Hello, X-Files newbies!
This list came from one I threw together for a friend on Tumblr who wanted to get into the show without watching every single episode. One of the great things about this show is that it gives you plenty of places to jump in, even if you don’t start at the very beginning. These one-off episodes are referred to as “Monster of the Week” episodes and have little-to-nothing to do with the series’ “mytharc” or overarching storyline. Though I can’t remember the exact episode that I saw first, this was how I was introduced to the show back in the late 90s.
This is my all-time favorite TV show, so I have to share the love with everyone. First off, a little character background:
Fox Mulder – A FBI Special Agent who works on strange, unexplained cases known as “X-files.” As a teenager, his younger sister was abducted by what he believed to be aliens, and this seems to be what drove him to delve into the world of the paranormal and government conspiracies. Prior to 1992, he had been working alone in his basement office on these cases for a couple years, until the FBI assigned another agent to lend a scientific perspective on his work and to discredit his work, but that didn’t work out very well.
Dana Scully – Chosen for her scientific background to work with Mulder, Scully is also a medical doctor, which often comes into play in their work together. She plays the skeptic to Mulder’s believer and tries to rationalize the bizarre experiences that they share.
Walter Skinner – Though he doesn’t appear until late in the first season, Skinner is the Assistant Director to whom both Mulder and Scully report during their time with the X-files. Later in the series, they are seen reporting to another Assistant Director, Alvin Kersh, after being put on a probationary period.
If you run into any questions about storylines or characters, I recommend checking out the X-Files Wiki.
Now, on with the episode list.
“Pilot” (1×00/1×79) – Paired up for the first time, Mulder and Scully travel to Oregon to investigate the death of a young woman who claims to have been abducted by aliens. A bit of a given that I’d recommend the pilot, but what I love about it is that you see their bond start to develop right away.
“Squeeze” (1×02) – Probably one of the most popular monster of the week episodes, so much so that it got a sequel episode later this season. Murders are being committed with no evidence as to how the culprit got in or out of the victims’ homes and offices. You may recognize the actor as the guy who married 16-year-old Courtney Stodden. Not sure what is creepier – the guy he played on the show or who he turned out to be in real life.
“Eve” (1×10) – A pair of identical young girls who live thousands of miles apart have their fathers die in the same manner at the exact same time. Creepy kid episode! Also where the band Eve 6 got their name.
“Beyond the Sea” (1×12) – Following the sudden death of her father, Scully joins Mulder in trying to stop a serial killer by working with one on death row who claims to be a conduit. We get to see Scully be exceptionally badass but also vulnerable, and I just really love that about her.
“Tooms” (1×20) – Sequel to “Squeeze.” When Tooms is released from jail, Mulder is determined to put him back where he belongs. Probably my favorite of the three MotW episode sequels – the other two being “Irresistible” (2×13)/”Orison” (7×07) and “Pusher” (3×17)/”Kitsunegari” (5×08).
“The Host” (2×02) – A humanlike creature escapes a Russian freighter and into the New Jersey sewers. Anyone unlucky to come into contact with this thing ends up becoming a host for its offspring.
“Irresistible” (2×13) – This one does mention something that happens earlier in season 2, but it’s one of the creepiest episodes of the series, so it’s worth inclusion on this list. Imagine Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer had a son who preyed on women for their hair and fingernails and you’ve got Donnie Pfaster.
“Die Hand Die Verletzt” (2×14) – A teenager dies in a ritualistic murder that uncovers a dark secret in a small town. Trigger warning: mentions of past sexual assault.
“Humbug” (2×20) – Mulder and Scully investigate a series of strange deaths in a Florida sideshow performer community.
“D.P.O.” (3×03) – They say that lightning never strikes twice. However, in this small town it’s doing a lot more than striking – it’s killing.
“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×04) – Mulder is skeptical of a famous psychic working on a murder case involving several fortune tellers.
“2Shy” (3×06) – A murderer preys on woman he meets on a singles message board. Fun/creepy fact: It’s set in Cleveland and one of his victims has my last name.
