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10 most underrated The X-Files episodes ever, ranked

A man and a woman point guns up in The X-Files.
20th Century Fox Television

It’s safe to say The X-Files is one of the most famous and prolific shows in TV history. Running for 11 seasons over 25 years — and even spawning two theatrically released feature films — the show was a massive success. And thanks to our modern streaming era, The X-Files continues to live on, being discovered by newcomers and rediscovered by fans who love rewatching their favorite episodes.

While some X-Files episodes receive eternal praise and adoration (like season 3′ Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose and season 5’s Bad Blood), others have sadly never gotten their proper dues. If you’re an X-Files fan or just anyone who loves sci-fi and a good spooky mystery, check out these underrated episodes that often sit unfairly in the shadows of the more notable ones.

10. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster (Season 10, Episode 3)

The were person in Scully and Mulder meet the were-monster
20th Century Fox Television

After more than a decade off the air, The X-Files returned with a 10th season in 2016. The problem was that the season sadly wasn’t very good. Comprised of just six episodes – most of which weren’t episodic and instead centered on an overarching government conspiracy — the entire season felt like the show had lost its spark.

Luckily, episode 3 brought some much-needed character and wit back to the show and turned out to be the highlight of the season. Mulder and Scully Meer the Were-Monster flips the werewolf story on its head and features a monster who was bitten by a human, thus turning him into a human during daylight. Adding to the episode’s charm was the fact that Rhys Darby played the monster. The episode was a spark of much-needed creativity in an otherwise muddled and tepid season.

9. The Post-Modern Prometheus (Season 5, Episode 5)

The Post-Modern Prometheus epsiode was filmed in black and white
20th Century Fox Television

In recent years, this episode has finally started receiving a lot more attention, as it rightfully should. The Post-Modern Prometheus is one of the wildest, most insane, and absolutely grotesque X-Files episodes ever…and at the time of its release, society didn’t even know it. In the modern woke and post-MeToo era, the episode can be summed up as “a montage of criminal offenses,” However, in the ’90s, the show’s writers apparently thought this was a light-hearted and feel-good story.

The episode is about a deformed man who has been imprisoned by his mad-scientist creator. While locked away, he took comfort in watching the 1985 Cher film Mask, which features a character who looks like him. The man now wants friends and a girlfriend to love him … but because of his looks, he knows nobody ever will. His solution is horrifying: He breaks into homes and pumps nitrous oxide through the vents to knock women out before raping them, hoping to impregnate them so they have little deformed children who will eventually grow up to be people he can date and be friends with.

In the final scene, numerous women are seen holding their deformed infants as the entire town goes to a Cher concert to celebrate their newfound outlook on life. Can you say problematic? It’s not an ethical episode. It’s not a logical episode. But damn … it needs to be seen to be believed.

8. 2Shy (Season 3, Episode 6)

The killer 2shy sits in prison in the x-files
20th Century Fox Television

One of the most criminally underrated X-Files episodes is 2Shy. The episode feels very Silence of the Lambs-inspired and follows a killer who finds overweight women on dating sites and newspaper classifieds. But because it’s The X-Files, this man is more than just a killer. He secretes a goo that breaks down the women’s fat and it’s later revealed that his motive is to harvest their fat because his body fails to make its own.

The episode’s morbid and sadistic undertones gave the story a smart and enticing angle, making it way more interesting than your standard crime drama. Plus, premiering in 1995, 2Shy also did a great job of capturing the zeitgeist of the time. With online dating still a very new invention at the time, the episode brilliantly played upon people’s fear of what meeting strangers online could lead to.

7. Kill Switch (Season 5, Episode 11)

A dead man is hooked up to an AI simulator in the x-files episode Kill Switch
20th Century Fox Television

Season 5’s Kill Switch is an episode that has continually gotten better with age. In the episode, an AI creation has developed sentience and is out to control the world around it, infiltrating its way into every piece of technology on the planet. Adding to the drama is that some people actually welcome the AI and want to merge their consciousness with it to live forever in cyberspace.

Nowadays, this sounds like an episode of Black Mirror and feels incredibly more real thanks to the rapid (and sometimes scary) advancements we’ve had with AI, like ChatGPT, in the last two years. Everyone’s always talking about how The Simpsons always predicts the future … but maybe The X-Files does as well.

6. Home (Season 4, Episode 2)

Scully and Mulder find a family of incest in the x-files episode Home
20th Century Fox Televison

Season 4’s Home just might be The X-Files‘ most controversial episode ever. Because of its grotesque plot, it is rarely replayed on television, turning it into an underrated classic since many viewers haven’t even seen it. The episode is all about how animalistic and feral humans can become when left untouched by modern society.

