Top 10 Rod Serling “Twilight Zone” episodes


“You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!”

This was one of four introductions made by the late Rod Serling, creator of the science fiction series “The Twilight Zone.” Each episode had takeaways and twists that stuck with viewers years after the show first aired in 1959.

As a fan of the original series, I was intrigued by Jordan Peele’s reintroduction of this classic, including a revamp of a well-known episode. Before you watch this version on CBS All Access, allow me to count down my top 10 episodes of the original “Twilight Zone” series. I will be counting these down based on their timelessness, their creepy factor, and the lessons people take away from them.

Let’s open that door with the key of your imagination and journey into the wondrous land that is… the Twilight Zone.

#10: Nightmare at 20,000 FeetThis episode is a classic for any “Twilight Zone” fan, whether you saw the version with William Shatner in the original series or the John Lithgow version in “The Twilight Zone Movie.” The premise for this episode is that a man has been released from an insane asylum and is flying back home on an airplane. He is afraid of heights, but to make matters worse, he keeps on seeing something on the wings that nobody else can see. While many argue that this is suspense at its finest, I personally did not feel scared. I do appreciate this episode and how much others like it, though. It will be interesting for me to see how Peele approaches this episode as it is being remade once again.

#9: Time Enough At LastYet another “Twilight Zone” classic, this is a “Be careful what you wish for” situation and an episode about the threat of being too lonely. Henry Bemis loves to read. The only problem is that he can find neither the time nor the place to enjoy his pastime. At work, his boss has let him know in no uncertain terms that he is not to read during working hours. At home, his shrewish wife won’t even let him read a newspaper, let alone a book. One day, he sneaks down to the vault in the bank’s basement to read a bit and suddenly, there is a huge explosion above. He emerges to find the world destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. He does find books from the library and he sees a great deal of reading time ahead of him. Except for one small unintended event: his thick glasses breaking. The acting in this episode is superb, especially from Burgess Meredith. When the seemingly unthinkable happens to him, he is distraught at the irony and screams angrily at the sky. In our day, think of it as nobody being around you and you can spend all day on your smartphone. Then, it dies. That’s what Bemis went through. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that he yelled.

#8: The After HoursI did not expect this twist when I saw the episode and the way everything played out was very suspenseful. Marsha White is looking for a gold thimble as a gift for her mother. She can’t find it anywhere in the store and an elevator operator suggests she try the 9th floor. She arrives there to find it abandoned but a sales clerk suddenly appears and has just what she is looking for. On the way back down to the main floor, she realizes the thimble she bought is scratched and goes to the complaints department where she is told there is no 9th floor in the building. She is shocked to see a mannequin that looks just like the woman who served her. A return to the absent floor reveals the explanation to her dilemma. Everything about this episode was filmed masterfully, keeping the viewers wondering what the twist was and what would happen next. Once the twist is finally revealed, the viewer relaxes and takes it in, putting the pieces together.

#7: The HitchhikerOnce again, Serling delivers a suspenseful episode that has the viewers on the edge of their seats. Nan Adams is driving across country from Manhattan to Los Angeles. Apart from a blown tire and her walking away unscathed from this accident, the trip has been more or less uneventful. That is until she begins to see the same man, over and over again, hitchhiking along the highway. No matter how far she goes or how far she drives, the hitchhiker always seems to be ahead of her. She also seems to be the only person who can see him. When Nan decides to call home, all is revealed. Seeing the hitchhiker one time seems a little unusual, but having him reappear sets Nan and the viewers on edge and terrifies them until the twist is revealed. Probably the most memorable line is delivered at the end of the episode. Nan gets into the car and finds the hitchhiker in the back seat. He simply looks at her and says, “I believe you’re going… my way?” Everything about this episode is chilling and unsettling and all the actors did a perfect job setting us on edge.