“Oubliette” (3×08) – After a young girl is abducted from her home, a woman whom she has never met begins to experience what she is feeling and may be the key to finding her.
“Syzygy” (3×13) – Strange deaths and occurrences in a small town may be the result of a planetary alignment. I love the level of done Scully is in this episode.
“Pusher” (3×17) – Mulder and Scully try to capture a man who appears to be influencing people with deadly results. This is another all-time favorite in the series, it’s incredibly tense and had me on the edge of my seat by the end of it.
“Home” (4×02) – The discovery of a dead infant in a field unearths a horrifying secret hidden in a small town. Quite possibly the most infamous of all The X-Files episodes, and also the one everyone voted to show on the old Thanksgiving Day marathons they used to air back in the 90s. Trigger warning: View Spoiler » incest. « Hide Spoiler
“Unruhe” (4×04) – While investigating a series of kidnappings and murders, Mulder and Scully discover that the only clues left behind are strange photographs that appear to reveal the killer’s innermost thoughts.
“Paper Hearts” (4×08) – A convicted serial killer claims that one of his young victims was Mulder’s sister, Samantha.
“Leonard Betts” (4×14) – The decapitated body of an EMT appears to have walked out of the morgue where it had been kept.
“Small Potatoes” (4×20) – A group of women in a small town give birth to babies with vestigial tails and it’s up to Mulder and Scully to find the real father. Trigger warning: mentioned rape/coercion.
“Detour” (5×04) – While on their way to a conference with another pair of FBI agents, Mulder and Scully join in the investigation of the mysterious disappearance of three people in the Florida woods.
“The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×05) – A small town is the backdrop for a modern-day Frankenstein tale. Trigger warning: mentioned rape.
“Chinga” (5×10) – Re-titled as “Bunghoney” for subsequent TV airings because the original title is a swear word in Spanish (though I think the equivalent of “fuck” isn’t quite as bad as “Bunghoney”). Scully is on vacation in Maine and ends up in the middle of a series of strange deaths tied to a young girl and her doll. This episode was co-written by Stephen King, in case that Maine setting didn’t give it away.
“Kill Switch” (5×11) – Another episode featuring well-known sci-fi and horror authors, this time the co-writers were William Gibson and Tom Maddox. An artificial intelligence program may be responsible for the murder of a renowned programmer.
“Bad Blood” (5×12) – Mulder and Scully recount the events leading up to the death of a teenage boy at Mulder’s hand. It is just hysterical. Just watch it, you’ll thank me later.
“Triangle” (6×03) – In the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, Mulder boards a ship stuck in the 1930s and runs into a lot of familiar faces.
“Dreamland I”/ “Dreamland II” (6×04 and 6×05) – While investigating an anonymous tip about Area 51, Mulder and an agent who works at the site swap bodies. The second part features one of my favorite lines from Scully: “‘Baby’ me one more time and you’ll be peeing through a catheter.” How can you not love that?
“Monday” (6×14) – Imagine that Groundhog Day were about a bank robbery that goes horribly wrong.
“Arcadia” (6×15) – Mulder and Scully pose as a couple to investigate a disappearance in a gated community. So much fun. Another absolute favorite of mine.
“The Goldberg Variation” (7×02) – A man who survives being thrown off of a building appears to have all the luck in the world. The people around him? Not so much.
“First Person Shooter” (7×13) – The Lone Gunmen call Mulder and Scully in to investigate the virtual reality game that they helped create when a character has taken control of it. William Gibson and Tom Maddox returned to pen this episode.
“Hollywood A.D.” (7×19) – Mulder and Scully get a movie! Written and directed by David Duchovny.
This is about where I left off in the series. I watched some of the eighth season, but at that point Duchovny had left the show. As much as I love Scully, the series for me was about both Mulder and Scully. I did come back to see the finale, but I had drifted away from it by the middle of season eight. I’m sure there were probably some good one-offs in the last two seasons, but I can’t speak to them. This list is probably more than enough to get you watching the show, however. I hope you guys love it just as much as I do.
If there’s an episode that you think should be on the list, please add it in the comments.