In Home, Scully and Mulder come across an incestuous family who uses their mother as nothing more than a breeding vessel. On top of that, the family believes they’re doing the right thing, believing loyalty to each other is more important than anything else. It’s been known for being controversial since its debut, but in recent years, fans have finally started seeing beyond the initial shock value and now appreciate how dark, unsettling, and impactful Home is.

5. Arcadia (Season 6, Episode 15)

Scully and Mulder dress preppy in Arcadia
20th Century Fox Television

In another instance of The X-Files brilliantly mocking the current times (which was 1999 for this episode), Arcadia was centered in one of California’s booming planned subdivisions, which had started overtaking the state by the late ’90s. Scully and Mulder arrive at a fictional planned community called Falls of Arcadia to investigate a strange disappearance.

When they arrive, they go undercover as new residents and quickly learn that the homeowner’s association has some very strict guidelines that all residents must adhere to. And if they don’t … well, a golem will rise up from the trash heap the community was built on to take care of the problem. The episode was smart and funny, mocking the tacky sterility and rigidity of planned communities while also being pretty damn suspenseful and scary.

4. 731 (Season 3, Episode 10)

A train carries a biological weapon in the x-files episode 731
20th Century Fox Television

In 731, Mulder discovers a secret facility where a scientist is doing experiments on human-alien hybrids, turning his unsuspecting subjects into deformed monsters. After the plan is foiled, a chase takes place inside of a moving train. Even better, that train has been strapped with a bomb that could go off at any moment.

It’s a great episode that combines the sci-fi aspects The X-Files is known for with a train chase reminiscent of James Bond or Indiana Jones. 731 was also very well received, holding an impressive 8.7 stars on IMDb. It’s a shame that, for some reason, the episode was never appreciated for being the classic that it is.

3. Vienen (Season 8, Episode 18)

oil seeps from a man in the x-files episode Vienen
20th Century Fox Television

The X-Files lost some steam in its later seasons, especially when agents Doggett and Reyes almost completely replaced Scully and Mulder. But Vienen was a bright spot in the show’s later years. Scully and Mulder still have prominent roles in the episode, with the addition of Robert Patrick’s Agent Doggett. Their new case involves workers on an offshore oil rig who begin behaving erratically and eventually dangerously, prompting an investigation.

Before long, oil begins seeping out of the crewmen, and it becomes clear they’re being controlled. It was a rare lightning-strike moment where the dynamics between the original and new cast somehow worked flawlessly. It didn’t feel like Scully and Mulder were being replaced, but instead felt like a progressing storyline. Plus, watching oil seep out of someone’s eyeball is downright terrifying.

2. X-Cops (Season 7, Episode 12)

Scully and Mulder join the cops in X-Cops
20th Century Fox Television

Since The X-Files aired on Fox, it was able to spoof another popular show on the network — Cops. Done in the reality show’s trademark camera style, X-Cops followed Scully and Mulder as they navigated their way around a crime-filled Los Angeles neighborhood. But things take an unexpected turn when the criminal they’re hunting turns out to be something supernatural.

Even for a show known for its wild and wacky episodes, X-Cops remains one of the series’ most unique. Plus, the plot is surprisingly good and scary, with tons of great humor coming from the Cops spoof at the same time. It’s like the horror satire Scream, where it’s able to be good and silly simultaneously.

1. Familiar (Season 11, Episode 8)

Mr. Chuckle Teeth hides behind a tree in the x-files episode Familiar
20th Century Fox Television

The most underrated episode of the entire series is Familiar. When The X-Files returned with season 10, it was a major disappointment. A few years later, it received its 11th and final season. While season 11 was definitely an improvement from season 10, thanks to underrated episodes like the Slender Man-inspired Ghouli, it still felt like something was off. As if the pieces still hadn’t come back together as well as they did before.

But then came Familiar, which felt as strong as any classic episode. The plot centers around a demonic force that’s kidnapping children while disguising itself as the children’s TV character, Mr. Chuckle Teeth. Familiar was eerie and creepy in a way The X-Files hadn’t been for decades, making it feel like a true return to form. On top of its great story, it was also a return to the show’s classic “monster of the week” format, which was a great reprieve from the overarching (and very dull) conspiracy plotline that seasons 10 and 11 were so obsessed with. Plus, Mr. Chuckle Teeth was such a great and memorable villain, easily standing out as one of the series’ best.

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Keith Langston
Keith Langston has been obsessed with entertainment ever since he was a kid. He fully believes The Faculty and Deep Blue Sea…
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