The BEST Episodes of Bonanza
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2020
The show chronicles the weekly adventures of the Cartwright family, headed by the thrice-widowed patriarch Ben Cartwright. He had three sons, each by a different wife: the eldest was the urbane architect Adam who built the ranch house; the second was the warm and lovable giant Eric "Hoss"; and the youngest was the hotheaded and impetuous Joseph or "Little Joe". Via exposition and flashback episodes and each wife was accorded a different ethnicity. The family's cook was the Chinese immigrant Hop Sing.
#1 - Bitter Water
Season 1 - Episode 29 - Aired Apr 9, 1960
Len Keith, a miner, wants to purchase some land adjacent to the Ponderosa from rancher Andy McKaren. Andy's son, Tod, is anxious to sell. Keith has offered him a partnership,and more importantly, he is in love with Keith's daughter. When Ben warns Andy that a mine on the property would foul up Ponderosa water, Andy agrees not to sell the land. Len Keith, determined to get that land, plants tick infested cattle in a Ponderosa herd to turn Andy against the Cartwrights.
#2 - Death at Dawn
Season 1 - Episode 32 - Aired Apr 30, 1960
Virginia City is plagued by organized crime, Sam Bryant and his gang. One of his men, Farmer Perkins, kills a storekeeper, and at his trial, the wife of the store owner is afraid to testify. When Perkins is sentenced to hang, Bryant kidnaps Ben and wants to exchange Ben for Perkins, which leaves Adam with the most difficult decision of his life. A stellar cast.
#3 - Feet of Clay
Season 1 - Episode 30 - Aired Apr 16, 1960
Hoss takes Billy Allen, the young son of a convicted felon under his wing, then is forced to kill his father and Billy will not forgive him. The most emotional Hoss story since "The Newcomers" and one of Blocker's best.
#4 - The Duke
Season 2 - Episode 25 - Aired Mar 11, 1961
Hoss takes on The Duke Of London, an arrogant, abusive bare-knuckle fighter, though his brawn is no match for the Duke's agile skills.
#5 - The Night Virginia City Died
Season 12 - Episode 1 - Aired Sep 13, 1970
In the 12th season premiere, a series of destructive fires strike Virginia City, and always late at night. Is it the work of a ruthless arsonist, or someone very close to Deputy Clem?
#6 - The Power of Life and Death
Season 12 - Episode 5 - Aired Oct 11, 1970
A man called Davis has shot Colonel Clayton and escapes on horseback. Joe and Ben join the posse that sets out to find Davis. Ben and Joe volunteer to cross the desert. Ben and Joe find Davis hold up at a water hole, when Indians attack and Ben is wounded in the leg, and steal the horses. Joe unties Davis, who tends to a wounded Ben, who is suspicious that Davis will try to escape. After playing a game of cat and mouse, Ben and Davis come to an agreement: survival. Joe makes the decision to cross the desert on foot, while Ben and Davis are at the water hole, both men in need of medical help and justice.
#7 - The Horse Breaker
Season 3 - Episode 10 - Aired Nov 26, 1961
A professional wrangler working for the Cartwrights is paralyzed when thrown by a particularly mean bronco. The woman nursing him was once engaged to the late son of a neighboring rancher out to get Ben.
#8 - Desperate Passage
Season 9 - Episode 8 - Aired Nov 5, 1967
Driving horses to Utah, the Cartwrights and Candy discover only two people left in a town wiped out by rampaging Paiute Indians. Together, Mary Burns and Josh Tanner must travel through hostile territory, along with the Cartwrights and Candy.
#9 - The Lila Conrad Story
Season 5 - Episode 14 - Aired Jan 5, 1964
Joe and Adam protect a saloon girl, who has killed in self-defense, from an angry lynch mob. The accompanying Judge, along with his wife, takes a liking to Lila, and before it is all over, he and Lila discover much more about themselves.
#10 - The Burning Sky
Season 9 - Episode 18 - Aired Jan 28, 1968
A cruel, sadistic, alcoholic and racist rancher named Aaron Gore stalks the wife of Ben's friend, whom he has hired as a horse trainer. The woman is a glowingly beautiful Sioux who befriends Mr. Gore's son, whom he regularly beats up. Mr. Gore uses some incredibly vicious means to ensure she regrets ever having anything to do with his son.
