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 20-16.
20. “Four O’Clock,” season three, episode 94
Written by Rod Serling, story by Price Day
The story: Oliver Crangle wants to shrink all the “unfit” people of society down to two feet tall.
The twist: Crangle shrinks to only two feet tall.
Note: Price Day’s short story of a man who seeks revenge on those in society he deems unfit has one of the more memorable, albeit predictable, twist endings of any in the series, punctuated by a great final line. What makes the story interesting is the subtle and ambiguous use of fantasy. Does Crangle’s extraordinary power merely come from concentration? Day’s short story was originally published in the April, 1958 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and has been reprinted several times since. Austrian actor Theodore Bikel is the main draw of the story’s otherwise lackluster adaptation on The Twilight Zone.
19. “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” season two, episode 64
Written by Rod Serling
The story: A reported U.F.O. has two state troopers sifting through the patrons of a diner looking for an alien invader hiding among them.
The twist: There are two alien invaders, as the counterman at the diner reveals himself to be an alien as well.
Note: Director Montgomery Pittman’s debut on the series is a wild crowd pleaser which has a double twist, one expected, the other pleasingly over-the-top. Rod Serling’s script has perhaps the best collection of characters of any in the series. These characters are brought to life by a talented cast and the isolated, snowy atmosphere is a plus.
18. “Person or Persons Unknown,” season three, episode 92
Written by Charles Beaumont
The story: David Gurney wakes up to find that no one remembers him.
The twist: Gurney awakens again to find that he doesn’t recognize his wife.
Note: The twist in this episode has perhaps proved too subtle to stand out in the minds of many viewers but it remains a cleverly crafted nightmare of an episode, and one which perfectly encapsulates writer Charles Beaumont’s exploration of dreams and dreaming on the series. The episode forms an effective coda to a subject previously explored by Beaumont in “Perchance to Dream” and “Shadow Play.”
17. “Nick of Time,” season two, episode 43
Written by Richard Matheson
The story: Don and Pat Carter escape the superstitious hold of a fortune telling machine in a small town diner.
The twist: As the Carters make their escape, another couple is revealed to be in the depths of superstitious imprisonment.
Note: One of the more masterful episodes of the series contains a fine twist ending as well. The episode displays the strong qualities of writer Richard Matheson’s craft: engaging characters in a recognizable setting, a highly innovative treatment of fantasy, and a devastating final sequence. Additionally, Matheson’s story is so subtle (in terms of fantasy) that it could be grouped with a select handful of other Zone episodes which contain no actual fantasy at all. The twist ending was a hallmark of Matheson’s short fiction output and subsequently of his output for The Twilight Zone. This will not be his only work to appear on this countdown.
16. “Perchance to Dream,” season one, episode 9
Written by Charles Beaumont
The story: Edward Hall fears a recurring dream could kill him and unloads his problem on a sympathetic psychiatrist.
The twist: Hall dies in his sleep, the entire meeting with the psychiatrist having been a dream.
Note: An underrated episode which is perhaps the finest representation of the unique feeling of a nightmare ever displayed on the series, “Perchance to Dream” represents the apex of Charles Beaumont’s exploration of dreams and nightmares. His original short story appeared in the October, 1958 issue of Playboy and was collected in Night Ride and Other Journeys (1960). Particular attention should be paid to the impressive set design and director Robert Florey’s expressionistic visual design, realized by George T. Clemens’s excellent camera work.