The writing has been laser-etched on the durasteel wall for some time now: for a franchise which redefined the experience of going to the movies in 1977, the future of Star Wars is television. The New Republic of Disney has been relying on Star Wars TV projects as a bellwether for the Disney+ streaming service practically since its launch. With the forthcoming theatrical schedule of the franchise still an unknown, and yet multiple series such as Andor, Ahsoka, Skeleton Crew, and more scheduled for release within the next year, there’s no turning this speeder around. Today we’re here to look at every TV project that Lucasfilm has produced to date, and maybe determine holistically just how good an idea that is. Maybe we’ll even spot something good to watch you haven’t seen before. Best of all: if you’ve already got a Disney+ account, all of these are ready to watch the moment you tab away from this article. Let’s take it from the top.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
Not just the best show, but some of the best Star Wars content ever produced. This high octane 2003 animated series literally bridged the gap between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, throwing us right into the greatest battles of the Clone Wars which we could otherwise only imagine between the prequel films. Only here do we witness the full power of Mace Windu, the terrifying threat of General Grievous, and choreographed action which takes the operatic pageantry of the Duel of the Fates and multiplies it. The secret ingredient that makes it all work, of course, is director Genndy Tartakovsky, who applies the singular essence of his work on Samurai Jack to the most frenetic period in Star Wars history to date. On Disney+, the entire series of 25 short episodes is collected as two movie-length volumes. We can’t think of a better way for a Star Wars fan to spend an afternoon.
Perhaps it’s telling that Obi-Wan Kenobi was originally meant to be a movie, because it certainly feels like the most theatrical Star Wars TV series. As a series, Obi-Wan Kenobi defied expectations that there wasn’t much you could do with the exiled Obi-Wan’s 19 year hermitage on Tatooine; that we’d be stuck once more on the same desert planet as Disney’s two other live action series to date; that any confrontation between Obi-Wan and Vader would undercut the potency of their fatal encounter in A New Hope. By refocusing on a surprising dynamic between Obi-Wan and a young Princess Leia, backed by themes of dogged guilt over the old Jedi Master’s failure to save Anakin from his fall to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t undercut A New Hope at all – rather, it enriched every line spoken by Obi-Wan and Leia alike in the original film with new poignancy, once again allowing a new viewing of an old classic with fresh eyes. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s expansion of the Star Wars characters and mythology is everything that a supplementary series should aspire to be, bridging the gap between where we find Obi-Wan emotionally at the end of Episode III and the start of Episode IV just as the Clone Wars series fills in the details between Episodes II and III before it. As always, the meat of the Star Wars expanded universe lives and thrives in the spaces between the films.
There’s no arguing with results. From the very moment some viewer first cried out 'Baby Yoda!', Disney’s first live action Star Wars series was a runaway success on a level not even they could have predicted. Despite its cast of entirely original characters, merchandising ran itself ragged to keep up with unprecedented demand for the series’ new characters. What is it about The Mandalorian that so immediately captivated its audience? Was it Pedro Pascal’s breathy, understated performance as Din Djarin which launched a thousand steamy fanfics? The adorable Grogu, representative in basic form of a return to Star Wars puppetry? Or is it The Mandalorian’s recommitment to the classic genre films and serials which inspired Star Wars in the first place? After all, The Mandalorian is just as much a Star Wars story as it is a space western. Whatever the case, the power of this show is undeniable. Without its impact, the entire Lucasfilm group probably wouldn’t be investing so heavily into television as the immediate future of the franchise.
If you asked us to name a TV show that gets better with every season, our knee jerk answer would be Dave Filoni’s Clone Wars. In 2008, many Star Wars fans weren’t exactly enthusiastic about this CGI reimagining of the Tartakovsky classic. A widely panned pilot retooled as a quickly discarded theatrical release did it no favors either – and the series’ newest character, Anakin’s own Padawan Ahsoka Tano, was the most controversial to debut within the Star Wars canon in years. The idea of Anakin having his own apprentice during the Clone Wars was unthinkable. Where did she go before the end of Episode III? Why was she never mentioned again? The very question of Ahsoka’s presence upended that entire period of the Star Wars timeline.
But as the series continued, not only did the mystery grow, but so did fondness for Ahsoka’s character, and how she balanced the dynamic between Anakin and Obi-Wan. We were treated to perspectives of heroes and civilians throughout the Galaxy, and invested ourselves in the inner lives of clone troopers – all outwardly identical, but inwardly individual to a man. We uncovered the mystery of Order 66, encountered the architects of The Force, met the love of Obi-Wan’s life, and witnessed the return of his greatest foe. The CGI Clone Wars series is only fourth on this list because of the difficult opening buy-in. But if you’re able to make it through that rocky start, you’ll be rewarded with the stories which earned producer Dave Filoni the right to helm the Lucas Story Group’s creative direction.
