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The Top Ten X-Files Episodes –

For Reasons You Don't Expect... In No Particular Order

This Top Ten list does not feature numbers for the following reasons:

10) Some X-Philes prefer Conspiracy episodes while others prefer Monsters of the Week – neither is better than the other.

9) Mulder-based episodes vs Scully-based episodes: I will not get in the middle of that argument.

8) Just because Chris Carter wrote and directed an episode, doesn't automatically put it at the top.

7) Vancouver episodes vs Los Angeles episodes – hey, they were all made on the same continent, both can be equally judged.

6) I'm not going to say Krychek is a better bonus character than CSM, but he is.

5) Bad hair gets the same treatment as good hair.

4) Anyone who thinks you can accurately measure episode quality down to the 1/200th degree, is foolish.

3) Episode Scorecards are thicker than the Penal Code.

2) Every episode appeals to a different age group, and since I am one of many, this is my buffer.

1) It is IMPOSSIBLE to pick a favorite episode of this fantastic series.

Bad Blood [ SEASON 5, EPISODE 12 ]

Mulder and Scully jam into Texas to investigate a series of seven dead cows and one dead human. The classic signs of vampirism lead to two different versions of the weeks events.

I cannot deny Luke Wilson should have won an Emmy for his performance, but that is not why season five's gem is on my top ten. Yes, it is funny. Yes, it is unique. Yes, Duchovny sings Shaft. But Bad Blood is truly remarkable for the writers being able to resist all the stereotypical vampire B.S. Yes, Stoker's Dracula is appropriate for 1930. But for an audience of intelligent, observant viewers circa 1997, a highly evolved, fresh, modern glimpse of vampirism was crucial. And imperative to the rest of the series.

x Special Effects: Glowing green eyes were cool.

x Acting: I already mentioned Luke Wilson.

x Execution: Better than 3. By a long shot.

X Thoughts from Jessica –

"'Except for the part about the buck teeth,' Mulder gets in, just before FOX goes to the news. And that episode just couldn't be any better." ~ I agree. The writers squeezed every amount of awesome possible into this 45 minutes.

Triangle [ SEASON 6, EPISODE 3 ]

Scully and the Lone Gunmen search for a missing Mulder in the middle of the ocean. It turns out he fell into the Bermuda Triangle and ended up on a WWII cruise ship stolen by Nazis. Or did he?

Mitch Pileggi speaking German pretty much makes this episode. Oh? Did you want to hear me rant and rave about the cinematography, directing, and fabulous set designs? Yeah, those are good too, but Kersh as a Jamaican ship hand pretty much knocks my socks off. The clever time warp spin gave the writers a good opportunity to play with camera angles and techniques only the Queen Mary could deliver. The Wizard of Oz Shout Outs also continue to be timeless.

x Special Effects: Very nifty.

x Acting: Superb.

x Execution: Better than First Person Shooter.

X Thoughts from Jessica –

"'Let him tell it to the fishes!' the sailors all crow in their very not authentic accents. I think Chris Carter -- who did a bang-up job directing this episode – pulled all his dialogue out of Like, Totally, Dude: Verbal Shortcuts to Flesh Out Poorly Drawn Characters, Volume Three (Nazis, Jamaicans, and the English)." ~ Yeah, I suppose the actors couldn't quite nail their accents down. Except for Pileggi of course.

Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose [ SEASON 3, EPISODE 4 ]

Some dead fortune tellers bring the two FBI agents looking for what appears to be a psychic, serial killer. They enlist another non-killer psychic to help them catch the killer before Mulder gets it himself.

This classic, darker episode latent with humor (along with a top notch guest star) is a favorite for many for mostly those very reasons. What throws it on my top ten is the ground breaking, yet often overlooked feature, of the origination of the one and only Scully pet. No one ever questions why Mulder goes an entire series with fish, but Scully goes a mere season with her one little fluff ball. The Stupendous Yappi brings many laughs, but Bruckman's doggy neighbor melts animal lovers hearts nation wide.

x Special Effects: pretty darn good. And gross.

x Acting: Boyle steals the show.

x Execution: Better than Jose Chung's From Outer Space.

X Thoughts from Phil –

"This is a fabulous episode! The first of my three favorite episodes of the third season of The X-Files (which I personally think is the best season thus far despite its lurching into gore). Kudos to the creators on this one. Very well done! " ~ I have to disagree. I believe Pusher is better...


