Star Wars shows, ranked
The television landscape of Star Wars has never looked brighter, once the franchise embraced the small screen beyond the animated sequence of shows which started with The Clone Wars. With the diminishing returns of the Skywalker Saga on the big screen, it makes sense for Disney and Lucasfilm to turn to the smaller screen to try new ideas, like a Baby Yoda, or shows flung back in time, before Anakin and the others ever existed. Have all of these ventures been successful? Well…
Ranking each Star Wars television show can seem like an easy task depending on who you talk to — the Star Wars fandom is decidedly vocal and decisive when they want to be — and thus, any ranking is inherently personal, as Star Wars really means so many different things to so many different people.
This ranking includes all currently released live action and animated shows, 10 in total. Two series are not ranked, but they are noted below. The Star Wars franchise also has many micro-shows and webseries, and those are not included here. Every show on this list can be viewed on Disney+.
Not ranked on this list: Star Wars: Droids (1985-86) and Star Wars: Ewoks (1985-86).
While notable for being some of the first real Star Wars media after Return of the Jedi (1983), Droids and Ewoks are very much of their time. While there's nothing wrong with being a little dated or a little vintage, it doesn't feel fair to put these two slighter shows up against their bolder, bigger, better budgeted descendants. They are also on Disney+ if you care to view two curios of Star Wars' vaunted past.
10. <i>The Book of Boba Fett</i> (2021-)
Boba Fett deserved better. Temuera Morrison deserved better. And while The Book of Boba Fett has its shining, sparkling moments for the bounty hunter and his outstanding actor, it ends up at the bottom of this list because far too often, it strays from being a story actually about Boba Fett. The series gets distracted by other franchise favorites, and while maybe anywhere else they might be welcome, for fans of the Boba Fett character, fans have waited an awfully long time for him to get an actual spotlight.
It's not like Morrison and the character can't carry the show, as happens in the first few episodes; they certainly can, which makes some of the writing decisions later on baffling. If The Book of Boba Fett gets a second season, maybe it will redeem itself, but for now, it's an odd show, unbalanced and lacking in its focus.
9. <i>Obi-Wan Kenobi</i> (2022)
Obi-Wan Kenobi lands so low on this list because it suffers from a serious problem: it's redundant. While upcoming shows like The Acolyte promise to take viewers to eras we haven't seen yet in the franchise, Obi-Wan Kenobi decides to devise a tale from a time we know all too well, and a character we already know enough about, too.
The creators of Obi-Wan Kenobi wanted to show how we got from Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan in the prequels to Sir Alec Guinness', but did we need to know? The series doesn't provide a good argument that we did, somehow managing to make new scenes feel overexposed and overdone. Third Sister (Moses Ingram), the chief antagonist, might be the best part of this show, as she feels fresh and new, expanding the tradition of the other histrionic dark-side Force users who came before her.
8. <i>Tales of the Jedi</i> (2022-)
Tales of the Jedi ends up on the lower end not because it lacks in quality, but because there's not much to it. Aiming to expand upon stories we haven't seen fully in Star Wars, Tales spends its first and so far, only, volume focusing on two Jedi in particular: Count Dooku (Corey Burton) and Ahsoka (Ashley Eckstein). Count Dooku feels like fresh ground, as we see moments that had been implied — Qui-Gon Jinn's death and its effect on the count, for one — but Ahsoka's feels like walking on well-trod ground.
The stories are well-told, the animation is unusually thoughtful, but Tales finds itself merely revolving on Star Wars's hamster wheel, as opposed to hopping off of it and exploring something new.
7. <i>Star Wars Resistance</i> (2018-20)
Truly a kid's show at heart, Star Wars Resistance tells the story of a small band of Resistance fighters around the events of the sequel trilogy. While colorful, with a 2D style of animation not often seen in American TV these days, Resistance suffers from being intended for a younger audience. Its writing is simplistic at times, and the characters are loud and even grating.
If you have a younger fan of Star Wars at home, they'll probably enjoy this little show a great deal. One point of interest: Resistance does take a look at a part of the main Star Wars story which is kind of fuzzy, the lead-up to the sequel trilogy. The sequel trilogy, of course, for a lot of fans, merely turned into an excuse for Disney and Lucasfilm to milk the franchise for more, so your mileage may vary. There's not a lot of substance to Resistance, much like the sequel trilogy it accompanies: if you want substantial Star Wars animation, the next three entries on this list are where you need to head.
6. <i>Star Wars: The Bad Batch</i> (2021-)
If you love the clones, there's no begrudging the fact that you will likely love The Bad Batch. Telling the story of a genetically mutated clone trooper squadron in the immediate aftermath of Order 66, this show feels slight in the wider scheme of Star Wars, and even a bit of a retread, as the squadron ends up in the guardianship of a young, talented child, which may be a mandatory Star Wars trope at this point.
