Twilight Zone

Top 25 Episodes - The Definitive List

The Twilight Zone was, and still is the greatest TV show of it’s kind. It was science fiction with a moral. Rod Serling was a genius and way ahead of his time. Twilight Zone entertained us with topics that included racism, nuclear war, tyranny, McCarthyism, mass hysteria and human nature as a whole. 

The Twilight Zone ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964. In season two, the network decided to cut costs by shooting on videotape. Serling was outraged by this, and the network abandoned this plan after just 6 episodes. The original series contains 156 episodes. In season four, the episodes were expanded to one hour. The one hour episodes did not work, and for season 5 they returned to the 30 minute format.

I will now attempt to pick the top 25 episodes. It is a very formidable task, to pick just 25 out of at least 100 classic episodes. There are very few clunkers. 

I started watching The Twilight Zone on reruns in the 1970s.  As a kid growing up in NYC, I would watch The Yankee Game, then “The Odd Couple” at 11, “The Honeymooners” at 11:30 and “The Twilight Zone” at midnight on WPIX (Channel 11). I loved the Twilight Zone. I couldn’t wait for the next night and the next episode. I still watch the show every weeknight on ME-TV 12:30 EST. The highlight of my New Year’s Eve is the annual “TZ” marathon. This all makes me the foremost authority on all things Twilight Zone. 

Now as a lifelong fan of the show, I know some episodes are overplayed and lose some of the impact after multiple viewings, but try to remember the first time you saw that episode. That is what I am trying to capture with this list. 
See how my list matches up with yours.

25. The Howling Man (Season 2, Episode 5)
Original Air Date: November 4, 1960
Written By: Charles Beaumont

​David Eliington comes across a monastery in Europe where they are holding the devil. Ellington gets duped by the devil and releases him. All hell breaks loose, WW II soon starts. Ellington spends his life tracking down the devil and eventually recaptures him. The Devil cannot be kept for long though, as we see the housekeeper let him loose once again.
​cking down the devil and eventually recaptures him. The Devil cannot be kept for long though, as we see the housekeeper let him loose once again.
24. Night Call (Season 5, Episode 19)
Original Air Date: February 7, 1964
Written By: Richard Matheson​

A lonely old woman, Elva Keene, begins receiving strange phone calls. She tells the caller to leave her alone. She then finds out the calls are coming from the cemetary. A phone line fell on the grave of her fiancee Brian. Elva is delighted to speak to Brian, but Brian always does what he is told and the line goes dead. 
23. Young Man's Fancy (Season 3, Episode 34)
Original Air Date: May 11, 1962
Written By: Richard Matheson​

Alex Walker and his new wife return to his late mother's home where he grew up, to get the house ready to sell.  Can Alex grow up and leave his mother and childhood memories behind? The answer is NO, as the mother reclaims her son, and Alex turns back into a little boy The new wife leaves the house in tears. 
22. Uncle Simon (Season 5, Episode 8)
Original Air Date: November 15, 1963
Written By: Rod Serling

Barbara Polk has lived with her aged, sadistic uncle, Simon Polk, for 25 years—even though she hates him—as she is the only heir to his fortune. Simon is an inventor, and forbids Barbara from entering his lab. Simon falls to his death, as Barbara does not help him. 
In order to inherit Simon's estate, Barbara must live in the house and look after his last invention, a robot also named Simon. The robot has the voice and nasty disposition of Uncle Simon. Since Mr. Schwimmer makes regular visits to ensure that Barbara is taking proper care of the robot, she has no choice but to submit to its continuing verbal abuse or get disinherited.

Uncle Simon Quote: Barbara, my dear, if you could prevail upon that raggedy ann carcass of yours to exert itself, i'd like a cup of hot chocolate.
I would like it in the english bone china cup, and if it's not hot, i'll throw it on the floor.

21. Walking Distance (Season 1, Episode 5)
Original Air Date: October 30, 1959
Written By: Rod Serling

Martin Sloan, a 36 year old executive from New York City, finds himself back in his hometown of Homewood and runs into his younger self. 
Adult Martin at first makes a fool of himself and everyone thinks he is crazy. His father finds adult Martin's wallet and is convinced of his identity.
Martin's dad advises his son that everyone has his time and that instead of looking behind him, he should look ahead, because as delightful and rewarding as he may remember childhood to be, adulthood holds its own delights and rewards. Martin drives back to NYC content with his current life. You CAN go home again. 

20. A Most Unusual Camera (Season 2, Episode 10)
Original Air Date: December 16, 1960
Written By: Rod Serling

Husband and wife thieves steal a magical camera that produces images 5 minutes into the future. Fun soon turns to tragedy as we find out that crime never pays. Greed, distrust and stupidity are a lethal combination.

19. The Bewitchin' Pool (Season 5, Episode 36)
Original Air Date: June 19, 1964
Written By: Earl Hamner Jr.

Sport Sharewood and her younger brother Jeb live in a large, expensive house, but their parents are mean, self-centered jerks.
Sport and Jeb follow a young boy in a straw hat that pops up from the deep end of the pool and end up in a swimming hole bordering a rustic, simple homestead. They are welcomed and loved by "Aunt T.", a kind and patient elderly woman who loves children. She explains that she has many children there who came from parents who did not deserve them.
Sport and Jeb go home, but the parents are still jerks, so the children leave for good.
Sport and Jeb are now happily living with Aunt T. Sport hears the distant and remorseful voice of her mother, but ignores her, and focuses on her new life.

