The BEST Episodes of Bonanza

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Dec 8, 2019

Network: NBC

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.

Death at Dawn

#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.

star 9.36
39 votes
Directors: Charles F. Haas
Writers: Laurence Mascott
Bitter Water

#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.

star 9.25
40 votes
Directors: George Blair
Writers: Harold Jack Bloom
Feet of Clay

#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.

star 8.98
45 votes
Directors: Arthur Lubin
Writers: John Furia

#4 - Stallion

Season 14 - Episode 9

The moving tale of Little Joe and his beloved black stallion, which Ben purchases for his son as a birthday gift.

star 8.67
3 votes
Writers: Jack B. Sowards
The Thirteenth Man

#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.

star 8.50
4 votes
Directors: Leon Benson
Writers: Walter Black
Trouble Town

#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.

star 8.50
6 votes
Directors: Leon Benson
Writers: David Lang
The Power of Life and Death

#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.

star 8.43
7 votes
Directors: Leo Penn
Writers: Joel Murcott
The Toy Soldier

#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.

star 8.42
12 votes
Directors: Tay Garnett
Writers: Warren Douglas
The Courtship

#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.

star 8.40
10 votes
Writers: Richard Neil Morgan
Star Crossed

#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.

star 8.40
5 votes
Writers: Thomas Thompson
The Night Virginia City Died

#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?

star 8.38
8 votes
Directors: William Wiard
Writers: John Hawkins
The Way of Aaron

#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.

star 8.33
9 votes
Directors: Murray Golden
Writers: Raphael Blau
The Desperado

#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.

star 8.33
6 votes
Directors: Philip Leacock
Writers: George Lovell Hayes
The Waiting Game

#14 - The Waiting Game

Season 5 - Episode 10

Adam becomes involved with the recently widowed Laura Dayton and her little girl, Peggy.

star 8.30
10 votes
Directors: Richard Sarafin
Writers: Ed Adamson
The Duke

#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.

star 8.29
7 votes
Directors: Robert Altman
Writers: Mathilde Ferro, Theodore Ferro, William R. Cox
Return to Honor

#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.

star 8.29
7 votes
Directors: Don McDougall
Writers: Jack Turley
Judgment at Olympus

#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.

star 8.29
7 votes
Directors: John Rich
Writers: Walter Black
Commitment at Angelus

#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.

star 8.29
7 votes
Directors: Leon Benson
Writers: Peter Germano
Forever (2)

#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.

star 8.29
7 votes
Directors: Michael Landon
Writers: Michael Landon
The Horse Breaker

#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.

star 8.26
42 votes
Directors: Don McDougall
Writers: Frank Chase
Mrs. Wharton and the Lesser Breeds

#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.

star 8.25
4 votes
Directors: Leon Benson
Writers: Preston Wood
The Last Viking

#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.

star 8.23
13 votes
Directors: John Florea
Writers: Anthony Lawrence
Silent Thunder

#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.

star 8.23
13 votes
Directors: Robert Altman
Writers: John Furia

#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.

star 8.21
14 votes
Directors: Lewis Allen
Writers: Anthony Lawrence

#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.

star 8.20
10 votes
Directors: Dick Moder
Writers: Marion Parsonnet