Best Episodes of The X-Files

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Image Credit: CValenzuela on Deviant Art.

At times, The X-Files is scary, funny, heartbreaking—and often downright spooky. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have undeniably good chemistry on screen, even while their characters debate over the reality of monsters and aliens.

With eleven seasons to choose from, you might be wondering which X-Files episodes are worth the rewatch.

 

Pilot

Season 1, Episode 1

The fact that the first-ever episode of The X-Files is still so good, nearly thirty years later, is a testament to what the showrunners and actors had going.

Immediate acting chemistry and well-established, three-dimensional characters give viewers the desire to find out more about spooky Mulder and the skeptical Scully.

 

Fire

Season 1, Episode 12

Guest-starring Mark Sheppard as the villain—who viewers might also recognize from Firefly or Supernatural—this episode follows a monster-of-the-week format.

Scully and Mulder investigate a man who seems to be able to set himself, and everything around him, on fire. Spontaneous human combustion is always a weird time.

 

Humbug

Season 2, Episode 20

This episode quickly could have taken a more offensive tone, and still may not be for the faint-hearted: it describes Mulder and Scully’s journey amongst self-designated circus freaks, as they search for a killer.

The scene where they follow a man into his backyard and start digging up what he just buried finds Mulder disheartened and muttering, “…we’ve exhumed your potato….”

 

Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose

Season 3, Episode 4

The idea that a man who can see the future should end up as an insurance salesman is already a hilarious premise.

Add in the fact that all he can see is how people will die—and that he’s not even very good at selling life insurance—and you know you’re in for a great ride.

This episode isn’t all laughs, however. There is a significantly unexpected emotional aspect to it, every time the gravity of knowing when and how you will die really hits.

 

War Of The Coprophages

Season 3, Episode 12

When killer cockroaches invade a town, Mulder tries to investigate the case on his own. He then teams up with a cockroach scientist named Bambi.

After he fails to make any headway and people continue to die, Scully shows up to try and lend her expertise.

But, as we all know, cockroaches are practically invincible.

 

Pusher

Season 3, Episode 17

Scully and Mulder contend with a man who can persuade anyone to do what he wants, simply by “pushing” his will onto people.

If that doesn’t sound interesting enough, Scully’s iconic line “Please explain to me the scientific nature of ‘the whammy’” basically sums up the entire series.

 

Jose Chung’s From Outer Space

Season 3, Episode 20

Once again using the unreliable narrator to weave a funny story, this episode of The X-Files features an author who comes to Scully, asking to verify the stories he’s gathered about alien abductions.

One character in particular claims to have watched Scully and Mulder unearth an alien, and then to have received threats from them.

Having someone assume that Mulder is a “mandoid,” followed by Duchovny’s bizarre yelp, makes this episode worth the watch.

 

Avatar

Season 3, Episode 21

Season 3 was undoubtedly a good one for The X-Files.

Following a few funny monster-of-the-week episodes, “Avatar” allows the viewer to get to know Assistant Director Skinner, a recurring character and Scully and Mulder’s superior.

As far as The X-Files goes, this episode is quite scary.

 

Never Again

Season 4, Episode 13

Jodie Foster lends her voice to a magical tattoo in this episode.

The tattoo drives a man to the brink of insanity with escalating jealousy, following his casual hook-up with Scully.

Meanwhile, Mulder is on a forced vacation touring Elvis Presley’s old house.

Scully ends up getting a tattoo from the same artist, and some truly spooky things start happening.

 

Unusual Suspects

Season 5, Episode 3

This was the show’s way of introducing the Lone Gunmen’s origin story, for fans who enjoyed the kooky antics of Mulder’s closest friends.

After becoming unwittingly involved in a government conspiracy, their descent into paranoia is quite funny to watch—as is the crossover guest star, Richard Belzer. He plays his character Detective John Munch, known for his appearances in the popular shows Homicide: Life on The Streets and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

 

Bad Blood

Season 5, Episode 12

Although the concept for this episode sounds hokey on paper, its execution was amazing.

Mulder stabs a kid who he thinks is a vampire, and now he might be facing murder charges.

Once by Mulder and again by Scully, the story is told, and their versions of events only barely resemble each others’. This, of course, leads to hilarious commentary from both.

 

Triangle

Season 6, Episode 3

Although it may seem like TV shows have done the whole “trapped in a different era” thing to death, The X-files managed to turn the trope into something extraordinary.

Mulder is trapped on a Nazi-seized ship in the middle of World War II. As he runs down long corridors, you can see Scully and the Lone Gunmen running down the same halls in the present day, always seeming to just barely miss each other.

 

The Unnatural

Season 6, Episode 19

The first episode to be written and directed by David Duchovny, “The Unnatural” focuses largely on a man recounting his experiences with an alien in the 1940s.

Disguised as a human man who loves to play baseball, the alien is really just trying to find his way through life.

Additionally, the portrayal of the alien is fantastic, thanks to actor Jesse L. Martin (Law & Order, Rent).

 

Sein Und Zeit

Season 7, Episode 10

In a tragic departure from the episodes’ normal format—mid-season, no less—this episode focuses on Mulder losing the last member of his family to suicide.

David Duchovny is truly at his finest with the emotional performance, which will move viewers who don’t even know all that much about Mulder.

 

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While classics like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone undoubtedly deserve most of the credit for bringing sci-fi into the mainstream, The X-Files more than earned its spot on that mantle.

Scully and Mulder balance each other so perfectly, and the casting is always spot on. What’s more, the storylines manage to frighten, entertain, and move audiences all at once, so many years later.

For more recommendations, check out the best alien species in sci-fi media, the best alien and outer space movies now streaming on major platforms, or the best sci-fi books to add to your TBR list.