I’ve been watching the Pokemon anime series lately, something I haven’t done since I was roughly 10 years old, and was thinking about how there is nearing 1000 episodes of Pokemon (okay, like 700, but still), and how a lot of those episodes are filler. I have the advantage of having watching everything through the start of Best Wishes multiple times as a kid, so I don’t really need a recap (and sincerely have not interest in Unova, so I started with Kalos). But, a lot of people WANT to get into the Pokemon anime, and want to know what happened in other regions, even if you don’t technically need to have watched everything to start watching the current series – Sun and Moon. This list is a combination of lists I’ve found as to the essential episodes (defined as plot relevant such as major gym battles, league battles, Pokemon caught/traded/evolved/released, etc.), a few personal favorites I believe shouldn’t be missed, and the Pokemon movies, which are always fun, though vary in quality.
Kanto (Indigo) League
Indigo League is one of the best series for filler episodes and one of the most easily accessible series, being on Netflix, so even if you’re going for a faster watch schedule, I would recommend watching all of this series, as most of the iconic Pokemon and Pokemon anime references/jokes come from here.
IL001: Pokémon – I Choose You! – Pikachu
IL002: Pokémon Emergency! – Caterpie (debut), Misty joins
IL003: Ash Catches a Pokémon – Caterpie > Metapod and Pidgeotto
IL004: Challenge of the Samurai – Metapod > Butterfree
IL005: Showdown in Pewter City – 1/8 badge, Brock joins
IL007: The Water Flowers of Cerulean City 2/8 badge
IL010: Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village – Bulbasaur
IL011: Charmander – The Stray Pokémon – Charmander
IL012: Here Comes The Squirtle Squad – Squirtle
IL013: Mystery At The Lighthouse – Krabby
IL014: Electric Shock Showdown 3/8 badge
IL015: Battle Aboard the St. Anne – Raticate (traded).
IL017: Island of the Giant Pokemon
IL021: Bye Bye Butterfree – Butterfree (released)
IL022: Abra and the Psychic Showdown
IL023: The Tower of Terror – Haunter (debut).
IL024: Haunter Versus Kadabra – 4/8 badge, Haunter (given away)
IL025: Primeape Goes Bananas – Primeape
IL026: Pokémon Scent-sation! – 5/8 badge
IL029: The Punchy Pokémon – Primeape (given away for training)
IL030: Sparks Fly for Magnemite – Muk
IL032: The Ninja Poké-Showdown – 6/8 badge
IL035: The Legend of Dratini – Tauros
IL037: Ditto’s Mysterious Mansion
IL039: Pikachu’s Goodbye
IL040: The Battling Eevee Brothers
IL043: The March of the Exeggutor Squad – Charmander > Charmeleon
IL045: The Song of Jigglypuff
IL046: Attack of the Prehistoric Pokémon – Charmeleon > Charizard
IL048: Holy Matrimony!
IL050: Who Gets to Keep Togepi?
IL056: The Ultimate Test
IL057: The Breeding Center Secret
IL059: Volcanic Panic – 7/8 badge
IL061: The Misty Mermaid
IL063: The Battle of the Badge – 8/8 badge
Pokémon: The First Movie—Mewtwo Strikes Back (Mewtwo’s Counterattack)
IL065: Showdown at the Po-Ke Corral
IL070: Go West Young Meowth
IL074: All Fired Up! – START OF FINALS
IL075: Round One – Begin! – Krabby > Kingler
IL076: Fire And Ice
IL077: The Fourth Round Rumble
IL078: A Friend In Deed
IL079: Friend and Foe Alike
IL080: Friends to the End – END OF FINALS
IL081: Pallet Party Panic – Pidgeotto > Pidgeot (released)
OI001: A Scare in the Air (Spirits in the Sky)
OI002: Poké Ball Peril – Brock leaves
OI003: The Lost Lapras – Lapras, Tracy joins
OI004: Fit to be Tide – 1/4 badge
OI012: Navel Maneuvers – 2/4 badge
OI013: Snack Attack – Snorlax
OI022: Misty Meets Her Match – 3/4 badge
OI023: Charizard Chills! – Charizard starts listening to Ash.
