DISCOVER--twenty-five of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone was created by television writer Rod Serling as a way of circumventing the censorship of 1950s television and writing about important themes concealed within twist ending fantasy tales. In this, he was largely successful, and many episodes tackled serious subjects of the day. Some are even more relevant today than ever, some embarrassingly outdated. Other episodes, working equally well, were simple fables, pulp sci-fi, or horror stories.

Serling wrote about two thirds of the episodes himself, allowing only writers he completely trusted to maintain the quality to supply the others. Those writers included Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and Earl Hamner.

The Twilight Zone, which ran for five seasons, four half an hour long, and the fourth as an hour, is unique in that unlike most other series, which either improve, peak, or deteriorate as they proceed, it had as many good, bad, and medium episodes each season. The fifth season had the same percentage of gems, duds, triumphs and clunkers as the first, second, third, and fourth. When it was bad, it was bad, but when it was good, it was absolutely amazing. These are the ones that struck a chord with me for one reason or another. You might have your own. That's the fun of it.

The cast credits listed here are a nonsense; this was an anthology series--actually, THE anthology series--and Rod Serling was the creator, host, and writer of many of the episodes. The other three names listed are bit players from various episodes. I've added the correct main players. In the meantime, don't wait for me--why not check 'em out?
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The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Walking Distance (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A man makes a time travel to his childhood, when he's just a few miles away from his native town. (51 mins.)
“ An incredibly moving time travel yarn about an ad exec on the verge of a nervous breakdown who mysteriously finds himself back in his untroubled youth. Trying to polish his past, he instead puts a small chip in it. One of my favourite TV episodes of anything ever, this will rip your guts out. Bernard Herrman's original score is wonderful.

with Gig Young, Frank Overton, Irene Tedrow, Michael Montgomery, Byron Foulger, Ronny (Ron) Howard. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Judgment Night (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
It's 1942, and a man finds himself on a ship in the Atlantic, not knowing who he is, nor how he got there. He does know the ship will soon be attacked by a German U-boat. (51 mins.)
“ A good old comeuppance tale, with the usual fraught histrionics from Nehemiah Persoff, but appropriate for once. Moving, and satisfyingly vengeful.

with Nehemiah Persoff, Ben Wright (and brief glimpses of Patrick MacNee and James Franciscus). ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Three U.S. astronauts blast off from Earth on an initial test flight in an experimental rocket-ship... (51 mins.)
“ No logic to this one, it's just a terrifying, unstoppable, and relentless nightmare.

with Rod Taylor, James Hutton, Charles Aidman. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Third from the Sun (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Two families of Government employees plan to steal a spaceship and travel to another planet just prior to a nuclear war. They must also deal with a stooge who wants to stop them. (51 mins.)
“ A clever shaggy dog tale. The more I look at the visuals of the covert spaceship theft, the more convinced I am that Lee and Kirby were watching round about the time they wrote the first issue of Fantastic Four...

with Fritz Weaver, Joe Maross, Edward Andrews, Denise Alexander, Lori March, Jeanne Evans. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Order breaks down between three surviving crewmen whose rocket ship crashes on an unknown world with limited water and supplies. (51 mins.)
“ Fantastic twist ending.

with Dewey Martin, Ed Binns, Ted Otis, Harry Bartell, Leslie Barrett. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Long Live Walter Jameson (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A father forbids a history professor from marrying his daughter when he discovers that the captivating lecturer is actually an immortal who has lived for thousands of years. (51 mins.)
“ The best TV I've ever seen on the subject of immortality.

with Kevin McCarthy, Edgar Stehli, Estelle Winwood, Dody Heath. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Biologist Sam Conrad is scheduled to go on a mission to Mars and is genuinely concerned about what they will find there... (51 mins.)
“ Another classic twist ending, just as discomfiting as the above, but more likely to provoke a smile than a dropped jaw.

with Roddy McDowall, Susan Oliver, Paul Comi, Vic Perrin, Byron Morrow, Vernon Gray. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Execution (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
When a 20th-century scientist tests out his time machine he accidentally retrieves a 19th-century murderer - saving him from the hangman's noose. Unaware of the man's history, the two attempt to acclimatize him to his new surroundings. (51 mins.)
“ A great script enhances this morality tale superbly realised by Albert Salmi, who usually played more light-hearted scoundrels, but here portrays a callous and coldly pragmatic human animal with chilling depth.

with Albert Salmi, Russell Johnson, Thann Wyenn, George Mitchell, Jon Lormer, Richard Karlan. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: A Stop at Willoughby (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
Tired of his miserable job and wife, a businessman starts dreaming on the train each night, about an old, idyllic town called Willoughby. Soon he has to know whether the town is real and fancies the thought of seeking refuge there. (51 mins.)
“ A more saccharine and sentimental rehash of Walking Distance (the themes of which Serling constantly revisited), but I like it...

with James Daly, Howard Smith, Patricia Donahue, Jason Wingreen, James Maloney, Mavis Neal. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: The After Hours (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A woman is treated badly by some odd salespeople on an otherwise empty department store floor. (51 mins.)
“ Silly, but fun.

with Anne Francis, James Milhollin, Elizabeth Allen, Nancy Rennick. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: The Howling Man (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Seeking refuge from a storm, a traveler comes upon a bizarre abbey of monks, who have imprisoned a man who begs for his help. When he confronts the head monk, he is told that the man is the Devil, and he must decide whom to believe. (51 mins.)
“ For the magnificent transformation sequence at the end... done the hard way, in 1960...

