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Top 5 Twilight Zone episodes

Updated on December 13, 2014

The Twilight Zone is one of the most famous, and ground breaking television shows of all time. It could be creepy, suspenseful,thought provoking, and on some occasions, rather touching, with episodes usually possessing a message which can still apply in today's society. Rod Serling was simply a genius, and clearly believed in the messages he was trying to send, sending them with utmost passion, and power. Each episode usually ended with a twist of some kind, and part of the fun of watching would be to try to predict what said twist would be. Some of the twists may seem somewhat predictable now, but that's only because the show has been parodied and imitated countless times.

It's hard to narrow my personal favourites down to just five episodes, but I shall have to try my very best, as we cross over into The Twilight Zone...

Number 5: The Obsolete Man

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In a dystopian future where books are forbidden, Librarian, Mr.Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) is sentenced to death for the crime of being obsolete.

The main reason for this episode's success is that of Burgess Meredith's outstanding performance as Mr.Wordsworth, portraying frailty, but also a true passion for what he believes in, as he goes up against the state with a righteous fury. Fritz Weaver plays the chancellor who sentences him, and he too is brilliant, acting as a counterpoint to Wordsworth's ideals, and providing voice to the wrongful ideologies of the future government. Most of the episode is focussed on their interaction and debate, and it is simply brilliant, showing how some great dialogue can be a million times more thrilling than any elaborate action sequence. Early on, Wordsworth seems rather weak willed and pitiable in contrast with the chancellors power and confidence, but we soon see that things could not truly be more opposite. As the episode goes on, the chancellor shows his true colours, becoming more and more cowardly and pathetic as Wordsworth begins to show that he is the one truly in control of the situation. The future which the episode presents is terrifying, The Twilight Zone had many episodes set in dystopian futures, and this is one of the most effective, seeming almost plausible in its horror.

Number 4: The Shelter

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In the middle of a Birthday party, a group of friends hear a radio broadcast stating that they will soon be hit with a nuclear attack. Unfortunately only one of said friends has prepared himself, with a bomb shelter which contains just enough supplies for only himself and his family. Outraged, the rest of the group demand a place in the shelter, and begin trying to force their way in.

This one doesn't get as much recognition as most of those on my list, and I honestly have no idea why. The Shelter shows us the importance of planning ahead, and preparing for any eventualities, no matter how unlikely. It came out at a time when the threat of nuclear weapons was looming in the public consciousness, making it very topical, and presumably all the more chilling. However, the episodes true horror lies not in the impending nuclear strike, but in how easily the people in this group fall apart, attacking one another in a desperate bid to survive. These people reveal their true nature in the promise of certain death, and it is far removed from the friendly exterior they present before the broadcast. It's hard to label them as villains however, I think anyone can imagine having the exact same reaction in such a situation.The episode exposes the Human desire for survival at all costs, and shows us why it's not such a good thing.

Number 3: Five Characters In Search Of An Exit

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An army major wakes up trapped inside a large metal room from which there is no escape. He finds himself with no memory as to who he is, and in the presence of four other people, a clown, a ballet dance, a hobo, and a bagpipe player.

Like much of The Twilight Zone, a good amount of what makes this story so great is the twist, and so it's hard to really go too in-depth here without spoiling anything. Despite being almost entirely set within a blank metal room, this is one of the most visually dynamic episodes of the series, if only because of the cast of characters we find, each with their own distinct, and eccentric look. As far as characterisation goes, the highlights are by far the major, played by William Windom, and the Clown, played by Murray Matheson. We see much of the episode through the eyes of the Major, his fear and desperation to get out of the prison is very well acted, and you really want to see him come out of the situation victorious. This is in great contrast to The Clown, who spends much of his screen-time acting all creepy, and antagonistic. You never quite know what he's going to do, and it's impossible to keep your eyes off of him. The ending is one of the more bizarre the series has had, but it's set up with perfection, and still has an impact even if you see the twist coming.

