Top 20 Best Twilight Zone Episodes.
It’s almost that time of year again! Syfy Channel will once again air its annual July 4th Twilight Zone Marathon.
The Twilight Zone remains the best show ever made in television history.
Creator Rod Serling’s classic fusion of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy has blown people’s minds ever since its debut in 1959.
I got hooked on the Twilight Zone in the eighties during a local tv marathon. Its eerie mood cast a unique spell and there was always a twist ending to keep you guessing . And the show has endured for a reason; the stories were compelling, the acting was pointed, and the writing, directing, and music were at a level usual reserved for cinema.
And Serling’s social commentary was part of the appeal. Back in that era, censorship was prevalent, but he cleverly explored controversial issues allegorically. And his clipped, wry narrations remain imbedded in pop culture.
In anticipation, I’ve picked my Top 20 favorite Twilight Zone episodes ( a difficult task, given there’s 156 to choose from!). Be sure to check the Syfy schedule to see which episodes you can catch this year. For those who haven’t seen these episodes, I’ll leave them spoiler free.
I’ll also have links below to the amazing Twilight Zone Blu-ray sets (which are 50% off until midnight July 5th!!).
20. “The Jungle”
This episode concerns Alan Richards, whose company is building a large dam in Africa. His wife brought back several items which were given to her by a local shaman for protection. You see the villagers believe the Dam will displace them, and are rumored to use black magic to stop its construction. Alan burns the keepsakes, which panics the wife, but he thinks it’s superstitious nonsense. This comes back to haunt him, literally. This is one of the most suspenseful episodes, with a taught, eerie atmosphere, using excellent effect of long silences.
19. “The Obsolete Man”
Romney Wordsworth is a librarian, which in the totalitarian regime he lives in, is considered treasonous. The State rules he’s to be declared obsolete, which is punishable by death. He can choose how and where to die. He asks to keep the method between himself and his assassin, and that his execution be televised. The Chancellor of the state grants the request. He asks to die at home, and that the Chancellor (played by Fritz Weaver) visit him before he dies. But Wordsworth has something else up his sleeve. Burgess Meredith plays Wordsworth, in one of his many great roles on the series.
18. “The Grave”
A perfect blend of ghost story and western, “The Grave” features Lee Marvin as Conny Miller, a killer for hire who’s come to town to kill Pinto Sykes, a wanted outlaw who hated him. But he was too late, as Sykes has already been killed by a gang of towns folk. The locals say as he was dying, he declared he’d rise from the dead to kill Conny if he ever ventured to his gravesite.
Preying on Miller’s ego, they bet him that he won’t go visit his grave. He lays down his wager and ventures off. A great plot twist awaits.
17. “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up”
2 state troopers are investigating a phone call about a possible flying saucer. They venture to a diner full of bus passengers holing up while they wait for the bridge to thaw out. The bus driver gives a head count to the troopers, but there’s one more in the room than on the manifest. Thus begins mass suspicion and paranoia that an alien is in their midst. This episode is a perfect mix of suspense and humor.
16. “The Midnight Sun”
The earth has lost its orbit and is drifting closer to the sun each day. While their neighbors are moving to cooler climates to ward off the inevitable, Norma (Lois Nettleton) and her neighbor Mrs. Bronson are resigned to their fate, clinging to each other in their apt. building for comfort. But the unbearable heat drives them to madness. But per usual, nothing is what it seems and it has one of the best shock endings of the series.
15. “People Are Alike All Over”
Marcusson and Conrad are 2 astronauts headed to Mars. Marcusson is the inquisitive type, who believes in the good of humanity, and that alien life will share the same values. But Conrad (Roddy McDowell) is afraid of what he’ll find. After a rough crash landing on the red planet, Marcusson perishes and Conrad is forced to explore his new world. He meets the Martian people, who turn out like his friend predicted; incredibly gracious and kind. They even give him a luxurious custom-built home to stay in. But everything seems a little too perfect. Check out the finale above.
14. “Death’s Head Revisited”
In one of Serling’s most pointed social commentaries, Gunther Lutze (Oscar Beregi ), heads back to Dachau, the concentration camp he ran in Nazi Germany. Perversely, he is enjoying reminiscing of the torture he inflicted. He runs into Becker (Joseph Schildkraut), one of the Jewish inmates. Becker confronts him on his ghastly acts. Later we find out he is a ghost, and is here to hold Lutze accountable, informing him : “This is not hatred. This is retribution. This is not revenge. This is justice. But this is only the beginning, Captain. Only the beginning. Your final judgment will come from God.”
13. “Walking Distance”
Martin Sloane (Gig Young) is a middle-aged executive, who stops to revisit his hometown. He finds it odd how everything seems stuck in time, and then he sees himself as a small child. What he discovers will change him profoundly. It’s a stirring story dealing with a mid-life crisis and longing to stay young. The orchestral score by legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann is one of the best ever for a television episode. Click on the YouTube link to hear the isolated score.
Well that wraps it up for Part 1 of the 20 Best Twilight Zone Episodes! Now read Part 2 for the Top 12!
Below is a link to the amazing Blu-ray collection, which you can buy from Amazon by clicking the link.
[amazon_image id=”B007I8KXQ8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
You can also stream the entire original 5 seasons on Netflix.