25 best standalone episodes of The X-Files

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THE X-FILES – SEASON 8: Agents Mulder (David Duchovny, L) and Scully (Gillian Anderson, R) in the ‘Alone’ episode of THE X-FILES which originally aired on Sun., May 6, 2001 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Episode was directed by co executive producer Frank Spotnitz. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)

New to The X-Files? Check out 25 of the show’s best standalone episodes to get started in this spooky series.

If you were even remotely weird or spooky in the 1990’s, then you were surely a fan of The X-Files. Even if you were just a casual fan of pop culture or popular TV, then you’ve at least heard of the exploits of FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Even today, their adventures have remained indelible parts of American pop culture and beyond. With recent interest in the show and a six-episode miniseries revisiting it, The X-Files seems to be as popular as ever. It’s even been turned into a children’s book, set to debut this summer. You’d better believe I’m getting a copy for myself, too.

One of the most popular aspects of The X-Files was its overarching focus on aliens and government conspiracies, popularly referred to as its “mytharc”. Episodes that focused on the mytharc often drew on one another, building on the tension and increasing paranoia of the concept.

However, it’s difficult to sustain that for ten seasons. Both viewers and showrunners would likely have gotten bored way before The X-Files could have truly gathered steam. To introduce a little variety, creators therefore interspersed the mytharc episodes with “monster-of-the-week” stories. In these tales, Mulder and Scully encountered anything from sewer monsters, to shapeshifters, to Garry Shandling himself.

These standalone episodes could be enjoyed on their own merits, without all of the narrative weight hefted about by the mytharc. They were also opportunities to inject some levity into the series. While monster-of-the-week episodes could certainly be as creepy and unsettling as any alien-focused story, they could also be riotously funny. In fact, many argue that some of the very best episodes of The X-Files were the ones that indulged in a little humor.

While I’ve tried to avoid spoilers for these episodes, you may still want to tread with caution. If you want to watch along at home, I’m sorry to announce that The X-Files has left Netflix. However, it’s still around on Hulu and in numerous DVD and Blu-Ray collections. A little sleuthing will be sure to uncover the episodes you need.

And, always remember: the truth is out there.