I've made an argument for why you should watch The Clone Wars, but actually watching it is another thing. With 121 episodes, many of them filler, some of them oddly out of order, there's a certain art to getting the best out of your Clone Wars experience. Here's my list of the essential episodes you should be watching, neatly sorted into chronological order and cut down to only 65 episodes and a movie.
The Clone Wars theatrical release
The movie tells the story of Ahsoka becoming an unwilling Anakin's padawan — while the plot itself is nothing groundbreaking, it's a good start to the relationship between the two. It's the only one that's not on Netflix, so it's worth hunting down first.
S3E01: Clone Cadets
The first episode of season 3, Clone Cadets introduces a handful of the clones that we follow through the series, all the way through to Season 6. Seeing as they all essentially look the same, it's good to get a feel for them early.
Oh look, here are those clones again.
S1E09: Cloak of Darkness
As we're skipping the underwhelming first episode, this is a good one to introduce Dooku and his apprentice, Asajj Ventress.
S1E12: Lair of Grievous
Another one that focuses on the baddies, you won't find many of the recurring main characters here, but the dark side machinations are still interesting.
S1E19: Storm over Ryloth S1E20: Innocents of Ryloth S1E21: Liberty on Ryloth
This three-parter is both the start of some deeper character development for Ahsoka and a bit more adventure for the clones. One of the characters in this arc is also pretty important if you're planning on watching Rebels later.
S2E01: Holocron Heist S2E02: Cargo of Doom S2E03: Children of the Force
Another three-parter that introduces bounty hunter Cad Bane and further builds on the relationship between Ahsoka and Anakin.
S2E18: The Zillo Beast S2E19: The Zillo Beast Strikes Back
Some people love the Zillo Beast episodes, some people hate them. For me, they're memorable enough to be worth an inclusion.
S2E05: Landing at Point Rain S2E06: Weapons Factory
This two-parter introduces padawan Barriss Offee — who eventually becomes Ahsoka's friend. It also provides a broader view of the Clone Wars themselves, and includes a little about the relationships between Jedi and their padawans.
S2E07: Legacy of Terror S2E08: Brain Invaders
Another two-parter that leads on from Weapons Factory, this arc is about brain-invading zombie worms. Other than that, it's worth watching for the moments between Ahsoka and Barriss.
S2E12: The Mandalore Plot S2E13: Voyage of Temptation S2E14: Duchess of Mandalore
The Mandalore arc introduces Obi Wan's ex-girlfriend, Satine, who happens to be the Duchess of Mandalore — yes, that place with the armour where Boba Fett comes from. Except for some reason they're pacifists. A good start to the developing Mandalore storyline throughout the series.
S2E20: Death Trap S2E21: R2 Come Home S2E22: Lethal Trackdown
These episodes follow young Boba Fett as he sets out to get revenge on Mace Windu — the Jedi who killed his father. Featuring other bounty hunters from the Star Wars canon such as Bossk from Empire Strikes Back and Aurra Sing, the bald, pale bounty hunter with a short cameo in The Phantom Menace.
S3E02: ARC Troopers
This episode continues the story of the clones from Clone Cadets and Rookies — well, some of them, at least.
S1E22: Hostage Crisis S3E09: Hunt for Ziro
While this Hutt subplot is a little odd (though more so when watched in its original order) it's also more screentime for Cad Bane, and a look at Quinlan Vos, one of the more entertaining members of the Jedi order.
S3E10: Heroes on Both Side S3E11: Pursuit of Peace
This two-parter is a heavily political one, where Padmé tries to broker peace between the Senate and the Separatists. While it might not appeal to everyone, it's an interesting depiction of grey morality in a universe that loves its blacks and whites.
S3E12: Nightsisters S3E13: Monster S3E14: Witches of the Mist
A three-parter that expands on Asajj Ventress, Dooku being a dick and gives us a peek at Darth Maul's people and home planet.
S3E18: The Citadel S3E19: Counter Attack S3E20: Citadel Rescue
Anakin and Tarkin become bros in one of the series' few nods to the original trilogy. Things also get pretty intense during this high-stakes prison break in/out arc.
S4E07: Darkness on Umbara S4E08: The General S4E09: Plan of Dissent S4E10: Carnage of Krell
A series of clone-centric episodes that have some very illuminating things to say about the state of the Jedi Order. Again, an indicator of the darker direction the series takes.
S4E15: Deception S4E16: Friends and Enemies S4E17: The Box S4E18: Crisis on Naboo
Obi Wan goes undercover with a group of bounty hunters. A lot of it is just him showing off, but the culmination of the arc is a surprisingly intense moment born of Palpatine's plotting.
S4E19: Massacre E4E20: Bounty
Two episodes that continue Asajj Ventress's increasingly interesting plotline, as she leaves the dark side behind to form her own morality.
S4E21: Brothers S4E22: Revenge
A very surprising return from a film character who really deserved more screen time.
S5E02: A War on Two Fronts S5E03: Front Runners S5E04: The Soft War S5E05: Tipping Points
Ahsoka is sent to train a group of insurgent rebels. Wait, is that really something that's okay for the Jedi to do? Well, apparently yes...
S5E01: Revival S5E14: Eminence S5E15: Shades of Reason S5E16: The Lawless
Darth Maul and his brother have some really crazy plans for the world of Mandalore, deciding to capitalise on all that Sith training he has to build a criminal empire. Things get really crazy as the Mandalore plotline winds up.
S5E17: Sabotage S5E18: The Jedi Who Knew Too Much S5E19: To Catch a Jedi S5E20: The Wrong Jedi
These four episodes are the culmination of Ahsoka's storyline in The Clone Wars, and a really powerful ending to the series (nevermind that there are episodes after it) The sixth season was produced just for Netflix, and mainly consists of tying up previously unclear plot points:
S6E01: The Unknown S6E02: Conspiracy S6E03: Fugitive S6E04: Orders
"Wait, so if the clones are so loyal to the Jedi, why did Order 66 happen?"
S6E10: The Lost One
"What happened to that Master Sifo-Dyas guy anyway?"
S6E11: Voices S6E12: Destiny S6E13: Sacrifice
"Why are there so many Force ghosts in the original trilogy but none in the prequels?"
Think I got some of these wrong? Let us know in the comments, I know you will anyway.