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Rod Serling

"To Serve Man". "Time Enough At Last". "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"... None of those are going to make it on this list. That’s because everybody knows those episodes of The Twilight Zone. Those are the popular ones. The greatest hits. They’ve seeped into everything from The Simpsons (many times, actually) to even a kid’s show like Sonic Boom. No, this is a list of the more obscure episodes. What music fans would call the “deep cuts.” You may have seen some of these episodes, or you may not have. But they’re all great. Every single one of them.

Now, since I want you to watch all of these episodes, I can’t include any of the hour long ones from Season 4, since that’s the only season that’s not streaming on Netflix (so no, “He’s Alive” starring Dennis Hopper, unfortunately). This list will also only be from the original, 1960s version of The Twilight Zone, so nothing from the 1985, 2002 (with Forest Whitaker filling in for Rod Serling!) or the most recent, 2019 one with Jordan Peele as the narrator. So, do you have all that down? No? Well, too bad. Because you’ve already stepped into…The Twilight Zone.

Five Characters In Search of an Exit

Five Characters in Search of an Exit

Inspired by Pirandello’s play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, this bizarre episode features a clown, a homeless person, a Major, a ballerina, and a bagpipe player in a strange place, and they have no idea how they got there or how they’re going to get out.

This is one of the better, lesser known episodes because it’s weird, but intentionally so. It has a nice little, pre-Signs, M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end, and the concept of “What does it mean to exist?” works really well in this episode.

Stream it here.

James Daly

A Stop at Willoughby

Willoughby! This stop is Willoughby! An advertising executive who is figuratively tired of the hustle and bustle of his life takes a train ride from work. The thing is, he’s also literally tired, and he falls asleep on the train. When he wakes up, he finds himself in the past in a town called Willoughby. It’s a simpler time where life is much easier to manage. But this is also all a dream, because when he’s actually woken up, he’s brought back to his regular time period. And I’m going to leave it at that, since this has one of my favorite Twilight Zone endings and I don’t want to spoil it.

I’m a little biased since this is my dad’s favorite episode, but Rod Serling also considered it his favorite episode of the first season, so my dad’s not alone. Time travel played a big part in a lot of Twilight Zone episodes, but this is one of the more effective ones. And again, that ending.

Stream it here.

Art Carney as Santa Clause

The Night of the Meek

A drunk in a Santa Claus outfit who can't hold a job to save his life ends up getting a wish that makes the people in his neighborhood happy. And as a result, it makes his life happy, too!

A Christmas episode, Twilight Zone style, "The Night of the Meek" is a simple, unassuming episode about a man depressed on Christmas. But it hits in the feels by the end of it. I'm actually surprised that more people don't make watching this episode an annual holiday tradition.

Stream it here.

From left to right: John Carradine and H.M. Wynant

The Howling Man

A man gets lost in a storm and ends up at a castle. When he begs to be let in, he is greeted by a monk. This monk takes him to the head monk who doesn’t want the man to stay. But that’s when the man starts hearing a strange howling throughout the castle. The head monk tells the man that it’s the devil himself, and that he has caught him. A lesson in theology follows.

This is a pretty creepy, and yet thoughtful, episode. It has a weird beginning of a man talking in flashback, and there’s also a lengthy monologue in the episode about the devil that one of my friends even said led him to study theology. Potent stuff.

Stream it here.

Little Girl Lost

Little Girl Lost

A husband and wife wake up to hear whimpering in the walls. It’s actually their daughter, and she’s stepped into another dimension! The father has to get her out before the portal closes.

This was like, Poltergeist before Poltergeist was even a thing. It’s also one of the few genuinely scientific episodes, which even had true science behind it (even though the writers didn’t know that) since the wormhole concept presented in this episode is actually a theory called Riemannian manifold. Crazy stuff!

Stream it here.

From left to right: Joe Mantell and Lee Marvin

Steel

Based off of a Richard Matheson short story (which was later adapted into the movie Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman) “Steel” tells the story of a boxer living in the past. All pugilists are now androids, and the boxer is not okay with that. So he dons some make-up, and boxes as a robot. But like John Henry, a man can’t beat a machine. Not at least without losing in the end.

This is like a proto-Black Mirror episode in that it’s about how technology may do us more harm than good. Plus, this episode was foretelling automation taking over human jobs way back in the ‘60s, so that’s something.

Stream it here.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

An Occurrence at Wolf Creek Bridge

A man who is about to be hanged from a bridge falls through the rope and is on the run. Meanwhile, some pretty music plays as he tries to find his way home. But is any of it reality?

This one is technically cheating since it’s actually not even an episode of The Twilight Zone, but rather, a French film that was screened in America as an episode of the show. But it definitely fits the vibe of the series, and it’s even very artsy. The short film itself won an Academy Award, so yeah. Classy stuff.

Stream it here.

The Masks

The Masks

A moribund man makes his “loved ones” wear some spooky masks if they want to get their inheritance, but the masks represent their personalities, and they find that maybe money isn’t worth everything once they see what they’re truly like on the inside.

This is one of the creepier episodes, and it cuts deep. The story takes its time, and makes one reflect on his or her own life. For instance, how do other people see us? And are we all really just wearing masks, or are we revealing our true selves when we're around other people? A classic episode that should have a lot more fans.

Stream it here.

Those are just 8 great, rather obscure episodes of The Twilight Zone. But what are your favorites? Sound off in the comments.

Out of the episodes mentioned here, which one is your favorite?
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