The original X-Files series ran from 1993-2002 and followed FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as they worked on the Bureau’s unexplained cases in search of the truth about extra-terrestrials.
The show was a runaway success and came to define 90s primetime, event TV.
The 90s have come back in fashion and the X-Files were recently reopened to tackle the ever growing post-millennial angst.
We find ourselves becoming suspicious of the actions of government and the establishment once again. Paranoia is rife.
Here are the 10 best X-Files episodes from the original series, presented in chronological order.
1Squeeze (S1, Ep3)
Mulder and Scully investigate a string of murders where victims were found with their livers removed. The crimes bear a striking resemblance to other unsolved cases spanning a 60 year period.
Mulder suspects that prime suspect Eugene Victor Tooms has a mutation that allows his body to fit through tiny spaces but also requires him to consume livers for hibernation.
Squeeze had high production values and showed audiences what The X-Files could be, setting a benchmark. Squeeze and companion episode Tooms (S1, Ep21) were released on VHS as one feature. If you are looking for a ‘taster’ episode, start here.
23 (S2, Ep7)
3 are the ‘Unholy trinity,’ a killer gang who believe that drinking blood has given them eternal life. Mulder explores the LA subcultural Vampire scene in pursuit of the group and meets blood fetishist Kristen. Mulder is drawn to her, using her to try and catch the others.
Despite being a ‘monster of the week,’ 3 slots perfectly in the middle of Scully’s abduction storyline.
Scully is missing, soon to be returned in One Breath, (S2, Ep8) but her presence is felt so strongly throughout that, by the end, we are left in little doubt of Fox’s true feelings for her.
3Firewalker (S2, Ep9)
A volcanic research team calls for help after the death of one colleague and the disappearance of another.
Mulder and Scully arrive to find that an undiscovered spore has infected the team, using them as hosts for gestation. The infection makes the infected act irrationally. Cue paranoia.
Firewalker is a claustrophobic thriller in the tradition of The Thing. (Carpenter, 1982, USA) The landscape of the volcano looks like an alien planet and the spectacle of spore pods bursting out of people’s necks is joyously disgusting.
Other season 2 classics include: Die Hand Die Verletzt, (S2, Ep14) and Humbug. (S2, Ep20)
4Anasazi (S2, Ep25)
Mulder comes into possession of encrypted government files which he believes to be evidence of extra-terrestrial life.
Scully recognises the encryption as a form of Navajo Indian and seeks out windtalker Albert Hosteen to translate. The Syndicate work against Mulder and Scully at every turn.
Anasazi is one of three parts, the other two being: Blessing Way (S3, Ep1) and Paperclip. (S3, Ep2) It is probably the best examples of the many two and three part episodes that explore the wider mythology of the show. Anasazi marries real facts with fiction to create a perfect cocktail of pre-millennium paranoia.
5Quagmire (S3, Ep22)
Locals are disappearing near a lake famed for its monster. Mulder thinks that ‘Big Blue,’ America’s answer to Nessie, might be responsible.
After Mulder and Scully crash their exploration boat and end up stranded Scully calls Mulder’s intentions into question, suggesting that he needs something to believe in no matter the cost.
Not much happens plot-wise, instead, we are given time and space to enjoy the witty interplay between Mulder and Scully and watch their relationship develop.
We also see the sad demise of Scully’s dog Queequeg who first appeared in another season 3 masterpieces; Clyde Bruckmen’s Final Repose. (S3, Ep4)
6Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (S4, Ep7)
This is an origins episode establishing how Cigarette Smoking Man came to be a shadowy figure at the FBI.
As well as being behind various assassinations CSM is revealed to be a frustrated writer struggling to get his book published.
A playfully, irony-filled episode; it features Chris Owens as ‘young cigarette smoking man’ who went on to play Agent Spender.
The Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man Trailer
The writing team on The X-Files showed great love and respect for the shows fans by writing episodes that evolved the wider universe of the show.
Another fun origins episode is Unusual Suspects (S5, Ep3) which tells the story of the Lone Gunman.
7Elegy (S4, Ep22)
The manager of a bowling alley sees a girl with a slashed throat trapped behind the lanes. He runs for help, only to discover the same girl murdered out front.
Mulder is drawn to the case because of the ghostly vision speculating that it might be a death omen.
Autistic bowling alley attendant Harold Spuller becomes the prime suspect.
What makes Elegy stand out is the way it sensitively explores how Scully is dealing with her recent cancer diagnosis, the psychological impact it is having on her and how it affects her relationship with Mulder after she also sees a ghostly vision.
8The Post-modern Prometheus (S5, Ep5)
Mulder and Scully are invited to a town where women are being impregnated without their knowledge.
They meet geneticist Dr. Pollidori who has been performing experiments on humans. A disfigured man has been spotted by locals.
The Post-modern Prometheus Clip
Shot in black and white and set to the music of Cher, this play on Frankenstein shouldn’t work but it does.
Many successful TV shows have an opportunity to take TV to a new place, many don’t. The X-Files team were fearless in that respect.
Post-modern Prometheus features the most touching final scene out of the whole show, but did it really happen? This episode is seriously Meta.
9Monday (S6, Ep14)
A hold-up at a bank goes bad and Mulder and Scully become trapped in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again, much like Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993, USA) before it.
Only the thief’s girlfriend is aware that events are repeating. She tries to convince Mulder to do things differently each day to change the outcome.
The premise of Monday allows ample opportunity for plenty of X-Files humour as Mulder starts to get déjà vu.
Another excellent season 6 episodes is Drive, (S6, Ep2) believed by critics to be the moment where the stars aligned to create Breaking Bad.
10Orison (S7, Ep7)
Rev. Orison helps necrophilic serial killer Donnie Pfaster to break out of prison. Orison has the ability to distort time and believes that he is on a mission from God to pass vengeance.
Unfortunately, Donnie is on his own mission from below. He kills Orison and sets out to catch the victim that got away – Scully.
Donnie Pfaster first appeared in Irresistible (S2, Ep13) and is probably the show’s second most terrifying monster next to Tooms.
Donnie’s escape digs up a lot of bad memories for Scully so she quite literally has to face her demon to survive Donnie’s second attack.
Here’s the season 10 trailer, just six episodes aired January 2016 but there are rumors of more to come.
X-Files Season 10 trailer
Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite episode? Let us know in the comments.