One of the scariest and best-written television programs of all time is still The Twilight Zone. The stories are expertly written to be spooky and suspenseful while also dealing with complex topics and social commentary. Generation after generation of viewers has been horrified by these stories.
It was unquestionably innovative for the period and laid the way for other legendary horror collections like The Outer Limits, Tales From the Darkside, and Tales from the Crypt. There have also been other TV series revivals, but none of them come close to Rod Serling’s brilliant creations. Here are the top-rated episodes of this enduringly popular classic series according to IMDB.
One of the most recognizable television programs ever produced is The Twilight Zone, which is still the best anthology series. Even when the show made a comeback as a reboot in 1985 and 2019, it simply did not have the same cultural impact as the Rod Serling original series. As a result, it’s challenging to discuss just the top 10 episodes because there are so many other famous episodes that merit recognition.
Each episode, despite adhering to recurring themes from previous episodes, offers something fresh, whether it be horror stories, mysteries, or character studies with a supernatural twist.
1. Number 12 Is Look Just Like You (Season 5, Episode 17)
The dystopian novel “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” is a brilliantly written story about the urge to fit in, in terms of appearance, temperament, and beliefs. Marilyn (Collin Wilcox) will get to choose which “pattern” she wants when she turns 18 the following year. She can choose the type of universally attractive adult physique that she wants. Marilyn’s refusal to compromise her uniqueness is the sole issue, but she might not have a choice.
The worldbuilding of “Number 12” is full of wonderful little touches, like how every adult has their names sewn into their clothing to distinguish them from all the lookalikes who also pick their exact pattern. This feels like well-planned science fiction and a terrifying coming-of-age story in under 30 minutes.
2. ‘The Masks’ (Season 5, Episode 25)
This late-season standout, which Ida Lupino, a former actor, and trailblazing female filmmaker, directed, begins as a slow-burner rife with passive-aggressive bitchery. Despite the fact that a dying father (Robert Keith) has gathered his family to say their final goodbyes, the selfish idiots are more concerned with dividing up his money. But the man has one condition: his potential “mourners” must spend the entire evening wearing horrific masks until the clock strikes midnight. We are given one of the most disturbing collections of blank-faced characters going into a dark night of the soul since that Eyes Wide Shut moment as soon as everyone puts on these horrible items — the better to reveal the ugliness within of them all, my dear.
3. When The Sky Was Opened”(Season 1, Episode 11)
The Twilight Zone’s mainstays are events that involve alternate universes and reality-shifting. Three astronauts return to Earth and are staying at a hospital in the And When The Sky Was Opened episode, which is a prime example of the terror of such incidents.
The three astronauts disappear and are forgotten about during the duration of the show. A newspaper that changes with each shift serves as a representation of each disappearance. Similar to past episodes, there is no clear explanation for these things, which heightens the horror as the astronauts gradually pass away.
4. A Game Of Pool (Season 3, Episode 5)
What happens once you reach the pinnacle of your profession? One of the questions addressed in “A Game of Pool” is this one. Professional pool player Jesse Cardiff (Jack Klugman) competes against the long-dead “Fats” Brown (Jonathan Winters).
Although Jesse will also perish if he loses, this episode isn’t really about having to play for your life. Instead, it focuses on the conversation that Jesse and Fats have as they contend with one another till the very end of this long night. What makes you the best at what you do and what occurs after your resounding win is the two key topics. There is certainly a metaphysical, extraterrestrial twist in this story, but “A Game of Pool” contains universal truths that everyone in a highly competitive industry will understand. This is a more subdued “Twilight Zone” episode, and the acting and philosophy make it stand out.
5. THE Dummy (Season 3, Episode 33)
Ventriloquist dummies are, to put it simply, spooky as hell, and you didn’t need to be a fan of the classic 1945 horror film Dead of Night to realize that. A spooky reaction shot of, in Serling’s words, “a brash stick of kindling” could be used a lot, as this Season Three episode was eager to remind viewers of Sixties TV. A nightclub performer by the name of Cliff Robertson is certain that his obnoxious wooden sidekick Willie is truly alive and is more than a little sick of people sticking their hands up his arse. A new dummy and a new performance, in Robertson’s opinion, are the solution. Willie has different plans. The conclusion, which our amiable narrator refers to as “the ol’ switcheroo,” is nonetheless unsettling.
