The best Twilight Zone episodes of all time

Decades after its original run, The Twilight Zone still remains one of the most imaginative and creative TV shows to ever grace our television sets. In fact, since the revival of the sci-fi genre, new fans are popping up all over the place. 

Although every fan might have their own ideas about which episodes are the freakiest or most entertaining, we’ve created our own list of must-watch Twilight Zone episodes for you to check out.

Where to watch The Twilight Zone online

the twilight zone

Before we jump into the list, you’re probably wondering how you can watch each of the episodes. Fortunately, most of the original 1959 series is available through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and CBS All Access.

Interested in the 2019 reboot? The 10-episode season is available on CBS All Access and comes with a separate mastering of the entire season in monotone to drive home that nostalgic feeling. CBS has already renewed the series for a second season.

As for the other series, the 1985 version of The Twilight Zone is available on CBS All Access, but the 2002 series isn’t available on any streaming service. Now, let’s talk about the best episodes!

Eye of the Beholder (1960)

twilight zone eye of the beholder

The sixth episode from season 2 of the original series, Eye of the Beholder, chronicles the aftermath of an operation to surgically repair a young woman’s facial deformity. For most of the episode, patient Janet Tyler (played by The Beverly Hillbillies actress Donna Douglas) has her head and face covered with bandages, and the audience is privy to conversations between her character and many of the doctors and nurses involved in the complicated procedure that — they all hope — will allow her to live a more comfortable life. When the bandages finally come off, however, the final moments of the episode challenge everything we know about beauty and society in a brilliant shift of perspective.

Time Enough at Last (1959)

twilight zone time enough at last

The eighth episode of the series, Time Enough at Last, has inspired countless parodies and homages in one form or another over the years with its tragic tale of a man who finds something positive in surviving a nuclear war that leaves him alone in the world. Celebrated actor Burgess Meredith famously portrays farsighted bookworm Henry Bemis in the episode, which is based on a short story penned by Lynn Venable for the sci-fi magazine If: Worlds of Science Fiction. Serling himself considered it one of his favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone, and it touches on themes of anti-intellectualism, overreliance on technology, and the value of solitude that still carry weight today, more than half a century after it aired.

It’s a Good Life (1961)

twilight zone its a good life

Rather than explore complicated moral or existential issues, The Twilight Zone occasionally offered audiences a story that was just plain, old scary — but still comfortably (or perhaps uncomfortably) set within the tonal framework of the series. That description fits the eighth episode of the series’ third season well, as it tells the story of an Ohio town separated from the rest of the world and ruled by a six-year-old boy with godlike powers (Bill Mumy, later of Lost in Space). The community and his own family attempt to carry on with their lives, but the whims of a child are unpredictable, to say the least — and the brief look inside this world presented by the episode is one filled with terror from a very unlikely source.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963)

twilight zone nightmare at 20000 feet

William Shatner starred in this wildly popular episode from the fifth season of the original series, portraying a passenger on an airplane who sees something (or more accurately, “some … thing … “) on the wing of the plane, only to have his seemingly unbelievable claims dismissed by his fellow passengers. The fact that he recently suffered a nervous breakdown doesn’t help his cause, and Shatner’s character struggles to prove that the gremlin he sees is really there, not just to the people around him, but also to himself. The episode is based on a short story penned by I Am Legend author Richard Matheson, and was later adapted for the 1983 movie The Twilight Zone.

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (1960)

twilight zone monsters are due on maple street

One recurring theme throughout The Twilight Zone in all of its incarnations is that humans often pose a greater threat to each other than any external entities. No episode hammered that point home better than this season 1 story about a neighborhood that swiftly descends into violence and anarchy when residents begin to believe the power outage affecting their street might herald an alien invasion. Written by Serling, the episode doesn’t even need to reveal the true cause of the outage (although it does) in order for the message to come through loud and clear: It doesn’t take much for people to turn on each other.

The Shadow Man (1985)

twilight zone shadow man

This episode from the first season of the 1985 revival of The Twilight Zone doesn’t get mentioned on many “Best of” lists, but it’s an underappreciated gem of the later iterations of the series. Directed by celebrated filmmaker Joe Dante (who helmed GremlinsInnerspace, and a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie) from a story penned by Farscape creator Rockne O’Bannon, The Shadow Man follows a bullied young boy who discovers that a terrifying entity emerges from under his bed each night to terrorize the neighborhood. The episode brilliantly blends traditional childhood fears with all-too-real adult scares, and is one of the high points of the show’s ’80s revival.

Living Doll (1963)

twilight zone living doll

Long before Chucky turned talking children’s dolls into nightmare fuel, The Twilight Zone gave audiences this fifth-season episode, which revolves around a “Talky Tina” doll that begins to add threats of murder to its vocal repertoire when it’s gifted to a young girl in a dysfunctional family. Kojak star Telly Savalas plays the girl’s emotionally abusive stepfather in the episode, which leaves you uncertain until its very final moments about whether the doll’s threats are real, or if it’s all in his head. Living Doll went on to inspire countless murderous-doll stories on the big and small screens in the years that followed, ensuring nightmares for years to come.

Into the Light (2003)

twilight zone into the light

The 2002 revival of The Twilight Zone wasn’t particularly well-received, but its willingness to address contemporary issues through the show’s dark sci-fi filter led to some standout stories in its 43-episode run. In one of the most depressingly timely for the era, Into the Light casts Samantha Mathis as a high-school teacher who develops the ability to see glowing light emanating from people who are about to die. When she begins seeing the light in her students’ faces, she’s forced to contend with a potential tragedy at the school — and an event that feels all too familiar in recent years.

Dealer’s Choice (1985)

twilight zone dealers choice

While comedy isn’t the Twilight’s Zone strong point, there’s plenty of humor in this Wes Craven directed episode from the ’80s. When a group of friends playing a friendly game of poker determines that the devil is among them and he’s come to take one of them away, all bets are off in this surprisingly funny story, which also happens to feature an impressive ensemble cast. You’ll see a younger Morgan Freeman, Barney Martin, Garrett Morris, and M. Emmet Walsh, who make up our four primary characters. There’s plenty of laughs to go around, but if you watch closely, The Twilight Zone seems to be having a bigger conversation about the afterlife. 

The Invaders (1961)

twilight zone the invaders

Another favorite of series creator Serling, this episode from the second season is almost entirely absent any dialogue, and is essentially a solo performance by actress Agnes Moorehead. The four-time Academy Award nominee plays an older woman whose simple life is disturbed by an invasion of miniature invaders who arrive in a flying saucer. The premise doesn’t suggest a very complicated story, but things take a dark, unexpected turn before the tale has reached its end.

Editors' Recommendations