The X-Files in many ways was a precursor to the explosion of great TV that we’ve had since the early 2000s and in its 10 seasons, it revolutionised what we could expect from the small screen.
Mulder and Scully became icons of an era and some of its episodes still haunt us to this day. So, in tribute to those, here are the top 10 X-Files episodes ever.
- 1 10 – The Post-Modern Prometheus (Season 5 Episode 5)
- 2 9 – Beyond The Sea (Season 1 Episode 13)
- 3 8 – Die Hand Die Verlezt (Season 2 Episode 14)
- 4 7 – War Of The Coprophages (Season 3 Episode 12)
- 5 6 – Ice (Season 1 Episode 8)
- 6 5 – Drive (Season 6 Episode 2)
- 7 4 – One Breath (Season 2 Episode 8)
- 8 3 – Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Season 3 Episode 4)
- 9 2 – Squeeze (Season 1 Episode 3)
- 10 1 – Home (Season 4 Episode 2)
10 – The Post-Modern Prometheus (Season 5 Episode 5)
As The X-Files went on, its creators got more and more ambitious and experimental in a way that few TV shows had done before, and one of the best of those experiments was The Post-Modern Prometheus, named after Frankenstein and featuring The Great Mutato, a genetic-created ‘monster’.
Cher and Roseanne were meant to be in it as well, but they did at least manage to get Jerry Springer to appear. Oh, and it was all in black and white.
9 – Beyond The Sea (Season 1 Episode 13)
It may have only been the first season, but the X-Files still felt confident enough in their audience’s connection with their characters to go heavy on the emotions.
This story focuses on Scully’s grief over the death of her father but also ties it in with a seriously creepy performance by Brad Dourif as death row inmate Luther Lee Boggs.
One of the best early guest appearances and a great episode.
8 – Die Hand Die Verlezt (Season 2 Episode 14)
The X-Files had many strings to its bow, but it was usually at its best when it was being bloody terrifying. And Die Hand Die Verlezt’s tale of devil-worshippers at a school is seriously scary, particularly when Mrs Paddock’s eyes go all funny when she’s taking control of her victims.
Like a Stephen King story, it’s how grounded in reality this one is that makes it so effective.
7 – War Of The Coprophages (Season 3 Episode 12)
Darin Morgan’s X-File episodes were generally always excellent fun and this is one of the most fun of all.
It’s all about cockroaches and allows David Duchovny to play up his humorous side while Morgan’s self-aware script snaps and crackles. It also had some pretty horrible moments involving the cockroaches, just in case you were having too much fun.
It IS still the X-Files after all.
6 – Ice (Season 1 Episode 8)
If you could criticise Ice you could say that it’s basically just a remake of The Thing, with the same kind of setting and the same paranoia about who you can trust and who isn’t what they seem.
It’s still early enough in the show for there to be doubts between Mulder and Scully and having guest stars as impressive as Xander Berkeley and Felicity Huffman makes for a hugely tense and impressive episode.
5 – Drive (Season 6 Episode 2)
Speaking of guest stars, this episode is almost as notable for what it led to as what it actually was, with X-Files writer Vince Gilligan working with guest star Bryan Cranston several years before they’d work together on Breaking Bad.
Cranston is excellent as Patrick Crump a man who is basically living out the plot of Speed inside his inner ear, and the whole episode is (predictably) a rush.
4 – One Breath (Season 2 Episode 8)
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, and that’s what the producers had to do in the second season when Gillian Anderson was pregnant but Dana Scully wasn’t.
Of course, if you have a show centred around alien abductions, it’s not hard to figure out how to make a character disappear for a while, but they did it well and this haunting return for Scully remains one of the best episodes the show ever had.
3 – Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (Season 3 Episode 4)
Another Darin Morgan episode, this one features a wonderful performance by Peter Boyle as Clyde Bruckman, a man who can predict how others will die.
It still has a lot of the expected Morgan humour in the script, but it’s a much darker episode than many of his others, and Bruckman makes for a great character, making his fate at the end all the more affecting for Mulder and Scully and for us.
2 – Squeeze (Season 1 Episode 3)
To create one of the small screen’s most memorable monsters in only your third episode isn’t bad going, and Squeeze did just that with Eugene Victor Tooms (the incredibly creepy Doug Hutchison), a killer whose ability to squeeze his body through gaps meant that nobody could ever be safe from him.
Tooms was such a scary and memorable villain that it was no surprise when he came back again later in the first season.
1 – Home (Season 4 Episode 2)
The X-Files is best known for its alien conspiracies, but as this list has shown, most of its best episodes were a bit more grounded, finding horror in everyday places.
Like the home, or certainly this particular home. The Peacock family are pretty much the family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and this was a hugely disturbing and graphic episode that took the X-Files to a whole new level of shocks and scares.
And it is still as effective as it was two decades later.