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100 best 'Twilight Zone' episodes of all time

  • 100 best 'Twilight Zone' episodes of all time

    "The Twilight Zone" returns with a 24-hour New Year's Day marathon kicking off at 6 a.m. on the Syfy channel, available through most cable providers.

    Rod Serling’s iconic, critically acclaimed series took on issues of prejudice, war, government, and morality in a time when these issues were rarely—if ever—directly discussed on television, much less in polite conversation. Through blending fantasy, thriller, and science fiction, many of the themes and lessons from the memorable (and prescient) storylines still resonate today.

    The continued relevance of 'The Twilight Zone," which originally ran from 1959 to 1964, has inspired several reboots. A film version was produced by Steven Spielberg in 1983, and the show enjoyed two revivals in 1985 and 2002, respectively, before the latest iteration helmed by Jordan Peele along with fellow executive producers Simon Kinberg ("X-Men," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") and Glen Morgan ("X-Files," "Final Destination.").

    Still, fans have a sweet spot for the OG 156 episodes that started it all, so Stacker has put together the definitive top 100 "Twilight Zone" episodes list here, based on IMDb fan ratings. Any ties that occurred during the ranking were broken by the volume of user votes (for example, if two episodes had the same rating of 9.2, the one with more votes was ranked above the other episode).

    Keep reading to be reminded of old favorites, discover episodes you may have missed, and to see if any of your favorites ranked near the very top.

    You may also like: 100 best horror movies of all time

  • #100. Probe 7, Over and Out

    - IMDb score: 7.5
    - Air date: Nov. 29, 1963
    - Season 5, episode 9

    A crash-landed astronaut finds out his planet is on the brink of destruction, but luckily a woman from another world has also taken refuge on his new home. His name is Adam, hers is Eve, and together they set off to explore what she calls "Irth."

    Richard Basehart, who played Ishmael in the 1956 film "Moby Dick," is the astronaut Adam. This was the first episode audiences saw after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination crushed the nation and took over wall-to-wall TV coverage a week earlier.

  • #99. A Quality of Mercy

    - IMDb score: 7.5
    - Air date: Dec. 29, 1961
    - Season 3, episode 15

    An eager lieutenant who has never before seen battle orders his men to attack Japanese soldiers in a cave on the last day of World War II. Just before the attack he is transported back three years in time, and becomes a Japanese lieutenant who receives similar instructions to attack a group of American soldiers in a cave. From the experience, the lieutenant learns of the futility of war.

    The title is based on a quote from Shakespeare’s play "The Merchant of Venice."

  • #98. Once Upon a Time

    - IMDb score: 7.5
    - Air date: Dec. 15, 1961
    - Season 3, episode 13

    A janitor uses his scientist boss’ time helmet to go from 1890 to 1960, expecting life to be better. When he finds out it might actually be worse, he decides to go back. A friend he met in 1960 goes with him, but decides that 1890s life isn’t right for him, either.

    Buster Keaton, known best for his iconic silent films with slapstick comedy, plays the janitor.

  • #97. The Man in the Bottle

    - IMDb score: 7.5
    - Air date: Oct. 7, 1960
    - Season 2, episode 2

    A couple that owns an antique shop finds a genie in a bottle who grants the pair four wishes. The man wishes for unlimited power and becomes Hitler in his final moments, similar to other episodes that provide commentary on World War II.

    Joseph Ruskin from “Smokin’ Aces” stars in this one.

  • #96. Nightmare as a Child

    - IMDb score: 7.5
    - Air date: April 29, 1960
    - Season 1, episode 29

    In this episode from the first season of the series, a schoolteacher is visited by her childhood self, who eventually helps the adult version remember what happened to her mother. She figures out that her mother’s murderer is trying to kill her, and ends up killing the man instead. It’s just in time, because the man who did it recognizes her on the street.

    Series creator and writer Rod Serling reportedly named the teacher after one from his childhood.

  • #95. Judgment Night

    - IMDb score: 7.5
    - Air date: Dec. 4, 1959
    - Season 1, episode 10

    A man feels the effects of his worst transgressions for all of eternity. He is stuck on a re-lived loop as a passenger on a freighter that he, during his life in the German military, sank in World War II. At first, he doesn’t know why he is on the ship, but horror sinks in as he recognizes the history that has already happened.

    The Brits drink coffee instead of tea during the show because of the episode’s sponsor.

  • #94. Escape Clause

    - IMDb score: 7.5
    - Air date: Nov. 6, 1959
    - Season 1, episode 6

    A hypochondriac makes a deal with the devil, but the devil gives him an escape option just in case he changes his mind and wants to die. After the man tests out his ability to elude death, his wife dies in an accident. He falsely confesses to murdering her, thinking that he will be able to get out of the electric chair. He is sentenced to life in prison instead.

    Two of the actors, Virginia Christine and Dick Wilson, were best known for their roles in TV commercials for coffee and toilet paper, respectively.

  • #93. Of Late I Think of Cliffordville

    - IMDb score: 7.6
    - Air date: April 11, 1963
    - Season 4, episode 14

    An older, wealthy businessman who is bored with his life gives most of his money to the devil in exchange for going back to his youth and living out the process of making it all over again. His second attempt at getting rich doesn’t work out, and he ends up selling what he has to go back to the present, where he becomes a janitor.

    Julie Newmar, known for her role as the original “Catwoman” to Adam West’s “Batman” in several films, plays the devil.

  • #92. You Drive

    - IMDb score: 7.6
    - Air date: Jan. 3, 1964
    - Season 5, episode 14

    While distracted by work, Oliver Pope hits a newspaper boy on a bicycle with his car, causing the boy’s death. The man flees the scene, but his car starts behaving strangely. It haunts him until he turns himself in for what he did. In one of the more overt lessons from the series, the episode ends with the narration: “All persons attempting to conceal criminal acts involving their cars are hereby warned: check first to see that underneath that chrome there does not lie a conscience…”

    The crazy car featured in the episode is a classic 1956 Ford Fairlane.

  • #91. Hocus-Pocus and Frisby

    - IMDb score: 7.6
    - Air date: April 13, 1962
    - Season 3, episode 30

    A gas-station owner who is known for telling grandiose stories about himself that aren’t true gets abducted by aliens. They believe his lies and that he is a perfect example of the human species for their zoo. He escapes them by playing a harmonica, but his friends don’t believe him when he tells the truth about what happened.

    Andy Devine, who voiced Friar Tuck in the Disney film version of "Robin Hood," plays the liar.