10 heartwarming episodes of The Twilight Zone

Rod Serling didn't always take us to dark places

The Twilight Zone is famously remembered for it's eerie settings, creative monsters, and horrifying twists. Who can forget Talky Tina, the living doll who announced "I'm going to kill you"? Or maybe the aliens with their book, To Serve Man. Even William Shatner's iconic episode had him dealing with both a monster on the wing of a plane and the horror of a potential plane crash.

But Rod Serling didn't always take us to dark places. At least, not without a light of hope. Here are ten episodes of The Twilight Zone that deal with hope, optimism, and love, and will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling.

By the nature of The Twilight Zone's twist endings, this list may have spoilers. Read at your own risk!

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1. One for the Angels

In just the second episode, The Twilight Zone already gives us something to "aww" over. "One For The Angels" follows Lew Bookman, a sidewalk peddler of toys and trinkets who's beloved by the neighborhood children. When Death comes for him, he convinces him to wait until he's made the greatest sales pitch of his life — "one for the angels". But when his loophole means that one of the neighborhood kids will die in his place, Bookman makes pitch after pitch to Death, each better than the next, in order to keep the child alive. Even Death seems to root for Bookman in this gentle tale.

2. A Passage for Trumpet

Starring Jack Klugman, this story follows a dejected trumpet player. After stepping in front of a car, he wakes up to find that nobody can see or hear him. At a nightclub, someone finally speaks to him — another trumpet player, who tells him that he's in a sort of limbo and gets to decide if he's going to live or die. As Rod Serling says in the final narration, "[life] can be rich and rewarding and full of beauty... if a person would only pause to look and to listen."

3. The Night of the Meek

This Christmas episode starts off incredibly bleak. A worn, ragged Henry Corwin is fired from his job as a department store Santa. He claims he drinks because he lives in a dirty rooming house with hungry kids and he can't stand all the suffering. When he stumbles across a bag filled with gifts, he realizes that the bag magically produces any item asked for. He spends Christmas Eve finally happy, giving gifts to the children and men at a mission house. However, the only gift Corwin wants is to do this forever, to be able to give freely and lift spirits. He gets his wish with a healthy dose of Christmas magic.

4. A Penny For Your Thoughts

This story stars Dick York of Bewitched as a shy, insecure bank clerk. When he tosses a coin and it lands on its edge, he finds that he has gained the ability to hear other people's thoughts. He doesn't use this ability for crime, or to spy. Rather, he gains confidence, learns to stand up for himself, and impresses the girl who was always admiring him from afar. It's a simple story, but a charming one, and by the time he loses his supernatural ability, he finds he no longer needs the extra help.

5. The Hunt

This story was penned by Earl Hamner Jr., who you might know as the creator of The Waltons. Appropriate for the man behind Walton's Mountain, this story is about a mountain man and his beloved hound dog who come back from a hunt to realize that they've died along the way. The man finds a gate that promises to lead to heaven, but the gatekeeper says dogs aren't allowed. In a move that will resonate with any animal lover, the man declines to enter heaven if his dog can't come. It proves to be a smart choice, and the twist will leave you hugging your own dog.

6. The Trade-Ins

"The Trade-Ins" asks a simple question: is it better to enjoy a young, healthy body but leave your partner suffering old age alone, or would you go hand-in-hand into the future together, with all the wrinkles and grey hair that come with it? In this story, there's a procedure that allows people to swap aged bodies for younger models, but an elderly couple only has enough money for one of them. Of course, considering the subject of this list, love wins out and they decide that it's better to stay together even if it means staying old. 

7. I Sing the Body Electric

Ray Bradbury wrote the script for this sci-fi story. A widowed man with three children invests in a robotic grandmother to help care for the children. The oldest, still bitter and feeling abandoned by her mother's death, refuses to accept the new addition to the family. This story explores the idea that genuine love can come from even electronic sources as the family comes together.

8. Cavender is Coming

This idea was used a few times on The Twilight Zone— the concept that sometimes the success you dream of won't be as fulfilling as you think it will. However, only this one had Carol Burnett! She plays Agnes, a clumsy woman who gets fired from her job. When a guardian angel, Cavender, gives her a mansion, a large bank account, and high-society friends, Agnes finds that she misses her old apartment and friends. When Cavender undoes the magic, Anges is finally happy in her life, clumsiness and all.

9. The Changing of the Guard

Get out the tissues, folks, because this one gets emotional. Another Christmas Eve tale, "Changing of the Guard" is about a retired teacher who feels like he has accomplished nothing and prepares to end his life. However, at the last minute, he is visited by ghosts of his students — who tell him about how he changed their lives and made them better men for it. The teacher realizes that he has made a difference in the world after all. Cue the waterworks.

