The BEST Episodes of Bonanza
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: Dec 8, 2019
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 - Death at Dawn
Season 1 - Episode 32
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.
#2 - Bitter Water
Season 1 - Episode 29
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.
#3 - Feet of Clay
Season 1 - Episode 30
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.
#5 - The Thirteenth Man
Season 9 - Episode 17
The ranchers are once again losing stock to rustlers and not everyone agrees with range detective Marcus Alley's preventive methods.
#6 - Trouble Town
Season 9 - Episode 24
The Ponderosa ranch hands are at Riverbend during a cattle drive. While there, Candy meets an old friend, Lilah Holden, working in a saloon. When the cattle drive is ready to move on, Candy resigns to stay and help Lilah. It is not long before Ben, Hoss, and Joe are involved.
#7 - The Power of Life and Death
Season 12 - Episode 5
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.
#8 - The Toy Soldier
Season 5 - Episode 5
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.
#9 - The Courtship
Season 2 - Episode 16
Hoss plans to marry the widow of one of Ben's friends, not knowing she is a compulsive gambler and refusing to believe it when the other Cartwrights confront him with the truth.
#10 - Star Crossed
Season 9 - Episode 23
Candy falls in love with a beautiful young woman, unaware that the man claiming to be her cousin is a bounty hunter who is not only harassing her but has framed her for murder and robbery.
#11 - The Night Virginia City Died
Season 12 - Episode 1
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?
#12 - The Way of Aaron
Season 4 - Episode 24
Adam takes a shine to Rebecca Kaufman, the daughter of a Jewish peddler, and bandits are convinced the Kaufman wagon is worth robbing.
#13 - The Desperado
Season 12 - Episode 19
Hoss is held prisoner by a fugitive black couple who they admit hate white people and have nothing to lose by killing them.
#14 - The Waiting Game
Season 5 - Episode 10
Adam becomes involved with the recently widowed Laura Dayton and her little girl, Peggy.
#15 - The Duke
Season 2 - Episode 25
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.
#16 - Return to Honor
Season 5 - Episode 25
Ben must travel to pay his respects after he learns of the death of his nephew Will. When he visits the grave, he finds his nephew barely alive with a bullet wound. He takes him to a doctor and Will insists that he leave, but Ben refuses. Will explains that the men after him must believe that he is dead. Ben decides his best bet is to take Will home. He and Will are followed by the same men who are interested in some valuables Will is carrying.
#17 - Judgment at Olympus
Season 9 - Episode 4
Candy is arrested for committing murder in the town of Olympus. He is accused of killing Jed Wheelock, the son of wealthy A. Z. Wheelock. He insists on finding his son's killer but he wants a fair trial for Candy. Joe accompanies Candy to make sure things go smoothly, but when Joe is accused of killing a witness who claims he saw Candy kill Jed, Joe is locked up for murder with Candy, and it is up to Hoss to find the killer.
#18 - Commitment at Angelus
Season 9 - Episode 25
When a horse steps on Candy's hand out on the trail, he and Joe go to Angelus to find a doctor. When they arrive, Joe sees his friend, Steve Regan, an Angelus miner. Steve tells Joe that the miners have gone on strike at his suggestion; the timber supports in the tunnels are rotting away. Joe offers him a day's wages to help him drive the wild horses, since Candy's hand is injured.
#19 - Forever (2)
Season 14 - Episode 2
Little Joe learns of the tragic and savagely brutal circumstances of Alice's death and is determined to bring her killers to justice. While a good part of this episode focuses on the pursuit of the thugs that killed Alice, what made this episode was a moving scene where Ben comforts Joe over the death of his new wife. Sitting in the smoldering ruins of what was Joe's new home, Ben (who rarely gets emotional) and the ever-emotional Joe really grieve for Alice ... and in a way, this was their way to grieve the death of series star Dan Blocker.
#20 - The Horse Breaker
Season 3 - Episode 10
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.
#21 - Mrs. Wharton and the Lesser Breeds
Season 10 - Episode 17
Candy sets out to help a feisty and elderly British woman recover the jewels stolen from her in a stage holdup.
#22 - The Last Viking
Season 2 - Episode 10
Gunnar Borgstrom is the leader of a vicious band called the Commancheros. They burn houses, kill people and steal anything of value. When the Commancheros get to Nevada, Gunnar decides to visit his relatives, the Cartwrights. Meanwhile the gang capture Little Joe and his girlfriend. When Gunnar returns to the gang, he has no idea who Joe is because he'd never met his nephew before.
#23 - Silent Thunder
Season 2 - Episode 13
Captivated by the pretty, deaf-mute daughter of a reclusive mountain man, Little Joe teaches the young woman sign language. Thrilled with her newfound ability to communicate, Annie mistakes her gratitude to Little Joe for love, much to the chagrin of Albie, who is determined to have her for his own.
#24 - Gabrielle
Season 3 - Episode 14
In this Christmas story, inspired by Johanna Spyri's "Heidi", Hoss and Joe come across a blind girl whose family has been killed in a wagon wreck, learning later that her grandfather is a bitter hermit who spent 21 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
#25 - Vengeance
Season 2 - Episode 21
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.