This Top Ten List demands very little introduction. These are my favorite actual "monsters" from the Monsters of the Week Episodes. Not to be confused with "villains" or "spirits". Duh. I know a few are slipping through the cracks, but they can't ALL be great. In fact, refer to my Top Ten Worst X-Files Monsters if you disagree with these.
10. Vampire Boy [ "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 week's events. Ronnie Strickland is a teenage vampire in a community of blood suckers. But he is quite possibly the most inept vampire in the world.
Ronnie is possibly the goofiest "bad guy" and I love how he is essentially the polar opposite of the classic Nosferatu. Because we all know what happened last time The X-files team tried to do vampires back in the third season... utter failure. Thus making this vampire tale a comedic episode is genius by Vince Gilligan and the casting was also superb. The idea of a pizza boy being a blood sucker is something one can only find on this show. Timeless.
x Believability: Pretty dang low...but fun!
x Would be Better If...: we knew whose version was more accurate.
x Nightmare Scale: medium.
X Thoughts from Jessica –
"The coroner – let's call him Steve – removes the sheet from the body and blinks, hard. 'Probable cause of death?' he asks under his breath. 'Gee, that's a tough one.' He wrenches the stake out of Ronnie's body and walks away from the table – presumably to fetch his tools, or bag the stake or something. Behind him, Ronnie sits right up and heads for poor hapless Steve. Steve turns, tools in hand, just in time to find Ronnie leaning over him, all green eyes and hissing. He's mid-hiss when he realizes that he's missing his fangs. He feels for them with his tongue, looking perturbed, then shrugs and goes for Steve anyway." ~: Here she describes one of my favorite assault scenes by a villain. I love it because it not only is creepy how he comes to life, but hilarious in the way he attacks. Plus, the coroner does not end up dying, which always leaves a warm feeling in my stomach.
9. Shark Boy [ "Hungry" SEASON 7, EPISODE 3 ]
A young man who works at a fast food burger joint is also some kind of shark monster, and he needs to eat brains. An episode told from his point of view allows us to see how his desire to eat is a real struggle as he tries not to satiate his cravings while being under investigation.
Rob is a unique monster because he seems to be one of the very few, if not only, monster who tries to change. When I saw this for the first time, I was so pleased that Chris Carter and Company finally did a story involving a shark-like creature. Although he doesn't breathe underwater, or even swim for that matter... but his teeth sure were neat.
x Believability: high... minus the shark teeth.
x Would be Better If...: He targeted Scully.
x Nightmare Scale: low – Rob can be taken down easy with a gun.
8. Trash Monster [ "Arcadia" SEASON 6, EPISODE 15 ]
A disappearance of a couple living in a gated community leads our agents to go undercover to find whoever is responsible. Turns out, one of the community founders controls a Tulpa - a creature living in the old landfill beneath the neighborhood. And it is made of trash.
This is not only a unique monster in a unique episode, but it's also one we never see. Which is all the better, for if the writers had indeed shown us a garbage monster, it probably would have been absurd looking and cornball. Leaving us to our imagination with what makes this fluffy season six episode hold up along earlier series darkness. And the fact that it just comes up out the ground is ultra creepy!
x Believability: Not so much.
x Would be Better If...: the Tulpa moved a little faster.
x Nightmare Scale: Off the charts.
X Thoughts from Meghan –
"And when the Tulpa goes after Scully, Big Mike locks her in a closet and shoots until the Tulpa takes him, instead. Big Mike is in fact so damn nice that one wonders how Big Mike got involved in Arcadia at all, how he kept the secret, why he bothered. But – again – there's a thinness, here. We don't know why Gene, or why Big Mike, we just know: this is a bad place that asked for it." ~ Rebuttal: So this episode didn't have much time to delve into the motives of secondary characters. The writers were having too much fun with going undercover. If only we had more time! But this episode is still great in the sense that not everything has to be spelled out for us, I could come up with those answers. And the fact that they don't explain these reasons and actions doesn't mean "Arcadia" is subpar.
7. Forest Beast Lady [ "The Jersey Devil" SEASON 1, EPISODE 5 ]
On an earlier adventure, the new partners go to New Jersey to catch someone, or something, killing and eating people. They quickly find that the local fable of The Jersey Devil may be their culprit. Turns out the forest woman (think female Sasquatch) lost her mate and is venturing out to the city to try to provide for her young one.
I like this oddball one because it marks a First in X-Files Land. She is not only the first woman killer on the show, but also the first subject of folklore. Mutants and monsters can be a dime a dozen, but eerie stories like this one bring a little bit of reality to the show.
x Believability: Indeed!
x Would be Better If...: she was a little less cavewomen and more Tarzan.
x Nightmare Scale: weak.