OI027: Pokémon Double Trouble – 4/4 badge
OI030: Hello, Pummelo! – START CHAMPION BATTLE
OI031: Enter the Dragonite – END CHAMPION BATTLE
Pokémon: The Movie 2000—The Power of One (Mirage Pokémon: Lugia’s Explosive Birth)
OI032: Viva Las Lapras – Lapras (released)
OI034: A Tent Situation – Brock returns
OI035: The Rivalry Revival – Tracey leaves
Pokémon 3: The Movie—Spell of the Unown (Emperor of The Crystal Tower: ENTEI)
JE001: Don’t Touch That ‘dile – Ash registers for the Johto League
JE003: A Sappy Ending – Heracross
JE010: The Chikorita Rescue – Chikorita
JE015: Fighting Flyer with Fire – 1/8 badge
JE018: Charizard’s Burning Ambitions – Charizard (given away for training)
JE025: Good ‘Quil Hunting – Cyndaquil
JE028: Gettin’ the Bugs Out – 2/8 badge
JE031: The Fire-ing Squad! Squirtle (given away)
JE035: The Totodile Duel – Totodile
JE038: Fowl Play! – Noctowl
JE043: A Dairy Tale Ending – 3/8 badge
JE045: The Bug Stops Here
JE052: Hook, Line, and Stinker
JE053: The Beauty and The Breeder
JE066: From Ghost to Ghost – 4/8 badge
JE083: Current Events – Chikorita > Bayleef
Pokémon 4Ever—Celebi: Voice of the Forest (Celebi: The Meeting that Traversed Time)
JE093: Machoke, Machoke Man! – 5/8 badge
JE100: Dueling Heroes
JE101: The Perfect Match!
JE104: The Mystery is History
JE105: A Parent Trapped!
JE106: A Promise is a Promise
JE108: Nerves of Steelix! – 6/8 badge
JE109: Bulbasaur… the Ambassador! – Bulbasaur (left with Oak)
JE111: For Ho-Oh the Bells Toll!
JE112: Extreme Pokemon – Phanpy Egg (received)
JE114: Hatching A Plan – Phanpy Egg > Phanpy
JE122: Nice Pryce, Baby! – 7/8 badge
JE138: Better Eight Than Never – 8/8 badge, Charizard returns
Pokémon Heroes: Latios and Latias (Guardian Gods of the Capital of Water: Latias and Latios)
JE142: Hatch Me If You Can
JE149: Pop Goes the Sneasel – START OF FINALS
JE150: A Claim to Fame!
JE151: Love, Pokémon Style
JE152: Tie One On!
JE153: The Ties that Bind
JE 154: Can’t Beat the Heat!
JE 155: Playing With Fire
JE156: Johto Photo Finish – END OF FINALS
JE157: Gotta Catch Ya Later! – Misty leaves, Brock leaves
JE158: Hoenn Alone!
AG001: Get the Show on the Road! – May joins
AG003: There’s no Place Like Hoenn – Max joins
AG004: You Never Can Taillow – Tailow, Brock returns
AG007: Tree’s a Crowd – Treeko
AG013: All Things Bright and Beautifly!
AG016: The Winner By a Nosepass – 1/8 badge
AG023: Gone Corphishin’ – Corphish
AG031: Just One of the Geysers – 2/8 badge
AG033: Now Thats Flower Power!
AG035: Win, Lose, or Drew!
