The X-Files is one of the most influential shows in the history of television. It made monsters, the paranormal, and aliens popular among audiences other than hard-core sci-fi fans, and set a standard for serialized storytelling at the time, and continues to inspire countless imitations.
The X-Files produced some of TV's best, weirdest, scariest, and silliest episodes. Some were great, others not so much. The mythology episodes kind of stopped making sense after a while and some monster-of-the-week episodes were just too nonsensical to be enjoyable. However, no matter how many times it messed up, it still managed to rise from the ashes and deliver a truly incredible hour of television. And while we're on the subject of episodes, here are the five best and five worst X-Files episodes.
10 WORST: SEASON 2, EPISODE 7 “3”
While the show’s season five vampire episode “Bad Blood” is beloved and critically acclaimed, season two episode “3” is almost universally hated and panned. This episode commits two major sins when it comes to X-Files. Number one, it’s boring – and a show like X-Files should never be boring. Number two, it doesn’t have Scully.
Coming after the riveting two-parter “Duane Barry” and "Ascension," this vampire episode attempted to portray Mulder coping with Scully’s disappearance, but the tone was way off, so instead all it did was upset the fans. Everything from the erotic thriller vibe to the misguided romance subplot to the horrible dialogue reeks of lazy writing. While the episode certainly tried to have some substance and depth, it failed spectacularly.
9 BEST: SEASON 4, EPISODE 2 “HOME”
Get ready for some nightmare fuel. This season four episode, written by Glen Morgan and James Wong and directed by Kim Manners, sparked so much controversy and induced so much fear that Fox blocked it from being re-aired. It’s by far the scariest X-Files episode of all time and easily beats tons of horror movies at their own game.
“Home,” with its twisted plot and characters, is rightfully considered an X-Files classic and one of the show's best episodes. Revolving around a trio of murderous and deformed inbred brothers who keep their paraplegic mother/sexual partner stashed under the bed on a secluded farm in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, this episode is one of the most disgusting hours of television you'll find.
8 WORST: SEASON 1, EPISODE 9 “SPACE”
Not bad in the same dumb way as, say, “Fight Club” or even in a disappointing way as some of the mythology episodes, but awful nonetheless, “Space” is one of the show’s most hated episodes and one of its most forgettable. If there’s one thing most X-Files episodes are not, whether they’re the best or the worst, it’s boring. Yet, the season one episode “Space” is such a drag that most fans have long forgotten what it was even about.
So, let us refresh your memory. In “Space,” Mulder and Scully go to Houston to investigate the case of an astronaut possessed by an extraterrestrial entity. It’s a low-budget bottle episode with horrible special effects – even by 1990s standards, an abundance of NASA stock footage, lacking any sense of intrigue and suspense. Nothing important happened here and if you’re planning a re-watch, skip this one.
7 BEST: SEASON 5, EPISODE 12 "BAD BLOOD"
Written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Cliff Bole, “Bad Blood” tells the story of Mulder and Scully: The Vampire Hunters. After Mulder drives a stake through the heart of a teenage boy he believed to be a vampire, Mulder and Scully are summoned by Skinner to explain "essentially, exactly the way it happened."
In order to get to the bottom of what drove Mulder to do “the thing with the thing” we’re shown the story from Mulder and Scully’s differing perspectives and it’s as hilarious as it is insightful. From Scully’s hilarious autopsy to Mulder rapping the Shaft theme to pretty much everything they said in the office, this is straight up the funniest episode of The X-Files. “Bad Blood” also manages to capture the beauty of Mulder and Scully’s relationship perhaps better than any other episode, as it shows how much they care for each other despite their differences.
6 WORST: SEASON 11, EPISODE 1 "MY STRUGGLE III"
The show’s mythology episodes are kind of a mixed bag. And most fans will agree, that it all came to a head in the series two-season revival. The whole “My Struggle” arc is almost universally hated, riddled with plot holes, and disappointingly anticlimactic. While any “My Struggle” episode, save for the first due to all the nostalgia feels it invoked, could have easily ended up here as one of the worst episodes, the third installment was met with the most reproach and for good reason.
