If you watched TV during the ’90s and had a passion for unexplained phenomena, you were, most likely, a fan of sci-fi drama The X-Files.
Viewers tuned into Fox Network for nine seasons, from 1993 until 2002, to watch FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigate everything from shape-shifting serial killers to devil worshippers to alien encounters to classic monsters.
It’s hard to believe the show is celebrating its 25th anniversary, but here were are on Sept. 10, a quarter century since the first episode aired. It seems like only yesterday we all nodded our heads in agreement when Agent Mulder first uttered the words “I want to believe.”
As a hard-core fan, here’s my list of the top 10 X-Files episodes (in no particular order) that should excite fans new and old who want to look back at a time when UFO sightings, hackers and vampires made for groundbreaking TV. Happy binge-watching!
Season 1, Episode 1 (Original air date: Sept. 10, 1993)
The very first episode of The X-Files sets up how FBI agents Scully and Mulder initially meet, but it also introduces us to Mulder’s obsession with his sister’s abduction and his quest to find the truth about aliens and UFOs. The new reluctant partners must team up on their first case to investigate a series of possible alien abductions in Oregon.
Season 2, Episode 20 (Original air date: March 31, 1995)
When a series of murders happens in a Florida community of former circus sideshow performers, Mulder believes the murderer to be the legendary Fiji mermaid. Scully, as usual, thinks Mulder is way off base and the mermaid is merely a hoax. Guest stars include real-life sideshow performers Jim Rose and The Enigma from the Jim Rose Circus. But more importantly, fans also get to see Scully’s impressive magic skills.
Season 3, Episode 4 (Original air date: Oct. 13, 1995)
A going-nowhere-fast life insurance salesman named Clyde Bruckman (played by Peter Boyle, who won an Emmy for his role) happens to possess the ability to see how people are going to die. Mulder and Scully discover his talents and ask him to help them find a serial killer who’s targeting clairvoyants. There’s even a nod to the ongoing gag that Mulder has an addiction to kinky porn, especially when Bruckman hints that Mulder will eventually die of autoerotic asphyxiation.
Season 6, Episode 3 (Original air date: Nov. 22, 1998)
In this unusual time-travel episode, Mulder is lost in the Bermuda Triangle and ends up on a WWII-era passenger ship invaded by Nazis. Oddly enough, many of the characters Mulder runs into on the ship look identical to co-workers in his modern-day life — from his supervisor Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and nemesis Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), to his beloved partner Scully. This episode was inspired by director Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rope and series creator Chris Carter shot each act except the last in a single take. The last scene was filmed in split-screen style.
Season 2, Episode 2 (Original air date: Sept. 23, 1994)
Mulder and Scully discover a bizarre fluke-like mutated man during their investigation of a body found in the sewers of New Jersey. The episode touches upon the historic Chernobyl disaster, the dangers of pollution and the truly gross side of parasites in an episode that will haunt fans for some time.
Season 2, Episode 7 (Original air date: Nov. 4, 1994)
After Scully is abducted, Mulder must carry on solo, investigating unusual cultlike murders in Los Angeles. A nest of vampires seems to be the cause, and Mulder finds himself in danger by falling for one of them. Will Mulder’s heart get him killed, especially without Scully around to talk some sense into him? Or will he figure out that a beautiful blood-sucker isn’t the best girlfriend material?
Season 5, Episode 3 (Original air date: Nov. 16, 1997)
This flashback episode takes viewers back in time to 1989 to show the origins of Mulder’s braintrust — the conspiracy-obsessed hackers known as(Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood). Interestingly, this episode also served as a crossover to NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street, where Detective John Munch (played by Richard Belzer) interrogates the trio.
Season 2, Episode 14 (Original air date: Jan. 27, 1995)
Mulder and Scully travel to Milford Falls, New Hampshire, to look into the mysterious death of a teenager possibly connected to the occult. The local high school’s faculty could also be part of a secretive satanic cult. But what happens when one of the teachers might actually be the devil himself? This episode also has a hilarious scene where frogs rain down from the sky, perplexing both Mulder and Scully.
Season 5, Episode 5 (Original air date: Nov. 30, 1997)
This episode, shot on black and white film, is a surreal take on the classic Frankenstein monster story. Mulder and Scully arrive in a small rural town (a typical X-Files trope) to investigate claims that a monster who happens to be obsessed with Cher is sedating and impregnating the local women. One of the townspeople even creates a comic book about the creature, which he’s nicknamed the Great Mutato. This isn’t only one of the weirdest monster episodes, but it also ends with a touching dance scene between Mulder and Scully.
Season 6, Episode 15 (Original air date: March 7, 1999)
Mulder and Scully go undercover as suburban husband and wife in a planned community where residents are disappearing. While this story doesn’t have the most exciting monster to reveal, it’s the hilarity of Mulder and Scully pretending to be married to fool suspicious neighbors that makes this episode a delight to watch. Mulder’s reaction to Scully’s mud beauty mask is hilarious, as is his drive to unnerve the homeowners association by placing tacky and rule-breaking lawn ornaments in front of their house.
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