No science fiction TV show is more emblematic of the 1990s than The X-Files. While the show continued into the 2000s, many fan-favorite episodes come from the first seven seasons (before David Duchovny's temporary exit from the show).
Of course, what fun would a list of best episodes be if it only contained the expected fan favorites?
Whether you've never seen an episode of The X-Files or you're a longtime fan looking to revisit a few high points, what you'll find in this article is a mix of beloved episodes as well as some you may not see on most other "best X-Files episodes" lists.
How to Watch The X-Files
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The absolute best way to watch (or rewatch) The X-Files is by DVD or Blu-ray collection. What could be better than always-available physical media that you can keep with you, without risk of it disappearing from your preferred streaming services?
But if you really must stream, we recommend watching The X-Files on Hulu. The entire series is available and Hulu offers quite a lot of other excellent TV shows for an affordable price.
15. Je Souhaite (Season 7, Episode 21)
Two brothers find a genie wrapped in a rug in an old storage locker, and everything proceeds to go wrong from there. I could go into further detail, but it would spoil it if you haven't seen this episode—and you really should!
14. X-Cops (Season 7, Episode 12)
What if the TV show Cops followed Mulder and Scully instead of more standard police? That's basically this episode in a nutshell, complete with that shows iconic opening, featuring the Inner Circle hit, "Bad Boys."
13. Field Trip (Season 6, Episode 21)
"Field Trip" is another example of The X-Files showing both Mulder and Scully's different take on things, similar to "Bad Blood." This episode, however, plays it more straight when it comes to humor.
"Field Trip" also plays with the audience's understanding of the show's reality, making it an especially interesting one to re-watch once you know the ending.
12. Arcadia (Season 6, Episode 15)
This episode hinges on the idea that planned communities, specifically the neighbors in them, can be creepy.
Mulder and Scully pose as a couple using the names Rob and Laura Petrie, a nod to The Dick Van Dyke Show, which is not necessarily unusual for this show. Also, there's a trash monster.
11. The Unnatural (Season 6, Episode 5)
"The Unnatural" is so plain goofy at times that it's surprising to see how many fans and critics regard it as a great episode.
This also happens to be the first episode to be completely written and directed by David Duchovny, who had previously co-written the third-season episode, "Talitha Cumi."
10. Triangle (Season 6, Episode 3)
When a missing ship appears in the Bermuda Triangle, Mulder rushes to investigate, only to learn that he has somehow traveled back to 1939 at the very beginning of World War II.
This surreal episode is taken further by the style in which it was filmed, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Rope.
9. Bad Blood (Season 5, Episode 12)
"Bad Blood" sees Mulder and Scully delivering different takes on the events in a small town in which Mulder kills what he believes to be a vampire (played by The Sandlot's Patrick Renna).
This episode also features Luke Wilson as a small town sheriff that Scully and Mulder seem to have differing opinions on.
8. The Postmodern Prometheus (Season 5, Episode 5)
One of the odder episodes of a show known for being generally odd, "The Postmodern Prometheus" is filmed in black and white... perfect for a quirky small town where a mysterious figure known as The Great Mutato is impregnating women.
Series creator Chris Carter penned this episode, which also features Seinfeld's J Peterman himself, John O'Hurley.
7. Unusual Suspects (Season 5, Episode 3)
The Lone Gunmen—three conspiracy-theorist hackers with a knack for providing information—had been seen in The X-Files as far back as season one.
This was the first episode to focus directly on the group, as we get to see how the three hackers came to know each other.
6. Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (Season 4, Episode 7)
The Smoking Man is one of the most enigmatic characters in The X-Files, so an episode more or less dedicated to him is a treat.
It's also one of the only episodes of the show to use an unreliable narrator, and to show events from that unreliable perspective, which some viewers still don't notice.
5. Jose Chung's From Outer Space (Season 3, Episode 20)
Men in black, aliens, hypnosis, more hypnosis, Charles Nelson Reilly, and of course, pie. If that means nothing to you, you clearly haven't seen this episode.
It's hard to detail everything in this one in a few sentences, which may explain why it's one of the best episodes of The X-Files.
4. Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose (Season 3, Episode 4)
"Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" is one of the highest-regarded episodes in the entire series, among both critics and fans alike.
Much of this has to do with Peter Boyle's performance as the titular character, whose particular talent is being able to see details of people's future deaths.
3. D.P.O. (Season 3, Episode 3)
Guest-starring Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black, "D.P.O." sees Mulder and Scully investigating lightning-related deaths in a small Oklahoma town.
This episode also gives series creator Chris Carter a chance to show some of his musical taste, particularly punk rock band The Vandals, who are heard over the episode's closing.
2. Humbug (Season 2, Episode 20)
"Humbug" was the first script that Darin Morgan wrote for The X-Files. And as is often the case with Morgan-penned episodes, this one, which follows a series of killings at a circus freak show, is funnier than your average X-Files episode.
1. Ice (Season 1, Episode 8)
Yes, this episode is pretty much "The X-Files does The Thing"... But you know what? There's nothing wrong with that.
It's actually inspired by the short story that movie is based on, but what makes this stand out is how such a great episode came so soon into the series' run.
More Great Classic Sci-Fi TV Episodes
If you're furious after reading this list because your favorite episode isn't here, don't worry. It's definitely not because we didn't think that episode was worthy enough!
The truth is, most episodes of The X-Files are pretty good as potential favorite episodes (though this does waver once you get into the series minus Mulder or Scully).