The 10 Best Episodes of The X-Files

Credit: Courtesy FOX

It's safe to say that The X-Files' revival is the first big television event of 2016. This week the show returned to Fox for the first time since its 2002 series finale. The highly anticipated six-episode miniseries reunites Agents Mulder and Scully (and some other familiar faces) as they continue to tackle conspiracies, paranormal events, and unending sexual tension. The original series, which consists of nine seasons—202 episodes!—and two feature-length movies, is daunting enough to get through (though certainly worth it), but what if you're crunched for time? Your best bet is to watch (or re-watch) just a handful of necessary episodes, a mixture of funny and serious; monster-of-the-week and mythology; character development and creepy occurrences. To help get you caught up, here are 10 episodes to binge on Netflix.

 "Ice" (Season 1, Episode 8)
The natural route is to begin with the pilot—one of the best pilot episodes out there—but a better way to go is to watch "Ice" instead. It's a fairly simplistic, body-snatching episode but it’s one that makes great use of its setting (a freezing research station in the Arctic) and of the alien threat. Most importantly, it deeps the relationship between Mulder and Scully, setting up their basic opposing traits (believer vs skeptic) while also remarking on how well they work together.

"Duane Barry" (Season 2, Episode 5)
Chris Carter’s directing debut, "Duane Barry" is an early with a twist on the hostage situation narrative: Duane Barry takes a travel agency hostage while trying to convince everyone that his alien abduction story is real. What could’ve been just a standalone episode (it works that way, too), "Duane Barry" goes even further in setting up Scully's abduction arc, setting up building blocks that will make more sense as the show progresses.


"Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" (Season 3, Episode 5)
Certainly one of the most unforgettable episodes of The X-Files, "Clyde Bruckman" is a fan favorite. Centered on a man who can see the future (and who hates his “talent), "Clyde Bruckman" effortlessly takes on the heavy topic of mortality all while displaying a sense of humor that helps keeps everything light.

"Nisei" (Season 3, Episode 9)
While the majority of ­X-Files episodes takes on a "monster-of-the-week" format, the series also included several mythology arcs in a longer narrative. "Nisei" is an example, and comes early in Season 3—the last time the mytharc episodes were exceptionally great. Between alien autopsy videos, The Lone Gunmen, a few stunts, and a stellar cliffhanger, "Nisei" is one of the series' best.

"Pusher" (Season 3, Episode 17)
"Pusher" was written by Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan and is the first indication that he would go on to produce great television. It’s a tense but straightforward monster-of-the-week episode about a villain who has the power to control minds. This sets up a cat-and-mouse game with Mulder that plays out brilliantly.

"Home" (Season 4, Episode 2)
Not for the faint of heart, "Home" is one of the most talked-about episodes of The X-Files, and one that will stick with you. One thing that I tend to forget when re-watching the episodes is how legitimately scary and unsettling the show was during its first run. But “Home,” about a creepy, shocking, and inbred family, is an immediate reminder.

"Leonard Betts" (Season 4, Episode 12)
Ask anyone about the most important ­X-Files episodes and "Leonard Betts" is guaranteed to pop up. The titular Leonard is a headless corpse who is made out of cancer, and who has to keep eating cancer to survive. It’s gory and gross in the best possible ways but what’s remarkable is how it ties into "Duane Barry" and how it sets up Scully's cancer storyline for the rest of the series.

"Bad Blood" (Season 5, Episode 12)
"Bad Blood" is a quintessential X-Files episode and one that's easy to love even if you're not very familiar with the series. Mulder and Scully investigate strange happenings in a small town (not exactly out of character) and stumble into a vampire story that's both very silly and very enjoyable—and has some fun twists along the way.

"Folie A Deux" (Season 5, Episode 19)
The weirdest thing about "Folie A Deux" isn’t the giant bug monster but the fact that it took this long for Mulder to end up in a psychiatric ward—and it’s no coincidence that it happens when Mulder decides to take on a case without Scully around to tether him to the ground.

"How The Ghosts Stole Christmas" (Season 6, Episode 6)
There are criticisms that this episode is a little too basic when it comes to Mulder and Scully's relationship but it’s one of my personal favorites. Guest starring Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin as two ghosts in a haunted house, it's a wonderfully bitter Christmas story that works any time of the year.