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!
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.