10. Passage on the Lady Anne

This hourlong, fourth-season episode is often overlooked. It follows a couple whose marriage has become strained and in a last-ditch effort to save it, they book an unusual boat voyage. Something is off about this ship: all the passengers are elderly, they seem to know the couple shouldn't be here, and there is cryptic talk about their destination. This boat may not be of this world, but it causes husband and wife to realize that they love each other and want to remain together. Aww.

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RedjacArbez 5 months ago
The Changing of the Guard

As a teacher I get it.....We seldom see the final product....what became of the kids.

I was lucky to teach grade 1 in 2004....
Those kids are now stepping out into the world......Some of them found me on face book to thank me for making them want to come to school because my class was so much fun.

talk about a river of tears.
Purple0456 18 months ago
It doesn’t get better than Twlight zone to make us think. So many of the episodes resonate with what we see today especially the “monsters on maple street “ Rod Serling knew what he was talking about. He left us with a real gift…flash of insight which seems to be sorely lacking today💜
Filmnoirfan 23 months ago
Of the 10 listed, Night Of The Meek, The Hunt, Cavendar Is Coming and The Changing Of The Guard are all very good, but the others are a little slow - especially the hour episode - and I Sing The Body Electric is the all-time worst episode.
PulsarStargrave 24 months ago
The BEWITCHIN POOL is one of my favorite heart warmers! I try not to miss it as well as the bittersweet BIG TALL WISH!
DocSavage98 28 months ago
The Hunt is my all time favorite TZ episode. I grew up coon hunting with my dad and we raised and trained hounds. Just puts me at piece to watch a favorite actor, Arthur Hunnicutt ride this episode making each scene perfect.

I think "A Game of Pool" could be on this list as a cautionary tale ...that sometimes getting exactly what you think will make you happy forever....won't!
Filmnoirfan DocSavage98 23 months ago
As the saying goes "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it"
scp 28 months ago
I know it doesn't qualify as a "warm and fuzzy" episode, but "Mr. Garrity and the Graves" is one my favorites.
And, when making sure I had the title right, I stumbled over the fact that Serling had based it on a true story from Alta, Utah, where in 1873 a mysterious stranger showed up and offered to go to the cemetery and raise the dead. While people were initially receptive, the complications of such an act (what about widows and widowers who had remarried, what about property that had been inherited, etc.) convinced the townspeople to reconsider. The residents ended up collecting $2,500 and gave it to the stranger to leave town, which he did.
ms231 28 months ago
I have seen all of them. They are all great. My favorite is, “The Changing of the Guard.”
MichaelVegas 28 months ago
I have not seen "The Changing of the Guard" but if all the visitor to tell him how much the teacher made their lives better are ghosts (Dead) how can that make you feel good? I mean I help 20 people and 5 come back to me telling me how I changed their life and made it better and they were dead, I do not think I would have changed my mind.
DocSavage98 MichaelVegas 28 months ago
The reason most are ghosts are they have gone to serve and protect their country in one of several wars he has taught through....apparently he taught for a loooong time.
Filmnoirfan MichaelVegas 23 months ago
He was on the verge of suicide suspecting that his many years of teaching had no impact on his students, but the ghosts of students past actually gave his career and his life validation
Catman 28 months ago
If Santa Claus isn't Art Carney, he should be.
Filmnoirfan Catman 23 months ago
Guess we will find out in less than two weeks
KeiFox Catman 10 months ago
Art Carney portrayed Santa Claus in the 1984 TV film "The Night They Saved Christmas", starring Jaclyn Smith.
Mirramanee 28 months ago
Another episode which I enjoy watching is "The Bewitching Pool". It's about two children whose parents are so caught up in their own marital woes (constantly fighting, not paying a lot of attention to their kids, etc.). The children discover that their swimming pool is a portal that leads them to another world where other neglected children come to live an idyllic existence, complete with a loving grandmotherly figure. They stay and enjoy themselves for a while, but decide to return to their parents (ever hopeful things will get better and their parents will mend their marriage). The ending is pretty predictable in this one, but it still resonates with me nevertheless. And I loved Mary Badham, who plays one of the children. She also played Scout, the daughter in my absolute favorite movie of all time, "To Kill a Mockingbird".
LH Mirramanee 28 months ago
Mary Badham played Sport Sharewood, but June Foray’s voice was dubbed in for the outdoor scenes. I always thought her voice sounded strange and weirdly different during the pool scenes! June Foray also voiced Rocky the flying squirrel and many others
LH Mirramanee 28 months ago
This may be too long to read but it’s really interesting. I remember reading this in Wikipedia:

