The Top 24 Scariest TV Anthology Series

Updated on October 30, 2019
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I'm Nevets: Nerd, cinephile, TV-junkie, bookworm, gamer, and slacker extraordinaire.

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Good evening, boils and ghouls! Gather around, will you? Take a look outside. See how the leaves have fallen? How the pumpkins have been carved? How everyone's suddenly become weirdly cool with children accepting candy from strangers? No, this isn't The Twilight Zone... It's All Hallows' Eve, upon us at last!

This year on my list of scary things to watch, we're going to take the focus off from the movies (who always hog all the glory this time of year) and, instead, focus only on the top scares of TV. Not just any boob-tube scares, mind you, but TV's most successful medium for tales of terror: the horror anthology series.

For those not already in-the-know, an anthology series is one that presents us with a different story and a different set of characters with each new episode (or, in special circumstances, with each new season). Where each episode, in a sense, is its very own self-contained short story. Oh, sure, occasionally you'll have a host (sometimes even a rotting, decomposing one) that will introduce and conclude each story, but that's about it as far as recurring characters go. This means you'll find no serialized TV shows like The Walking Dead, Kolchak, or Dark Shadows here today, horror fans. Sorry. We still love them too. They just don't fill the bill this time around.

So turn off the lights, lock the doors, tell the trick-or-treaters to screw off, and sit back and relax. Here are my Top 20 Scariest TV Anthologies.

24.) The Hitchhiker (1983 - 1991)

Many may not remember this, but before bestowing upon us one of TV's most beloved immoral gorefests, Tales from the Crypt, HBO first tried its hand at the horror anthology genre with this fun attempt at a more modern take on The Twilight Zone; where each sordid, bloodbathed episode was introduced and concluded by a mysterious wanderer known only as -- you guessed it -- The Hitchhiker.

The Hitchhiker was no Twilight Zone though. For one thing, its host, a mullet-having weirdo in tight jeans and a leather jacket, was a pretty far cry from Rod Serling; and his opening and closing monologues were about as insightful as Jerry Springer's "final thoughts" (well, maybe not that insightful). And the episodes themselves, while not bad, were equally without class or depth.

All that being said, the tales told to us did succeed in one very important respect: they were scary. And, really, when you've got good scares (and a little gratuitous gore and nudity thrown into the mix) who needs class and depth anyways? #MAGA

23.) Bobcat Goldthwait's Misfits & Monsters (2018 -)

Bobcat Goldthwait's Misfits & Monsters is a much more comedic, tongue in cheek series than the rest of the horror anthologies on this list, with some episodes actually feeling closer in tone to drawn-out comedy bits rather than Tales from the Crypt episodes. But with the likes of vampires, werewolves, murderous cartoons, and the devil included, it would've felt unfair to not include it here today.

My personal favorite aspect of this show is that each episode is written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait himself (hence the title), who's actually a fantastic writer and director in the film world. This is the same brilliantly wackadoodle mind that brought us such dark, funny, and oddly thought-provoking films as God Bless America and World's Greatest Dad. So, suffice it to say, Misfits & Monsters is at least worth a try. If nothing else, expect something unique.

22.) Monsters (1988 - 1991)

Monsters 1988
Monsters 1988

Perhaps the most bizarre series on this list (and that's saying something), Monsters was originally released as being a more humorous successor to the 1983 anthology series Tales from the Darkside (which ended its run during the same year in which Monsters premiered). Nevertheless, as funny — and oftentimes campy — as the show may have been, it was still pretty darn eerie and disturbing; and, as hinted at by the title, it featured the added bonus of having a new (and usually grotesque) monster with each new episode. Those episodes were admittedly hit or miss, though, and the ones that got it right are only for an acquired taste. But if you happened to be in possession of that particular palate, you, sir or madam, are in for some fun.

Also, there's just no denying the creativity that goes into a show with episodes where girls start romantic relationships with zombies and bloodsucking plants; and where a creepy-looking, foul-mouthed, animatronic puppet (that looked like something from the equally disturbing The Garbage Pail Kids) goes on vicious killing sprees.

UNFORTUNATELY, Monsters isn't yet available on DVD. But for those of you who are internet savvy enough, you should be able to find the episodes pretty easily online.

