A tense and plausible nightmare about a young man (Alex Lawther) blackmailed by hackers that leaves you feeling awful about every character involved and wanting to take a shower. Still, even the weakest of ‘Black Mirror’ is rather unforgetable.
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Table of Contents
No. 19: ‘The Waldo Moment’ (Season 2)
The closest Black Mirror has to an agreed-upon misfire, this political spoof doesn’t quite connect as it follows the rise of a Triumph the Insult Comic Dog-like figure (Daniel Rigby). Since the 2016 election, however, some cite this episode as one of the show’s most prophetic hours.
3 of 20 Jonathan Prime /Netflix
No. 18: ‘Black Museum’ (Season 4)
Love the Creepshow vibe of this trio of horror tales, though each segment felt like a runner-up idea for a full episode. Also, by the time this episode aired at the end of season 4, the whole ‘people trapped in a digital world’ trope was wearing a bit thin. Still, who can forget “monkey needs a hug!”
4 of 20 Christos Kalohoridis / Netflix
No. 17: ‘Arkangel’ (Season 4)
A cautionary tale of helicopter parenting about a mother (Rosemarie DeWitt) who monitors her daughter (Brenna Harding) with intrusive technology has some fine moments, then takes a violent turn in the final act that doesn’t quite feel earned.
5 of 20 Laurie Sparham/Netflix
No. 16: ‘Men Against Fire’ (Season 3)
A grim tale with an underdeveloped protagonist (Malachi Kirby) that makes some compelling points about modern warfare, yet lacks the depth and impact of other episodes.
6 of 20 Arnaldur Halidorsson / Netflix
No. 15: ‘Crocodile’ (Season 4)
Every episode from this point forward is recommended viewing regardless of ranking. In “Crocodile,” an executive (Andrea Riseborough) spirals deeper and deeper into a murderous pit while trying to cover up a secret from her past, while an insurance investigator (Kiran Sonia Sawar) uses a tech innovation to solve crimes that Alfred Hitchcock would love. So well made, yet one of the show’s most agonizing episodes.
7 of 20 Laurie Sparham/Netflix
No. 14: ‘Playtest’ (Season 3)
The Black Mirror version of a haunted house story follows an affable tourist (Wyatt Russell) who tries out an immersive new game. This story stays one step ahead of the viewer at every moment with unsettling direction by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane). There’s no moral here, and doesn’t need to be.
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No. 13: ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ (Season 1)
One of the show’s most unique and underrated episodes (it gets better upon repeated viewings) explores a romance between two people (Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica Brown Findlay) living in a dystopian reality TV future.
9 of 20 Laurie Sparham/Netflix
No. 12: ‘Hated in the Nation’ (Season 3)
Scandi-noir meets The X-Files in this feature-length procedural drama tackling online mob outrage, but what you’ll remember most is its frighteningly unstoppable murder weapon.
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No. 11: ‘White Bear’ (Season 2)
Others rank this fan-favorite much higher: A woman (Lenora Critchlow) is relentlessly pursued with a twist you won’t see coming. “White Bear” could have easily been a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, but it aruably doesn’t have the same level of writing and character development as the show’s best episodes.
11 of 20 David Dettmann/Netflix
No. 10: ‘Nosedive’ (Season 3)
A successful shift into comedy anchored by star Bryce Dallas Howard and written by Parks and Recreation veterans Mike Schur and Rashida Jones along with Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker; this social media spoof that takes online reviews to their ultimate desperate extreme. We give “Nosedive” four stars!
12 of 20 Stuart Hendry/Netflix
No. 9: ‘Bandersnatch’ (2018 Film)
A technological home run. A supremely clever script. An engrossing (and stressful!) experience. Yet the story itself — a tale set in 1984 about a game developer (Fionn Whitehead) descending into madness — comes up a bit short, with five abrupt endings and several blind alleys. Perhaps it was all the pre-release buzz, but an episode billed as a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ tale feels like it should have a bit more, well, adventure — as one of the gonzo endings in this ultra-meta tale itself points out.
