25 Episodes in Search of a Favorite Twilight Zone

“What’s your favorite Twilight Zone?” It’s a question I hear frequently from new followers of my Twitter page. Others want to know what my top 10 episodes are.

It’s tough to answer, though. It’s like picking a favorite child. You love ’em all (or nearly all — sorry, kiddo) for different reasons. Narrowing it down even a little bit feels like you’re making some of them walk the plank.

Top 25

In fact, I couldn’t leave it at a top 10. So here are my top 25 episodes:

1.       Eye of the Beholder

2.       Perchance to Dream

3.       Walking Distance

4.       The After Hours

5.       A Stop at Willoughby

6.       Nick of Time

7.       The Obsolete Man

8.       Night of the Meek

9.       A Passage for Trumpet

10.   The Howling Man

11.   The Last Flight

12.   Five Characters in Search of an Exit

13.   Shadow Play

14.   Kick the Can

15.   The Dummy

16.   Living Doll

17.   Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

18.   A Hundred Yards Over the Rim

19.   A Game of Pool

20.   The Masks

21.   Deaths-Head Revisited

22.   It’s a Good Life

23.   The Hunt

24.   The Changing of the Guard

25.   Nothing in the Dark

It’s a mix of redemption stories, tales of retribution, and old-fashioned screw-with-your-mind thrill rides. The Twilight Zone didn’t give us the same thing week after week. It mystified, provoked or amused. But it always entertained.

The order of the list above isn’t that strict, by the way. I could easily move some of them around a bit, especially the ones in the middle.

What are your favorites?

***

Photo illustration courtesy of Wendy BrydgeFor a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest. You can also sign up for email notifications of future blog posts by clicking “follow” in the upper left-hand corner of this page. Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 08/06/2012, in Twilight Zone and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. My, what interesting choices! Eye of the Beholder is definitely top 3 for me. But come on! The Howling Man at number 10?! Really!? It’s my number 1. *shakes head* Seriously though, great post. You can tell a lot about a person by his ranking of Twilight Zone episodes … wait, what does that say about me? O_o *howling*

  2. Thanks, Wendy! Howling Man is a terrific episode. I could easily move it up a couple of notches.

    As for what your ranking of it says about you: I hesitate to psychoanalyze my readers, but since you’re a friend, I’ll admit I see some id/ego/super-ego issues at play here. Professional help is required. I recommend more Twilight Zone and heavy doses of this blog. I’m sure you’ll recover soon — i.e., agree with my list. ;-)

    Thanks again, my friend. You’re a good sport!

    • Meant to follow up, Wendy. Were you able to keep resisting? ;)

    • Paul, the resisting was short-lived. Now, it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part, you understand. But much like Edward was powerless to resist Maya, I too gave in and rode that rollercoaster. And you know what? Best ride of my life. ;)

  3. An interesting list, indeed.

    It’s a salt-and-pepper of more obvious choices (Eye of the Beholder, Willoughby, Obsolete Man) and possibly obscure (Perchance to Dream, Changing of the Guard) that proves your passion for the series.

    If I were to make a list like this, I’d have to make it twice. One for my favorite episodes of the actual show. And another for my favorite episodes as told my dad when I was little, years before I’d ever actually see any.

  4. And my dad’s variations were often quite different.

    For instance, The Bewitchin’ Pool, in his 25-year-old half-remembered version, the children decide to stay in the fantasy world. After which their parents take a break from their fighting to make a grisly discovery in their swimming pool.

  5. Thanks, Mickey! I would say there’s no question that I have a “passion for the series.” Funny how your Dad’s recollections of the episodes varied from the actual episodes themselves. Might make a funny book: how TZ really ended versus how Dad said they ended.

  6. Good post, Paul. I was just trading comments with Wendy, and will have to come up with similar list of my own favorites, but a handful of them do show up on yours! I’ll stop by and append a comment….

  7. Okay, Paul and company, here are my listed of 25 favorites. I just can’t name any ONE episode as my best (sorry, Wendy! ;-] ), so I resorted to what Paul did, and 25 about hits it right on the nose, though I could’ve added one or two extra episodes (and I still might modify the post…)!