In the season eleven premiere, pulling a Dallas, Chris Carter decided to retcon the season ten finale, relying on the oh-so-clever “it was all a dream” trope. Any excitement and hopes we may have had after the first two struggles were swiftly extinguished in a single hour of very poorly written television. No wonder Gillian Anderson called it quits.
5 BEST: SEASON 3, EPISODE 20 “JOSE CHUNG’S FROM OUTER SPACE”
“Jose Chung’s from Outer Space” is one of the best examples of satire and meta-humor in television history. Written by Darin Morgan and directed by Rob Bowman, this brilliant episode set itself apart from the serious and heavy tone established up to this point of the show by satirizing The X-Files as much as the sci-fi genre in general.
A quirky sci-fi novelist Jose Chung decides to write a book about a real-life alien abduction and, faced with multiple unreliable narrators, each with their own version of specific events that may or may not have led to the supposed abduction, he turns to the FBI – specifically Agent Scully, for clarification. Putting a new spin on the Rashomon effect, the episode features multiple accounts of the same events, posing questions about the elusiveness of finding the truth and poking fun at the concept of the show itself. “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” is the go-to guide for meta-comedy that other shows have been heavily borrowing from for decades. It’s groundbreaking television and X-Files at its absolute best.
4 WORST: SEASON 3, EPISODE 18 "TESO DOS BICHOS"
In the hilarious season eleven episode “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,” Reggie reminisces of the events that transpired in “Teso Dos Bichos” and comments “guys if this turns out to be killer cats I’m gonna be very disappointed” – well, so were we Reggie, so were we. In one of the lowest-rated and most hate X-Files episodes by the cast, crew, and fans, Mulder and Scully investigate a series of unexplained deaths that occur when an ancient artifact, apparently possessed by a Jaguar Spirit, causes kitties to go on a purge.
The episode is especially hated by the director Kim Manners who even made T-shirts for the cast and crew that read “Teso Dos Bichos’ Survivor.” And right now, we’re thinking we need those too.
3 BEST: SEASON 2, EPISODES 16/17 “COLONY” & “END GAME”
Though there are some valid arguments made against Chris Carter and his mythology episodes, implying that it’s all bad is disingenuous, to say the least. Because when the mythology episodes are good, they’re phenomenal. Such is the case with the season two two-parter, “Colony” and “End Game.” This rollercoaster of an episode is the best example of what X-Files mythology episodes have the potential to be.
The two-parter deals with Mulder’s quest to find his sister and offers emotional resonance by showing us how haunted he is by what happened. Samantha seemingly comes back but turns out to be a clone, which brings us to another reason this episode is fantastic – the introduction of the clones and the truly horrifying Alien Bounty Hunter. “Colony” sets up the pieces perfectly and “End Game” sticks the landing, concluding arguably the most emotionally intense X-Files episode.
2 WORST: SEASON 7, EPISODE 20 “FIGHT CLUB”
“Fight Club” is hands down the worst episode of The X-Files. Far from being the only legitimately bad episode of the show, but far worse than anything else at the bottom of the ladder. The episode guest-stars Kathy Griffin as a pair of twins born to two different mothers and fathered by the same donor, who cause chaos and mayhem wherever they go because they have the power to make people in their vicinity fight – apparently due to the rage passed on to them by their enraged father's sperm... if that makes sense.
And as if this whole concept wasn’t horrible already, it only gets worse because Griffin’s awful portrayal of the twins ruins whatever slight, ironic enjoyment you could possibly get from this ridiculous set-up and poor writing.
1 BEST: SEASON 3, EPISODE 4 “CLYDE BRUCKMAN’S FINAL REPOSE”
Darin Morgan won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series for the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite season three episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” Guest-starring the late Peter Boyle as an enigmatic and reluctant psychic who can tell how people are going to die, the episode revolves around Mulder and Scully’s investigation of a series of murders of psychics and fortune tellers.
In an episode that is as dark as it is hilarious, Morgan puts themes like free will and fatalistic determinism to the forefront while making jokes about autoerotic asphyxiation, and it works magnificently. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is the best representation of everything the X-Files could be and everything that made it great – suspenseful, scary, funny, and heartrending. This isn’t just one of the best X-Files episode, it’s one of the best episodes in the history of television.