NOTE: The audio from the outdoor shots were ruined by back lot noises. Actors had to re record their parts, but Mary Badham, the actress who played Sport was back at her home in North Carolina. The studio determined it was too expensive to fly her back, so they used adult June Foray to record her parts. Foray was the voice of Talking Tina, Rocky The Squirrel and hundreds of other voices. "The Bewitchin Pool" was the last original episode of The Twilight Zone to air. 
18. Stopover in a Quiet Town (Season 5, Episode 30)
Original Air Date: April 24, 1964
Written By: Earl Hamner Jr.

A married couple, Bob and Millie Frazier, wake up in an unfamiliar house after a night of boozing. 
They are the only people around and the town is made up of props and fake trees. A shadow falls over them, and they flee, only to be scooped up by the hand of a gigantic child. The little girl's mother says, "Be careful with your pets, dear--your father brought them all the way from Earth." At her mother's bidding, the little girl drops the couple back into the town, which is now revealed to be a model village with a miniature railway running around it.
17. Nick Of Time (Season 2, Episode 7)
Original Air Date: November 18, 1960
Written By: Richard Matheson

Newlyweds Don and Pat Carter have lunch at the Busy Bee Cafe while they wait for their car to be repaired. Don gets obsessed with the fortune teller machine ("the mystic seer") on the table. Pat finally breaks down and tells Don that whether or not the seer can really tell the future doesn't matter, only Don's obsession with its predictions. She argues that it is better for him to make his own future than to be controlled by what the seer tells him. Don gets a grip and they exit. After their exit, an older couple enters the diner. The couple is beleaguered and distraught. Approaching the mystic seer, the man asks questions about whether they will ever leave Ridgeview. The couple is deflated by the answers. While this is happening, Don and Pat leave Ridgeview.
16. The Jungle (Season 3, Episode 12)
Original Air Date: December 1, 1961
Written By: Charles Beaumont

Alan Richards and his wife Doris have recently returned from Africa, where Alan's company is constructing a dam. The natives are opposed to the dam. Local witch doctors have threatened to use black magic against anyone associated with the project. Strange events follow Alan, with the climax being a Lion in his bedroom. It's not glad to see him. 
15. The Silence (Season 2, Episode 25)
Original Air Date: April 28, 1961
Written By: Rod Serling

Colonel Archie Taylor, a gruff aristocrat, is being driven insane by fellow club member, Jamie Tennyson, who is a loudmouth bore. Taylor bets Tennyson $500,000 that he cant STFU for 1 year. Tennyson takes the bet and is monitored in a glass booth at the club. Tennyson stays silent month after month, and Taylor is getting nervous that the blabbermouth will actually beat him. Taylor taunts the silent man with rumours about his wife. Tennyson wins the bet and Taylor admits he is a fraud and cannot pay the 500 grand. The story ends with a second shocking twist
14. Eye Of The Beholder (Season 2, Episode 6)
Original Air Date: November 11, 1960
Written By: Rod Serling

The title says is all. Who's to say what is beautiful? In some bizarro world somewhere, Janet Tyler has undergone her eleventh treatment (the maximum number legally allowed) in an attempt to look normal. The procedure failed again and Janet is devastated. She will be sent away to live with other ugly freaks like herself. We then find out Janet is beautiful compared to the viewer's standards, but Serling makes us think once again. 
13. Death's Head Revisited (Season 3, Episode 9)
Original Air Date: November 10, 1961
Written By: Rod Serling

Gunther Lutze, a former SS captain returns to the ruins of the Dachau concentration camp where he was commandant during WW II. Lutze is surprised to see Alfred Becker, one of the camp's former inmates and a particular victim of Lutze's cruelty. Lutze tries to leave but the gates are locked. Lutze is made to undergo the same horrors he had imposed on the inmates in the form of tactile illusions. He screams in agony and collapses. Before departing, Becker's ghost informs 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." 
12. The Grave (Season 3, Episode 7)
Original Air Date: October 27, 1961
Written By: Montgomery Pittman

The outlaw Pinto Sykes is ambushed by the men of the town in the middle of the street. Gunfor hire Conny Miller was hired to track Sykes down. On his deathbed Sykes accuses Conny Miller of being a coward, and that if Conny shows up at his grave, he will reach up and grab him. When Conny arrives in town, the townsfolk bet Conny that he won't go up and stick the knife in Syskes grave as proof. Did Conny die of fright or did Sykes reach up and grab him? Another double twisted plot! 
11. The Hunt (Season 3, Episode 19)
Original Air Date: January 26, 1962
Written By: Earl Hamner Jr.

