For years, The X-Files was the most successful Science-Fiction series on television, succeeding on two nights of the week that are typically death traps for TV on Fridays and Sundays. The series was unique at the time and was the precursor for shows since then like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.
The X-Files was a show with an overarching mythos that was almost more fun when it played out Monster of the Week episodes. The quality of the series dropped somewhat when David Duchovny left the show. However, his return for two brand-new seasons in 2016 and 2018 proved that it might have just been time to end. Here is a look at the best episode of every season of The X-Files, ranked from worst to first.
There was a lot of justified critical complaints about the return of The X-Files when Fox brought it back in 2016. However, there was one highlight that both critics and fans pointed out, and that was the good old-fashioned Monster of the Week episode.
In "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster," Mulder meets the monster and sees it is not as it seemed. The "were-monster" was a lizard-man (Rhys Darby) who turned into a human in the day after a human bit him. It was a humorous and surreal episode that was an instant classic.
The second season of the return to The X-Files was better received than the first, as it played a little more with the fun and monster episodes while delving a little less into a season-long mythos. The best episode of the last season of the series was "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat."
The episode played out like a parody as it dealt with the Mandela Effect, which is when people recall something that either happened or remembered it differently than it happened.
It should come as no surprise that the best episode of the final season of The X-Files' initial run was the episode where Fox Mulder finally returned. "The Truth" was a two-part series finale and saw Mulder find evidence that his belief alien forces came to Earth for colonization was real.
However, when he kills a super-soldier who attacks him (Adam Baldwin), he is tried for murder and finally learns the truth about everything. The series, at that time, ended with Mulder and Scully finally together in the end.
The best episode of season 7 was its finale. Said episode is notable for being the last of the original run with Fox Mulder as a primary character. In "Requiem," Mulder and Scully head back to the scene of the first investigation they ever worked together when Scully was still a skeptical newcomer to the world of the supernatural.
The episode ends with some significant changes, including Mulder disappearing via abduction, the Cigarette Smoking Man's apparent death, and the pregnancy of Dana Scully.
Scully spent the entire eighth season pregnant while searching for Mulder with her new partner Doggett (Robert Patrick). It was an interesting turn as Scully took over Mulder's role as the believer while her new partner was the skeptical one who didn't believe in the unknown. Basically, things came full circle for Scully.
That changed by season's end in "Existence" when Scully delivered her child and shared the moment with Mulder. Meanwhile, Doggett and new partner Reyes (Annabeth Gish) looked poised to carry the series from that point forward.
"Dreamland" was a two-parter in season 6 that saw Mulder and Scully end up at the legendary Area 51 for an investigation. While there, they are accosted by personnel from the base before seeing a mysterious craft take off.
When this happens, Mulder and one of the men on base switch bodies, leading to Mulder's desperate attempts to get back to his own body before it's too late. Michael McKean stars as Mulder's body swap and the episodes relied heavily on humor, which was a nice break in the season.
The first season laid the groundwork for everything that was set to come. But honestly, it ranks a little low on the listing of the best X-Files seasons of all-time as they were still trying to find their footing. The best episode of that season was its finale, "The Erlenmeyer Flask."
This episode had a car chase lead Mulder and Scully to a scientific lab where they discover experiments with alien DNA, proving Mulder's conspiracy theories right. It was the perfect end to an opening season that promised more to come.
The Cigarette Smoking Man appeared in the pilot episode of The X-Files and then proved to be dangerous in that season's finale. Since then, he's become a staple of the series and kept coming back, even when death seemed imminent.
This is because he has been around for a very long time. In the season 4 episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man," the Lone Gunmen reveal the closest thing to his origin story, although the whole truth remains shrouded in mystery.
Season 3 featured the episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Response," which is one of the best in the entire series. Peter Boyle guest-starred in the episode as Clyde Bruckman, a psychic who foresees how people are going to die.
The episode is also important as it predicts the final scene from the regular run of the series as well as the idea that Scully "doesn't die." This episode of The X-Files rightfully won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing, and Boyle picked up an Emmy as well.
Season 2 of The X-Files really started to pick up steam, and it ended with one of the best episodes in the series' history: the second seasonal finale titled "Anasazi." As with most season finales in the show's history, this one dealt with the overwhelming arc and mythos of the series.
It was the episode that ended with Mulder finding dead alien creatures with suspicious smallpox vaccinations on their arms. The cliffhanger when the Cigarette Smoking Man showed up made the wait for season 3 almost unbearable.
Arguably, the best season in X-Files history was the fifth and the best episode in the show's entire history was season 5's "Bad Blood." This episode saw Mulder and Scully on an investigation in Texas when Mulder shot and killed a teenage boy, mistaking him for a vampire.
The partners have to get their stories straight to get to the truth about what happened. The theme was investigating the relationship between Mulder and Scully, and it remains a fan favorite to this day.