The Twilight Zone is my favorite show of all time. Even though it’s actually from my parents’ generation, it’s themes and messages are timeless and classic. Above all, it explores the idea of humanity. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to exist? By stepping into a world of aliens, angels, demons, monsters, time-travel, and hallucinations… we explore what it really means to be who we are.
Disclaimer: I have not seen ALL 156 episodes of the Twilight Zone, but it’s pretty close. It’s hard to keep track of them all, as many of them have similar plots/themes/etc. Also, these are my thoughts, and I’m not trying to push them off on others. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on The Twilight Zone and the quality of its episodes. I’ve linked the Youtube videos, if anyone would like to watch them.
So, starting with Number 10 and working down to Number 1. No spoilers, I promise. Only basic plot points here and there.
10. THE MASKS
Before he dies, an old, wealthy man forces his relatives to wear masks that show their true personalities. This one works well because each one of the old man’s relatives is a ‘caricature.’ The masks are both creepy and dramatic in nature, and the ‘twist ending’ is equally creepy and dramatic.
Unlike most episodes this one doesn’t really have a ‘twist’ ending. There’s a strange darkness hovering over a small town as they await to have a local man executed. The premise is eerie, and the overall message and dialogue is fantastic. Rod Sering, in fact, wrote this screenplay as a direct response to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
A well-known TZ episode about a woman on a road trip from New York to L.A., who keeps seeing the same hitch-hiker on the side of the road. This one is quite spooky, and as a woman who has taken several long road trips, I understand why — especially in the days before cell phones — this lady would have been freaked out. (I wasn’t able to find the episode on Youtube, so I linked it to the radio play with Orson Welles that the episode was based on.)
This story is a commentary on totalitarianism, liberty, life, and death. A librarian is proclaimed "obsolete" by his totalitarian government, and opts to choose his own method of execution. Being someone who works with words and who loves books, I feel like I really identified with the main character in terms of his beliefs and his willingness to die rather than give them up.
This is one of the first episodes of the series that I ever watched. My senior year of high school, my philosophy teacher made us watch this episode about "a clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an Army major" stuck in a round, doorless room "with no logic, no reason, no explanation." It’s a good story in its own right, but it also poses good questions that compares the characters’ situation with our own.
I think this is the only TZ episode — and one of the few television shows in general — that has ever moved me to tears. Just reading back over the episode synopsis, I couldn’t help but get hot-eyes. A aging English teacher, after getting forced into retirement, begins to despair, and plans to commit suicide. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that this episode shows us that we don’t know how many lives we unknowingly change — whether for better or worse.
After watching TZ enough, many of the plots get to be repetitive. The premise of the above episode is much like the others: there was a nuclear war, and the fallout has lasting repercussions. But, a group of survivors have learned to survive thanks to the titular character. I’ve always thought that the better Twilight Zones were the ones adapted from pre-existing short stories, rather than screenplays that Serling or others penned for the show (as they tend to be repetitive). This ‘twist ending’ knocked off my socks, as the whole time I was trying to figure out the truth behind the old man. Also, as I just watched again last night, I was struck with one line that one of the survivors says to justify their actions: "We’ve survived. But we haven’t lived." It’s another great look into human nature, the ideas of authority, compassion, and ‘mob mentality.’
This is probably the first Twilight Zone episode I ever saw — in my HS junior year English class. The main character is a bank teller who wants simply to read his books in peace. Of course, his job and his wife get in the way of that. It’s a great story about being careful what you wish for. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it or heard of it at this point, I’d be surprised. It seems to be one of the most famous episodes.
Another famous Twilight Zone story about "thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, and suspicions." I remember reading the (radio) play of the episode in seventh grade, and it was a very timeless commentary on man’s more savage nature. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you watch it. (Unfortunately, I was only able to find the radio play on YouTube, so listen to that if you’d like.)
I think this is the quintessential Twilight Zone episode. Seven people enter a diner, but one of them is a Martian in disguise. Of course, it’s not long before they’re pointing figures and second-guessing each other. The ‘twist ending’ is actually a ‘double-twist ending,’ and just goes to show you that things are never what they seem.