21.) Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991 - 2000)

Yeah, yeah, it's a kids show. I know. But for those of us who grew up with this rare anthology horror series for children, it was our first taste of what that great and glorious genre of storytelling had to offer. And, furthermore, it was absolutely terrifying to us!

Rewatching it today, of course (from our rocking chairs), the show has admittedly lost a lot of it's magic. But it's still a fun trip down memory lane, and a great, Halloween-themed show just in general. So, for those more advanced horror fans out there who've never seen it before, this may not be for you. But if you've got kids and want to start them on the anthology medium for the first time (or if you're just a past viewer who wants to relive the good old days) it's totally worth the watch.

[NOTE: If you're into this, also worth a look would be the similar horror anthology series for kids, Goosebumps (1995 - 1998), that was based on the popular R. L. Stine children's books of the same name.]

20.) Room 104 (2017 -)

Truth be told, I'm still unsure of how I feel about this one. While I enjoy the unique stories and ideas, they rarely feel to deliver on their setups. Most of these stories, for instance, end in ambiguity, with us never really knowing what we just watched. Which, hey, I'm a big Twin Peaks guy, so, ya know, I'm usually cool with such things. But for Room 104 (not to be confused with the MTV reality series, Room 401), this type of "decide for yourself" ending was a bit too much, for my tastes. And it happened way too often.

Perhaps if the episodes were stretched out to an hour as opposed to 30 minutes, I'd look upon this one more favorably. For now, however, I'll keep it pretty low on this list. Maybe I'll place it higher as time goes on (although it's not looking good).

19.) 'Way Out (1961)

This very weird and quirky short-lived series was, as the title states, way out there.

Based on the stories of Roald Dahl, who also hosted the show, 'Way Out wasn't very unlike most anthology series as far as the basics were concerned. Dahl, as host, would open and close each episode, and each story within would involve the regular formula of strange-thing-happens-to-normal-person-then-comes-a-twist. The biggest difference that made the series stick out from the rest, in my opinion, was that 'Way Out also happened to incorporate a very wicked and ironic sense of humor that was way ahead of its time (somewhat similar to the black humor that shows like Tales from the Crypt would showcase years later).

Also, with episodes which revolved around such things as a dying man who is contemplating having his brain (and one eyeball) kept alive in a jar, a woman who's strapped to an electric chair with a light bulb in place of her head, and a man who has his face erased, the show was about as crazy as it gets (in a good way, of course).

[Incidentally, this writer has only seen 5 of the 14 episodes of this series; including, sadly, only one of the episodes mentioned above. This is due to the fact that since its cancellation, the series has never been rebroadcast or put on DVD. And while the entire series is available to watch at The Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles, only 5 are available to watch online. Due to this, 'Way Out isn't getting as high a spot on this list as it may deserve.]

18.) One Step Beyond (1959 - 1961)

Like the never broadcast, Boris Karloff-hosted The Veil (1958), and the much later series Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (1997-2002), the anthology series One Step Beyond (or as it was also known, Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond -- back in those golden days of TV, when shows could be funded by just one sponsor) featured stories which were allegedly based on actual events of "the paranormal, the mysterious, and the unexplained".

As far as actually being based on "true events," that's, well... questionable. Regardless of that, the episodes are still very frightening at times and always contain a good dose of mysteriousness that keep you on the edge of your seat. The endings were often much more upbeat and hopeful than a lot of fans of this genre would probably prefer, but, hey, the ride to get there was always fun.

17.) American Horror Story (2011 -)

Unlike all other series' mentioned on this list, American Horror Story is actually just barely bordering on the edge of being an anthology series at all. This is due to the fact that instead of having an all new story with all new characters per episode, American Horror Story gives us an all new story with all new characters per season (making each season, essentially, a miniseries of its own). So maybe it could be considered as cheating by tossing it in here? I don't know. In either case, I'm keeping it.

The first season consists of a horror favorite: the haunted house story. Without going into detail about the plot, let's just say that it's as warped, weird, surreal, mysterious, and as stylish of a tale as a horror buff could ask for (a sort of strange mix between The Shining, Amityville Horror, and American Beauty; with a bit of Shutter Island thrown in there to keep things interesting). And speaking of Shutter Island, the second season (entitled Asylum) takes place in yet another favorite setting for horror: the insane asylum. Then, later on, we get into tales of circus freaks, vampires, witches, and a whole assortment of other staples of the horror genre.

