Fifty-eight years ago on October 2nd, the Twilight Zone aired its first episode. Since then, generations of viewers have been horrified and mesmerized by episodes containing alien encounters, living dolls, telepathic children, and much more. To celebrate this legendary television show, we’ve complied a list of the top Twilight Zone episodes. These episodes are not only the most memorable but discuss issues that can still be relevant and terrifying in today’s modern world. Without further ado, here are the top 10 Twilight Zone episodes.
10. “A Stop at Willoughby”
This Twilight Zone episode follows Gart Williams, an overworked and unappreciated ad executive who is dissatisfied with his life. On his commute home every night, he falls asleep on the train. Yet, when he wakes up, he hears a porter calling out “Next Stop, Willoughby.” Gart notices that the train has made a stop in the past, July 1888 to be exact. The peaceful pace of life in this 19th century town is all too alluring for Gart. He tries to tell his wife about Willoughby but she dismisses and mocks him.
Later, when he is no longer able to handle the pressures from his job, he has a breakdown at work and takes the train home. After falling asleep, the conductor beckons him to Willoughby only for Gart to jump from the train to his death. As the episode ends, we see the undertakers, Willoughby and Son, taking away Gart’s body.
While this episode is not the most terrifying of the Twilight Zone series, it still gives off a haunting impression. The issues Gart dealt with, feeling isolated and overburdened in the busy modern age, still rings to those living in the 21st century. Maybe there are other people out there longing for their own escape to Willoughby.
9. “It’s a Good Life”
“It’s a Good Life” opens like any other Twilight Zone episode. Rob Sterling informs the audience that the town of Peak
sville is the only remaining town on Earth. It is also being terrorized by a monster. We soon learn that this monster is not a huge beast or strange-looking alien. Instead, a little boy with telekinesis is the one threatening the town. The people of Peaksville are forced to always think happy thoughts. If anyone thinks or does anything that displeases the boy, he will hurt or kill them.
Many critics believe that this is one of the most powerful Twilight Zone episodes. Viewers in 2017 and beyond can still be terrified by imagining what life would be like if they lived in Peaksville at the mercy of whims of an evil child.
8. “The Lonely”
In the future, prisoners are sentenced to solitary confinement on asteroids millions of miles from Earth. This Twilight Zone episode focuses on of these prisoners, James A. Corry who has been sentenced to stay on an asteroid alone for 50 years. His only company comes four times a year when a crew arrives to deliver supplies. The captain of this ship begins to pity Corry’s isolated existence and secretly gives him a female robot called Alicia for company. At first, Corry hates the robot but as loneliness sets in he interacts more and more with Alicia.
As time goes by, Corry falls in love with his robotic companion. When the spaceship returns, Corry learns he has been pardoned and can return to Earth. However, there is not enough room in the ship for Alicia to go with him. After another member of the crew accidentally shoots Alicia, Corry is forced to leave her behind.
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As robots are now beginning to be manufactured for human companionship, this episode of the Twilight Zone reminds us of how powerful and potentially dangerous it is for humans to become attached to artificial intelligence.
7. “The Midnight Sun”
This episode is a nightmare wrapped in another nightmare. Artist Norma and her landlady struggle to stay alive in their apartment building as the Earth moves closer to the Sun. New York City is almost abandoned as many have fled North to escape the heat. Even at midnight, the Sun is out causing temperatures to rise above 110 degrees. As the heat causes the paint to melt off her Norma’s canvas, everyone else left in New York goes insane from the high temperatures. Norma awakes to find that this has just been a nightmare, a result of her high fever. She soon learns that the Earth is actually drifting farther from the Sun, plunging the planet into freezing cold temperatures.
This Twilight Zone episode has a Lovecraftian feel to it as the characters are at the mercy of cosmic forces. The terror of this episode can be easily appreciated by modern viewers as we all rely on the Sun to sustain life on Earth.
6. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
This episode contains one of the most iconic scenes from the Twilight Zone. In the beginning of William Shatner’s career, he took on the role of Bob Wilson, a man recovering from a nervous breakdown he had on an airplane several months ago. Now, Bob must face his first flight after being released from a mental hospital.
