27 years after it first aired, The X Files remains a classic of the supernatural horror genre. The show has produced a total of 11 seasons (the 10th airing in 2016 following a 14-year hiatus) as well as two feature films. The chemistry between the show’s two protagonists Mulder and Scully was at the heart of its success with wonderful dramatic tension fostered by their differing views on the paranormal. Here we rank a handful of the most iconic episodes from the legendary cult series.
The Post-Modern Prometheus
This episode represented an homage to ‘Frankenstein’ with its focus on a deformed ‘creature’ nicknamed ‘The Great Mutato’ as well as its black and white cinematography. The episode deals with themes like fears about humans playing God through genetic engineering, along with the mental health issues associated with social isolation. The Post-Modern Prometheus handles these difficult issues tactfully and provides fans with a somewhat rare romantic ending involving Mulder and Scully dancing at a Cher concert.
One of the most memorable mythology episodes produced by the series, 731 blends mystery with rampant action. Mulder and Scully are split apart, with Mulder trying to escape a high-speed train and Scully trying to uncover the reasons behind a computer chip implanted on her neck. This allows the show the opportunity to let Mulder play the role of action-hero as he fights and grapples his way off the train with explosions galore. The episode also features some of the show’s most recognisable scenes such as an enormous pile of alien-human hybrid bodies as well as the identity reveal of the mysterious train driver.
This mixture of action, horror archetypes and adult themes was fundamental in the unique nature of The X Files and its continued presence as a cultural touchstone. Indeed, the franchise is still a source of inspiration in contemporary popular culture with its clear influence upon shows like Black Mirror as well as featuring as a draw for online casino games. Bonusfinder UK, for example, compares the best sign-up offers between casinos; including William Hill who offer a dedicated ‘The X Files’ slot. Its celebration of the franchise, and popularity as a slot, reflects the continued cultural cache of the series.
This episode deals with the mythos surrounding the Bermuda Triangle as Mulder travels back in time to 1939 after being shipwrecked whilst investigating it. ‘Triangle’ is particularly notable because it is shot to look like one continuous take whilst also making use of split screens to juxtapose Mulder in the past and Scully in the present. The episode also includes the first-ever on-screen kiss between the two leads in their developing ‘will-they-won’t-they’ drama. However, some would argue it doesn’t count because it takes place between the 1939 versions of the pair. ‘Triangle’ is a very fun episode which plays around with multiple different tropes of the sci-fi and horror genres.
With 218 episodes to choose from, this list represents a very small sample of the myriad of classic episodes from the show. Its consistent subversion of archetypes associated with the horror genre, as well as its clear affection and love for those very same archetypes, makes the show a must-watch for horror aficionados. Whether the show is finished for good remains to be seen but its enduring popularity certainly suggests there is plenty of appetite for a return.