The Scariest ‘X-Files’ Episodes, Ranked

When “The X-Files” premiered on Sept. 3, 1993 on Fox, viewers had no idea how incredibly bizarre the cases tackled by FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) would be.

Anything that was deemed paranormal, supernatural or unexplainable was called an “X-File” — the cases that no one else in the agency wanted to touch.

In the show’s 11 seasons, they dealt with more than just aliens and shadowy government conspiracies. Their cases involved demons, ghosts, serial killers, sea monsters and even vampires. In celebration of the series’ 30th anniversary, here are the episodes with the scariest villains and killer creatures.

Home episode of The X-Files

7. Home

Season 4, Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, directed by Kim Manners

Perhaps this disturbing episode — which was banned for three years after its initial showing — is more creepy and unsettling than scary, but it certainly left an impression on viewers when it debuted in 1996. Mulder and Scully are called in after the body of a baby is found with multiple severe deformities. They discover the Peacocks, an off-the-grid family replete with incest and inbreeding that would be right at home in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” or Ti West’s “X.” It does include some lighter moments, such as Scully trying to use the “Baa ram ewe” chant from “Babe” on the Peacock pigs.

Die Hand die Verletzt episode of The X-Files


6. Die Hand Die Verletzt

Season 2, Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, directed by Kim Manners

This spooky installment features a town of devil worshippers who realize they’ve been rather lax in their devotion to Satan — so they try to step things up with some human sacrifices. Notable for the scene where a man is eaten alive by a python, as well as the substitute teacher whose eyes turn black as she performs a ritual in the deserted high school. Also, an absolutely horrific pig-dissection-in-biology-class moment.

Unruhe episode of The X-Files

5. Unruhe

Season 4, written by Vince Gilligan, directed by Rob Bowman

Pruitt Taylor Vince. who also played intimidating characters in “Identity” and “The Devil’s Candy,” guest stars as a deranged man who kidnaps people and gives them lobotomies to free them from the “howlers” in their head. The main clues that Mulder and Scully have to go on in this case are from”psychic photographs” of his victims, which appear on unexposed film. “Unruhe” is German for “troubled” or “unquiet.”

Gillian Anderson in Elegy episode of The X-Files

4. Elegy

Season 4, written by John Shiban, directed by James Charleston

One of the eeriest episodes of the show’s run is about a throat-cutting serial killer whose victims appear to a man who works at a bowling alley where one of those bodies is found — and to Scully. The apparitions are terrifying, but the fact that they seem to be a harbinger of imminent death has us incredibly scared for Dana, who recently received a cancer diagnosis.

Squeeze episode of The X-Files

3. Squeeze

Season 1, written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, directed by Harry Longstreet

Mulder and Scully have gone up against people who can shapeshift, walk through walls, start fires with their minds and even talk people into committing suicide. But it’s hard to beat the liver-eating Eugene Tooms (Doug Hutchison) — who can squeeze himself into just about any opening, no matter how small, — for sheer blood-curdling terror. He (spoiler) resurfaced in the episode “Tooms,” which aired later in the first season.

Mitch Pileggi in Folie a Deux episode of The X-Files

2. Folie à Deux

Season 5, directed by Kim Manners, written by Vince Gilligan

While this may share the subtitle of the forthcoming “Joker” sequel, the scares here are no laughing matter. An office employee takes hostages — including Mulder — after his boss and coworkers appear to have been turned into inhuman, insect-like creatures that only he can see. Except, once the hostage situation is resolved, Mulder can also see them. No one believes him as he tries to stop them from “converting” others. In the terrying final showdown, Mulder ends up restrained in a hospital bed with the window wide open… The title comes from a term for shared delusions.

Nick Chinlund and Gillian Anderson in the Irresistible episode of "The X-Files"

1. Irresistible

Season 2, directed by David Nutter, written by “X-Files” creator Chris Carter

Nick Chinlund of “Con Air” played one of the series’ most disturbing villains, Donnie Pfaster, who escalates from a necrophiliac obsession with dead bodies to murder. He becomes fascinated with Scully and abducts her. Among other things, he wants to give her a bath and wash her hair. (Shudder.) She knows he’s already killed, and he appears to her at times as a terrifying demon. The show doesn’t answer the question of whether he’s actually inhuman — but it’s clear that he’s evil incarnate.

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