X-Files, one of the greatest shows to come out of 90s television. This show is the essential start of any sci-fi nerds obsession. It would be surprising if you haven’t seen this show and you are a sci-fi, pop culture nerd like I am. If you have not gotten into the show and wanted to, this list will help you in that regard too!
So, on that note, I decided to come up with ten episodes of X-Files that you cannot pass up. These episodes, by far, define the show for what it is. These ten episodes will be throughout all the seasons, but don’t let me define your favorite episodes for you.
If you have some episodes that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments. What are your favorite X-Files episodes? Why are they your favorite? Throughout X-Files, there are so many episodes to name. Even ten is cutting it close to essential ones, but we somehow leveled it down.
These episodes are in no exact order except Squeeze, that is first on the list because it is my all-time favorite episode; the rest preceding Squeeze occur in no definite order.
1. Squeeze — Season 1, Episode 3
Premiering September 24th, 1993, two days after I was born, Squeeze from Season 1, Episode 3 aired. Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong; directed by Harry Longstreet and Michael Katleman directing the additional footage. Squeeze is number one for many reasons.
This is, to me, one of the best episodes of X-Files to date and nothing can top it. There are reasons for this, mostly — it is the best episode and storyline of the series. It leaves on a cliffhanger that was never resurfaced, and Tooms is one of the better creepy, crawlies from the series.
He can go through drains, vents, and anything with air pockets and do so easily. While he does kill and he is a murderer — he is one of the smartest murders of the entire series. Tooms will live on to be an X-File genius.
I can rewatch this episode again and again and find new clues and things about Tooms that I never saw before. It is a unique X-Files episode to watch and if you want to know exactly what this show is about — this is the episode to watch to find out. It’s spooky and will leave you wondering what the hell happened to Tooms.
He makes a reappearance in Season 1, Episode 21, titled Tooms. However, this episode tops any other episode that Tooms reappears in, while Tooms does do my “what happened to Tooms” question justice, I still love the ambiguity of Squeeze.
2. Fire — Season 1, Episode 12
Fire is a great episode too, premiering December 17th, 1993. Written by Chris Carter, the series creator, and directed by Larry Shaw this episode featured the devil himself, Mark Sheppard. Mark plays Crowley in Supernatural if you didn’t know, which makes this all the better.
Fire is an episode that starts off great. He basically catches people on fire and can do other fire things. It comes out of his hand, just like that. What I liked about this episode is Mark’s acting without a doubt. But, the ability to again keep us on the edge of our seats with the science fiction.
A character being able to create fire from his hands and/or set people on fire is marvelous and cunning. This episode is fun — it is not like Squeeze where we are left on such a cliffhanger. This episode is more fun than anything else. Plus, it’s about fire and who doesn’t love a little fire? This episode is literally just about fire, and there is nothing more to convince by. This is short and sweet and a hell of a ride.
3. Kill Switch — Season 5, Episode 11
Are you ready to be a virtual reality prisoner?
Kill Switch premiered February 15, 1998. It is written by William Gibson and Tom Maddox, directed by Rob Bowman. Kill Switch is a sci-fi mixed with technology episode, and that is why I enjoy it so much. It is all about hacking (in some form or another). The idea of having a ‘kill switch’ for a system.
Most of these episodes are a part of the “Monster-of-the-Week” stories, unconnected to the series’ wider mythology. They are often not a part of the plot at all with Mulder and Scully. I treat them as gifted extras to the show.
Maybe because they are not connected to the show overall is why I like them so much. They appear to have a greater stance on science fiction and where this show comes from. That is why these episodes are something astounding. Kill Switch is basically an episode about computers and the identity we have inside of them.
The knowledge they can have outside of them as well. The idea of encryption and transferring data, being able to think of a computer as a being and not a thing. Floppy discs, CD ROMS, hackers were not the norm, and we did not even have the ability to know what was on something before we put it in our CD drive. The idea of this episode doesn’t seem so far away now that VR exists. But, in the 90s, this was spooky.
4. Home — Season 4, Episode 2
Premiering October 11, 1996, it is directed by Kim Manners. It is also written by Glen Morgan and James Wong. Home is the episode that starts the deformed children, mother, father and the entire families on X-Files.
As far as I know, this was the first episode to reveal the idea of deformed monsters in the show. With that being said, Home is a glorious episode. It creates that sympathy mixed with interest at the same time. You are interested in this monsters, wondering what and who they are, and kind of hoping they escape.
At the end of this episode, you are satisfied by the ending that happens. This episode is another one of the “Monster of the Week” so this episode again is one of those off-plot episodes. This episode has nothing to do with the larger story at hand, but worth a watch regardless.
The only thing these episodes do not include are usually aliens and the Cigarette Smoking Man. A quote/conversation I often love that explains this episode so well is: “While Scully believes they will be caught, Mulder claims that they are already caught – in a struggle with themselves.”
5. Talitha Cumi — Season 3, Episode 24
Talitha Cumi premiered May 17, 1996. It was written by series creator Chris Carter, based on a story he developed with lead actor David Duchovny and was directed by R. W. Goodwin. This episode, which may be the only one on the list, is a part of the overarching mythology and lore of the show.
The Cigarette Smoking Man does appear in this episode, as well as many others that just are not on this list. The overall lore of X-Files is tackled throughout a series of episodes, moments, and TV films. However, Talitha Cumi begins at a fast food restaurant.
