahsoka and how she played a part in helping Yoda with the Younglings. It also further shows the (not particularly pleasant) relationship she has had with Hondo.
5.14 Eminence/ 5.15 Shades of Reason/ 5.16 The Lawless: Showing the disparity between Satine’s pacifistic Mandalore and the Death Watch. It also follows Obi-Wan and Maul – showing us where Maul ended up before Rebels. (Though there is a 4 issue comic book arc, called ‘Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir’ that picks up after this episode.)
5.17 Sabotage/ 5.18 The Jedi Who Knew Too Much/ 5.19 To Catch a Jedi/ 5.20 The Wrong Jedi: If you have only ever watch Rebels and never understood why Ahsoka didn’t consider herself a Jedi and Maul called her a ‘part-timer’ then this arc explains it all.
6.01 The Unknown/ 6.02 Conspiracy/ 6.03 Fugitive/ 6.04 Orders: A deeper insight into the Clone Troopers and Order 66, which is particularly important after the return of Wrex in Rebels. It gives you an insight into his side of the story, rather than just Kanan and the Jedi perspective.