The X-Files is one of the biggest shows of the 1990s and often listed as one of the greatest and most influential shows ever made. Created by Chris Carter, The X-Files re-defined the medium even though it was an outright underdog at the start. The show's legacy is undeniable, with a myriad of television series, movies, and other fictional works having been strongly influenced by this 1990s classic.
As fans, we're always on the lookout for something that will fill that X-Files-sized hole in our lives, as we're sure many of you are. With that in mind, we created a list of ten recommendations for those of you who miss The X-Files.
10 THE TWILIGHT ZONE
One of the biggest inspirations for The X-Files was Rod Sterling’s 1959 anthology series The Twilight Zone, and we would be remiss not to point you to this classic television series. Each episode is a standalone story that deals with disturbing and unusual events – an experience described as “entering the Twilight Zone”, an expression commonly used today to describe surreal experiences.
Recently, the show has been revived on CBS All Access, developed by Simon Kinberg, Jordan Peele, and Marco Ramirez. So, if you don’t feel like giving the old one a chance, perhaps you’d be interested in The Twilight Zone of this century. In any case, fans of The X-Files are likely to enjoy this one.
9 STRANGER THINGS
One of Netflix’s greatest hits, Stranger Things took the world by storm when it dropped on July 15, 2016. Created by the Duffer brothers, this critically-acclaimed show has gained a massive fan following. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s, season one revolves around the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy in the midst of supernatural events happening around the town. Including, but not limited to, the sudden appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities.
The first season sees the search for the missing boy as well as the investigation into the supernatural events from various points of view, but with the group of children as the focal point. Balancing humor and a nostalgic charm against the looming darkness and sheer horror, the Duffer brothers managed to create craft an engaging story with fully-developed characters in a masterfully-created world that works as a loving homage to the 1980s pop culture. With monsters, conspiracies, and an outstanding cast of characters, Stranger Things has everything an X-Files fan can wish for.
8 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
Created by Joss Whedon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most iconic TV shows of the 1990s. The supernatural drama follows Buffy Summers, a Vampire Slayer chosen to battle against vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness. Widely considered as one of the best television shows ever made, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is distinguished by Whedon’s unique writing style with lots of bathos, dry wit, and quippy dialogue.
With the right blend of suspense and humor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a lot like The X-Files, even though you'll have to substitute FBI agents for vampire-hunting high school students. On the flip side, both shows take place in the 1990s, deal with the supernatural, and feature fierce female characters. Plus, Whedon described the show as "My So-Called Life with The X-Files". If you like Buffy, make sure to check out Whedon's other shows like Firefly and Dollhouse.
7 PERSON OF INTEREST
If you have an itch for conspiracy theories, allow us to suggest Person of Interest – a show about conspiracies and paranoia for the modern age. Harold Finch, a billionaire software genius, built a computer system for the government after 9/11 which monitors all electronic communications and surveillance video feeds to predict future criminal activities. “The Machine” also predicts other lethal crimes, but since those aren’t a matter of national security, they’re deleted daily. Finch forms a team and starts investigating these so-called persons of interest in an effort to understand the case and stop the crime from occurring.
Much like The X-Files captured the alien conspiracy zeitgeist of the 1990s, Person of Interest tackles the conspiracies and paranoia that work in today’s society – namely, mass surveillance, dangers of technology, superintelligent artificial intelligence, and the like.
6 WAREHOUSE 13
Warehouse 13 follows a pair of Secret Service agents assigned to the top-secret storage facility Warehouse 13, which houses countless historical artifacts imbued with some kind of energy that gives them mysterious abilities. Warehouse 13 is perhaps most aptly described as a lighter take on The X-Files with enchanted objects.
Most episodes follow the team on a mission to retrieve a misplaced artifact that is causing some kind of mayhem, while each season has its own arc and the main villain. The show is full of wonder, comedy, and, of course, historical and pop culture references. If the more humorous and wacky episodes of The X-Files are your jam, make sure to give Warehouse 13 a chance. You will not be disappointed.
While Bones doesn’t deal with the paranormal and supernatural, anyone who’s seen it has probably drawn a number of parallels with The X-Files. Created by Hart Hanson and based on a book series by Kathy Reichs, Bones follows FBI agent Seely Booth and forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan, an unlikely crime-solving duo, who tackle cases involving mysterious human remains.
Bones is a staunch believer in facts and evidence, while Booth is more openminded, and their dynamic is actually very similar to that of Mulder and Scully. Their professional relationship grows into a romantic one, and it even leads to something. The show has a good dose of weird cases, witty banter, quirky characters, and funny moments, much like The X-Files. Booth even references the sci-fi classic in the pilot episode.
Much like Bones, Castle features an unorthodox crime-fighting duo consisting of the NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett and the best-selling mystery writer Richard Castle. Together with Beckett’s team, detectives Esposito and Ryan, and her best friend/medical examiner Dr. Parish, they solve New York City’s weirdest murder cases.
Castle definitely took some cues from The X-Files when it comes to the dynamic between the two main characters. Castle is clearly the Mulder to Beckett’s Scully, as pointed out in the show itself. Moreover, Castle has a similar blend of comedy and drama, with tons of unforgettable case-of-the-week genre episodes. In season three, the show even did an X-Files homage episode in which Castle whistled The X-Files opening theme and name-dropped the Cigarette Smoking Man. If you still need more convincing, the show’s overarching plot is focused on the investigation of the murder of Beckett’s mother, which unveils a conspiracy.
3 TWIN PEAKS
The spiritual predecessor and inspiration for various sci-fi shows, including The X-Files, Twin Peaks is widely considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Sadly, it lasted for only two seasons due to declining ratings. Nevertheless, this mystery horror television series is more than worth your time. Created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, the series follows FBI agent Dale Cooper, who's investigating the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the fictional town of Twin Peaks.
Since this is David Lynch, Twin Peaks is distinguished by surrealism and offbeat humor. It is a unique show with its uncanny tone and campy and melodramatic characters, but that's what makes it so good. The show was revived in 2017 with Twin Peaks: The Return, so now is as good a time as any to get into it.
Created by Chris Carter of The X-Files fame and set in the same universe as The X-Files, Millennium unfortunately only lasted for three seasons, but that doesn’t preclude it from being considered one of the greatest sci-fi shows ever made. However, if you’re still not sold on it, let us tell you what this short-lived series is all about.
Millennium featured Frank Black, former FBI agent and a freelance forensic profiler with the ability to see inside the minds of serial killers and murderers, who works for the mysterious organization known as the Millennium Group. Plot twist: it turns out they’re a secret society hell-bent on instigating the end of the world. Described commonly as a cross between The X-Files and Se7en, Millennium is a dark and tense thriller that will hook you from episode one.
If there is a true spiritual successor to The X-Files, then it’s without a doubt Fringe. Created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, this cult classic ran on FOX for five seasons. The show drew inspiration from series like Lost, The Twilight Zone, and, of course, The X-Files. Fringe starts off as a monster-of-the-week procedural but becomes increasingly more serialized as time goes by.
Usually, an episode of Fringe will follow several plotlines, including a standalone plot, aka the weird-of-the-week, and one that explores the series’ mythology. Fans of The X-Files can look forward to tons of weird and often spooky cases, well-written and fully-developed characters and relationships, lots of witty banter, and an overall similar feel to Chris Carter's sci-fi hit. In a way, Fringe is The X-Files of the 2000s, so if you’re an X-Phile, you need to give this show a chance.