Few serialized television shows can offer the same kind of punchy science fiction or horror plots that an anthology series can. They’re only beholden to the 25 or 45 minutes they have to tell the story and any character or contrivance is fair game to play with, fast and loose-style. Already we’ve talked about scary episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and the 1960s The Outer Limits, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t pay tribute to the godfather of this genre, a show that gave audiences 156 episodes of terrifying morality plays between 1959 and 1964: The Twilight Zone.
Rod Serling’s vision of realities slightly twisted from our own gave birth to such shows as Black Mirror and Tales from the Crypt in addition to the ones mentioned above. While The Twilight Zone wasn’t the first show of this kind, its constant repeating on cable—holiday marathons on Syfy (née The Sci-Fi Channel) anyone?—has made it the cultural touchstone for what our fearless leader Chris Hardwick calls “Nice Try, Asshole” stories.
Fittingly, October is the month in which The Twilight Zone premiered lo those 57 years ago, and seeing as it’s the month of scares, the fact that CBS has just released a snazzy complete series box set, and because we only have a few short months left to enjoy the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride at Disneyland, I figured we’d look at some of the most frightening episodes in a show that was always pretty darn creepy. These won’t necessarily be “the best” episodes or “the essential” episodes; the above-pictured “Time Enough at Last,” for example, won’t be included in this list because, while great, it’s not the same kind of scary that I’m looking for.
So, without further ado, venture down to the gallery below for seven of the most terrifying episodes of The Twilight Zone ever. And leave your picks for scariest episodes in the comments below!
Looking for a a few scary kids movies? We got ’em!