A man pulls out a gun, taking everyone inside hostage. An older man tries unsuccessfully to get him to calm down, but he shoots three people before being shot himself by snipers outside. The older man (later named Smith) tells the shooter he’s not going to die, and with the palm of his hands heals his wounds.
In this episode, no one is as they seem and if you know X-Files, that is entirely true. There’s a shapeshifter, there are many doppelgangers, and there’s the Cigarette Smoking Man who we rarely see which is what it feels like anyway. This is a famous episode because it allows us into the overall lore of the series, and season three is one of my favorite seasons. This just so happens to be one episode in an overall great season.
6. Schizogeny — Season 5, Episode 9
First premiering January 11, 1998, it is written by Jessica Scott and Mike Wollaeger, and directed by Ralph Hemecker. I will be honest… this episode is not that great writing-wise, but it’s good in a chilling, dark way. The characters of the episode are not that great and in-depth, as the usual X-File characters are.
The story is consists of an outcast, sort of an emo kid in school who is a standout. He tried to befriend the girl he likes and weird things happen to him and around him. The girl he likes has an abusive father and one day, while the emo kid is outside of her home her father is murdered.
The episode begins with a child’s step-father being swallowed by the mud/ground. And, of course, when Mulder and Scully see this they know it’s a weird occurrence. Mulder, especially. Schizogeny is a wild ride of an episode that can’t be adequately explained without watching it.
While the actors and some of the plots are nothing special, the story is what gets me every time.
7. Syzygy — Season 3, Episode 13
This episode is all about planets and that damn mercury in retrograde. Well, not so much mercury in retrograde but it’s the 90s version of it. Written by series creator, Chris Carter and directed by Rob Bowman, this episode premiered January 12, 1996.
A rare alignment of the planets gives these two homicidal teens formidable telekinetic powers while simultaneously driving their small town insane with satanic panic. In this episode, we also get a jealous Scully about Mulder’s love interest. This is a foreshadow of their actual relationship that happens much later.
I love love this episode because of how it’s written and directed. I used to think this was the episode with the twins (that’s in a later season, S7 I believe). But, it is just friends that look alike and good ol’ Ryan Reynolds. The plot is something outrageous because it is a 90s version of mercury in retrograde but in a wild planet’s aligning kind of way.
8. The Post-Modern Prometheus — Season 5, Episode 5
A crucial black and white episode that may throw you off at first, but this episode is legendary. Mulder and Scully have a dance at the end that just takes the cake of this episode. First premiering November 30, 1997, it is written and directed by Chris Carter, the series creator himself.
This is, again, another “Monster of the Week” episode. So, it is not a part of the entire series plot overall. It is a stand-alone plot. A modern-day Frankenstein is lurking the town. Mulder and Scully are here to save the day like they always do.
This episode is entertaining, and it reminds me a lot of Twilight Zone. The idea of the old-school black and white Twilight Zone may be why I enjoyed this particular episode so much. You also sympathize with the main monster of the show, The Great Mutato.
What I love about The Post-Modern Prometheus is the monster of the week. It is something remarkable to watch these separate-from-the-series monsters; and, to shed some light on them. Most of these episodes, as I have said before, are some of the best shows of the overall series.
9. Beyond The Sea — Season 1, Episode 13
This is hands down one of the creepiest, most chilling episodes of X-Files to date. This episode involved Scully and her family, but another factor in this chilling episode is Boggs. Beyond the Sea contains four acts in this one episode where Boggs, they think, is beyond the other acts of the episode.
They are kidnappings, abductions, and murders — in this episode, though, Scully admits she is afraid to believe. That is a breaking point for Scully and will be a continuous performance throughout the series until the later seasons. While this episode may be a chilling one, it is similarly dark as well — Scully’s father dies in this episode, and if you have been watching a few episodes prior on this list it does hit home.
For watchers who watch this show religiously, in the first season to already have a significant death was a turning point for Scully that you will see throughout the season. Both characters, Fox Mulder and Diana Scully have deaths in their arcs, and it does change and make them different in specific ways that you will encounter.
10. Roland — Season 1, Episode 22
Premiering May 6, 1994, it is written by Chris Ruppenthal and directed by David Nutter this episode is one of the best; as I have been saying about every episode on this list. This episode pulls at my heartstrings. It is about a character who has a mental disorder who works as a janitor at his job.
While everyone misplaces him because he has a mental disorder and treats him just as he comes off — he is the smartest guy at the job. Roland knows exactly what they are doing and can solve the problems they can’t. Often leading to their demise by Roland; however, Roland is being controlled by a character named “Arthur Grable.”
The story is touching and dark after you realize Roland was being used and controlled it becomes sad. One of the many episodes that have almost brought me to tears because of the story being told. This is a must watch, Roland in the X-Files franchise is one of the better episodes to come out of season one and the series alone.
X-Files: The Truth Is Out There…
Most of the episodes are from season one. So, I guess that means you should go back and watch season one. Season one (amongst three and five) is one of my favorite seasons of the show. It shows just how well the show will end up doing in the later seasons.
Similar to any show, some seasons are more significant than others, and vice versa. But, they all have something unique to bring to the table. X-Files is a great show, and the best part about it is that you can like whichever ones you want. X-Files has so many episodes to where you can pick and choose which ones you really like and watch them over and over. There are over 200 episodes of the series so far (208, to be exact).
This is by no means an official list. However, hopefully, some of my favorites will get you into the show as they did for me when I first watched them. Or, you go back and watch these episodes and fall back in love with Scully and Mulder. I know I always do. Here is to X-Files and believing in the truth because it’s out there, right Mulder?