Created by the legendary Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone has become a sprawling franchise, and here’s every movie and show in it, ranked worst to best.
Here’s how every movie and show in The Twilight Zone franchise ranks worst to best. Created by the legendary Rod Serling, 1959’s The Twilight Zone didn’t invent the sci-fi/horror anthology TV genre, but it quite possibly did perfect it. Despite being well over 60-years-old at this point, the original Twilight Zone is a show that still manages to add new fans into its loyal legion with each new generation of viewers, and it’s still regularly shown in re-runs and readily available to stream as well.
The Twilight Zone has been issued and reissued on multiple home video formats, but Serling and company’s themes and messages still resonate with many no matter how many years go by. Perhaps the biggest testament to the staying power and influence of The Twilight Zone is that every decade or so, a new producer decides to take a crack and create a modern version, most recently Jordan Peele. These reboot attempts have had their ups and downs but have produced a fair bit of programming that Serling would likely nod approvingly at.
So far, The Twilight Zone has been revived in 1985, 2002, and 2019, and also spawned two movies in 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie and 1994’s TV movie Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics. Now, submitted for approval is a full ranking of those six Twilight Zone iterations, ranging all the way from the pit of fans’ fears to the summit of their knowledge.
6. Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics (1994 TV Movie)
While not abysmally bad or unwatchable by any means, Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics is easily the worst movie or TV show to bear the Twilight Zone brand name. That’s partly because the title itself is inaccurate, as the two stories presented here were, in fact, based on scripts that Serling wrote years after The Twilight Zone was canceled and were thus never intended to be part of that show. The first story is “The Theatre,” which sees a woman be treated to images of her own life on a movie theater screen, images only she can see. The second and longer story is “Where the Dead Are,” which focuses on the experiments of a mad scientist and, in some ways, evokes the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Both stories are fine enough but are entirely unremarkable and far from top-tier Serling material.
5. The Twilight Zone (2002 TV Show)
Airing on the now-defunct UPN network in 2002, this version of The Twilight Zone ran for only one season but did produce a meaty count of 44 episodes in that time. Among the lot are some genuinely good stories, although there are more mediocre outings and a few outright clunkers. Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker serves as host and does a fine job, as one might expect. Notably, one of the best episodes is a sequel to the original show’s classic story “It’s a Good Life,” and brings back Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman to reprise their roles. Lots of notable guest stars took part as well, including a pre-Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Linda Cardellini, and even pop star Jessica Simpson. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough great episodes to earn a higher ranking.
4. The Twilight Zone (2019 TV Show)
Airing for two seasons and 20 total episodes on the CBS All Access streaming service – now known as Paramount Plus – the 2019 Twilight Zone revival series was hosted, and executive produced by acclaimed comedian turned director Jordan Peele. Peele’s Twilight Zone instantly became a lightning rod due to its apparent political messaging, but Serling’s original Twilight Zone had plenty of political points to make, so that line of criticism doesn’t hold much weight. Politics aside, though, the 2019 Twilight Zone just wasn’t that great, turning out some worthwhile episodes, but also failing to really hit things out of the park consistently in the way Peele’s fans may have expected.
3. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983 Movie)
Directed by the formidable quartet of John Landis, sci-fi master Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller, Twilight Zone: The Movie was a critical and commercial hit, reigniting interest in The Twilight Zone and leading to the 1985 TV revival. Featuring four stories based on classic Twilight Zone episodes, Twilight Zone: The Movie is quite good, although sadly, it might be best known for a horrific on-set tragedy that claimed the lives of actor Vic Morrow and two child extras during the filming of Landis’ segment. If one can look past that, though, Twilight Zone: The Movie remains worth watching, especially the final segment in which John Lithgow takes over for William Shatner in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
2. The Twilight Zone (1985 TV Show)
While not a smash hit at the time of airing, the three-season run of CBS’ mid-1980s Twilight Zone revival has come to be reappraised by many and is now seen as an underrated follow-up. Its highest highs still didn’t equal those of Serling’s original Twilight Zone, but the 1985 version still produced some excellent installments, such as “Nightcrawlers” – about a Vietnam vet whose dreams become reality – and “Dead Run,” in which a trucker finds himself hired to deliver damned souls to Hell. Twilight Zone 1985’s hit to miss ratio was high, especially during season 1, where most of the best stories were told. One advantage this revival had was the ability to go much darker with subject matter than Serling had been able to in the 1960s.
1. The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Show)
There couldn’t be any doubt as to what would top this ranking, as Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone is still one of the measuring sticks when it comes to anthology TV and sci-fi TV overall. Serling, his cast, writing staff, and crew turned out something truly special, and while bad episodes did happen, another great installment was usually right around the corner. The original Twilight Zone has been referenced thousands of times by movie and TV shows to follow and is a truly iconic piece of entertainment, one never afraid to tackle topics like racism, tyranny, and xenophobia through a fantastical lens. The Twilight Zone is Serling’s masterpiece, and 60 more years may well go by before something manages to truly outdo it.
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