“Want to see something really scary?”
For horror fans who came of age in the 1980s, the line above instantly recalls the introduction to 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie. The film was an homage to the seminal sci-fi/horror anthology series launched by Rod Serling in the 1950s and introduced the franchise to a whole new generation of fanatics. The movie led to a short reboot of The Twilight Zone as a television series, but it couldn’t match the overall intensity of the film, which remains one of horror’s best cinematic anthologies.
Related Article: Top 15 Terrifying Horror Anthology Movies
Last week, it was announced that Warner Bros had hired Christine Lavaf to pen the screenplay for a new Twilight Zone Movie!
Warner has been developing the project since 2009. The last major development came in 2013 with “Oblivion” director Joseph Kosinski in talks to helm the project with Anthony Peckham writing. Previous writers have included Rand Ravich and Joby Harold. “The Twilight Zone” is set up at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way where DiCaprio is producing with his partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran.
The announcement got us thinking about which classic Twilight Zone episodes we’d like to see revamped for the next film. With so many amazing entries to choose from, limiting our choices to the Top 15 was no easy task! For this list, we’re only looking at episodes from the original run of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), and we won’t be including episodes already remade in the 1983 film (so It’s a Good Life, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, and Kick the Can don’t qualify for consideration).
Official Synopsis: This tribute to the beloved supernatural TV show has four episodes. In the first, racist Bill Connor (Vic Morrow) is transformed into a Jew in World War II. Next, Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers) comes to a retirement home to teach the residents that they are only as young as they feel. In the third, teacher Helen Foley (Kathleen Quinlan) meets Antony (Jeremy Licht), a boy who is not what he seems. Finally, panicky plane passenger John Valentine (John Lithgow) sees gremlins attacking his flight.
Twilight Zone: The Movie was directed by Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Joe Dante, and George Miller.
Have a read and let us know what you think in the Comments section. Do you agree that these would make for great segments in the next Twilight Zone Movie? Do you have a favorite episode you’d like to see remade that wasn’t on the list? Let’s discuss!
About the Clips: Clips accompanying each entry vary greatly in terms of quality and length (from clips to 2-minute edits, to complete episodes).
Living Doll (Directed by Richard C. Sarafian)
Episode aired 1 November 1963
Official Synopsis: A frustrated father does battle with his stepdaughter’s talking doll, whose vocabulary includes such phrases as “I hate you” and “I’m going to kill you”.
Before there was Chucky or Annabelle or Blade or Mrs. Leech or any other demonic devil doll haunting children’s nightmares, there was Talky Tina. She might not be a demon or the ghost of a serial killer, and she doesn’t wield any weapons, but her voice could freeze blood. All she had to do to freak us out was open her lifeless eyes.
The Hitch-Hiker (Directed by Alvin Ganzer)
Episode aired 22 January 1960
Official Synopsis: A young woman driving cross country becomes frantic when she keeps passing the same man on the side of the road. No matter how fast she drives the man is always up ahead, hitching her for a ride.
The Hitch-Hiker is a familiar urban legend, but it has the staying power to make a great chapter in the new Twilight Zone Movie. The idea of a dark figure we can’t outrun taps into something primal—and terrifying!
The Masks (Directed by Ida Lupino)
Episode aired 20 March 1964
Official Synopsis: Wealthy Jason Foster is dying and he invites his greedy heirs to a Mardi Gras party where they must wear the masks he specially had made for them or else be cut off from their inheritance.
The Masks is the only episode of the original Twilight Zone directed by a woman, and it remains one of the show’s most poignant morality tales. The themes of inner beauty have never been more apropos than in our modern, fame & material obsessed society.
To Serve Man (Directed by Richard L. Bare)
Episode aired 2 March 1962
Official Synopsis: An alien race comes to earth, promising peace and sharing technology. A linguist and his team set out to translate the alien’s language, using a book whose title they deduce is “To Serve Man”.
If The Simpsons haven’t irreparably turned this classic episode of The Twilight Zone into a horror punchline, To Serve Man would make for an excellent revamp. It might be tough to rewrite in a way that wouldn’t reveal the well-known (and oft-quoted) final twist, but To Serve Man is also an important reminder that even peaceful guests sometimes harbor ulterior motives.
Eye of the Beholder (Directed by Douglas Heyes)
Episode aired 11 November 1960
Official Synopsis: A young woman lying in a hospital bed, her head wrapped in bandages, awaits the outcome of a surgical procedure performed by the State in a last-ditch attempt to make her look “normal”.
Like The Masks, Eye of the Beholder is an arresting examination of arbitrary beauty standards pushed by a patriarchal society. In terms of production, its use of framing and shadows, this is one of the most stunning episodes ever produced, with a reveal that gets under your skin—and festers!
The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (Directed by Ron Winston)
Episode aired 4 March 1960
Official Synopsis: On a peaceful suburban street, strange occurrences and mysterious people stoke the residents’ paranoia to a disastrous intensity.
The fact that the themes explored in The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street are incredibly relevant today is a testament to the cyclical nature of history itself. While it was written as a metaphor for fear of Communism, today’s Islamophobia and anxieties regarding terrorism are perfect modern parallels. The real monsters of this allegory are fear, distrust, and mob mentalities.