    • It wasn’t easy! I didn’t set out to do a top 25; it just grew into that because I hated to stop at the usual 10. One of these days, Frank, I’m going to rank them all from top to bottom, the whole group of 156. At least I’m one-sixth of the way there already … :)

  8. Nice diversion from the cubicle:

    My top 20:
    1. Walking Distance (of course)
    2. A Stop at Willoughby
    3. The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
    4. Time Enough at Last
    5. The Trouble with Templeton
    6. Night Call
    7. Kick the Can
    8. The Grave
    9. The Hitch-Hiker
    10. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
    11. What You Need
    12. The Trade Ins
    13. The Jungle
    14. One for the Angels
    15. The Passersby
    16. The Masks
    17. A Game of Pool
    18. In Praise of Pip
    19. The Howling Man
    20. The Midnight Sun

    A healthy dose of nostalgia (my favorite), death, the creeps, and irony. Some of them probably wouldn’t wind up on anyone else’s list, but they move (or bother) me, for one reason or another. Season 1 is well-represented, especially in my top 5, which I expected. I could probably move some of them around after #5, but this works.

    • Some great episodes here, Mandy! I’m not surprised to see a nostalgia buff like you put WD and Willoughby right at the top. That’s the heart and soul of Serling right there.

      “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” doesn’t crop up often on these lists, it’s true. Neither does “The Jungle”. But they’re both solid episodes.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Great picks, Mandy! :-] Man, some I have to recheck, like “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine”….

  10. I believe the dad’s version of bewitchin pool is a mix of that episode and Willoughby…which I always thought Bewitchin pool was too much like Willoughby Jr. for me to like it as much.

    Anyway my top 20 (I skew more to the political and dark fables):

    1. A Stop at Willoughby (So true of life, and the simplicity of the past in the eyes of those living today. Even though it ends in Suicide, most feel more with gart and deep down might gotten off at Willoughby as well if they didn’t know the consquences

    2. The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (Classic for a reason, only personal feelings keep this from being #1 shocked it’s not on the main list)

    3. The Masks (who hasn’t seen some of the vain jerks that get it in this one…and who hasn’t looked twice at such bad behavior and seen ugliness on their face no matter how beautiful they appear outside)

    4. The Obsolete Man (One of the best outros and acting jobs ever.)

    5. I am the Night, Color Me Black (Bitter tale of hatred. but with a reminder of the true price of hate. Reminder to all of the darkness that still hangs over the world you could change the end from a street in Dallas to a Gated Community in Miami and the episode would be fully updated without changing another word…genius)

    6. 22 (A nice episode brought down by the film expirment but a great fable about trusting one’s instincts)

    7. Number 12 Looks Just Like You (Back then Eye of the Beholder was more relevant, today this hidden gem is more relevant to today’s issues with celebrity obsession)

    8. Queen of the Nile (Pure Horror, but a fun mystery)

    9. The Rip Van Winkle Caper (Of the long setup to a punchline eps, this one was the best executed, crime doesn’t pay especially in time travel)

    10. King Nine Will Not Return (With modern technology this is becoming MORE instead of less relevant)

    11. Time Enough at Last (Don’t drop your glasses, EVER)

    12. A Game of Pool (with the overemphasis on individual accomplishments in sports this one, and the 80s version inverse again are almost MORE relevant today)

    13. One for the Angels (As a salesman I keep a picture of Ed Wynn from this ep on my desk as motivation for each appointment I make)

    14. He’s Alive (Blunt but important reminder about hate and easily one of Rod’s angrier extros)

    16. Stopover in a Quiet town (Another 30 minute punchline setup but it is a fun very special episode to stop drunk driving)

    17. Eye of the Beholder (I’m not as enamored as others are but I understand it’s importance especially in that era)

    18. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? (One of the best at combining humor with a true message about paranoia)

    19. Long Distance Call (Great Episode of selfishness and the true innocence of children)

    20. The Hunt (Heartwarming tale of death, may be simple today but simplicity when speaking of death is always good)

  11. Clearly, I didn’t start following this blog early enough. Hard to believe I missed this one. That’s a pretty good list. I would change the order a bit but I would enjoy watching all of those.

    • Clearly not, but the important thing is, you’re here now, Dan! I’m pretty flexible on the order, too, to be honest. I just know that these episodes, order aside, really excite me, move me, or both.

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