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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Catman 14 hours ago
If Santa Claus isn't Art Carney, he should be.
Mirramanee 18 hours 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".
VanessaTara 1 day ago
i vote for "the lonely" (season 1) and "in praise of pip" (season 5)
FestusFan2312 1 day 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 18 hours ago
It was with Buster KEATON.
Oakerman 1 day 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!
kimmer 1 day 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 1 day ago
I would have put Kick the Can in this list of heartwarming episodes even if they needed to expand the list.
LH CarolKelley 1 day ago
Kick the Can was GREAT. So poignant and sad..
musicman37 1 day 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 1 day 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?
bobbymonte 1 day 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.
Rodneyowens 1 day ago
"A Stop at Willoughby" should be in the top ten.
LH Rodneyowens 1 day 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 ?
Love this one. I live about 10 miles from Willoughby OH.
LH LH 17 hours ago
I’m going to answer my own question! It was called “Walking Distance”
Pilaf 2 days ago
Never cared for Ed Wynn.
Now THERE'S a provocative conversational gambit.
jconrad Pilaf 6 hours ago
“The Hunt” may be my all time favorite.
Absolutely! "The Hunt" has always been my number one favorite.
Bones1 3 days ago
Gotta include "Walking Distance." Otherwise agree - "Changing of the Guard," "The Hunt," and "Night of the Meek" are the top, superbly written, acted, shot, and directed classics - certain to elicit a tear and a sniffle.
jimmyvici 3 days ago
The Hunt will always be my favorite. Ever since I lost my poodle Milo, that episode hits home hard for me and still brings tears to my eyes. 😔
Dlaws jimmyvici 2 days ago
I, too, agree with all of the episodes identified, but yes,\. Walking Distance should be included in this list. I always make a point to watch this episode when it airs. I know the outcome, of course, but it's just such a pleasant, heartwarming message and Gig Young is excellent as the main character.
MrsPhilHarris Dlaws 1 day ago
I hate to miss it. It is somewhat bittersweet.
MrsPhilHarris 3 days ago
I always loved Walking Distance. The closing narration is very poignant.

I like In Praise Of Pip too.
justjeff 3 days ago
Of course I like (and own on DVD) the entire series... Another one of the "heartwarming" episodes is the Ed Wynn's other appearance as the old man who believes when his grandfather clock stops ticking, so will he. ("Ninety Years Without Slumbering')...

Then there's the comical and lighthearted episodes with Burgess Meredith as "Mr. Dingle the Strong"... Shelly Berman as the man who can't stand people ("The Mind and the Matter")... "Hocus, Pocus and Frisbee" starring Andy Devine as a windbag spinner of tall tales... Orson Bean in "Mr. Bevis"... and the classic "Once Upon a Time" with legendary silent film star Buster Keaton in an homage via time travel to those silent movie days...
Jeremy 3 days ago
I've seen them all and I like most of them.
texasluva 3 days ago
Out of these I like.
A Penny For Your Thoughts
The Hunt
The one I would like to add: The Fugitive-Ben has powers (an old man but he's not really old) and Jenny the little crippled girl- It turns to magic at the end and all ends well +

Plus the dozen others I like that are not so warm and fuzzy. I mean we got to have a alien cook book-demented Talky Tina-It's a Very Good Life Antony, yes it is -A nightmare at any feet especially 20,000 when looking out a airplane window-Eye Of The Beholder-Monsters for sure on Maple Street (they are us)-Time Enough at Last , wait! Where are my glasses -Shadow Play -I just die again and again every time I see it- I dare you to stick your knife into his grave, gulp. You mean The Grave?---What will you have-Cold beer-ya so what do you do for a living? *pause* I bring back the dead Mr Garrity does in Mr. Garrity and the Graves. Those Five Characters in Search of an Exit. Clown, Ballerina, Major, The Tramp and Bagpiper all in search of a way out

So now the rest of you can give your favorites too
BrittReid texasluva 3 days ago
The After Hours.........
LH BrittReid 1 day ago
“Come now, Marsha…!”
HulkFan02 3 days ago
I haven't seen them but I didn't know some of those episodes are light hearted rather than scary or terrifying. I only seen the twenty fandom grave but that was it
srrainwater 3 days ago
Changing of the Guard still brings tears to my eyes........I just blame it on my allergies
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