Personally, my biggest gripe about the series is that each season seems to consistently go speeding off the rails when it nears its end. Their weird, mostly coherent stories suddenly take a swift turn into a type of all-out insanity that always seems to turn me off. But the show's remained pretty darn popular all these years, so maybe my criticisms are just a matter of personal preference. Either way, the early episodes of each season always managed to keep my interest. So I say give it a shot.

16.) Masters of Horror (2005 - 2007)

The basic idea behind Masters of Horror, where you'd pair together top genre directors with top genre writers to make short, weekly "movies", was by no means an original one. It was done various times before in a whole line of TV programs (including some on this list) and it'll probably continue being done well into the future. But when it was done here, the directors were really put into the limelight, and their hour-long "movies" actually looked like real, feature films (with the assistance of being aired on the premium cable channel Showtime, of course, where the lack of censorship gave each episodes directors complete freedom to throw in as much gore, boobs, and foul language as you could want).

For any Wes Craven or John Carpenter fan, you pretty much know what you're going to get here. These are the kind of bloody slasher films, monster movies, ghost stories, and journeys into the supernatural that we all grew to know and love in the 70's and 80's. They're raunchy, overrun with gratuitous sex and violence, and oftentimes are the very definition of "so bad it's good". And due to this, Masters of Horror is as awesome as those old favorites continue to be.

[NOTE: If you enjoy Masters of Horror, also check out NBC's Fear Itself, which many consider as the short-lived shows unofficial continuation.]

15.) Tales of Tomorrow (1951 - 1953)

In many ways, Tales of Tomorrow looked and felt like an amateur's version of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone (which wouldn't come around for another eight years). And while The Twilight Zone (and later The Outer Limits) would soon grow to overshadow this groundbreaking series, it was really Tales of Tomorrow that paved the way for everything to follow. It's quite literally the great grand-daddy of serious science fiction anthology shows; the oldest, not only on this list, but in all of television history. And, best of all, it still holds up to this day! Well, sorta.

Filmed in lo-fi black and white, with a budget of practically nothing, very limited resources to make even the most basic of special effects, and shot and broadcast live, with no chance at hiding mistakes, it's frankly astounding that the show was ever watchable at all; let alone still watchable now. But with some very well written stories taken from some very clever writers (including Arthur C. Clarke and H.G. Wells) the episodes usually manage hold their own as far as the sci-fi/horror anthology genre goes; even if they didn't look as pretty as we've come to grow used to. They also showcased some pretty big names and soon-to-be names, including James Dean, Rod Steiger, Paul Newman (in his first screen appearance), Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney (who gave an infamous drunken performance as Frankenstein's monster).

As for this whole "not being pretty" stuff, though, don't let it get you down. It should be remembered that a grainy picture and a shoestring budget doesn't always mean a lack of quality when your intentions are to be scared. It's in the opinion of many, in fact, that such qualities actually add to the creepy factor. Not buying it? Try watching the original Night of the Living Dead or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and imagining them in a crystal clear picture; or, even worse, watch their remakes. Now that'll make you shudder.

14.) Amazing Stories (1985 - 1987)

When you have a big budget fantasy/sci-fi/horror series created by one of the worlds leading filmmakers, Steven Spielberg, with a collection of nearly 50 episodes written and directed by such film legends as Martin Scorsese, Robert Zemeckis, Tobe Hooper, Clint Eastwood, and Spielberg himself (not to mention starring more A-list actors than you can shake a golden statue at), suffice it to say, it's difficult to go very wrong.

Like many of the projects Spielberg has dipped his toes into in the past, each episode of Amazing Stories had that incomparable Spielberg-ian feel to it, whether he wrote or directed them himself or not. Each story had his perfectly balanced juxtaposition of wholesome charm and terrifying (and sometimes comedic) thrills that he's so well known for. Not to degrade the collaborations from Scorsese (who directed one of the series' most truly scary episodes) or any of the other writers or directors, of course. But it's crystal clear who's baby Amazing Stories really was.