X Thoughts from Phil –
"...hasn't this beast woman ever heard of a doggy bag? Granted, no one expects her to eat an entire human in one sitting, but why leave the remains for the park ranger to find? Why not drag it back to home, sweet home for leftovers?" ~Rebuttal: I don't know, Phil. I think maybe her cost-benefit analysis proved it to be more beneficial to not have to trudge thru the wilderness with a well over hundred pound stiff body. Then have to worry about it spoiling. I assume refrigeration is out of the question...and maybe starting a fire is too risky and not worth the effort (starting a fire with sticks is difficult! Especially for a woman who just lost her male counterpart!).
6. Dog Man [ "Alpha" SEASON 6, EPISODE 16 ]
An extinct animal enthusiast goes to China to find a mythical wolf, only to be bitten and become one himself! He returns to Southern California to quasi-unintentionally attack those trying to capture the dog/wolf/him. But only at night! By day he remains an ordinary human getting in the way of Mulder and Scully's investigation.
Everyone can agree the werewolf is overdone and unoriginal. Oops, did I forget "X-COPS"? Which is why I love this spin on the classic character without it being obvious or silly. There was no full moon, just a really bad dog. And the seriousness of the situation is carried throughout the show. I love how the dog is clever enough to pretend to be another dog, and exploit the tasks only his man-counterpart is capable of doing.
x Believability: very little.
x Would be Better If...: the dog had a better motive.
x Nightmare Scale: somewhat spooky.
5. Lightning Guy [ "D.P.O." SEASON 3, EPISODE 3 ]
A young 20-something still lives with his mom, still obsesses over a former teacher, and can control lightning. But he decides his best use of this power is causing traffic accidents, killing cattle, and murdering those who get in the way of his grand scheme to win true love. After melting some electronics and manipulating devices, our agents catch on to him and put him away.
OK so I stretched on this one, he isn't at all a "Monster". But this episode is legit and has to be mentioned on one of my lists! He is not scary, he just has special, super sweet powers. He is also one of those rare antagonists that at the same time you feel sorry for him.
x Believability: not at all.
x Would be Better If...: He didn't kill Jack Black.
x Nightmare Scale: dismal.
X Thoughts from Phil –
"Oswald shuts off all the lights and then activates the jukebox. Nervously, Hammond withdraws and escapes to his car. Then the radio comes on, playing the same song that plays on the jukebox. Twisting the tuning knob makes no difference, and in short order, Oswald has shorted out the car and cooked Hammond's heart. The last two displays of power seem reasonable, but the music on the radio is troublesome. Presumably Oswald is somehow transmitting the music to the car radio – which would require Oswald to emit radio waves on all frequencies simultaneously. Or he is directly manipulating the coils on the car's speakers, using the varying magnetic fields of the jukeboxes speakers as a guide. Given Oswald's less-than-blinding intelligence, does this seem like something he could do?" ~Rebuttal: So simply because Oswald is an underachiever in English doesn't mean he doesn't have any other talents, Phil. I could use professional athletes as a prime example. I think they play those games extraordinarily well (some pushing the laws of physics to their limit), and probably a lot of them didn't take calculus, and at their present time, still make poor decisions off the court. Can you give him just this one form of intelligence?
4. Invisible Men [ "Detour" SEASON 5, EPISODE 4 ]
A long time ago some explorers found the fountain of youth in the woods of Florida, and then they got really good at living in that environment. And then people started to encroach, so there are disappearances to investigate. Turns out they have a cave where they keep the bodies, so Mulder and Scully decide go home without apprehending the surviving faux-invisible creature.
I love this episode for a multitude of reasons, so it's difficult for me to stick to why these monsters deserve to be on this list. Others on this list are here solely because the idea is remarkable, or because of the Gross-Out factor, or because the monster is a badass. These are on here because while they are basically pretty cool, but also the superb episode in which they create around their concept.
x Believability: may actually be possible...
x Would be Better If...: there were three of them.
x Nightmare Scale: close to high.
X Thoughts from Meghan –
"The creatures are vaguely humanoid, can camouflage themselves, and can regulate their body temperature. They also have glowing red eyes, leading Mulder to believe they might be Mothmen-types. Best of all, they are smart, and seem particularly concerned with taking down their enemies top-down – going after the strongest and working their way down." ~ So basically they are like The Predator. Although you can't hide from them in the mud. This is a pretty terrifying creature to be up against. She points out how they take the strongest first, which is also sets them apart from other X-Files monsters in the way that they pretty much spell out doom for everyone in the group.
3. Exploding Throat Worm [ "Firewalker" SEASON 2, EPISODE 9 ]
A team of scientists are having trouble in Oregon, their leader has gone nuts, and there is a parasite among them. Found deep in a volcano, a new life life-form has sprung and infected the team. To infect more people, it bursts from their throats to release spores. In the end, only our heroes survive, and have a month-long quarantine to go through.
OK so that Gross-Out Factor I mentioned in Monster #4, this one is exactly that. The parasite is super disgusting and gnarly, in addition to being terrifying. It also comes at a point in the series where our agents are timid for danger, and this thing pretty much wipes out everyone around them.
x Believability: Super high.
x Would be Better If...: if it came out of their face!
x Nightmare Scale: up there.