A top-notch team of researchers leave behind an ominous video tape in the arctic. So the duo join up with three other experts to fly into the crime scene in the middle of nowhere to see what went awry.

If you poll 100 X-File fans, I would not expect this first-season-gem to land on their "Top Ten." But I am a sucker for the "Mulder and Scully Trapped in a Bad Situation Far From Home with Some Strangers with a Killer Among Them and Time is of the Essence" episodes. Whew! But of course what puts this one (from the aforementioned, long-winded episode category) on my Top Ten is the intelligent story line. Between my first viewing and my last viewing, I went through a rigorous five-year university, which made me appreciate (and understand) the details of the plot. Glen Morgan and James Wong did their research! But clearly the best part of the forty-five minutes is the enthusiastic Charger fan.

x Special Effects: Not Too Shabby!

x Acting: Excellent... Best of the series thus far!

x Execution: Better than Fire.

X Thoughts from Phil –

"Obviously the investigative team wasn't worried about any type of airborne contagion. Arriving at the AICP, they wander in without breathing apparatus." ~ That is so, but then everyone would have looked really goofy in the marshmallow suits. Refer to Darkness Falls, Two Fathers, etc... not too cool looking.

Redux II [ SEASON 5, EPISODE 2 ]

Following the hospitalization of Scully and the magical appearance of his long lost sister, Mulder fights frantically to find a cure for Scully's cancer. Meanwhile loyalties within the FBI are questioned and the Scully family get upset.

The Obvious: Great ending to the Scully Cancer Arc. One of the most emotional, heart wrenching episodes of the series. Another sigh of relief over who's Skinner's alliances are. The Not -So-Obvious: The Confusing Signals Mulder sends about his New York sports team alliances. Um, did he decide to abandon basketball? Is he a band wagoner? Should I be concerned? Maybe. I think from this point on he only mentions the Yankees. Conspiracy? I don't know what to think. One cannot favor basket and baseball evenly. Another X-Files mystery yet to never be answered...

x Special Effects: Heart wrenchers don't need special effects.

x Acting: A for Anderson.

x Execution: Better than One Breath.

X Although I found a couple of glowing reviews from who know who, I didn't feel the need to quote them here. I would not want to comment on unreliable sources...

The Truth [ SEASON 9, EPISODE 19, 20 ]

Mulder gets arrested, tried, and found guilty of killing a super soldier. Kersh helps him escape the death penalty along with Doggett, Reyes, and Skinner, and he meets up with Scully to flee back into hiding. But not before finding out all the answers in New Mexico first. OK so this episode, much like the Pilot, by default has to be on the Top Ten. I'm not saying The Truth is better than any of my Next Top Ten (See Next Top Ten: For Reason You Don't Expect- Which are Just as Good as the Top Ten). But the series ender, being in a league of its own, demands the royal treatment of Must See. Did it have an awesome slew of out favorite characters past and present? Yes. Did it give us more flashbacks than we could fit in our suitcases? Yes. Did it answer all of our questions? Err, sort of. Did it give us closure? I think so. Did it leave room for future cinema experiments? Indeed it did. Over all series wrap up, I would give it a B- but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. I didn't yell at the TV, and particularly liked Skinner playing Lawyer Man.

x Special Effects: Spectacular. Great final Indian Ruin Blow Up.

x Acting: Best of season 9, that's for sure.

x Execution: A little too much Courtroom Time.

X Thoughts from Jessica –

"The missile goes through CSM, blowing up right in his face. We actually see the flesh burned off his skull, right down to the bone. I'm surprised Chris Carter didn't run a subtitle under this scene reading, 'Okay, everyone. CSM is TOTALLY DEAD NOW. I swear to God!' " ~ No kidding. But I did enjoy the faux-CSM deaths in seasons prior. And I'm glad that this one was indeed his true demise-because it was really extravagant.

Pusher [ SEASON 3, EPISODE 17 ]

A killer believed to be able to control people's actions with just his voice eludes local law officials to keep killing. Mulder figures out his talent and gets him in custody.

One of everyone's favorite villains. Some classics I have no reason to leave off the list. Episodes like this are what kept everyone tuning in during the mid-nineties: so original. But the TRUE reason Pusher is on my list, is three-fold. 1) This is how I learned how one would play Russian Roulette. 2) Mulder goin' in with Eyes and Ears 3) Now I knew what the hell shade cerulean blue was.

x Special Effects: Another classic where none is needed.

x Acting: Another Episode where the villain stole the show.

x Execution: Better than Kitsunegari.