“Numerous production problems delayed the premiere of this episode, which was originally scheduled for March 20, 1964. Most noticeably, back-lot noise rendered much of the outdoor dialogue unusable – only the indoor scenes with Aunt T were considered audible. The entire cast (except Aunt T) consequently re-dubbed their outdoor dialogue in September 1963, but Mary Badham's voice was still deemed not right.[2] Unfortunately, by the time this decision had been made, Badham had returned to her home in Alabama, and the cost of flying her back to Los Angeles to re-record her lines yet again was ruled to be too expensive. Eventually, voice actress June Foray, best known as the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel in the Bullwinkle cartoons, dubbed Sport Sharewood's lines for all the scenes that take place outdoors. In the finished episode, the change in Sport's voice is noticeable when she moves indoors, and Badham's own deeper voice and more authentic accent are heard in place of Foray's overdubbed voice characterization.”
Mirramanee LH 28 months ago
Thank you! I had never heard of this issue with the voices. I do recall thinking Mary Badham's voice sounded off at times in the episode (did not make the connection with the indoor vs outdoor scenes). I just figured it was a flaw in the recording track (due to the age of the series). Now it makes complete sense. Again, thank you for the information. I always love finding out about these odd little details on my favorite shows (and I have always loved June Foray's work in Rocky & Bullwinkle).
LH Mirramanee 28 months ago
I LOVED Rocky!!!
Rocky ROCKS!!!😁
LH Mirramanee 28 months ago
I love these little trivia bits too!
VanessaTara 28 months ago
i vote for "the lonely" (season 1) and "in praise of pip" (season 5)
LOVE IN PRAISE OF PIP one of the first stories commenting on the Vietnam war!
FestusFan2312 28 months ago
I don’t remember the name but I like the episode where an inventor comes up with a time machine helmet and he and a janitor (I think) go back to the good old days where the scenes look straight out of a silent movie. They even used sub-titles for the dialogue.
kimmer FestusFan2312 28 months ago
It was with Buster KEATON.
scp FestusFan2312 28 months ago
I love that episode.
Oakerman 28 months ago
How can you not include “A praise for Pip” they best presentation of a fathers love for his son seen on tv to date!
wanderer2575 Oakerman 27 months ago
"In Praise of Pip." Interesting side story: Bill Mumy's parents were on set the day they filmed the amusement park scenes. Jack Klugman took them aside and explained that he would be grabbing Bill and hugging and kissing him furiously, so they wouldn't freak out and think he was off his rocker and attacking their son.
kimmer 28 months ago
Great picks for the top 10! For me there are a few other ones that are meaningful to me ...as I see in comments below....we gravitate to ones more personal to ourselves. Great one Metv!
CarolKelley 28 months ago
I would have put Kick the Can in this list of heartwarming episodes even if they needed to expand the list.
LH CarolKelley 28 months ago
Kick the Can was GREAT. So poignant and sad..
musicman37 28 months ago
The ones above are indeed the most heartwarming ("I Sing the Body Electric" and "The Hunt" are my favorites of the heartwarmers) but my all-time faves are "The Howling Man" and "The Midnight Sun".
thelindaj musicman37 28 months ago
Oh yes. You just knew what the inevitable ending, because of human nature, would be in The Howling Man. And wasn't Lois Nettleton just outstanding in The Midnight Sun?
Filmnoirfan musicman37 23 months ago
The Howling Man is a great episode with memorable performances from John Carradine, H.M. Wynant and Robin Hughes
bobbymonte 28 months ago
My all time favorite is 'Night of the Meek'. I know this is blasphemy, but I would change 1 minor thing about the episode. At the end, when it's realized he will become Santa Clause, I would like to see his beard become a real beard instead of the fake department store beard. That would really solidify what happened.
Filmnoirfan bobbymonte 23 months ago
One of the best episodes indeed. Several memorable characters, including the bartender who misspells Merry - leaving off an r - and accuses Santa of attempting to heist the joint
Rodneyowens 28 months ago
"A Stop at Willoughby" should be in the top ten.
LH Rodneyowens 28 months ago
ABSOLUTELY and that other one…what was it? When the man goes back in time and sees himself as a boy and meets his father? And at first his dad doesn’t believe it’s really his son but in the end he tells his son to go back and let the little boy have “his” time ?
thedogg53 Rodneyowens 28 months ago
Love this one. I live about 10 miles from Willoughby OH.
LH LH 28 months ago
I’m going to answer my own question! It was called “Walking Distance”
Filmnoirfan thedogg53 23 months ago
A very good episode. "That's Willoughby right outside"
Filmnoirfan Rodneyowens 23 months ago
Indeed - a very good episode and you sympathize quickly with the main character
28 months ago
Never cared for Ed Wynn.
AgingDisgracefully Pilaf 28 months ago
Now THERE'S a provocative conversational gambit.
jconrad Pilaf 28 months ago
wanderer2575 Pilaf 28 months ago
I like Ed Wynn, but with his deliberate and paced style of speaking he was very much miscast for the role of a fast-talking sidewalk pitchman. Especially in the climactic scene where his pitch had to be mesmerizing enough to distract Mr. Death himself; it just didn't work.
Deleted 28 months ago
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Mirramanee 28 months ago
Absolutely! "The Hunt" has always been my number one favorite.
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