Don’t let the name change fool you: for all intents and purposes, The Bad Batch is Clone Wars Season 8. It’s no coincidence that a full third of Clone Wars’ final season is dedicated to introducing this band of misfit clones, all looking like they came out of a late run of G.I. Joe figurines. But don’t let that dissuade you – after all, a good 50-90% of the appeal of characters like Darth Vader and Boba Fett is how cool they look as toys. The Bad Batch picks up right where Clone Wars leaves off, with the execution of Order 66, and just a few clones immune to their sleeper programming to turn on the Jedi.
As a story, The Bad Batch focuses on these abandoned clones in a Galaxy which no longer has a use for them, huddling together to protect the only hope they have for a future. It’s a show which benefits from a decade of learning on the job through the development of Clone Wars, easily endearing you to these new characters just as Clone Wars before it won us over on Ahsoka. If Bad Batch continues its predecessor’s trend of improving with every season, we may eventually have to bump this one up the list a notch.
If The Bad Batch is Clone Wars Season 8, then Star Wars: Rebels is Clone Wars Season… 20 or so. Set during the 5 years leading up to A New Hope, Rebels is the story of the crew of The Ghost, a cell of the Rebel Alliance with a mission to protect the face of the planet of Lothal from an Imperial boot. Although centered around a single location, the crew of crack Twi’lek pilot Hera Syndulla, former Padawan Kanan Jarrus, Lasat massacre survivor Garazeb Orrelios, irritable astromech C1-10P (or “Chopper”), Mandalorian graffiti artist Sabine Wren, and Force Sensitive street rat Ezra Bridger do make their way around the galaxy, and make a number of powerful enemies along the way – including the first televised appearances of the Inquisitors you may be familiar with from Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as the Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn. Although rarely quite as dynamic as its Clone Wars predecessor, Rebels maintains a lot of heart within the dynamic of its core cast, and provides welcome insight into the early struggles of the Rebellion as the Battle of Yavin loomed ahead. Teasers of the upcoming Ahsoka series all but confirm that it’ll be picking up where this show leaves off, so we’d advise getting acquainted with the series sooner rather than later.
When George Lucas created Star Wars, he envisioned a playground where some of the most unique and talented filmmakers could tell their own stories against the fantastic backdrop of his Galaxy. Lucas invited filmmakers from Stephen Spielberg to David Lynch to create their own visions of Star Wars to build upon his own, their imaginations the only limit. The animated Star Wars: Visions feels like the first series to truly capitalize on that, as a series of anime shorts each by a different director, and each of which feel like something you’d never see anywhere else out of Star Wars. With season 2 underway as a collection of stories each from a studio in a different country, the stories out of Visions are only going to be more diverse going forward. Let go of your preconceptions of what Star Wars can be and let the Visions overtake you.
With its wide variety of iconic spacecrafts and dramatic settings, no franchise has ever been better suited to a partnership with LEGO than Star Wars. But as the LEGO group has expanded out of building sets into its own brand of storytelling, it’s come with a playful tone which both respects and lampoons the properties they partner with, essentially breaking them down and rebuilding in their own image.
The many LEGO Star Wars television and webseries over the years, now collected on Disney+, are the best examples of this – each one retelling or completely reinterpreting the events of the Star Wars saga in its own parodic style. The high watermark, however, is The Freemaker Adventures, an entirely original story about a ship repair crew with an unruly restored B-1 battle droid set during the year between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Don’t take anything you see too seriously, and we guarantee that these LEGO shows will occasionally pull off something you’d never expect: a Star Wars joke that you’ve somehow never heard before.
The biggest problem with The Book of Boba Fett is that they didn’t just label it Season 3 of The Mandalorian. We’ve heard some grievances with the fact that the character as he was presented here doesn’t live up to the idealized Boba Fett that many of us played with in our toy bins when we were kids. But the fact is that, Pre-Disney Expanded Universe material aside, much of which was legitimized by the revelation of Boba’s clone birth in Attack of the Clones, none of us really ever knew who Boba Fett was. As long as you keep an open mind, The Book of Boba Fett is a great supplemental series to The Mandalorian, following Boba as a supporting character through his own quest for moral absolution to escape the cycle of debt and violence which defined his father’s life.
