The Twilight Zone is a series known for its twist endings and it's safe to say that many of the show’s most well-known episodes are at least partially recalled due to a twist in the tale. Within the show’s output are several truly memorable and effective twist endings. We’ve narrowed these down to 20 and ranked them in order of effectiveness. We will unveil them in groups of 5 over the next four days. Let us know your favorite twist ending on the series. Please note that we have not considered episode 142, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," in this list as it was not an original production of the series.
Here’s a look at #s 15-11.
15. “Escape Clause,” season one, episode 6
Written by Rod Serling
The story: Hypochondriac Walter Bedeker makes a deal with the Devil that he will live forever and be impervious to harm in exchange for his soul.
The twist: After the accidental death of his wife, Bedeker pleads guilty to murder in the hope of experiencing the thrill of the electric chair. His attorney gets him “off” with life in prison.
Note: “Escape Clause” is truly an episode which functions solely for its snap ending, which is a good one. The episode has little to recommend it beyond the twist ending, as it is highly derivative and staged in the most pedestrian manner.
14. “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” season one, episode 22
Written by Rod Serling
The story: Neighbors on a quiet street turn upon one another in an ugly display of paranoid persecution when the electricity fails and their machines inexplicably break down.
The twist: Alien invaders have found that a unique way to conquer mankind is to take away their machines and cast them into darkness.
Note: Although the twist ending is a memorable one, it is not technically a twist ending at all, when one considers that the boy was correct in telling the adults that aliens had landed and were interfering with their homes. One wonders whether the episode had been even more effective if no cause for the interference were revealed. As it is, the science fictional ending placed on Serling’s devastating comment on the hidden ugliness of mankind seems forced and unnecessary.
13. “The Hitch-Hiker,” season one, episode 16
Written by Rod Serling, based on the radio play by Lucille Fletcher
The story: A young woman is pursued by a hitchhiker after getting into an accident on the highway.
The twist: The young woman did not survive the accident and the hitchhiker is there to shepherd her into the afterlife.
Note: Serling changed little in adapting Lucille Fletcher’s famous radio play to the series besides the gender of the main character. Fletcher’s radio play was originally written for Orson Welles. Though Fletcher’s story was not the first to utilize the trope that the main character is in actuality dead, it is a twist which has been utilized endlessly since. Notable examples include the 1962 film Carnival of Souls, William F. Nolan’s 1967 story “The Party,” and the 1999 film The Sixth Sense.
12. “Where is Everybody?” season one, episode 1
Written by Rod Serling
The story: A young man with amnesia finds himself in a seemingly deserted town but cannot escape the feeling of being watched.
The twist: The man’s experience of the town is an hallucination brought about by isolation within a solitary chamber designed to emulate a trip through space.
Note: The story that sold the series remains an engaging and exceptionally staged psychological horror story. Earl Holliman turns in a great performance as the young man and the twist ending, however unbelievable, grounds the happenings in a realistic setting, something thought necessary to sell the series to the network executives and the corporate sponsors.
11. “People Are Alike All Over,” season one, episode 25
Written by Rod Serling, story by Paul W. Fairman
The story: An astronaut named Conrad, the survivor of a crash landing on Mars, is treated kindly by the seemingly civilized inhabitants of the red planet.
The twist: Conrad is housed in a disguised prison, to be displayed as an animal in a zoo.
Note: Another episode which functions solely for its twist ending, “People Are Alike All Over” has some other interesting aspects, most notably the unabashedly science fictional production design. Roddy McDowall is also enjoyable in his only appearance on the series. The episode is based on Paul W. Fairman’s short story, “Brothers Beyond the Void,” originally published in the March, 1952 issue of Fantastic Adventures.