Hyder Simpson is an elderly mountain man who lives with his wife Rachel and his beloved hound dog Rip in the backwoods. Hyder and Rip are killed during a hunt. They are almost tricked into entering Hell, but Rip saves them. As they enter heaven, the angel says, "You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he'll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can't fool a dog!" 
10. Time Enough at Last (Season 1, Episode 8)
Original Air Date: November 20, 1959
Teleplay By: Rod Serling

Henry Bemis is a nebbish bank teller who just wants time to read books. He has a shrew of a wife, and a jerk for a boss. Henry sneaks down to the bank vault to read, when a nuclear war devastates the world. The only one alive is Henry. He finally has time enough at last to read all the books he could imagine and then some. Bemis falls and breaks his glasses and he can't see a thing! That's not fair! That's not fair at all! Dam you Rod Serling!
9. The Shelter (Season 3, Episode 3)
Original Air Date: September 29, 1961
Written By: Rod Serling

A nice suburban community turns into an angry mob when panic ensues. There is a party at the residence of physician Bill Stockton, when a Civil Defense announcement is made declaring a possible nuclear attack. The neighbors beg, and plead to get into Dr. Bill's bomb shelter. There is only room for Dr. Bill's family. The neighbors, riot, fight and destroy the door to the shelter. A second announcement is made that it was all a mistake, there is no danger. Umm sorry, let's play cards!
8. Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up (Season 2, Episode 28)
Original Air Date: May 26, 1961
Written By: Rod Serling

A UFO lands in the lake, footprints in the snow lead to a diner, where a busload of passengers just entered to ride out the snow. No one can account who is who. Strange events pit the passengers against each other. Everyone is suspicious. Finally the bridge is opened and the bus goes on its way. One passenger comes back and tells the diner man what happened. Venus and Mars is allright tonight!
7. The Monsters Are Due on Maple St. (Season 1, Episode 22)
Original Air Date: March 4, 1960
Written By: Rod Serling

Maple Street is turned into a mob when the lights go out. Strange events happen, and just like that, the neighbors turn on each other. Suspicion, accusations, and eventually murder. Who is behind this sinister plot. Could it be aliens!?
6. The Masks (Season 5, Episode 25)
Original Air Date: March 20, 1964
Written By: Rod Serling

A wealthy old man named Jason Foster is dying. His daughter Emily and family visit on Mardi Gras night. They all have terrible traits. Greed, Vanity, Sadism. Foster demands they have a party and all wear masks. Each member is given a mask much to their chagrin. They are all given their just rewards at midnight. 
5. A Stop At Willoughby (Season 1, Episode 30)
Original Air Date: May 6, 1960
Written By: Rod Serling

Gart Williams is a NYC advertising executive who is tired of the rat race. He has a shrew wife and a jerk boss. He dreams of a simpler time. He dreams of the 1880's small town life of Willoughby where a man can slow down and enjoy his life. Where a man can live his life at full measure. Gart finally gets his dream of getting off in Willoughby. Next Stop Willoughby! Watch your step, the first one is a doozy!
4. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Season 1, Episode 30)
Original Air Date: May 6, 1960
Written By: Rod Serling

GMr. Robert Wilson was just discharged from a sanitarium where he spent the last 6 months recovering from a nervous breakdown. He is flying home at night, in the rain. Not only do they sit him near the window, but they sit him near the emergency exit. Wilson thinks he sees a large gremlin on the wing and freaks out. He then steals a sleeping police officer's revolver, straps himself in to avoid being blown out of the aircraft, and opens the emergency exit door to shoot the gremlin. Once the airliner has landed, everyone believes that he has gone insane. As Bob is whisked away in a straitjacket, he tells his wife that he is alone in his knowledge of what happened during the flight. However, the final shot reveals conspicuous damage to the aircraft's wing, caused by the gremlin.
3. To Serve Man (Season 3, Episode 24)
Original Air Date: March 2, 1962
Written By: Rod Serling

It's A Cookbook! The Kanamits, a race of 9-foot-tall aliens, land on Earth. Initially wary, Earth people soon trust the Kanamits when their advanced intelligence puts an end to hunger, energy shortages, and nuclear proliferation. This trust seems to be backed up when a member of the cryptography staff decodes the title of the Kanamit book: To Serve Man. On Sale: One way excursions to planet Kanamit! 
2. Living Doll (Season 5, Episode 6)
Original Air Date: November 1, 1963
Written By: Jerry Sohl/Charles Beaumont

Who Loves Ya Baby! Rod Serling sums this show up best: "Of course, we all know dolls can't really talk, and they certainly can't commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder—in the misty region of the Twilight Zone."
1. It's A Good Life (Season 3, Episode 8)
Original Air Date: November 3, 1961
Written By: Rod Serling

The number 1 Twilight Zone episode of all time. Starring Builly Mumy. That's real good that you done that Anthony! Real Good! Anthony Fremont, age 6, has godlike mental powers, including mind-reading. He has isolated his town of Peaksville, Ohio from the rest of the universe. If you displease Anthony he may turn you into a Jack in the Box and send you off to the cornfields! So if you meet Anthony, you better think happy thoughts. And remember, no making noise when the music is playing. Anthony doesnt like noise when the music is playing. Anthony also doesn't like Perry Como!

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