AG040: Watt’s with Wattson? – 3/8 badge
Jirachi Wish Maker (Wishing Star of the Seven Nights: Jirachi)
AG056: Going, Going, Yawn – 4/8 badge
AG058: All Torkoal, No Play – Torkoal
Destiny Deoxys (Visitor from the Sky-Splitting: Deoxys)
AG066: Exploud and Clear – Treeko > Grovyle
AG070: Balance of Power – 5/8 badge
AG072: The Bicker the Better
AG080: That’s Just Swellow – Tailow > Swellow
AG085: Sky High Gym Battle! – 6/8 badge
AG089: A Scare to Remember
Lucario and the Mystery of Mew (Mew and the Aura Hero: Lucario)
AG097: Gaining Groudon
AG098: The Shuffle of Legends
AG100: Solid as a Solrock – 7/8 badge
AG108: Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snorunt! – Snorunt
AG110 The Great Eight Fate – 8/8 badge part 1
AG111: Eight Ain’t Enough – 8/8 badge part 2
AG123: Rhapsody in Drew – Snorunt > Glalie
AG125: Like a Meowth to a Flame – START OF FINALS
AG 126: Saved by the Beldum
AG 127: From Brags to Riches
AG 128: Shocks and Bonds
AG 129: A Judgment Brawl
AG 130: Choose It or Lose It!
AG131: At the End of the Fray – END OF FINALS
AG132: The Scheme Team
AG133: The Right Place and the Right Mime
AG136: The Symbol Life – 1/7 badge
AG147: Sweet Baby James
AG149: Wheel of Frontier – 2/7 badge
Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea (The Pokémon Ranger and the Prince of the Sea: Manaphy)
AG153: Tactics Theatrics – 3/7 badge
AG154: Reversing the Charges – Phanpy > Donphan
AG155: The Green Gaurdian
AG157: Time Warp Heals All Wounds
AG158: Queen of the Serpentine! – 4/7 badge
AG161: Odd Pokémon Out! – Grovyle > Sceptile
AG164: Ka Boom With a View! – 5/7 badge
AG170: Second Time’s The Charm! – 6/7 badge
AG171: Pokémon Ranger – Deoxys’ Crisis! (Part 1)
AG172: Pokémon Ranger – Deoxys’ Crisis! (Part 2)
AG179: Slaking Kong! – Aipom makes his debut.
AG180: May, We Harley Drew’d Ya!
AG182: Channeling The Battle Zone! – Aipom
AG187: The Unbeatable Lightness of Seeing!
AG189: Gathering the gang of four – 7/7 badge, START OF FINAL
AG190: Pace – The Final Frontier! – 7/7 badge, END OF FINAL
AG191: Once More With Reeling!
AG192: Home Is Where The Start Is! – Brock leaves, May leaves, Max leaves
DP001: Following A Maiden’s Voyage! – Introduces Dawn and Sinnoh
DP002: Two Degrees Of Separation! – Starly, Brock returns
DP003: When Pokémon Worlds Collide! – Dawn joins, Chimchar (debut)
DP005: Gettin’ Twiggy With It! – Turtwig
DP006: Different Strokes for Different Blokes!
DP013: A Staravia is Born! – Starly > Staravia
DP018: O’er The Rampardos We Watched! – 1/8 badge
DP034: Buizel Your Way Out Of This! – Buizel (later traded to ash)
DP037: The Grass Menagerie! – 2/8 badge
DP051: Glory Blaze – Chimchar
The Rise of Darkrai (Dialga VS Palkia VS Darkrai)
DP055: Throwing The Track Switch – Aipom (traded for Buizel)
DP060: Journey To The Unown! – Aipom > Ambipom. Because Aipom is Dawn’s pokemon now I don’t see this as important.
DP064: Riding the Winds of Change! – Gligar
DP068: A Triple Fighting Chance! – 3/8 badge
DP071: Pokémon Ranger and the Kidnapped Riolu! (Part 1)
DP072: Pokémon Ranger and the Kidnapped Riolu! (Part 2)
DP075: Our Cup Runneth Over!
DP076: A Full Course Tag Battle!
DP077: Staging A Heroes’ Welcome!
DP078: Pruning a Passel of Pals!!
DP079: Strategy With a Smile!
DP083: A Crasher Course in Power! – 4/8 badge
DP085: Fighting Fear With Fear! – Gligar > Gliscor
Giratina and the Sky Warrior (Giratina and the Bouquet of the Frozen Sky: Shaymin)
DP100: Aiding the Enemy – Turtwig > Grotle
DP102: Shield with a Twist! – 5/8 badge
DP108: Dealing With Defensive Types! – 6/8 badge
DP110: Steeling Peace of Mind!
