The BEST Episodes of Bonanza

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Aug 4, 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.

The Night Virginia City Died

#1 - 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 8.71
7 votes
Directors: William Wiard
Writers: John Hawkins
The Trouble with Jamie

#2 - The Trouble with Jamie

Season 7 - Episode 25

The Cartwrights attempt to straighten out the snobbish young son of Ben's cousin.

star 8.67
3 votes
Writers: Helen B. Hicks
Mrs. Wharton and the Lesser Breeds

#3 - 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 8.67
3 votes
Directors: Leon Benson
Writers: Preston Wood
The Power of Life and Death

#4 - 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 8.67
6 votes
Directors: Leo Penn
Writers: Joel Murcott
An Earthquake Called Callahan

#5 - An Earthquake Called Callahan

Season 12 - Episode 28

The only person who can get Dusty out of jail is a professional fighter who will not return to Virginia City, so Joe stays on the man's heels no matter where he goes.

star 8.67
3 votes
Writers: Preston Wood

#6 - 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 Way of Aaron

#7 - 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 8.63
8 votes
Directors: Murray Golden
Writers: Raphael Blau
Woman of Fire

#8 - Woman of Fire

Season 6 - Episode 17

Ben's friend, Don Miguel, visits the Ponderosa with his two daughters, Margarita and Elena, and Elena's two very anxious suitors. Their mission? They're on their way to California to meet Margarita's suitor, Don Luis. Trouble is, Margarita is a "woman of fire" who manages to scare away all suitors with her hot temper. Since Margarita is the older daughter, she must be married before Elena. Elena's two suitors are quickly losing their patience, and Don Miguel fears his name will be disgraced if Margarita rejects Don Luis.

star 8.50
2 votes
Writers: Suzanne Clauser
Justice Deferred

#9 - Justice Deferred

Season 9 - Episode 13

An anguished Hoss discovers that his testimony helped hang an innocent man accused of murder. As he struggles to bring the real killer to justice, Hoss must also combat the cowardice of another witness and the jury foreman, an influential banker.

star 8.50
2 votes
Directors: Gerald Mayer
Writers: Jack Miller
The Thirteenth Man

#10 - 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
It's a Small World

#11 - It's a Small World

Season 11 - Episode 14

A prejudiced Virginia City banker spurns Ben's recommendation of a recent widower (with an infant daughter to raise) for a bank teller's job because he's a midget. The midget, a former circus performer, steals money from the bank to support his daughter.

star 8.50
2 votes
Directors: Michael Landon
Writers: Michael Landon
The Courtship

#12 - 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
Judgment at Olympus

#13 - 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 8.40
5 votes
Directors: John Rich
Writers: Walter Black
The Desperado

#14 - 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 8.40
5 votes
Directors: Philip Leacock
Writers: George Lovell Hayes
The Deadly Ones

#15 - The Deadly Ones

Season 4 - Episode 10

The Ponderosa becomes a war zone when it is invaded by a detachment of Mexican mercenaries under General Diaz. The general is furious when one of his men, Forsythe, disobeys his orders to get a hostage peacefully, and instead shoots Little Joe in the back. Diaz forces Ben to lead his men over the back roads of the Ponderosa, so they can ambush a gold train led by Emperor Maximilian's men.

star 8.33
12 votes
Directors: William Witney
Writers: Denne Bart Petitclerc, N.B. Stone, Jr.
The Duke

#16 - 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
Forever (2)

#17 - 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 Toy Soldier

#18 - 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 8.27
11 votes
Directors: Tay Garnett
Writers: Warren Douglas
The Gentle Ones

#19 - The Gentle Ones

Season 9 - Episode 7

Most people consider Mark Cole a coward, but he does not hesitate to step forward when his brother attempts to break a horse by torturing it.

star 8.25
4 votes
Directors: Harry Harris
Writers: Frank Chase
Star Crossed

#20 - 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 8.25
4 votes
Writers: Thomas Thompson
The Last Viking

#21 - 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

#22 - 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
Saga of Whizzer McGee

#23 - Saga of Whizzer McGee

Season 4 - Episode 30

Hoss becomes concerned for the welfare of an insecure, belligerent fellow who is as small as Hoss is large. Interesting blend of comedy and pathos that ends unpredictably.

star 8.22
9 votes
Directors: Don McDougall
Writers: Robert Lyon Welch

#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
Elegy for a Hangman

#25 - Elegy for a Hangman

Season 4 - Episode 17

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.

star 8.21
14 votes
Writers: E.M. Parsons, Shirl Hendryx