6. A Nice Place To Visit (Season 1, Episode 28)
Rocky (Larry Blyden), a small-time burglar, is shot and killed by the police after a job goes wrong. He is awakened many hours later by Pip, an elderly man (Sebastian Cabot). This Colonel Sanders impersonator claims to be Rocky’s “guide” in the afterlife, acting as a sort of cheerful fixer who will grant his requests. With his every fantasy coming true, this loser thief soon finds himself waist-deep in women and gaming wins. We’ll cautiously propose that this particular shoe-drop surprise has seen a lot of use in the past decades (and in the recent years in particular), but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t leave viewers scratching their heads.
7. The Hitch-Hiker (Season 1, Episode16)
The Hitch-Hiker exploits people’s understandable apprehension about hitchhikers and the plausible chance that they could be sneaky criminals. A woman starts seeing a strange hitchhiker while driving across the country, and no matter how far she goes, they keep showing up. The Hitch-Hiker uses the title antagonist to add unease to every scene.
Although he rarely acts particularly frighteningly, his vacant glare gives off a creepy sense. An analogous tale may be found in Creepshow 2, which was written by Stephen King and George A. Romero. The episode has a fantastic twist, a characteristic of the show, that subtly but effectively alluded to the identity of the hitchhiker.
8. Little Lost Girl (Season 3, Episode 26)
In order to investigate apprehensions about the cosmos, “Little Girl Lost” employs one of the most common parental worries—what if your child got lost and you couldn’t find them?—as a starting point. Simple at first: Tina’s parents get up in the middle of the night to check on her since she is weeping. Tina is no longer there, despite the fact that they can clearly hear her.
“Little Girl Lost” works flawlessly once it has sufficiently explored its metaphysical features to conjure up eerie, mind-bending pictures and create an obviously alien reality with a few production techniques. A “Twilight Zone” episode with a cute puppy and a cosy appearance that rapidly hits all the right notes
9. “The Midnight Sun” (Season 3, Episode 10)
This story of ecological catastrophe depicts a burning globe so convincingly that you can almost physically sense heat distortion waves emanating from the screen. The characters of a lonely artist and her landlord, played by Lois Nettleton and Betty Garde, do their best to deal with impending disaster as Earth’s changed orbit pushes it closer and closer to the sun. When a looter breaks in but later admits he’s really looking for something to ease his survivor’s guilt after his wife and newborn died from the heat, Serling’s writing also gradually raises the psychological temperature. The essence of the doomsday scenario is changed by a twist, yet it is nothing compared to the agonising sense of being present in that sweltering apartment.It would be an understatement to say that this parable of a planet on fire and the helplessness of art to stop tragedy still has resonance.
10. “Five Characters In Search Of An Exit” (Season 3, Episode 15)
Five Characters In Search Of An Exit centers on a group of strangers in a single area, much like many episodes of The Twilight Zone. A major, a transient, a ballerina, a clown, and a bagpiper all awaken in this instance in a single circular room that is devoid of any doors, windows, or even furnishings.
They don’t know who they are, and they have no recall of how they got there either. The end result is five fabulously unforgettable performances that offer a glimpse at how strangers respond in such a cramped situation. However, while being weird, this episode does have a revelation that was somewhat foreshadowed by the numerous clues.
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11. The Howling Man (Season 2, Episode 5)
A hermitage refuses to provide David Ellington (H.M. Wynant), who is feeble and drenched through, with any hospitality a few years after the end of World War I. When David discovers who is being held captive by the monks, he understands why the castle is filled with an eerie wailing.
The man (Robin Hughes) asserts that Brother Jerome, the chief monk, only locked him up out of envy and insanity. Naturally, Jerome presents an entirely different account, claiming that the man who is being held captive is the devil himself. And if he escapes once again, things will get lot worse.
The strength of David’s predicament and the certainty of the resolution make “The Howling Man,” which is evocative and dreadful, carry a punch.