As the flight progresses, Bob notices a gremlin on the wing of the plane. Yet, whenever he calls other people over to look at the creature, it hides from sight. Bob sees that the gremlin is damaging the wiring and metal paneling on the wing. Bob ties himself to the inside of the plane, opens the emergency door and shoots at the gremlin. When the plane lands, Bob is escorted away by doctors bound to take him back to the mental hospital. Yet as the episode closes, the camera pans to the damage on the plane’s wing.
This Twilight Zone episode is sure to scare modern viewers just as it scared audiences in the 1960’s. Our fears of something going wrong during a flight have only increased since this episode was aired.
5. “The Obsolete Man”
It is clear that “The Obsolete Man” episode of the Twilight Zone is about our fears of living in a totalitarian regime. In this episode, Mr. Wordsworth is on trial for crimes against the State as both books and religion have been outlawed. Wordsword both believes in God and is a librarian. Because of this, Wordsworth has been deemed obsolete, meaning he will be executed for not contributing to society.
Wordsworth accepts his fate but requests that he gets to choose how he will die. Wordsworth chooses to die by having a bomb placed in his apartment and tricks one of the leaders of the State to visit him before he dies. Just before the bomb goes off, the leader begs God to let him live which is a crime against the State. While he is able to escape the bomb that kills Wordsworth, he is later sentenced to being obsolete.
This episodes touches on issues of free speech, freedom of religion and the power of the government which are important issues that are relevant in modern times and will be discussed for years to come.
4. “The Eye of The Beholder”
This Twilight Zone episode has one of the most memorable twist endings of any TV episode. Janet Tyler is a patient at a hospital where she has just undergone her 11th treatment for her deformed appearance. With her head wrapped entirely in bandages, she has live in darkness for several days. Unable to stand it any longer, she begs the doctor to take her bandages off early. As he and his nurse prepared to remove the bandages, they discuss the nature of beauty and how they pity Janet for her poor appearance. As the bandages come off, we see that Janet looks like a normal woman and that the doctors and nurses all of the twisted faces that closely resemble pigs. Since Janet has failed to live up to this society’s standard of beauty, she is banished to the ghetto re severed for the ugly.
This episode highlights the Twilight Zone‘s ability to comment on social values and expectations. Even over 50 years later, this story makes an important statement about placing too much value on beauty and physical appearance.
3. “To Serve Man”
U.S. code-breaker, Michael Chambers and his employee, Patty are assigned the immense task of decrypting a text from the alien race, The Kanamits. These large aliens have evaded Earth but promise to help humans by ending hunger and providing an endless energy source. They even promise to take thousands of people to their home planet for a better life. At first, the code breaking team are only able to decipher “To Serve Man” from the title. Assuming the aliens want to help humans, Chambers decides to board the spaceship to their home planet. Just as he is about to get on to the ship, Patty runs up to him yelling that “To Serve Man” is a cookbook.
This Twilight Zone episode taps into the common fear of extraterrestrials which is sure to strike fear into the hearts of generations to come.
2. “Time Enough At Last”
This heartbreaking episode follows, Henry Bemis is a bank teller and avid reader. His boss and his wife both bullying him day in and day out. His work and his wife interfere with his reading as his wife takes it upon herself to destroy some of his books. One day while he is in the bank’s vault, an atomic bomb is dropped, killing everyone around Henry for miles. Much to Henry’s relief, he now has as much time as he wants to read. Just as he is able to settle down with a pile of books he took from the destroyed library, his glasses fall off and break.
The tragic irony of this Twilight Zone episode makes it one of the greatest and most memorable episodes in American television that can still be appreciated today.
1. “Monsters are due on Maple Street”
Strange events start happening in the quaint and peaceful suburban neighborhood located on Maple Street in an American town. Load noises and power malfunctions soon destroy the tranquility of the afternoon. The neighbors begin to believe that an alien invasion is occurring and behind to look for the possible alien in disguise. People being accusing each other, even children, of working with the aliens to cause the strange power outages. Eventually, the whole neighborhood erupts into a fight. The camera zooms out to reveal the aliens controlling the power outages from afar. These extraterrestrials state that they won’t even have to fight humans to take over Earth if they can so easily cause us to fight with our own kind.
This episode of the Twilight Zone not only can be terrifying from the perceptive of the characters on Maple Street but has an important message about how fighting among ourselves and turning our backs on our friends makes us weaker instead of stronger.
What is your favorite Twilight Zone episode? Tell in the comments below!