In the 1990s The X-Files brought horror out of the theater and into living rooms. The series pushed the envelope on many occasions, but the most controversial X-Files episodes aren't just milquetoast scary or freaky. They leave scars. Arguably the most extreme X-Files episode was banned from airing for years.
Some of the most horrifying, gross, and nausea-inducing episodes of The X-Files combine the body horror of David Cronenberg films with the kind of supernatural scares for which the show is best known. These episodes twist human and inhuman bodies into a myriad of disgusting forms, pushinig the viewer into horrifying worlds that are just a shade different than our own. More than anything, they make viewers' stomachs churn.
"Nothing Lasts Forever:" The Surgery Cult That Sews Together Stays Together (Literally)
In 1979, AC/DC sang "If you want blood, you've got it," and this episode feels as though it was designed to deliver on AC/DC's decades-old promise. Opening with an attack at the end of an underground surgery, the episode gets gorier from there. The story follows a cult obsessed with finding the secret to eternal youth, and almost every shot spent with the group contains a menagerie of brutality.
This late-series entry goes for broke when it comes to making the audience reach for their barf bags. Early on a woman drinks a smoothie made up of organs in a blender, and that's before a member of a conjoined couple is separated by knifepoint, left to bleed out on the floor of a tasteful mid-century designed apartment.
"Nothing Lasts Forever" isn't as disturbing as some of the earlier episodes in the series, but it never gets easy to see a group of people get sewn together PG-13 Human Centipede style.1827A lot for network TV?
Few moments on the show are quite as squirm-inducing as the cold open of "Terms Of Endearment," a monster of the week episode from Season 6. A kind of inversion of Rosemary's Baby, the story features Bruce Campbell as a demon who's trying to live a normal life and raise a normal child, but that's not the gross part.
One of the first scenes in this episode involves a straight up demon, with horns and fire and a pointy tail, ripping the unborn child out of a mother's womb. It's intense even if you don't have kids, and if you do, well it's a downright nightmare.2237A lot for network TV?
The dreaded black oil makes an appearance in this Season 5 episode that lays the groundwork for the back half of the series and the first X-Files film. Much of the episode details Mulder's building awareness of the Colonists, a group of aliens who are slowly warring with members of their own species with Earth seemingly caught in the middle.
Beyond the overall plot machinations, though, this episode involves alien abductees who are burned alive and alien rebels who have had their eyes and mouths sewn shut. Seeing them is bad enough, but in the middle of an episode, Russian agent Krycek sews a boys eyes, nose, and mouth shut to keep him from leaking black oil.2442A lot for network TV?
The squeak-squeak-squeak of the Beggar Man's wheels are creepy enough, and Deep Roy plays this frightening mystic with plenty of menace, but that's not what makes this episode hard to watch. The episode begins with an investigation into a corpse with a massive amount of stomach damage, but no one knows what caused such a gaping wound.
It's only when Scully puts two and two together that this shifts from the typical monster of the week episode into something much more grotesque. The monster isn't some stomach chewing creep. Instead, it's a small person who climbs into another person's body through their stomach cavity and controls them like a meat puppet.
Producer Paul Rabwin has gone so far as to say that the episode is only one of the entire series he wishes he could delete forever, saying, "I think the whole idea was distasteful to me.”2038A lot for network TV?