Stopover in a Quiet Town (Directed by Ron Winston)
Episode aired 24 April 1964
Official Synopsis: A hung-over couple awaken to find themselves not only in a strange house, but in a deserted town, where nothing is as it should be.
The idea of waking up or arriving in a deserted town is both captivating and unnerving, and the twist in Stopover in a Quiet Town could be the perfect dose of comic relief in an otherwise harrowing new Twilight Zone Movie.
The Bewitchin’ Pool (Directed by Joseph M. Newman)
Episode aired 19 June 1964
Official Synopsis: Two children escape their bickering parents through a portal in the bottom of their swimming pool to a magical land watched over by a kindly old woman the children call Aunt T.
This underrated episode of The Twilight Zone is a personal favorite, and the themes of child abuse and escape bring genuine human drama to this fantastic fable. The idea of finding a portal to another world echoes modern horror delights like The Mist and Stranger Things, and a revamped Bewitchin’ Pool could toy with the idea that Aunt T. may not be the savior she presents herself to be. It’s got “The Further” and “The Upside Down” written all over it.
The Thirty-Fathom Grave (Directed by Perry Lafferty)
Episode aired 10 January 1963
Official Synopsis: In the early 1960’s, as a U.S. Navy ship cruises near Guadalcanal in the South Pacific, its sonar detects muted hammering on metal undersea. The eerie sounds emanate from a submarine on the ocean floor, maybe there since World War II. A very nervous crew member (Mike Kellin) on the ship served aboard that sub – and he was its sole survivor.
Another often forgotten personal favorite is The Thirty-Fathom Grave, and it would be a perfect candidate for inclusion in a new Twilight Zone Movie. The themes of war are tragically relevant, and the juxtaposition of the ocean against the claustrophobic quarters of a sunken submarine are striking. Ultimately, this episode hinges on a final reveal, so it will take talent and technique to reinvent it for modern genre audiences.
The Midnight Sun (Directed by Anton Leader)
Episode aired 17 November 1961
Official Synopsis: When the Earth falls out of orbit, two women try to cope with increasingly oppressive heat in a nearly abandoned city.
One of the most focused, bleak, and nihilistic episodes of The Twilight Zone is The Midnight Sun. The story is terrifying in its simplicity: The Earth has drifted out of orbit and is headed towards the Sun. All organic life becomes the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water, until a gut-wrenching conclusion: An exacerbated, yet futile scream. Some paranormal conspiracy theorists actually believe The Midnight Sun predicted the events of 9/11. Just hit Google if you want to tumble down that rabbit hole!
Little Girl Lost (Directed by Paul Stewart)
Episode aired 16 March 1962
Official Synopsis: Awakened in the middle of the night by the cries of his daughter, a father enters the girl’s room to find that she has vanished – even though he can still hear her crying out for help.
Little Girl Lost could easily have been one of Steven Spielberg’s influences for Poltergeist, as the tale of a child stuck in an alternate dimension echoes the fate of Carol Anne Freeling (played by Heather O’Rourke). It’s another classic episode with modern sci-fi tropes fans of Stranger Things and metaphysical horror will adore.
The Dummy (Directed by Abner Biberman)
Episode aired 4 May 1962
Official Synopsis: Ventriloquist Jerry Etherson is convinced that his dummy, Willie, is alive and evil. He locks Willie in a trunk and makes plans for a new act with a new dummy. Too bad he didn’t clear those plans with Willie first.
This classic episode of The Twilight Zone is scarier than the entire film Dead Silence, proving that when it comes to making ventriloquist’s dummies scary, more is less. These puppets are always just a hair away from turning terrifying. The dummy becomes a reflection of its user’s darker sides, and it’s usually implied that the evil of man is the force bringing inanimate beings to life; it’s like an anti-Pinocchio story.
The Odyssey of Flight 33 (Directed by Jus Addiss)
Episode aired 24 February 1961
Official Synopsis: Passing through the sound barrier a commercial airliner inadvertently travels back in time.
I think it would be brilliant for a new Twilight Zone Movie to conclude with an airplane episode, like the first film did with Nightmare at 20,000 Feet in 1983. With air-travel itself increasingly fraught with peril and customer service taking a nosedive, the claustrophobic & hostile cab of an airplane is the perfect incubator for horror. This episode toys with the idea of never arriving at your intended destination—ever.
Perchance to Dream (Directed by Robert Florey)
Episode aired 27 November 1959
Official Synopsis: A fatigued man fights to stay awake as he explains to a psychiatrist that if he falls asleep it will trigger a nightmare, which will cause his heart to fail.
Long before Wes Craven came up with the idea for a character who can kill you in your dreams, Robert Florey’s Perchance to Dream turned sleep into a waking nightmare. Not only does this episode blur the line between the dream world and reality, it introduces the idea that a person can drive himself crazy by obsessing over death. Truly chilling!
The After Hours (Directed by Douglas Heyes)
Episode aired 10 June 1960
Official Synopsis: A woman is treated badly by some odd salespeople on an otherwise empty department store floor.
When I was a kid, The After Hours scared me like nothing else. After being accidentally locked into a department store overnight, the heroine is forced to face off against legions of talking mannequins. This one will drop you so deep into the Uncanny Valley, it may take you a lifetime to climb out. If you have an unexplained fear of mannequins, you probably saw The After Hours when you were a kid too!