with H.M. Wynant, John Carradine, Robin Hughes. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Eye of the Beholder (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
A young woman lying in a hospital bed, her head wrapped in bandages, awaits the outcome of a surgical procedure performed by the State in a last-ditch attempt to make her look "normal". (51 mins.)
“ Love the idea, love the make-up. Slow by today's standards, but so clever.

with Maxine Stuart, George Keymas, William D. Gordon, Donna Douglas. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A nostalgic actor revisits his late wife and friends at their old haunt, only to find that he is now out of place there. (51 mins.)
“ Walking Distance yet again, but quite poignant and touching in its own right.

with Brian Aherne, Pippa Scott, Sidney Pollack, Larry Blake, Dave Willock, King Calder, David Thursby, Charles Carlson, John Kroger. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: The Night of the Meek (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
After a derelict Santa Claus is fired on Christmas Eve, he finds a mysterious bag that gives out presents. With this bag he sets out to fulfill his one wish - to see the less fortunate inherit the bounties of Christmas. (51 mins.)
“ A corny Christmas episode, but just right for the season.

with Art Carney, John Fiedler, Robert Lieb, Val Avery, Meg Wylie, Kay Cousins, Burt Mustin. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Mr. Dingle, the Strong (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A timid vacuum-cleaner salesman is given the strength of 300 men by some experimenting aliens. (51 mins.)
“ A bit of a slog, but I love the aliens...

with Burgess Meredith, James Westerfield, Edward Ryder, James Milhollin, Don Rickles, Douglas Spencer, Michael Fox, Donald Losby, Greg Irwin. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Long Distance Call (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A toy telephone becomes the link between a young boy and his dead grandmother. (51 mins.)
“ Creepy...

with Billy Mumy, Patricia Smith, Philip Abbott, Lili Darvas, Jenny Maxwell. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
Following a frantic phone call about a crashed spaceship, two policeman try and determine who among the passengers of a bus at a snowed-in roadside diner is from another world. (51 mins.)
“ Another great shaggy dog story, and very cleverly done for the time. The special effects are pure theatre in their simplicity, but beautifully done.

with John Hoyt, Barney Phillips, Jean Willes, Jack Elam, John Archer. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: It's a Good Life (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
On an isolated family farm, a young boy with vast mental powers, but lacking emotional development, holds his terrified family in thrall to his every juvenile wish. (51 mins.)
“ Billy Mumy's signature piece.

with Billy Mumy, Cloris Leachman, John Larch, Don Keefer, Alice Frost, Casey Adams, Jeanne Bates, Lenore Kingston, Tom Hatcher. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Nothing in the Dark (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
An old woman has fought with death a thousand times and has always won. But now she finds herself afraid to let a wounded policeman in her door for fear he is Mr. Death. Is he? (51 mins.)
“ I like the sentiments behind this one.

with Gladys Cooper, Robert Redford, R.G. Armstrong. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: The Hunt (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Upon returning from a coon hunt, Hyder Simpson discovers that no one can see or hear him because he has passed on. (51 mins.)
“ Great punchline. And I don't agree with the critics who complain about Hunnicutt's performance, I think it's absolutely right, properly subdued for a slow and simple man. To have ramped it up would have created a Beverly Hillbillies cartoon.

with Arthur Hunnicutt, Jeanette Nolan, Robert Ffoulk, Dexter Dupont, Orville Sherman, Charles Seel, Titus Moede. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: To Serve Man (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
An alien race comes to earth, promising peace and sharing technology. A linguist and his team set out to translate the alien's language, using a book whose title they deduce is "To Serve Man". (51 mins.)
“ Speaking of punchlines...!

with Lloyd Bochner, Susan Cummings, Richard Kiel. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Death Ship (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An interplanetary expedition from earth finds an exact duplicate of their ship and themselves crashed on the planet they were surveying. Should they stay or risk taking off and crashing? (51 mins.)
“ Behind a crass title, a sensitive and touching story.

with Jack Klugman, Ross Martin, Fred Beir, Mary Webster, Ross Elliott, Sara Taft, Tammy Marihugh. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
A man, newly recovered from a nervous breakdown, becomes convinced that a monster only he sees is damaging the plane he's flying in. (51 mins.)
“ Still packs a punch, all these years later... and look, Shatner used to be an actor! A tour-de-force, an amazing performance. Superb. And again being contrary, I love the gremlin. Okay, with today's TVs we can see the wires, but I think he's unique and seriously creepy.

with William Shatner, Christine White, Ed Kemmer, Asa Maynor, Nick Cravat. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In a future society everyone must undergo an operation at age 19 to become beautiful and conform to society. One young woman desperately wants to hold onto her own identity. (51 mins.)
“ Even more relevant today than when it was made.

with Collin Wilcox, Richard Long, Pam Austin, Suzy Parker. ” - jonabbott56
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
Episode: Stopover in a Quiet Town (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A hung-over couple awaken to find themselves not only in a strange house, but in a deserted town, where nothing is as it should be. (51 mins.)
“ I know it's silly, but I just like the ending...

with Barry Nelson, Nancy Malone.

Jon is not on Facebook, but can reply to comments here, at the base of this list.

Too true, slim. And don't pass on The Invaders!

Obsessed with the popular culture of the 1960s and surrounding decades, Jon Abbott has been writing about film and TV for over thirty years in around two dozen different publications, trade, populist, and specialist. He is the author of several books, including

Irwin Allen Television Productions 1964-1970,
Stephen J. Cannell Television Productions: A History of All Series and Pilots,
The Elvis Films,
Cool TV of the 1960s: Three Shows That Changed the World,
and Strange New World: Sex Films of the 1970s.

See his Amazon author's page, and his other lists on the IMDB, all under the pre-fix DISCOVER. ” - jonabbott56