As one cohesive story, it doesn’t completely work on its own, which is why at the end it dovetails back into The Mandalorian’s own ongoing saga of finding and defining his family. We certainly wouldn’t recommend watching it without seeing The Mandalorian seasons 1 and 2 first – which, we can imagine, will probably make catching up in the right order more difficult as these intertwining series progress. Fortunately, Popverse will be here to keep you straight if you ever need a guide.
There are a number of short Star Wars webseries available only on YouTube, most of which amount to little more than marketing. But the best of them is Galaxy of Adventures, which gorgeously animates some of the most iconic moments from the films. You won’t get anything you haven’t seen before out of them, but it’s a lovely way to spend an hour if you’d like to see the greatest moments of Star Wars reimagined on an animated scale. Honestly, we wouldn’t mind seeing a remake of the films in this style.
Forces of Destiny
Forces of Destiny is fine. It’s colorful, it’s short, the animation is a little too stiff, and the episodes are too short to really bother you even if it occasionally feels like nothing’s happening. Sometimes you get a whole episode of Rey running through the desert, sometimes you get the story of how Leia got that bounty hunter disguise before Return of the Jedi. It’s a real mixed bag. But the important thing is the premise: Forces of Destiny is an anthology series focused on the heroines of the Star Wars saga, with a message of encouragement to young girls that they too have what it takes to be a hero. That alone is pretty dang admirable. We just wish it looked a little better in motion.
FOR NOSTALGIC GEN-XERS ONLY
If there’s one thing George Lucas ever truly loved, it’s the art of making media itself, in all of its forms. Film, television, radio dramas, Lucas even had an early interest in exploring the space of video games – hence the foundation of LucasArts, one of the definitive adventure game studios. He would break new ground on special effects in the original Star Wars, and do it again in The Phantom Menace. So why not experiment with cartoons as well?
Droids represented the (marginally) better of Lucas’s two such experiments, starring Anthony Daniels as C-3PO because Anthony Daniels will always show up when you ask him to play C-3PO. With a Canadian animation studio, a theme song by the drummer for The Police, and big dreams, Droids told the story of all the other random folks throughout the galaxy who C-3PO and R2-D2 found themselves employed with before joining up with the Rebel Alliance.
We admit it can sometimes be a little charming in a way that’s been lost as cartoons have largely become entirely computer-animated, but we’re still a little freaked out by how flexible C-3PO’s joints are here. He’s not supposed to move like that!
Of all the shows on this list, Ewoks is the one which feels the least like a Star Wars show at all. As you’ll discover in this animated series, the forest moon of Endor wasn’t just the home to Ewoks, but to all kinds of dragons, wizards, and other popular fantasy hallmarks, conveniently hidden away from the eventual incursion of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance to follow. The Ewoks speak in plain English for the viewers’ benefit, but liberally pepper open-to-interpretation Ewok phrases throughout their dialogue.
Look, what we’re trying to say here is: this show is basically The Smurfs. If you didn’t grow up with this show and are curious to see what it’s like, that’s what you’re in for. Lucasfilm’s The Smurfs. Co-developed by… Paul Dini? What? Like, Batman: The Animated Series Paul Dini? That can’t be right. Maybe we need to give this another shot.
Star Wars Resistance is a cartoon series which aired on television, and therefore by law of large numbers must have some kind of fan base. And to them, I apologize for what I’m about to write. You clearly see something in this show that I do not. Resistance is a brightly-colored, cel-shaded series set within the margins of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, starring New Republic spy Kaz Xiono searching for intel onboard an oceanbound ship refueling station called The Colossus. Unfortunately, like Kaz aboard the station itself, the series doesn’t usually go anywhere at all. Flat characters, thin stories, and a lack of any satisfying or informative consequence to the larger galaxy are this show’s hallmarks. Figures like Poe Dameron and Captain Phasma flit in and out of Kaz’s life for quick cameos, and even BB-8 sticks around on the Colossus for a little while, but not enough to save this series barely influenced by the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
So what went wrong? Speculatively, we believe that the usually on-point creator and current Creative Director of Lucasfilm, Dave Filoni, was given a difficult choice. The establishment of Disney+ gave Filoni an opportunity to finally close out Clone Wars with a seventh season, which meant he had to decide whether to give his full attention to this new series, or finally landing the series which he gave a decade of his life to shepherd. As the launching point for Bad Batch and the best Ahsoka story to date, we like to think that Filoni’s diversion to Clone Wars Season 7 was the right choice. The wrong choice: watching this series… unless you happen to be a really big Donald Faison fan. He plays a pretty cool Rodian pilot.