Chris Carter's sci-fi classic The X-Files is one of the quintessential 1990s TV shows that still has a loyal following and keeps drawing in new fans. The show ended in May 2002 and then came back with a movie six years later. The film received mostly mixed reviews, but that didn't stop Fox from trying again.
In 2016, The X-Files came back with a six-episode tenth season that once again got mixed reviews, aside from the outstanding "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster." Season Eleven arrived in 2018 and fared better with the critics. Special praise went to yet another Darin Morgan episode, "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat." Morgan's episodes are, in general, favored by both the critics and the fans, as evidenced by IMDb's top ten highest-rated X-Files episodes ever. Check out the full list below.
10 "DREAMLAND" (SEASON 6, EPISODE 4)
The tenth-highest-rated X-Files episode is the first part of the hilarious Season Six two-parter "Dreamland." The episode guest-stars Michael McKean as Morris Fletcher, a man at Area 51, who switches bodies with Agent Mulder after witnessing the flight of a mysterious craft. Unbeknownst to anyone else, they both go on living as the other man.
The episode relies heavily on humor, which some have criticized it for, however, if you’re a fan of the more comedic X-Files episodes, "Dreamland" is probably one of your favorites. Mulder’s silly mirror dance in particular is very entertaining to watch. However, we still did not expect to find “Dreamland” so high up on the list, with a score of 9.1.
9 "JOSE CHUNG'S FROM OUTER SPACE" (SEASON 3, EPISODE 20)
This fan-favorite and critically-acclaimed episode was written by the incredible Darrin Morgan, the man behind a number of outstanding X-Files episodes. With an IMDb rating of 9.1, “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” is the episode that showed that X-Files had the capacity to create true comedy.
By relying on multiple unreliable narrators, Morgan crafted a fascinating story that pokes some fun at the show itself, delivers hilarious moments like Mulder’s girlish scream and the smoking alien, and includes a number of ridiculous cameos.
8 "SMALL POTATOES" (SEASON 4, EPISODE 20)
Coming in late season four, this Vince Gilligan-penned episode guest-starred Darin Morgan as Eddie Van Blundht, a man with the incredible ability to take on the appearance of any human being. Van Blundht used his ability to impregnate five women in a town in West Virginia, and the reason we know all the children came from the same father is that they were all born with a tail.
Of course, a man who can look like anyone, even Luke Skywalker, isn’t exactly easy to track down. At one point, he even takes the likeness of Agent Mulder and puts the moves on Scully. With a 9.1 IMDb score, “Small Potatoes” is truly one of the most entertaining and hilarious X-Files installments.
7 "THE ERLENMEYER FLASK" (SEASON 1, EPISODE 24)
The X-Files was in no way an instant hit. The sci-fi classic got off to a rocky start and the first season had some unfortunate flops. That being said, the first season did end on an epic note.
In the Season One finale “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” Mulder and Scully finally manage to get their hands on actual evidence that the government has been conducting secret experimentation with alien DNA. However, in the time-honored X-Files tradition, both the evidence and the people who have seen it soon become targets for elimination. Mythology episodes haven't always had the best ratings but "The Erlenmeyer Flask" is one of the exceptions, with an IMDb score of 9.1.
6 "MUSINGS OF A CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN" (SEASON 4, EPISODE 7)
In this Season Four episode, the mysterious Cigarette Smoking Man gets an origin story. While this could have gone terribly wrong, the writers actually managed to pull it off, and they did it by relying on one of X-Files' favorite tropes: unreliable narrators.
“Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” illustrates Smoking Man's possible involvement in historic events, such as the assassination of JFK, however, while entertaining, the accounts of Smoking Man’s life may well be pure fiction. Kudos to Glen Morgan for writing such an interesting and effective episode that rightfully holds a 9.2 IMDb rating.
5 "PAPER CLIP" (SEASON 3, EPISODE 2)
“Anasazi”, “Blessing Way”, and “Paper Clip” is a trilogy that laid the groundwork for the X-Files's mythology arc, much like Scully’s abduction and “The Erlenmeyer Flask” before it. “Paper Clip”, which has a 9.2 score, digs deep into the conspiracy theories teased in the first two seasons.
But, as Scully herself put it, they open doors with the X-Files which lead to other doors. For each answer they get, there are a dozen new questions. That cinematic sequence when Mulder and Scully discover possibly millions of files hidden in a remote mining facility (and the shot of the alien ship passing overhead) is one of the most memorable moments of the show.
4 "REDUX II" (SEASON 5, EPISODE 2)
The “Redux” episodes are definitely some of the most heartbreaking X-Files episodes. In case you forgot, this is the part in which Scully is diagnosed with cancer, which really makes her struggle with her faith and everything that she's experienced through the years. Watching her scenes in the hospital with Gillian Anderson looking so small, fatigued, and sick (and acting circles around everyone else) is utterly heartbreaking.
It’s not just Scully who gets these powerful character beats, though. Mulder’s scenes are just as heart-rending and poignant. "Redux II" has a 9.2 rating, and it thrives on the crucial component that made the show what it is: Mulder and Scully's chemistry and relationship.
3 "ANASAZI" (SEASON 2, EPISODE 25)
If you were wondering which season finale of The X-Files is the best, according to IMDb, it is “Anasazi,” which has a rating of 9.3. There’s a lot to unpack here. For instance, from the beginning of the episode, Mulder is acting uncharacteristically violently, as the water supply in his building had been dosed with drugs.
Already unstable, Mulder becomes livid when he finally gets his hands on what he believes to be an important tape only to find out it's in gibberish. Scully, however, figures out that it is encrypted in Navajo and finds a translator to help them decode it. “Anasazi” is an exciting thrill ride from start to finish.
2 "CLYDE BRUCKMAN'S FINAL REPOSE" (SEASON 3, EPISODE 4)
“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is the second-highest-rated X-Files episode of all time. It’s a Darin Morgan episode, so, of course, it’s funny in the most awesomely weird way possible that mashes perfectly with Mulder and Scully, and the X-Files.
But, precisely because it’s a Darin Morgan episode, it also tackles some big issues. Through a story about a real, albeit reluctant, prophet who finds himself in the midst of an FBI investigation into the deaths of fake psychics, Morgan manages to pose important questions about fate and death. With a score of 9.3, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is a fan favorite because it does virtually everything right.
1 "BAD BLOOD" (SEASON 5, EPISODE 12)
At number one, with a 9.4 score, we have the critically acclaimed, fan-favorite, and all-around unforgettable experience that is the Season Five episode “Bad Blood.” Written by Vince Gilligan, “Bad Blood” is one of those episodes that will have you laughing at every turn and that you will keep going back to over and over.
Watching Mulder and Scully tell two very different versions of the same story in an effort to get their stories straight and avoid a four-hundred-and-forty-six million-dollars lawsuit and possible prison time is endlessly entertaining. The dialogue is a cut above, the performances by Duchovny, Anderson, and guest-star Luke Wilson are outstanding, the script is witty, the comedy is top-notch, and the story is widely entertaining (all versions of it).