Bonanza fans know well the hundreds of episodes following the adventures of the "Cartwrights" on the Ponderosa ranch.
To be exact, "Ben" (Lorne Greene), "Little Joe" (Michael Landon)," and "Hoss" (Dan Blocker) — plus "Adam" (Pernell Roberts) and the later-season stars — brought 431 episodes to NBC across 14 seasons from 1959 to 1973. Let's take a look at the most popular episodes of Bonanza, according to a variety of fan-voting and online sources.
Bonanza: The Most Popular Episodes
IMDb User Ratings
On IMDb, viewers have given ratings to every Bonanza episode. And it turns out the fans are actually tough critics. Most episodes have between 50 and a few hundred ratings (given between 1 and 10 stars), but users never rated an episode with an average score above a 9/10. IMDb's best Bonanza episodes came in a three-way tie for first place, all scoring an 8.3/10. They are:
- "The Wish" (S10): "Hoss" sees a Black boy steal a candle and gets involved with his family
- "The Saddle Stiff" (S13): An aging "Ben" takes an alias to prove he can still work as a rancher
- "Forever" (S14): "Little Joe" falls in love with and weds "Alice Harper"
Ranker's WATCHWORTHY List
On ratings site Ranker, Bonanza's top-episode list is dominated by classic season 1 favourites. The High Noon-style "Vendetta" comes in at no. 1, closely followed by "Blood on the Land" and "Stranger" in second and third place.
Bonanza Episodes on YouTube
Meanwhile, on YouTube, season 2 episode "Silent Thunder" has amassed the most views (at nearly 2.1 million) of any Bonanza episode on the site. This episode that keeps fans coming back for more follows "Little Joe" as he attempts to teach sign language to a mistreated girl who is deaf.
The Best Comedy and Weird Bonanza Episodes
Fans often name season 5 episode "Hoss and the Leprechauns" as a favourite for Bonanza comedy—and it cracked IMDb's Top 5 list as well. The oddball episode sees "Hoss" convinced that he's found the gold of leprechauns.
MeTV, which airs Bonanza reruns today, also chose "Hoss and the Leprechauns" as no. 1 on its "Weird and Eerie Episodes" list, followed by "Twilight Town"—another memorable season 5 episode, which finds "Little Joe" in a strange desert ghost town.
Did they get it right, or was your favourite Bonanza episode left off the list? For more Bonanza, see 9 Facts About the Legendary Western or test your knowledge with our quiz.