DP111: Saving the World from Ruins!
DP118: Pursuing a Lofty Goal! – Staravia > Staraptor
DP124: To Thine Own Pokemon Be True! – Ambipom is released
DP127: Sliding Into Seventh! – 7/8 badge
DP131: Pedal to the Mettle! – Starts a 6 v. 6 battle with Ash’s main rival Paul
DP132: Evolving Strategies! – Chimchar > Monferno
DP133: Uncrushing Defeat!
Arceus and the Jewel of Life (Arceus: To Conquering Space-Time)
DP153: The Treasure Is All Mine!
DP154: Mastering Current Events! – Gliscor (given away for training)
DP156: A Meteoric Rise to Excellence! – Gible makes his debut
DP157: Gotta Get a Gible! – Gible
DP163: Fighting Ire With Fire! – Monferno > Infernape
DP166: The Fleeting Tower of Sunyshore! – Grotle > Torterra
DP179: The Eighth Wonder of the Sinnoh World! – 8/8 badge
Zoroark—Master of Illusions (Phantom Ruler: Zoroark)
DP182: An Old Family Blend! – Cyndaquil > Quilava, START OF FINALS
DP183: League Unleashed!
DP184: Casting a Paul on Barry!
DP185: Working on a Right Move!
DP186: Familiarity Breeds Strategy!
DP187: A Real Rival Rouser!
DP188: Battling a Thaw in Relations!
DP189: The Semi-Final Frontier! – END OF FINALS
DP191: Memories are Made of Bliss – Brock leaves, Dawn leaves
BW001: In The Shadow of Zekrom! – Introduces Unova and Oshawatt makes his debut
BW002: Enter Iris and Axew! – Pidove, Iris joins
BW003: A Sandile Gusher of Change – Oshawatt, Sandile (debut)
BW004: The Battle Club and Tepig’s Choice! – Tepig
BW005: Triple Leaders, Team Threats – 1/8 badge part 1
BW006: Dreams by the Yard Full! – 1/8 badge part 2, Cilan joins
BW007: Snivy Plays Hard to Catch! – Snivy
BW012: Here Comes the Trubbish Squad! – Scraggy Egg
BW016: Rematch at the Nacrene Gym – 2/8 badge
BW017: Scraggy-Hatched to be Wild – Scraggy Egg > Scraggy
BW018: Sewaddle and Burgh in Pinwheel Forest – Sewaddle
BW020: Dancing With the Ducklett Trio! – Sandile evolves to Krokorok before being caught by Ash.
BW022: A Venipede Stampede! – Pidove > Tranquill
BW025: Battling For The Love of Bug-Types! – Sewaddle > Swadloon, 3/8 badge
White—Victini and Zekrom (Victini and the Black Hero: Zekrom)
Black—Victini and Reshiram (Victini and the White Hero: Reshiram)
BW035: Facing Fear With Eyes Wide Open! – Palpitoad
BW037: Gotta Catch A Roggenrola! – Roggenrola
BW052: Dazzling the Nimbasa Gym! – 4/8 badge
BW063: Battling the King of the Mines! – Boldore, 5/8 badge
BW067: Battling the Bully! – Krokorok
BW070: An Amazing Aerial Battle! – Tranquill > Unfezant, 6/8 badge
BW076: Battling the Leaf Thieves! – Swadloon > Leavanny
BW079: Evolution by Fire! – Tepig > Pignite
Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice (Kyurem vs. the Sacred Swordsman: Keldeo)
BW081: Caution: Icy Battle Conditions! – 7/8 badge
BW085: Rocking the Virbank Gym! (Part 1) – 8/8 badge part 1
BW086: Rocking the Virbank Gym! (Part 2) – 8/8 badge part 2
BW094: Ash, Iris and Trip: Then There Were Three! – Krokorok > Krookodile
If you, like me, find Unova essentially unwatchable, just start from here for Unova. You’ll miss a lot of the new pokemon etc. but they tried a soft-reboot of the series and abondoned that thought half-way through, so Ash spends most of Unova more clueless than in Indigo League.