Number 2: Eye Of The Beholder

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Janet Tyler, a deformed woman in a world where deformity is punished by the State, is being given treatment in a hospital to make her look normal.

Of the episodes on this list, this one conveys possibly the most powerful of messages, and one that many people from this generation can afford to learn. You can probably guess what that message is from the title alone, but the true brilliance lies in the execution. We don't get to see Tyler's face beneath the bandages until about the last five minutes or so, but when we do, it's utterly shocking, and certainly not for the reason you would think. The twist is definitely one of the more famous the series has to offer, so you probably know it already, but on the slim chance that you don't, I urge you to watch the episode as soon as possible before it can be ruined for you. Maxine Stewart as Janet Tyler evokes so much emotion throughout, even without the use of facial expressions, being forced to convey everything with her voice and gestures alone. With a lot of time lit in shadowy darkness, the sense of atmosphere is palpable, lending the episode a real sense of mystery. Many would call the episode preachy and far from subtle, and while I would probably agree, I would also argue that such a message needs to rammed down our throats to an extent. It seems that even today, some people simply can't comprehend the fact that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Number 1: Living Doll

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Ill tempered stepfather, Erich Streater is angered when his wife buys her daughter Christie an expensive new doll. The doll soon begins threatening to kill him, seemingly coming alive.

While Eye Of The Beholder has the best twist and moral message, this one has the greatest amount of suspense, which becomes outright horror as things progress. The idea of a doll coming to life and turning out to be evil was made popular by this episode, with many films and tv shows attempting to imitate it. However, few imitations have managed to capture the same sense of fear and uncertainty that this version of the concept possesses. We're never quite sure if the doll is really alive, or if Erich has gone completely insane. Terry Salavas is great as Erich, conveying real nastiness towards his stepdaughter, but also managing to become somewhat sympathetic as the episode goes on, and his fear mounts. You can see his fate in the end as karmic justice, or a tragedy. The doll itself is horrifying, with a constantly cheerful and chirpy little voice, even while saying such lines as 'I'm going to kill you'. Something about her design has always freaked me out, it's the uncanny valley effect that most dolls tend to have, but taken up to 11.


Do you agree with the choices on this list? I would be curious to hear the personal favourites of other people in the comments below.

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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 3 years ago

      Thank you. While they wouldn't make my top 5 your logic for putting them on your top 5 list makes sense. I wonder if The Shelter had the effect of convincing survivalists that keeping quiet about their doomsday preparations was essential? That is not the lesson the episode wanted to give the audience.

    • Sarah Carpenter profile image

      Sarah Carpenter 3 years ago from California, USA

      Thank you very much for your list! I have only watched a couple of the Twilight Zone episodes, but your list has encouraged me to watch more of the show. You did a very good job at explaining each episode without revealing any spoilers, and I look forward to watching these episodes and more myself!

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 3 years ago

      You have a nice review of some Twilight Zone episodes and I liked the "Eye of the Beholder" also because it's message still holds up today.

      The "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" episode with William Shatler on the plane seeing the gremblin is an one of my all time favorites, even though you didn't review it here.

      To think that Twilight Zone used to scare me and now it is so tame, in comparison to what is shown today !

      Welcome to Hubpages. ;-)

    • William Sinclair profile image
      Author

      William Sinclair 3 years ago

      There are so many great episodes of the Twilight Zone to choose from, I would definitely expect anyone to have a completely different top 5 from mine. I take it you mean 'The Oddyssey Of Flight 33'? I remember liking that one as well, though I haven't seen it in a while.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I'm a Twilight Zone fan, but none of your selections would make my top 5 list. For example, when I saw "The Shelter" I didn't like it. I suppose it's because the specter of friends turning on one another when under pressure was just too uncomfortable for me. An episode I like that doesn't seem to get as much attention as I think it should is the one where a jet gets lost in time, and desperately tries to get back to 1961.

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