Granted, the scares never reached that pinnacle level of pee-your-pants terror that came from some others shows on this list, and it never gave us the blood-and-guts guilty pleasures that shows like Tales from the Crypt did (Amazing Stories was a bit too family-friendly for that). But it did have moments of fright that were completely undeniable. And as far as sheer quality of plots, writing, acting, and directing goes, Amazing Stories was top notch in all respects.

13.) Night Gallery (1970 - 1973)

Five years after the cancellation of The Twilight Zone, that shows producer, writer, and host, Rod Serling, came back to TV to become the host and sometimes-writer of this weekly anthology series, where he played the curator of a dimly lit museum who would introduce tales of horror and the macabre.

Although, while Serling was the host of Night Gallery and had written over a third of the series' scripts, he had none of the creative control over it that he had with The Twilight Zone. So while they're always inevitably compared due to his involvement, the two are really completely separate animals. While Zone had a deeper message to convey underneath its scares, Night Gallery was only interested in the scares themselves. And, more often than not, it did a great job at delivering them.

12.) The Veil (1958)

The Veil was hosted by monster movie legend Boris Karloff, who would not only introduce each episode, but also acted in all but one of them (sometimes big parts, sometimes small). The episodes themselves were purportedly based upon real-life reports of supernatural happenings and the unexplained (somewhat similar to the idea behind a pretty creepy anthology series that would come along about 40 years later called Beyond Belief: Fact Or Fiction) and each gave us an eerie and intriguing tale full of the kind of big twists and surprises that we would see in the much more polished (as far as production values go) The Twilight Zone a few years later.

Touted by many as being "the greatest television series never seen", this Boris Karloff-hosted show was never actually broadcast on television at all though; so don't worry if you've never seen or heard of it. Due to troubles and complications within the studio that was backing The Veil, it was cancelled after only 10 episodes of its first season had been filmed. Luckily for us, they're all now available on DVD, at least. And horror fans everywhere seem to agree: this would've been some great TV.

11.) The Twilight Zone (1985-1989)

Out of all of the modern Twilight Zone remakes and imitators (a few of which, I've mentioned above) it was this 1985 revival, when at its best, that was the most reminiscent of original series.

The stories, while admittedly lacking in the cinematic style, eloquence, and depth of the originals, were cleverly written, had many of the kind of twists and turns you'd hope for, and had a certain kind of innocent charm that, unlike the previously mentioned Amazing Stories, didn't continuously overshadow the dark, ominous atmospheres that made you jump (in defense of Amazing Stories, though, when they over did it on the charm and touching moments, it usually fit well with the episodes... it just wasn't always very scary).

And while the show probably had more turkeys in its short 3 seasons than the original had during its entire five-year run, and it was completely devoid of the moral and social commentaries we were use to from it, there were episodes of this 1980s revival that were very worthy of that prestigious Twilight Zone title -- something which can't be said at all for the 2002 revival.

10.) Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction (1997 - 2002)

Certainly the most interactive series on this list, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction not only told you weird and creepy tales of the unusual and unexplained, but it also had the added gimmick of letting the viewer guess which of the stories presented was based on actual events and which were just made up by the shows writers. There would be about 3 or 4 of these stories per episode, and it wouldn't be until the very end of the show until you got to find out which was fiction and which was "fact".

The host of the show (James Brolin in its first season and Star Trek's Jonathan Frakes for the remainder of the series) introduced each story in an unnervingly ominous or mysterious tone that always had you thinking; very similar to the delivery used by Robert Stack in the equally creepy series, Unsolved Mysteries.

In fact, due to the knowledge that some of these stories were supposed to be true, and with the help of the eerie narrations during the stories themselves (sometimes done by the host, sometimes by a character within the story), the show actually felt like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries during the majority of the time. And it's that feeling that these stories may have really happened (a feeling you seem to get, even if you're like me and don't believe in ghosts or the supernatural) that make this show just that much more scary.

9.) Electric Dreams (2017 -)

If I were going to sum up Electric Dreams in a nutshell, I'd simply call it the poor man's Black Mirror. And while this may sound like an insult, you have to remember that any comparison to Black Mirror (arguably one of the greatest shows in TV history) can't be bad. Seeing as though the stories are taken directly from actual tales by the great sci-fi writer, Phillip K. Dick (and since the creator's explicitly said they had the idea before learning of Black Mirror), it's supposedly not a rip off either.

