The Twilight Zone was the original “mental mind game” television show. Its purpose was to mess with your head in ways your head had never been messed with before. It also featured several actors that would go on to become famous. Here are the Top 13 (because think about it, it’s the Twilight Zone) episodes to make it to your grandparent’s television set.
13. Nick of Time
It’s hardly surprising that William Shatner would be distracted by shiny objects, he always looks on TV like the kind of guy that if you shined a laser pointer at him he’d try to catch it. Well, that’s what happens in this 1960 episode. Shats and his wife suffer major vehicular breakdown and hole up in a diner while it’s fixed. In the booth they’re sitting on is one of those BS fortune telling machines, you know the ones, that scam you out of pocket change with false promises of future predicting.
Except this one seemingly does tell the real future, successfully predicting such things as Shats getting his promotion, the car being fixed, and almost being hit by a taxicab. Finally his wife has enough of his crap and tells him off, saying he’s become reliant on the fortune telling machine to run his life for him. Shats says “Wait a minute, the only person who tells Captain Kirk what to do is Spock, and you sir are most definitely not him.” He and his wife get out of Dodge, leaving the fortune telling machine to ensnare a new victim.
So, the US and the USSR have finally lost their shit and blown the whole world to hell after a devastating war. All American super soldier Charles Bronson is investigating the ruins of a destroyed town when he comes across a Russian warrior, a warrior female who speaks no language but vengeance. After the two fight with each other still seeing each other as the enemy, both come to realize that there’s not much point and decide to be friends, possibly sex friends.
11. The Grave
A notorious outlaw is ambushed by a bunch of townsfolk, and is shot dead. Lee Marvin rides into town the next day, a bounty hunter who these same townsfolk hired to kill the man they just killed. Obviously, Lee is pissed off, because they got him all the way out here, only to tell him he’s not needed anymore. He goes out to the man’s grave, probably to stab the man’s corpse and feel better about the whole thing, only to turn up dead on the gravesite. Rather than just naturally assuming that he killed himself, they say a ghost did it.
10. Once Upon a Time
Buster Keaton is living in a silent film. This is nothing new for him, he was one of the great silent film actors of that era. But he doesn’t like it, because bicycles run over his pants and the coppers are always chasing him around. So when his friend invents a time helmet, he jumps on it and lands in the 60s. Needless to say, he likes that even less, because now cars are running over his pants and the cops are faster. Plus, he can actually talk, which is way too much for poor Buster. A slapstick episode for the usually grim series.
9. Nothing in the Dark
Death is cunning indeed, when he comes for an old woman, he takes the form of Robert Redford. Redford the wounded cop spots some lines about letting go and then unleashes the Grim Reaper’s awesome power: the ability to kill a person just by touching them. In a surprising twist, Death gets the woman to touch him, which we’re pretty sure is assisted suicide.
8. He’s Alive
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s Dennis Hopper. And he’s a Nazi. Adolf Hitler is literally whispering instructions in Dennis’ ear, and none of them are good ones: things like murder and starting a Nazi rally. Eventually the police get wise and come to arrest Dennis, who now believes himself to be immortal. The cops don’t fall for that and shoot him. As Dennis lays dying, Adolf proves his quality and just fucking leaves him there to die, because he’s a jerk even as a ghost.
7. The Miniature
Hey, who’s read that book The Indian in the Cupboard? For those who haven’t, it’s about extremely small toys that come to life and interact with large children, sometimes pulling wacky hijinks like setting a child’s hair on fire. Well, this episode is like that, except the tiny people have ensnared Robert Duvall, and everyone else thinks he’s nuts and put him in a hospital. He escapes and through the power of voodoo, somehow becomes a miniature himself, and presumably has filthy toy sex with his, umm, “little woman.”
You guys are not going to believe this, but the plot of that new movie Real Steel was done in this episode 50 years ago. Well, some of it we guess. Human boxing has been outlawed, all fighting is now done by robots instead. Lee Marvin is a former boxer turned robotrainer whose robot is old and badly in need of repair, unfit to fight. So Lee does the natural thing and disguises himself as a robot and fights the other robot himself to get the prize money to fix their robot. This goes exactly as well as you’d think it would, with Lee being knocked down in three minutes.
5. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
Ah, there’s nothing quite like watching William Shatner losing his marbles onscreen. He’s a man who’s on an airplane for the first time since he had a nervous breakdown a ways back. It’s not helping matters that a freaking gremlin is on the wing, that hides anytime someone not named Shats looks out the window. Finally, Shats takes matters into his own hands, shooting the gremlin off the wing while leaning out of the plane with a stolen gun. He’s hauled away in a straightjacket, but there are mysterious marks on the plane’s engine…
4. The Long Morrow
So, an astronaut is being sent to a faraway planet, so far away that it will take him twenty years to get there, and then twenty more years to get back, a total of 40 years in space. To prevent the poor man from essentially spending half his life stuck in a metal box eating baby food, they will put him in suspended animation, a new tech that will freeze him in time, so that he arrives back on Earth only a few days older than when he set out. Unfortunately for him, he meets the girl of his dreams right before he’s set to depart. He realizes that when he returns from space, his sweetie will be an old lady and he’s not really into sexing up old ladies. So he makes a devastating decision: he takes himself out of suspended animation to return to Earth as an old man the same age as his dream girl. He returns to Earth to discover that his dream girl put herself into suspended animation to wait for him, but neglected to tell him this in one of the most tragic instances of miscommunication in history.
3. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
So, a Confederate spy is caught and to be summarily executed by hanging from a bridge. When they drop him, the rope breaks, and he falls into the river, swimming to safety as the Federals try to shoot his ass. He makes it back home to his wife and children, only to have everything fade out on him as the audience discovers the whole thing to be a delusion on the part of the prisoner, as he’s actually been hanged, the rope didn’t break, and he’s dead. Roll credits.
2. People Are Alike All Over
So, Roddy McDowell has blasted off into space again, except this time, as not an ape, but a humble human space pilot. He and his buddy space pilot are on a mission to Mars. After the impact kills the other man, McDowell encounters Martians, who seem remarkably human like, even the babes, who give up some cross species sex before, PLOT TWIST. They stick him in a comfortably furnished room that for some reason has no windows and locked doors, and, oh yes, a viewing screen via a lift up wall. Crap, his ass is caged, and it’s in a zoo, like a common…wait for it…ape.
1. Where Is Everybody?
A man is walking towards a town, that seems occupied, but all the people are missing. Everywhere he goes, there are signs of life, but no people. Finally, the man collapses while pushing a walk button, and the whole world warps before we realize that the whole thing was nothing but a delusion. The man is actually an astronaut undergoing a stress test, and has been locked in a room for 484 hours or almost three freaking weeks, and the abandoned town was his brain’s attempt to stay sane. This episode was significant because it was the pilot episode, the one that started all this madness.