#6: It’s a Good LifeOof. Kids, am I right? While they are not like this, they can be annoying or in this case, easily annoyed. In a small farming community in Ohio, a young boy by the name of Anthony Fremont terrorizes those around him. Anthony has the ability to command anything he wants simply by thought. The community is cut off from the outside world and the boy insists that those around him think only pleasant thoughts, and if they don’t, he eliminates them. Everyone walks in fear of the lad who ably demonstrates what he’s prepared to do at a small party in his home. This episode is scarily reminiscent of Communist Russia with people having to say and believe things that matched what the government wanted them to believe. You can see in each actor’s face that they hate this life, but they have to live it for fear of being banished to the Corn Field. It also brings up how to deal with bullies and what monsters are truly capable of. Towards the setup of the episode, Serling says, “Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes.” This is not the face of a monster to you. He looks like an innocent kid. As the episode continues, however, we see how powerless the community is to stop him. When people do try to stop Anthony, he bullies them into doing his will. As Serling says when the episode ends, “No comment. Absolutely no comment.” All I will say is, this is a real good episode. A mighty good one.

#5: Five Characters in Search of an ExitWhile this is not a creepy episode by any means, it makes you think and the twist throws you for a loop. We start off with a major waking up in a large cylindrical prison with four other people: a ballerina, a clown, a tramp, and a bagpipe player. This colorful cast has only one goal: to escape where they are. The characters find a rope and the major eventually climbs out of it into the harsh, snowy landscape. He hears a loud bell that shakes the cylinder and everyone inside and he attempts to make the trip again. I did not expect this twist to come and when it did, everything clicked into place for me. This episode is worth a watch if you are looking for a mind trip and mystery, even though I gave you all the clues you need.

#4: Living DollBoy oh boy,  this episodes gives me the chills! It’s always the dummies or the dolls that creep everyone out… A father lives with his daughter who received a wind-up doll named Talky Tina. When she winds up, the doll says, “My name is Talky Tina and I love you very much.” The father scorns his daughter and the doll, which lead to Talky Tina eventually saying to the father over the phone, “My name is Talky Tina and I’m going to kill you.” We do not know how this works, but either way, Talky Tina is terrifying as heck. As mentioned, this is one of the creepier episodes and is great for any horror fans, especially fans of the “Conjuring” franchise as it seems like Anabelle is a spawn of this creepy doll.

#3: To Serve Man
With a twist ending that is quoted by many forms of media (no, seriously. It was used in the movie “Madagascar”), this is a classic and even if you do not know the episode, you know the line, “It’s a cookbook!” Aliens touch down on Earth and have benign intentions, including showing humans their alien technology and showing them how to end hunger, war, and famine. The only other clue they leave behind is a book that is eventually translated as “To Serve Man.” Even though I knew the twist when I first saw the episode, it was a great twist and you could see why the character acted the way he did in the beginning of the episode. The aliens seem friendly, but this episode is a deadly reminder that every little bit of someone’s personality counts. Take everything into account of the person before you decide what to do.

#2: The Eye of the BeholderThis episode is another classic that keeps viewers in suspense until the twist when the viewer is thrown for a complete loop. In a hospital room, her face completely covered by medical wrappings, a woman waits to see if a last-chance operation on her face has fixed the freakishness that will have her sent to a reservation of outcasts. While there is a clue with the filming that we are not seeing the whole story, this adds to the suspense of the episode, making the twist even more shocking. The last line always sticks with me due to the shock of the twist: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

#1: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street
I saw an episode of “Twilight Zone” before this one, but this episode made me realize how timeless this show is and how true it is to our life. This episode encompasses everything great about the original “Twilight Zone.” On a peaceful suburban Maple Street, the residents see a shadow passing over and assume it is a meteor. One person does suggest that the “meteor” was a spaceship and that aliens are invading their town and the residents do not believe him. However, the power starts to fail in people’s houses, stoking the residents’ paranoia to a disastrous intensity. Everyone starts blaming one another, even going so far as to bring torches and pitchforks and potentially kill their own neighbors. I am giving away the ending, so you have been warned… In the end, we find two aliens messing with the power grid with one alien describing to the other what to do for their next invasion. The next quote has stuck with me since seventh grade because it is still true: “They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it’s themselves.” The alien then says that they will do this pattern with every Maple Street they come across. This episode sticks with me since humans tend to do this sort of thing, no matter how hard we try to improve ourselves. We always try to find an enemy, to try and blame something on someone else, to try and find the fault in others when it is in ourselves. Serling pointed this out perfectly with the ending narration: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.”