12. Nick Of Time” (Season 2, Episode 7)
William Shatner made an early appearance on the show (written by the legendary Richard Matheson) as one half of a couple stuck in Ridgeville, Ohio after their car breaks down before he’d become a Zone MVP owing to a long journey, a window seat, and a gremlin. The superstitious man and his wife (Patricia Breslin) are killing time in a cafe when they start dropping coins into a fortune-telling machine. It accurately foresees that he will receive a significant promotion at work and subsequently cautions the newlyweds against abandoning the property. The episode’s selling point is the small devil’s head perched atop the device, a rubber-faced Mephisto who seems to be watching Shatner collapse in a vintage performance.
13. A Stop At Willoughby (Season 1, Episode 30)
A Stop At Willoughby is primarily just a gloomy narrative about a miserable man, in contrast to most episodes of The Twilight Zone, which deal with the bizarre and the horrifying. Gart is sent to an ostensibly beautiful village called Willoughby in the 1800s after being treated abhorrently by both his boss and his wife.
Gart develops a crush on Willoughby and keeps seeing him whenever he nods off on a train. Particularly when it comes to the scenes with his wife, it’s simple to empathize with Gart. It is impossible to fault him for wanting to live in the peaceful hamlet, but like most episodes, it concludes with a depressing tone that is both sad and disappointing.
14. “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?” (Season 2, Episode 28)
In this entertaining mystery episode, a group of diners strives to find out which one of them is not who they claim to be. In fact, they might be an alien disguising themselves as a human. This episode is purely enjoyable, full of tension and a solid mystery.
All of the suspects engage and converse in excellent fashion. With the numerous fascinating people attempting to determine who is an imposter, it serves as a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing. Even the conclusion is compelling to see.
15. Nothing In The Dark (Season 3, Episode 16)
The fact that a teenage Robert Redford appeared in “Nothing in the Dark” may have made it famous today, but this surprisingly moving “Twilight Zone” episode deserves to be remembered as well. It tells the tale of the ailing Wanda Dunn (Gladys Cooper). Wanda has spent years living by herself in her basement apartment, entirely cut off from the outside world. She believes that “Mr. Death” will someday appear to everyone and kill them with a touch, thus she is scared of running across him. She never takes any chances since she doesn’t know what form he might take.
Wanda, however, is unable to bear to watch Harold Beldon (Redford) die after being shot outside her apartment and left lying on the wintry, deserted street. She carries him inside, astonished that she can touch him without having him expire. He appears to be safe, but does this really indicate she was mistaken about Mr. Death? This is a sweet, delicate episode that demonstrates the show’s ultimately kind nature.
16. Mirror Image (Season 1, Episode 21)
This episode of The Twilight Zone has been mentioned frequently over the past few weeks; Peele has said it had a significant impact on Us, and the connection is obvious. When Millicent Barnes (Psycho’s Vera Miles) inquires about the status of her delayed bus, a porter informs her that she had already inquired about the matter 15 minutes earlier, but she had not. Later, she sees herself reflected in a bathroom mirror as another lady who looks exactly like her. She tells a fanciful tale about parallel universes where alternate versions of ourselves must “move us out” in order for them to survive. The stranger (Martin Milner) who soothes her responds, “That’s a little philosophical for me,” albeit his own scepticism will soon be put to the test.
17. Living Doll (Season 5, Episode 6)
There was “Talky Tina” in the Child’s Play series before Chucky terrorized audiences worldwide. When a stepdaughter’s adorable doll turns evil, a cruel stepfather receives what he deserves. This tense story is regarded as one of The Twilight Zone’s scariest episodes, and with good reason.
This is one of the best representations of the idea of creepy dolls that has ever appeared in television or cinema. This episode will undoubtedly cause viewers to reconsider allowing their kids to play with dolls thanks to Telly Savalas’ excellent portrayal on Kojak and June Foray’s voice acting.
18. Shadow Play (Season 2, Episode 26)
“Shadow Play,” one of “The Twilight Zone’s” shrewdest and most viscerally frightening episodes, poses two queries that the majority of us would prefer not to consider: What if you had dreams about being put to death every night? What if, on the other hand, you were just a figure in someone else’s dream?