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No. 8: ‘White Christmas’ (2014 Special)
At this point, ranking these epsides gets quite tough; they’re all terrrific. “White Christmas,” despite a 70-minute length and a trio of storylines, Brooker’s script about two men (a terrific Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall) stuck in a snowbound cabin is a marvelously tight construction that weaves together its seemingly disparate tales in an unexpected way that makes surprising sense. The tech nightmares presented here (blocking, the egg) are among the most haunting the show has ever concocted.
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No. 7: ‘The National Anthem’ (Season 1)
The mad-brilliant (and totally divisive) series opener; a political satire with a premise that left viewers with their jaws dropped — a kidnapper demands the Prime Minister (Rory Kenner) has sex with a pig on television or he’ll kill a beloved royal family princess. Proves Black Mirror episodes don’t need sci-fi elements or twists to feel original and surprising.
15 of 20 Jonathan Prime / Netflix
No. 6 ‘Hang the DJ’ (Season 4)
Many will disagree with this episode’s lofty placement. Black Mirror‘s take on dating apps has been criticized as overly cute, and its twist too familiar. But we swooned for this unabashedly romantic look at modern dating, expertly directed by Sopranos vet Tim Van Patten and starring Georgina Campbell (in a breakout performance) and Joe Cole as a couple navigating a bossy version of Tinder.
16 of 20 Jonathan Prime /Netflix
No. 5 ‘Metalhead’ (Season 4)
A complex, brainy show’s most simple tale: A woman (Maxine Peake) is chased by a robotic “dog.” “Metalhead” is a black-and-white post-apocalyptic blast from start to finish, full of dark humor and a scarily plausible robotic villain that’s like BB-8 crossed with a xenomorph. Note to Netflix: “The Walking Dead with robots” isn’t a terrible idea idea for spinoff series.
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No. 4: ‘Be Right Back’ (Season 2)
Deciding the order of these final four episodes was insanely difficult — all took turns at No. 1 during deliberations. “Be Right Back” is a high-tech version of “The Monkey’s Paw,” about a woman (Hayley Atwell) who tries out a cutting edge service that synthetically recreates her dead boyfriend (Domhnall Gleeson). This is a moving exploration of grief and the drama’s most emotional hour.
18 of 20 Netflix
No. 3: ‘USS Callister’ (Season 4)
“The Star Trek episode” is stuffed with more clever allegory than you can shake a tricorder at, throwing jabs at everything from sci-fi tropes to workplace sexual harassment. Jesse Plemons stars in a monstrous tech company’s CTO who has digital clones of his coworkers trapped in his favorite yesteryear TV show. Sure the ending is solved by a convenient bit of technobabble, but even that could be seen as spoofying Trek.
19 of 20 Laurie Sparham/Netflix
No. 2: ‘San Junipero’ (Season 3)
A story of two visitors (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis) to a California beach town in 1987. Seldom has an episode of TV been better served by its final moments; the ending of “San Junipero” marries humanity, technology, and nostalgia with a stunning two-minute masterfully edited sequence that elevates everything we’ve seen before it. Many Black Mirror episodes leave you feeling like you’ve survived a nightmare; this is a vision of the future — and the past — that you’ll long to relive.
20 of 20 Giles Keyte
No. 1: ‘The Entire History of You’ (Season 1)
Yup, still at No. 1, but just barely. From writer Jesse Armstrong, this is Black Mirror’s most archetypal example of its premise. “The Entire History of You” (itself an amazing title) takes a wholly plausible near-future tech innovation (the ability to record and replay whatever you see), then expertly squeezes it for every last ounce of its dark dramatic implication. While there are Black Mirror episodes you might enjoy more, and ones with finer performances, this hour’s execution by director Brian Welsh is sophisticated and flawless.