#11 - Return Engagement
Season 11 - Episode 22 - Aired Mar 1, 1970
En route to San Francisco, actress Lotta Crabtree arrives in Virginia City for a special performance. Hoss is smitten by the beautiful actress, which makes her leading man jealous. When he is killed during a performance, Lotta and then Hoss are suspected of the death. It is up to Ben to set things straight.
#12 - The Lady and the Mountain Lion
Season 10 - Episode 21 - Aired Feb 23, 1969
A shady magician, with his twin daughters, comes to Virginia City and there is a lot of confusion with the daughters of the magician, twin confusion!
#13 - Little Man...Ten Feet Tall
Season 4 - Episode 34 - Aired May 26, 1963
When a Italian immigrant comes to the Ponderosa, he decides he wants to give up the guitar to become a cowboy.
#14 - Bank Run
Season 2 - Episode 19 - Aired Jan 28, 1961
When they "rob" the bank in Virginia City to save depositors from being cleaned out by its president, Hoss and Joe wind up wanted by the law.
#15 - Day of Reckoning
Season 2 - Episode 7 - Aired Oct 22, 1960
Prejudice erupts on both sides when Ben gives an Indian named Matsou and his wife, some of his land, after saving Ben's life from a renegade Indian who almost killed him on the Ponderosa. An intense and magnetic performance by Ricardo Montalban.
#16 - A Question of Strength
Season 5 - Episode 6 - Aired Oct 27, 1963
Hoss and a pair of nuns, the younger one having a difficult time training for the order, are robbed and stranded at a way station.
#17 - The Bride
Season 2 - Episode 18 - Aired Jan 21, 1961
The Cartwright boys are surprised to find that a woman, claiming to have recently married their father, shows up on their doorstep. When Ben gets home, he is just as surprised as they are. Has the lady been swindled by a con-man, or is she something of a con-woman herself?
#18 - Vengeance
Season 2 - Episode 21 - Aired Feb 11, 1961
Hoss accidentally kills a drunk he was trying to disarm. The man's brother bushwhacks Hoss, who has lost the will to live. Joe makes a promise to Hoss that he will kill Red Twilight, the vengeful brother who bushwhacked Hoss, no matter what happens, and will not let Adam stand in his way.
#19 - Day of the Dragon
Season 3 - Episode 11 - Aired Dec 3, 1961
Joe wins a card game and an unexpected prize...a young lady. She goes to the Ponderosa and serves them, not wanting to be set free. Meanwhile, an army is looking for her and the Cartwrights.
#20 - Riot!
Season 14 - Episode 5 - Aired Oct 3, 1972
While at the Nevada State Prison to inspect conditions, Ben is taken hostage in a riot. The riot is an attempt by frustrated inmates to expose horrific conditions at the prison. While Joe and Candy plan to resolve the situation, Ben begins a friendship with Griff King (who isn't exactly receptive), and helps communicate the inmates' demands to the warden and state prison board.
#21 - The Secret
Season 2 - Episode 31 - Aired May 6, 1961
Joe is the victim of an elaborate frame-up, accused of murdering a pregnant girl. When Ben is asked if Joe is telling the truth, he replies, "If I were to start doubting my son at this point, everything I've lived and worked for would be lost".
#22 - The Countess
Season 3 - Episode 9 - Aired Nov 19, 1961
A woman Ben once loved, Lady Chadwick, returns and attempts to trick him into marrying her by ruining his business. Ben says almost losing the Ponderosa will make him and his sons appreciate it more.
#23 - The Toy Soldier
Season 5 - Episode 5 - Aired Oct 20, 1963
Adam encounters drunken artist James Callan, branded a "squaw man" because he is married to an Indian, and whose talent is going to waste in the town of Sheep Head.
#24 - The Many Faces of Gideon Flinch
Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired Nov 5, 1961
Hoss and Joe become involved when "Bullethead" Burke vows revenge on an old man he claims cheated him in an investment deal.
#25 - Elegy for a Hangman
Season 4 - Episode 17 - Aired Jan 20, 1963
A stranger, Bob Jolly, arrives in Virginia City to accuse a drunken Judge Harry Whitaker of sending his innocent father, Carl, to the gallows. Adam defends the judge's honor because of his long friendship with the Cartwrights. After Adam talks with Jolly, he begins to believe his story. Upon further investigation, Adam discovers that Senator Cal Prince and Hobie Klinderman as well as the judge might have had a lot to gain from Carl Jolly's murder. In an attempt to learn what really happened, Adam organizes an informal meeting in the saloon.