The protagonists of “Shadow Play” are in that circumstance. Adam Grant (Dennis Weaver), a death row inmate, tries to explain to those around him that this is all a terrible, recurrent nightmare and that his death will also entail their deaths. Although Weaver gives a fantastic, nervy performance, the way this episode manipulates listener expectations is what really makes it work.
Grant can point out all the minor details that make the world around him too simple and efficient, and they are all typical of how TV shows and movies operate.
You’ll undoubtedly stay thinking about “Shadow Play” long after the credits have rolled because it is both thought-provoking and fascinating.
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20. “It’s A Good Life” (Season 3, Episode 8)
Sometimes Serling and crew just wanted to terrify the crap out of you; not every trip to the Zone involved social criticism. Young actor Bill Mumy, well known as Will Robinson from Lost in Space, naturally dominates “It’s a Good Life,” and his petulance as Anthony Fremont, the all-powerful Anthony Fremont, telepathic monarch of Peaksville, Ohio, is all-too-realistic for any parent of a tantrum-throwing youngster. Even a seemingly innocuous expression like “Wish it into the cornfield” — the no-man’s-land where everyone who offends this six-year-old Thanos is exiled and buried forever — assumes a terrible resonance. And no amount of hoping will be able to erase the horrifying image of Fremont’s father saying it in your mind.
21. The After-Hours (Season 1, Episode 34)
You may recall it if you’ve seen “The After Hours.” The mannequins are in this one.
A strange, coolly charismatic saleswoman (Elizabeth Allen) recognizes Marsha White (Anne Francis) when she enters a department store to purchase a gift for her mother. Elizabeth Allen plays the saleswoman. You won’t be surprised to read that Marsha quickly discovers the store’s staff are adamant there is no ninth floor and that she is able to determine what is wrong with the saleswoman.
The story develops into something surprisingly, longingly human despite the eerie and suspenseful elements of “The After Hours.” Not only is there excitement in the surprise, but there is also joy in discovery.
22. “Time Enough At Last”(Season 1, Episode 8)
Such many books to read, so little time, poor Henry Bemis. However, thanks to a bank vault and the H-Bomb, this “founding member in the brotherhood of dreamers” may soon have an excess of the latter. Throughout its five-season run, the program frequently employed the threat of nuclear devastation as a plot device and a recurrent concern, but Serling’s adaptation of Lynn Venable’s short tale actually uses it to the unfortunate hero’s advantage once. The hen-pecked Henry has no one left to stop him from doing the one thing he longs for above all else.
The pages of a paperback book were defaced with scrawling, which is the scariest Twilight Zone episode for bookworms ever. Burgess Meredith has shown his ability to play a superb nebbish long before he busted Rocky Balboa’s chops. And congratulations to his co-star, who wore a bulky set of coke-bottle glasses that belong in the TV Optometry Hall of Fame.
23. To Serve Man (Season 3, Episode 24)
To Serve Man offers tension, an original mystery, an entertaining sci-fi premise, excellent acting, and an amazing story twist. Richard Kiel, who is perhaps best remembered for playing Jaws, one of the most recognizable James Bond villains, provides a fantastic performance as one of the aliens visiting Earth and announcing their desire to “service” mankind.
For television of the time, the alien makeup effects are quite impressive. The legendary twist finale is a superb illustration of The Twilight Zone’s superb writing.
24. The Lonely (Season 1, Episode 7)
In “The Lonely,” solitary confinement in the future is examined. A criminal who has been found guilty and sentenced to 50 years of isolation on an uninhabitable asteroid is James Corry (Jack Warden). Only when the sympathetic Allenby (John Dehner) sneaks him more gifts during the sporadic supply visits does he find comfort.
Alicia (Jean Marsh), a robot created to look and behave like a human lady, is one of those gifts. How genuine is she? Will Corry’s love for her save him or cause him to lose what little sense he still has? What transpires after Allenby makes a startling choice to Corry on his subsequent visit?
The protagonists in “The Lonely” must deal with the complicated jumble of all that has transpired in the ending, which doesn’t really have a twist. Both they and we are unsure of how to feel about it.