BW105: Curtain Up, Unova League! – START OF FINALS
BW106: Mission: Defeat Your Rival!
BW107: Lost at the League!
BW108: Strong Strategy Steals the Show!
BW109: Cameron’s Secret Weapon!
BW110: A Unova League Evolution! – END OF FINALS
BW118: Fires of a Red-Hot Reunion! – Charizard returns
Genesect and the Legend Awakened (ExtremeSpeed Genesect: Mewtwo Awakens)
BW134: The Journalist from Another Region!
BW143: Best Wishes Until We Meet Again! – Cilan leaves, Iris leaves
BW144: The Dream Continues! – Ash decides to travel to Kalos
XY001: Kalos, Where Dreams and Adventures Begin! – Ash arrives in Kalos, Clemont joins, Bonnie joins
XY002: Lumiose City Pursuit! – Froakie
XY003: A Battle of Aerial Mobility! – Fletchling
XY006: Battling on Thin Ice! – 1/8 badge, Serena joins
XY025: Climbing the Walls! – 2/8 badge
XY035: The Forest Champion! – Hawlucha
XY036: Battles in the Sky! – Fletchling > Fletchinder
XY044: Showdown at the Shalour Gym! – 3/8 badge
Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction
XY052: A Stealthy Challenge! – Froakie > Frogadier
XY055: A Slippery Encounter! – Goomy
XY058: The Green, Green Grass Types of Home! – 4/8 badge
XY061: An Oasis of Hope! – Goomy > Sliggoo
XY065: Good Friends, Great Training! – Sliggoo > Goodra
XY067: The Moment of Lumiose Truth! – 5/8 badge
Hoopa and the Clash of Ages (The Archdjinni of the Rings: Hoopa)
XY069: Defending the Homeland!
XY070: Beyond the Rainbow! – Goodra (released)
XY074: Fairy-Type Trickery! – 6/8 badge
XY076: A Not-So-Flying-Start! – Noibat
XY086: A Legendary Photo Op! – Fletchinder > Talonflame
XY093: All Eyes on the Future!- 7/8 badge
XY099: The Legend of the Ninja Hero!
XY100: A Festival of Decisions! – Frogadier > Greninja
XY110: An Electrifying Rage! – Noibat > Noivern
Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel (Volcanion and the Exquisite Magearna)
XY122: A Real Icebreaker! – 8/8 badge
XY125: A League of His Own! – START OF FINALS
XY126: Valuable Experience for All! – Goodra (rejoins)
XY127: Analysis Versus Passion!
XY128: A Riveting Rivalry!
XY129: Kalos League Passion with a Certain Flare!
XY130: Finals Not for the Faint-Hearted!
XY131: Down to the Fiery Finish! – END OF FINALS
XY139: Facing the Needs of the Many! – Goodra (released), Greninja (released)
XY140: XY140: Till We Compete Again! – Clemont leaves, Bonnie leaves, Serena leaves
SM001: Alola to New Adventure! – Ash arrives in Alola
SM002: The Guardian’s Challenge! – Ash decides to enter into the Alola Trials.
SM004: First Catch in Alola, Ketchum-Style! – Rowlet
SM010: Trial and Tribulation! – 1/4 grand trial
SM015: Rocking Clawmark Hill! – Rockruff
SM021: One Journey Ends, Another Begins… – Litten
SM036: Trials and Determinations! – 2/4 grand trial
SM037: Rising from the Ruins! – Rockruff > Lycanroc
SM042: Alola, Kanto!
SM043: When Regions Collide!
SM063: Pushing the Fiery Envelope! – Litten > Torracat
SM067: Love at First Twirl! – Poipole
SM077: Guiding an Awakening! – 3/4 grand trial
SM090: Securing the Future! – Poipole (released)
SM109: The Birth of an Island Queen! Satoshi’s Grand Trial!! – 4/4 grand trial
SM112: Discovering a New Species! Get, Meltan! – Meltan