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The 13 Worst 'X-Files' Episodes, Ranked By How Unbelievably Bad They Were

With 11 seasons, two movies, and more than 200 episodes under its belt, it’s no surprise The X-Files has churned out a few clunkers over the years. For a show often praised for its sophisticated storytelling and heavy themes, there was the occasional misfire that just didn't hit the high mark set by the rest of the series.

While there were plenty of story arcs, some of the series' biggest highs (and lows) spawned from the show's ongoing "monster of the week" episodes, which were essentially one-offs that centered on anything as ridiculous as Amish aliens to stories that were so dark they were actually banned for years

So what is it that makes the worst X-Files episodes so forgettable? For some, it's the simple fact that they really haven't aged all that well in the last couple of decades since they've aired. For others, it's due to their outlandish concepts, hokey themes, terrible set design, or a combination of all three. There's no denying The X-Files was a show that was never afraid to test the boundaries and try out new themes, and it’s that sort of unpredictability that arguably made it popular in the first place. After all, the show's forerunners were all about hits and misses, which is partially why these episodes stick out so much. 

  • 5

    My Struggle III

    Photo: Fox

    Synopsis: Scully has a vision involving her and Mulder's son. She ends up being hospitalized, and Mulder has to investigate the cause. He ends up crossing paths with Erika Price and Mr. Y, who are on a mission to colonize the universe. 

    Why it falls short: The major offense caused by this episode is how it reconnects the previous season's ending. We learn the ending of last season was just a dream, and Scully is in the hospital. Negating an entire season's worth of build-up in a second is always a cheap shot, and this episode was a huge slap in the face to fans excited for the revival but ended up just getting messed with. 

    • Original Airing: January 3, 2018
    • Season: 11
    • Episode Number: 1
    10
    4
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  • 6

    Babylon

    Photo: Fox

    Synopsis: An art gallery showing allegedly offensive pieces is attacked, leaving the actual bomber incapacitated. Mulder uses mysticism to try to communicate with the comatose bomber to avoid a future attack while Scully seeks out answers via neuroscience. 

    Why it falls short: This episode deals with heavy subject matter that may hit too close to home for some. That's not its biggest problem, though. The main issue with this episode is the fact that it juxtaposes light and heavy subject matter with about as much tact as a blindfolded dog in a glass room. It also includes a sequence of Mulder getting high and dancing in a rodeo. The shift in tones doesn't work at all. 

    • Original Airing: February 15, 2016
    • Season: 10
    • Episode Number: 5
    11
    7
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  • Photo: Fox

    Synopsis: A maniacal therapist is implanting his patients with her own abusive memories. Meanwhile, a teenager named and patient named Bobby Rich becomes a suspect in his father's murder. However, Mulder and Scully believe a greater evil may be responsible.

    Why it falls short: "Schizogeny" had a lot of potential due to the creepy atmosphere it creates with the bloody trees. Unfortunately, the story falls a bit short; it feels like they filmed a bad spec script for the series, which really could have gone through a few more drafts. In the end, you realize the therapist has the ability to control trees, which is only slightly cool until you start to think about it a bit more.

    • Original Airing: January 11, 1998
    • Season: 5
    • Episode Number: 9
    • Series: The X-Files
    14
    14
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  • Photo: Fox

    Synopsis: An escaped elephant is linked to the death of a construction worker. It's also wreaking havoc of various properties. However, witnesses say no animals have been seen. Mulder and Scully investigate the local zoo and find that the zoo's claim to fame is that a successful animal birth has never occurred there. 

    Why it falls short: Most fans remember this as the "invisible elephant and tiger" episode. The episode tries to make a point about animal rights, but everything else is so silly that it ends up losing its impact. The episode does earn some points for using real animals, so at least you don't have to deal with witnessing bad animal CGI from the '90s. 

    • Original Airing: February 24, 1995
    • Season: 2
    • Episode Number: 18
    • Series: The X-Files
    7
    7
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