X Thoughts from Phil –

"As a group of undercover police track him through the store, Modell approaches the checkout stand and picks up a tabloid newspaper. Perusing the cover, he chuckles. And who is featured on the cover? It's Flukeman from The Host! Fun stuff!" ~ Yes I noticed that too, but I'm surprised it took so long to make the cover. Wasn't that like over a year ago?

Anasazi [ SEASON 2, EPISODE 25 ]

Mulder's water gets drugged and the Alien Conspiracy brings him to New Mexico where he finds a train car with bodies. Krychek kills Bill Mulder and CSM blows up the train car with Mulder inside.

Season two ushered in a painful, season-ending-cliffhanger trend which television had never seen before. But also one of the few conspiracy episodes I could watch repeatedly. Unlike preceding season finale, Anazazi really kicked up the heat on the general tone this series was all about. Cold-blooded murder, betrayal, fiery explosions, main characters being drugged, loyalties questioned, Mulder disappearing, the list goes on and on.

x Special Effects: Above par – they sure made Canada look like the desert.

x Acting: Good – Mulder seemed really angry.

x Execution: Better than The Erlenmeyer Flask.

X Thoughts from Phil –

"Interesting plot development to allow Scully to shoot Mulder and still have it be for his own good! And of course, the ultimate cliffhanger as Mulder appears to be trapped inside a burning buried boxcar at the very end (although this last item will get some well-deserved scrutiny in the review of The Blessing Way" ~ The Ultimate cliffhanger indeed! I remember watching this episode for the first time in the middle of a summer on VHS. I was purely horrified at the suspense... until I realized the next episode was on the same tape. Whew!

Pilot [ SEASON 1, EPISODE 1 ]

A young FBI agent with a degree in medicine is paired up with a rogue agent in attempts to reign him into conformity. The two travel to Oregon to investigate "alien abductees" to find their work thwarted by everyone around them, and they learn they can only trust each other.

See The Truth. I don't believe this episode is better than #11-20, but it has to be on here. Moments worth mentioning: Anderson taking 15 minutes (give or take) to click into her character. How Mulder's energy for solving cases is so elevated. Truly, a MUST SEE episode to understand the series.

x Special Effects: Decent for 1993.

x Acting: Excellent. All around.

x Execution: Better than Orison. Duh.

X Thoughts from Jessica –

"This episode is interesting for many reasons, but especially because while the Scully character appears to have been more or less set from the get-go, the Mulder character in the pilot is somewhat different from the Mulder character of even the rest of season one. For example, I don't think Mulder has ever really been relaxed enough to take a nap in public, with the exception of this episode. Also, the high-talking. The high-talking has to stop."
~ Although Duchovny's high-talking is seen throughout the rest of the series from time to time, like many Pilots, the introduction to the characters and story lines is a bit strange. The writing is a little bit strange, and some campy elements were thankfully done away with once the show got rolling.

Memento Mori [SEASON 4, EPISODE 14]

Scully decides to stop working and seek medical attention for her spreading cancer. Mulder investigates the cancer's origins and discovers horrific tests on women, which Scully herself had experienced.

Probably the most emotional episode of the series. Dark, yes. Sad, yes. Exciting, yes. Tragic, yes. What gets me, and a lot of other female viewers (who stuck with the show until the end), is why Mulder obtained such crucial, life-changing information... and then yet failed to tell Scully until... season eight? Or was it seven? Kick-ass Lone Gunmen appearance a major plus.

x Special Effects: Floating bodies looked real. MRI had to be fake...

x Acting: Superb... even Duchovny.

x Execution: Better than Per Manum.

X Thoughts from Phil –

"Finding the Kurt Crawford clones working inside the Lombard Research Facility, Mulder accuses them of using him and Scully. They deny this, saying that Mulder and Scully's arrival was only coincidental. I find this hard to believe. Betsy Hagopian dies, two and a half weeks go by and Mulder and Scully arrive. And Kurt Crawford just happens to be downloading Hagopian's files at that particular moment?!" ~ Yeah the writers struggled here.

Related Stories:

Top-Ten X-Files Monsters
Next Top-Ten X-Files Episodes
The Best X-Files Season

Jessica is a television show reviewer at

Phil Farrand is the published author of The Nitpickers Guide For X-Philes, 1997

























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