X Thoughts from Phil –
"As with "Ice", the volcano parasite in this episode seems to control each host a bit differently so the plot can work to maximum benefit. Tanaka runs away so we can see how the parasite is spread without our heroes being infected. Ludwig hangs close to Mulder-trying to accomplish who knows what- so Trepkos can kill him and we can learn the truth. And O'Neill handcuffs herself to Scully to ensure that the spores can spread to a new host and we can have the excitement of wondering how Scully will possibly escape." ~Rebuttal: Yeah although this doesn't make sense – why would the worm or whatever act differently throughout the show? I can understand why it would not necessarily have complete control over a highly intelligent being such as a human. O'Neill, Tanaka, and Ludwig are clearly very different people with different strengths and weakness, so it makes perfect sense that the parasite was not able to control the two bigger men as successfully as the distraught, small, vulnerable O'Neill. Just because it's silicone-based doesn't mean it's perfect!
2. Leonard Betts [ "Leonard Betts" SEASON 4, EPISODE 12 ]
A paramedic is really good at his job, and he can diagnose cancer just by looking at the patient. But he is only interested because he needs to eat the cancer to survive. Because he can regenerate body parts. This is hard for Scully to believe because only lizards, not people, can do that. But Betts is also a murderer, so they have to capture him.
This is another monster surrounded by a great episode with good writing and directing. So it is hard to keep him off this list. Especially since I didn't put this episode on my Top Ten or Next Top Ten. But I also love Leonard because the idea of being able to grow back a thumb, a limb, and even a head is one of those classic childhood fantasies. Chris Carter and Co are just a bunch of big kids bringing back the wonderment and fantasy we all lost around the age of 13.
x Believability: not out of the question.
x Would be Better If...: he could diagnose any disease.
x Nightmare Scale: Nope.
X Thoughts from Phil –
"When Michele Wilkes discovers that Betts is still alive, he kills her! Doesn't this seem a bit extreme? This is a guy who let two boys beat him up as a child. This is a guy who reads to patients on the cancer ward. This is a guy who is very apologetic about his needs. Couldn't he think of some other recourse beside terminating this innocent young woman?" ~Rebuttal: I always thought this myself in years past, but now that I'm writing this review, I'm forced to dive into the mind of Chris Carter. Everyone has their limits. Perhaps this was the final straw and Leonard did what many good men have done in the past – made a poor choice. She clearly didn't need to die. He was not a cold blooded killer, but accidents happen in the heat of the moment and when sane people believe there is no other way. He may be a mutant, but he is still human and this humanity is the very thing we love about him, accepting that which is both good and bad.
1. The Flukeman [ "The Host" SEASON 2, EPISODE 2 ]
A mutant formed in Russian nuclear sewage makes a journey to the east coast, and kills people. Half man, half flukeworm, he bites his victims to spread the parasite. And he likes to live in waste. Mulder ends up wrestling it down to trap it in a sewage treatment plant, and it gets put in custody.
Other than Eugene Tooms and possibly Donnie Pfaster, I don't think there is an X-Phile out there who could say the Fluke is not arguably the best X-Files Monster. I not only put It at number one because I not only left it out of my other lists for this reason, but also because the Fluke is better than the aforementioned for a plethora of reasons. Pfaster is not a monster, he is an evil guy with a fetish. Tooms is overrated (See my Top Ten Overrated). But I'll spare you the other reasons.
x Believability: radiation sewage creature? YES.
x Would be Better If...: I don't think It can...
x Nightmare Scale: not too threatening.
X Thoughts from Phil –
"Mulder has the most amazing luck. Near the end of the program, an official from the Newark County Sewage Processing Plant attempts to shut off an overflow channel and tumbles into the water. Flukeman attacks. Mulder tries to reach for the sanitation official but eventually dives in to save him. By this time, Flukeman has finished mating. Yet – instead of lunging for the next tasty morsel – Flukeman heads out the pipe that leads to the ocean. Guess Mulder wasn't his type!" ~Rebuttal: There is such a thing as being full, you know. Most animals in nature don't overeat, they stop when they have had enough, and it looks like Flukeman knows his limits. Flukeworms are also not known for being overly violent when it is not necessary. It seems Mulder only waited to save the man, and had no intent to kill the creature, so why should Flukeman attack Mulder? I think its actions make perfect sense.
Notable Runner Ups: Eugene Tooms from "Squeeze", Cult Slug from "Roadrunner", The conjoined twin from "Humbug" Donnie Pfaster from "Irresistible", and Bug Creature from "Folie a Deux"
Top-Ten X-Files Episodes
Next Top-Ten X-Files Episodes
The Best X-Files Season
Jessica is a television show reviewer at televisionwithoutpity.com
Phil Farrand is the published author of The Nitpickers Guide For X-Philes, 1997
Meghan Deans is a writer for Tor.com