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Rod Serling

After my most obscure episodes of The Twilight Zone article was published, a friend of mine who had never seen the show before decided to start watching episodes using my list as a guide. Big mistake, since he ended up being totally unimpressed with the series, wondering what all the hype was about.

And that’s what led me to want to write this article. In many ways, The Twilight Zone is really the kind of show that you either need to grow up watching, or be broken into gently. Because unlike Black Mirror, which is more relevant to today’s times, The Twilight Zone is very much a product of its own time, so some episodes just feel archaic in nature and even silly at times. But not these episodes below. If you’ve NEVER seen The Twilight Zone before, then these are the perfect episodes to get you started. Watch out for that signpost up ahead! It’s… The Twilight Zone.

Dick York on the right

A Penny for Your Thoughts (Season 2, Episode 16)

A banker (played by Bewitched star, Dick York) flips a coin on his way to getting a paper and suddenly acquires the ability to read people’s minds once the coin stands up on end. You would think this “power” would be a blessing in disguise, but he soon finds out that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Surprisingly for a Twilight Zone episode, fun ensues.

This is a great episode to start with since it’s not dark in any way, and it’s even quite whimsical. The Twilight Zone has a reputation for being this heady, serious show, but “A Penny for Your Thoughts” is proof that the show could have a little fun once in a while.

Stream it here.

A Newspaper

And When the Sky Was Opened (Season 1, Episode 11)

Three men who go into space together come back only to realize that people can’t remember who they are. The astronauts themselves even start to forget who they are. What follows is an uncomfortable episode filled with paranoia and dread. It’s actually based off a short story called, “Disappearing Act,” from the famed I Am Legend writer, Richard Matheson.

“And When the Sky Was Opened” is technically sci-fi, but it doesn’t have any aliens or robots in it. Rather, the sci-fi is super subtle, making it all the more haunting since it’s basically just three men being erased from history. But by what?

Stream it here

The Obsolete Man

The Obsolete Man (Season 2, Episode 29)

Burgess Meredith plays Romney Wordsworth, a man who is deemed obsolete since he has a job that is viewed as unnecessary in the future—a librarian. He is sentenced to death, but he has a trick up his sleeve.

This is the big brother episode of The Twilight Zone, but it raises some interesting points about fascism. It also shows a bleak picture of what could happen if people let others decide what the future should be for them. The acting is impeccable and the settings (all two of them) are also quite arresting.

Stream it here.

George Takei in the foreground

The Encounter (Season 5, Episode 31)

A Japanese-American man (played by George Takei) goes up to a bigoted World War II veteran’s attic, and animosity (and guilt) courses through both of them. The door to leave won’t open until they both settle their differences, however that might occur.

This is a complex episode with many racial undertones, and it was even banned from television for a while. But now that you can readily see it again, watch it for what it is—a taut episode about racial tensions that still exist today. A bold episode for 1964.

Stream it here.

The Fever

The Fever (Season 1, Episode 17)

A real curmudgeon who talks down to his wife and hates gambling, goes to a casino and finds that he actually becomes addicted to gambling himself. But since this is The Twilight Zone, the slot machine he uses actually follows him around and creepily whispers his name: “Franklin.”

Another one of my friends personally requested that I include this episode on this list, and I understand why. It’s both creepy and funny at the same time. The main character is a real dick head, and you never feel bad for him, even when he’s probably flushing his entire life savings down the toilet.

Stream it here.

The Monsters Are Due on Maple St.

The Monsters are Due on Maple Street (Season 1, Episode 22)

A strange light flies over a quaint, suburban neighborhood, and people start to wonder what it is. They also start to question if their neighbors might be aliens or not. A little bit of worry becomes paranoia, and paranoia becomes… well, just watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

This is one of the most famous episodes, and its plot is really simple. What would it take for people to start turning on one another? Apparently, not much at all, which is the whole point of this disturbing episode.

Stream it here.

Billy Mumy

It’s a Good Life (Season 3, Episode 8)

A little boy with telepathic and telekinetic powers basically makes everybody’s lives miserable in a small, isolated town in Ohio.

I really can’t say much more about this episode, but I consider it the very best in the series. It’s probably the scariest episode, and also the show’s most original story. This one’s a testament to how strange and unique the show could get. There’s also a great Treehouse of Horror segment about it, so seek that out, too, once you watch this one.

Stream it here.

Anne Francis

The After Hours (Have it) (Season 1, Episode 34)

A woman goes in a department store to buy something and is taken up to a mysterious ninth floor. There’s only one problem. There is no ninth floor. Dun dun duuuuun!

This is another really creepy episode, and the ending poses existential questions. It’s definitely one of the darker stories of the series.

Stream it here.

John Carradine in the back with the beard, H.M. Wynant in the front

The Howling Man (Season 2, Episode 5)

A man goes into a castle after escaping a rain storm, and encounters some strange priests. There is also an alarming howling noise coming from somewhere within the castle. A lesson in theology follows.

This is a surprisingly deep episode with a lot of philosophical dialogue. A friend of mine told me that this was the episode that led him into studying theology, so it’s pretty potent stuff.

Stream it here.

Burgess Meredith

Time Enough At Last (Season 1, Episode 8)

A man who loves to read but gets picked on for reading by pretty much everybody just wants to be left alone. He finally gets his wish, but maybe life would have been better off for him if he hadn’t.

This is probably the most beloved episode in the entire series because it’s so well paced and acted. It’s an episode that’s been parodied quite a bit, so you might even know how it ends before you even watch it. Time enough at last, indeed.

Stream it here.

And those are my picks for first-timers. Are there any other episodes (another friend of mine really loves “The Hunt”) that you would suggest for a newbie? Mention them in the comments.