The Bad Batch becomes a little band of mercenaries, having adventures and trying to outrun the Empire, who obviously aren't huge fans of having a bunch of rebellious clone troopers running around the galaxy, helping where they can. Where other animated shows on this list have serious repercussions for the wider canon of the franchise, The Bad Batch is currently not taking that tack, but may as it continues with season two in 2023. Still, as an action-adventure show in the tradition of vintage elite team shows like, say, The A-Team, you can't really go wrong with giving it a shot.
5. <i>Star Wars: Rebels</i> (2014-18)
At times some of the darkest Star Wars content ever made, Rebels challenges the ideas that both animation and the franchise are "just" for kids. The period between Revenge of the Sith (2005) and A New Hope (1977) were the dark ages for the Star Wars universe, and Rebels does not shy away from that fact, both aesthetically and intellectually. Rebels can be brutal, even with all the discretion shots in the world, and it should be applauded for its dedication to showing a galaxy far, far away which feels doomed to remain fallen.
Still, there are those bright spots of hope and light that remain undimmed throughout, making Rebels important for showing how the Star Wars universe survived in the years between the Republic's fall and the victory of the Rebellion over the Empire. While it might have been nice to see Rebels use a different animation style than the next entry on this list, it is still remarkably well-plotted and acted, with characters both new and familiar duking it out for the survival of the galaxy.
4. <i>Star Wars: The Clone Wars</i> (2008-14; 2020)
In some ways, The Clone Wars's placement on this list being this low isn't fair. It's an epic show, and in many ways, carries some of the most poignant and overtly political moments of the whole franchise. But it's also a long slog, taking a war between the Jedi and Galactic Republic that only lasted three years and stretching it into seven seasons, with 133 episodes total when all is said and done, which means there's a great deal of filler and wasted time.
Still, The Clone Wars quickly surpasses its origins as a spin-off show of a not-so-great movie. If you have a desire to watch what is often a well-told war drama with occasionally silly divergences, and you have the time to watch the whole thing, it is worth it. But the precision of storytelling and laser focus that is present in the top entries on this list just isn't always present in this impressive display of dedication to showing one of Star Wars's most dramatic historical periods.
3. <i>Andor</i> (2022-)
Despite being relatively new, the Tony Gilroy-created Andor has quickly impressed fans as it tells the origin story of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). However, the series manages to expand beyond its eponymous protagonist, introducing us to new characters and re-introducing us to old, like Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly). Where Obi-Wan Kenobi was clunky in almost the exact same period of time, Andor soars because it is genuinely mysterious: in Rogue One (2016), Cassian was a cypher. Here, he becomes an orphan of the newly risen Empire, rendered a thief, a murderer, and only sometimes, a highly reluctant rebel.
His archetype is a reminder of Han Solo's, but that's just an illusion: Luna's easy charm but intense energy as Cassian, combined with the young man's troubled inner code, paints quite the picture of just how the Rebel Alliance came to be. Cassian, and Andor as a whole, confronts the messy reality behind the entire idea of a Rebel Alliance: they are terrorists and freedom fighters, simultaneously. There will be collateral damage. The Empire was evil, and it needed to fall, but that doesn't mean that every decision the heroes of the Rebellion made was entirely ethical.
Andor refuses to make easy moral judgments, and its characters are not always the likable, charming figures we've come to expect. Its story moves slower, and it has many different threads. But if the series continues to hold up, it might not just be good Star Wars, it'll be brilliant political television, too.
2. <i>The Mandalorian</i> (2019-)
Spearheaded by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian sounded intriguing rom the get-go: a new story about a bounty hunter who came from the warrior monk society known as the Mandalorians, origin culture of Jango and Boba Fett, and by extension, all of the clone troopers? And it's considered a space western? Awesome. The pilot was, indeed, very cool.
Then, the last five minutes happened, and a radical, exciting shift in Star Wars occurred. Hello, Grogu. The importance of "The Child" in making The Mandalorian a compelling show can't really be understated. Giving Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) something to care about gave the audience something to care about, too; yeah, the week-to-week adventures of Djarin could've been compelling on their own, but with Grogu, we get a key emotional thread throughout.
Season three of The Mandalorian is coming soon, and if it lives up to the thrills, chills, and emotional highs and lows of the previous two, it will remain in its place as not just one of the best pieces of Star Wars, but one of the best TV shows currently airing today.
1. Star Wars: Visions (2021-)
This may be a controversial choice to top the list, but as it stands, Visions is an outstanding work of art for not just Star Wars, but for the cinematic medium in general. Seven Japanese animation studios were tasked with reimagining Star Wars concepts and bringing nine unique animated episodes to life — and they pulled it off. The animation styles, varying from episode to episode, are all dynamic and gorgeous, and the voice acting, which you can listen to in either English or Japanese, is fun and pays homage to both a bombastic classic anime style and Star Wars's own more wry feeling. Star Wars: Visions lands above The Mandalorian for its sheer originality, although it could and should be argued The Mandalorian's own originality helped kick off shows like Visions.
Visions will continue in 2023 with studios beyond Japan and across the globe from India to the U.S. contributing. And fans should only hope that the stories it tells become jumping-off points for even more truly original storytelling, in a galaxy far, far away that has needed a drastic departure from its core story for such a long time.