Star Wars has become richer thanks to its animated fare. Despite the franchise’s rocky start in animation in the 1980s, George Lucas and the team found their way back to animation in the early 2000s with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The film may not have won over a ton of fans, but the subsequent animated shows have brought Star Wars to a whole new generation.
We now have an expansive and gorgeous new world (and worlds) through the animated series. With the second season of Star Wars: The Bad Batchscheduled to return September 28, 2022, and more new animated series like Tales of the Jedi and Young Jedi Adventures announced during Star Wars Celebration this year, we review the Star Wars animated series that we’ve enjoyed so far, ranking them on the basis of style, animation, story, and the roster of characters.
7. Star Wars: Droids
Star Wars: Droids was the franchise’s early foray into animation and the show is definitely much rougher than the style we would expect now. This is a cartoon, and it is made for children. Anthony Daniels returns to voice C-3PO, as he and R2-D2 are swept into a series of adventures. They wind up battling gangsters, bounty hunters, and intergalactic criminals of all sorts—at one point, they even go up against the Galactic Empire.
The 13 half-hour episodes feature multi-arc stories culminating in an hour-long special. The series is silly and fun, leaning into C-3PO’s over-dramatic outlook. The supporting characters feel like poor imitations of the original trio. Droids isn’t all bad. The theme song, “In Trouble Again” performed and co-written by Stewart Copeland of the Police is catchy. Familiar faces from the films reappear on the show, tying the proceedings to the original trilogy. This is a kid-friendly show where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the adventures.
Alongside Droids, Lucasfilm debuted the show Ewoks. Centering on Wicket Wystri Warrick, the most recognizable Ewok from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and his friends and family, Ewoks is a series of adventures, or rather misadventures on the forest moon of Endor. The show is set prior to the original trilogy, so this is a world that has not yet faced a big battle.
Ewoks is a little more entertaining in parts than its sister show Droids, though it is a bit dated. Also, the Ewoks speak English here — don’t ask why just go with the flow. I don’t think any of us could sit through an entire season of Ewok talk! The animation isn’t as rudimentary as Droids, in fact, some Ewoks are rather adorable to look at on the show. There are a lot of characters here, which is understandable since it’s meant for children. Ewoks isn’t a game changer, but Star Wars completionists will definitely want to give it a watch.
5. Star Wars: The Bad Batch
After debuting in the seventh season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Clone Force 99 got to headline their own show in 2020. The clone squad, nicknamed the Bad Batch for their genetic mutations, must fight to survive after the events of Order 66. Instead of turning into automatons like the rest of the clones, the Bad Batch ends up on the run.
Star Wars: The Bad Batchis a tense look at the aftermath of the Clone Wars. Suddenly all the heroes from previous shows have turned into villains, and the only heroes left for viewers to root for is the Bad Batch. The main squad is full of appealing characters with their own eccentricities. Dee Bradley Bakervoices the main cast and gives each character a unique voice and personality. Returning characters from previous animated series hint at the grand world beyond the protagonists.
While the show is engaging, The Bad Batch falls into a few traps, especially retreading the father-child dynamic that was a winning formula on The Mandalorian. However, the political interplay between the Kaminoans and the emerging Empire is a fascinating subplot that deserves to be expanded.
4. Star Wars Resistance
Star Wars Resistance captures the wonder and spectacle of the franchise. Hotshot pilot Kazuda Xiono (Christopher Sean) is enlisted by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to stake out a refueling tower and investigate the growing threat of the First Order. Kaz embeds himself with Team Fireball and has to keep up the ruse of being a mere mechanic to complete his mission. The only problem is that Kaz is a terrible spy and a worse mechanic, leading to much of the humor throughout the show.
Despite being only two seasons long, Resistance packs in a sizable cast of diverse characters, all of whom have winning personalities. The show leans towards younger audiences, but Star Wars fans will love it. The animation style is simpler than its predecessors, but gorgeous all the same. This is a world far removed from the Jedi and the Force but still enriches the universe. Most of the stories are episodic in nature, with a hint of Kaz’s overarching mission underlining the main plot. The second season is darker than the first but continues to have a vibrant thread running through it.
Resistance is an effervescent and optimistic return to the franchise, and it continues to be an underrated but charming addition to the canon.
3. Star Wars: Visions
Brought to our screens by seven Japanese animation studios, Star Wars: Visions gives fans a fantastic new look at the franchise. The anthology series of nine short films reflects the inspiration behind George Lucas’ vision of Star Wars, which has always borrowed heavily from Asian cultures. The show reimagines Star Wars using known anime archetypes.
Visions is unhindered by timelines and canon, making every story unique. The stand-alone storytelling emphasizes characters and interpersonal dynamics over a grander narrative. The episodes are a mix of new takes on Star Wars and different perspectives on familiar worlds. We return to Tatooine in one episode, while another features a little droid with big dreams, and others follow different versions of Jedi Knights. There are warriors with dark pasts, wise old sages, and young upstarts expanding the mythos of Star Wars.
Every studio brings their own distinctive style to the series, and the animation is truly the MVP in Visions. Add to that a star-studded voice cast, in both the Japanese and English versions, and this show is a refreshing anthology of self-contained stories set in a beloved galaxy.
2. Star Wars Rebels
Set five years before the events of the original trilogy, Star Wars Rebels follows the motley crew aboard the Ghost as they valiantly try to help as many worlds as they can under Imperial rule. The series debuted in 2014 after the untimely cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Rebels shifted away from the galactic core to focus on characters with a tenuous link to the Jedi and the Rebel Alliance. The series was unafraid to take a darker tone — the Empire is obsessed with hunting down the last of the Jedi, which puts the crew of the Ghost in danger. But the show also explores other aspects of the Star Wars galaxy, mainly the guerilla warfare and the resistance cells that crop up to fight the Empire. This is war and the characters face the consequences of being a part of it.
The main characters have unique personalities that buoy the entire series, and the show has one of the best redemption arcs in the franchise. Rebels informs a large part of The Mandalorian and the upcoming Ahsoka series as well, which goes to prove what an indelible mark the series has left on the franchise.
1. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Star Wars: The Clone Wars emerged from the animated film of the same name, but the series took on a life of its own over seven seasons. It expanded the known lore of the films, filling in the gaps of what went on between the prequel trilogy and the original films. Viewers got insight into the inner workings of the Jedi, the Senate, and the Trade Federation. Most importantly, supporting characters from the franchise, especially the titular clones of the series, became characters unto themselves, evolving from blank slates to characters with full lives and story arcs.
The Clone Wars took its time to find its groove, but soon the bureaucracy and political machinations and their eventual fallout became a mainstay in the series. The multi-episode storylines were especially exciting, but even the fillers were fun to watch. A stellar voice cast that captured the live-action actors’ cadence while adding their own panache brought the characters to life.
The series has become a fan favorite, giving the world the version of Ahsoka Tano that so many Star Wars fans love. As more live-action series come to life from Lucasfilm, we begin to see more and more characters bleed into the live-action from Clone Wars.The animation is particularly striking and got better with each season. The Clone Wars showcased the expansive universe of the franchise culminating in a heart-breaking series finale that tied directly into the films.