In 1959, Rod Serling took audiences into The Twilight Zone. The groundbreaking program was unlike anything on the air at the time. The suspenseful and heart-pounding stories are still talked about today, but which ones are the best? The show spawned several spin-offs and a feature-length movie, but most agree the best the series has to offer is in the original series. This is no surprise, as many of the original episodes were written by Serling himself. There were 156 Twilight Zone episodes in the original run, and here are 10 of the best.
10. Time Enough At Last
Burgess Meredith, most famously known as Micky from the Rocky films, is one of the most beloved guest stars in the show. Arguably one of his best Twilight Zone episodes was also his first. Time Enough at Last follows Henry Bemis, a bank clerk who only wants time to read. Bemis is constantly mocked by those around him, his wife included. In the constantly moving world around him, there seems to be no time for Bermis to take for himself. This all changes when an H bomb wipes out everybody but him. Bemis believes he finally has time to read, or so he thinks. The story, like so many others, ends on a twist that is bleak and somber. The acting from Meredith is what makes this episode so great.
9. Living Doll
The idea of dolls coming to life with nefarious intent is nothing new. Nowadays, one thinks of Chucky from Child’s Play. However, the original terrifying doll was Talky Tina. Rod Serling introduced Tina as “a doll that does everything.” A man named Erich is a hostile man who takes his frustrations out on his stepdaughter, Christie. Christie’s new doll has grown quite attached to her and resents Erich. The normally playful phrases change when Erich is alone. Perhaps the most famous phrase is, “My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.” Erich knows that someone is playing a trick on him and the doll isn’t really talking to him…is it?
8. Night Of The Meek
Not every Twilight Zone episode has to be scary and unpleasant. In fact, they often times have a lot of heart. Case in point, Night of The Meek. Art Carney plays an alcoholic who makes ends meet by playing a department store Santa. That is until he gets fired for his disorderly behavior. Just when he is at his lowest, he finds a seemingly magic bag full of gifts. Showing the kind of man he is, he spends the evening giving gifts to the poor children in the area. This is one of the best episodes of the series because it oozes with the good feelings associated with Christmas. It stands out among the other, spookier episodes in the best of ways. This is a perfect episode to watch each Christmas.
7. Eye Of The Beholder
Rod Serling is well known for putting in chilling twists in his stories, and this could be the best of them all. The episode follows a woman with bandages covering her face. She is desperate to look normal. In this futuristic society, someone is legally allowed eleven procedures to change their appearance. The woman has just had her eleventh. The episode is a great tension builder. The woman’s face isn’t shown, and the doctors and nurses are shown only from the neck down. The uneasy and anxiety-inducing episode builds to one of the greatest payoffs in the show. If fans aren’t aware of this legendary twist, they owe it to themselves to seek it out immediately.
6. It’s A Good Life
A child is typically a symbol of innocence. That is unless the child is Anthony Freemont. The sleepy little town of Peaksville, Ohio, has been isolated from the rest of the world by Freemont. The six-year-old boy is capable of terrible things, and he has the town under his thumb. This Twilight Zone episode is terrifying because it makes it clear the boy is a ticking time bomb that can be set off at any moment. It’s a Good Life is one of the best-known episodes of the show, and one watch makes it clear why. The young boy who plays Anthony is terrifying and makes the audiences themselves want to please him out of pure fear.
5. People Are Alike All Over
Outside of the great twist and social commentary, this episode is made great primarily by its lead. Roddy McDowall is one of the best actors to ever lend their talent to the show. The other performers are great as well, but McDowall carries it. Roddy plays an astronaut that crash lands on Mars. After his partner dies, he is greeted by the Martians. Much to his delight, they are nearly identical to humans. This calms his nerves enough for them to gain his trust. Not much more can be said without giving it away. Rod Serling wrote the teleplay, and his writing mixed with McDowall’s acting makes this a stand-out episode every fan should see.
4. Nightmare At 20,000 Feet
This episode has enjoyed a life beyond the Twilight Zone episode. The episode famously features William Shatner as a man aboard a plane. He notices a creature has latched onto the outside of the plane. He is the only one who sees it, and it deadset on warning everyone. The episode is great because it doesn’t make it terribly clear whether or not he is really seeing something or if he has lost it. The episode is among the most references and quoted of them all. Part of the reason is Shatner’s trademark hokey acting. The main reason is the incredible writing. This episode is a great place to start for fans wanting to jump into the show’s best.
3. The Masks
One look at some of Rod Serling’s episodes, and it is clear he despises greed. The Masks is all about greed and how it can warp a person and rip a family apart. The story follows a wealthy man who is knocking on death’s door. The man invites his daughter and her family to be with him in his last moments. Unsurprising to him, they are only there to receive his fortune once he passes. He states that each one must wear a mask until midnight. If they don’t, they get nothing. They reluctantly agree, and that’s when everything goes downhill.
2. The Hitchhiker
This story started out as a radio drama, but Twilight Zone turned it into something legendary. The episode follows a woman on a road trip. Her tire blows out, and she miraculously survives. After the accident, she notices a strange man hitchhiking. She sees him in each town she travels to. She doesn’t know who he is or what he wants. All she knows is he is after her. The twist in this one is classic, if not predictable. Besides this, the episode itself is one of the most suspenseful in the entire series. This is the kind of episode that is best to watch alone in the dark. Viewers will find themselves seeing the mysterious Hitchhiker lurking behind every corner long after viewing.
1. The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street
This is one of the first and best Twilight Zone episodes. Maple Street is a quiet block where nothing happens, and everyone knows one another. That is until a mysterious object is seen flying overhead. The townsfolk begin speculating what the object was when every electronic in the town goes crazy. The residents of Maple Street know an alien has visited their sleepy little town and is hiding among them. The townsfolk go crazy trying to find the intruder and take drastic measures to ensure their own safety. This episode has social commentary that is more relevant now than it was in 1960. Everyone should check out this Rod Serling masterpiece.