Every episode centers around such sci-fi goodness as technology gone awry, big brother getting out of hand, androids who may or may not have feelings, and, of course, the bleak, cyberpunk-ish type of future's such as from that other well-known Dick story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (of which this program got its name, and which a little movie called Blade Runner was based upon).

If all that wasn't enticing enough, in the first ten episodes alone we get staring roles from such amazing actors and actresses as Bryan Cranston, Anne Paquin, Steve Buscemi, Gregg Kinnear, and Terrance Howard. I highly recommend this.

8.) Tales from the Crypt (1989 - 1996)

With stories ripped directly from the pages of the notorious E.C. horror comics of the '50s, Tales from the Crypt was a bubbling cauldron of the kind of no-holds-barred blood, guts, gore, black-as-coal comedy, and big scares that those infamous books were known and adored for.

One of the coolest aspects of this modern horror classic, other than its lovable, rotting, pun-making, ghoulishly charismatic host, the Crypt Keeper, was that a great number of its episodes were either written by, directed by, or starring a whole cornucopia of A-list actors and filmmakers; including Kirk Douglas, Brad Pitt, Demi Moore, Tom Hanks, and acclaimed director Robert Zemeckis (who also produced the series). And to add to the fun, since the show aired on the premium cable channel, HBO, each episode was allowed free-range to explore all there was in the ways of gore, raunchy language, and sex... MmmMmm.

Sick, trashy, tasteless, and oozing with fun, Tales from the Crypt continues to remain as the one guilty pleasure that boils and ghouls everywhere don't have to be ashamed of.

7.) Hammer House of Horror (1980)

Keeping true to their title, the British anthology series Hammer House of Horror stuck strictly to the horror genre (sorry sci-fi fans), with episodes revolving around such spooky favorites as werewolves, demons, witches, voodoo dolls, haunted houses, and serial killers (with the occasional cannibal and Nazi thrown in to keep things interesting).

Like the previously mentioned Masters of Horror (number 14 on this list), each of the 13, hour-long episodes of Hammer House of Horror had an engaging cinematic value to them that allowed them to pull off that magical feat of coming across more as well-crafted mini-movies rather than an actual episode in a TV series (a feat strangely elusive to most other anthologies on this list) which really adds to the fun.

Also, this is another uncensored anthology full of dirty talk and nakedness, by the way, so prudes beware.

6.) Alfred Hitchcock Presents / The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1955 - 1965)

The screen fades in on the title, with a simple line-drawn caricature of Alfred Hitchcock behind it and the sinister theme of Charles Gounod's "Funeral March for a Marionette" beginning. The bulbous silhouette of the revered filmmaker himself then slowly steps into frame (doing a little funeral march of his own) and with that, the tone has been set for the thrilling tales to come.

When the opening title sequence alone is enough to give you goose bumps, you know you've got something special on your hands. And Alfred Hitchcock Presents (later retitled The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) certainly was something special. It may have not had the cool, film-noir-esque use of shadows and camera angles that shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits utilized to add style to their stories, but with Hitchcocks droll and witty presentations (coming off as a sort of Rod Serling and Crypt Keeper amalgam) and one intelligently written script full of twists, turns, and surprises, after another, it had a style all its own.

And unlike most of the other anthology series mentioned on this list, these short and chilling tales, presented to us by the master of suspense, didn't need the overt assistance of ghosts, ghouls, aliens, monsters, or journeys into the supernatural to enhance their scares. The stories, which typically revolved around murder, mystery, and intrigue, were of a more down-to-earth nature. Not unlike Hitchcocks Psycho, it was through sheer ironies, shocks, and tragedies that each episode managed to gain its terror.

5.) Tales from the Darkside (1984 - 1988)

"Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality.

But... there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real.

But not as brightly lit... a DARKSIDE."

Shudder. With the foreboding introduction above, coupled with a montage of creepy images (beautiful forests and countryside mostly, but they looked more like crime scene footage in the context they're shown), and the scariest opening theme you'll ever hear on TV (or anywhere else, for that matter), Tales from the Darkside was a show that could give you nightmares just from the opening credits alone.

The show was created by none other than the Zombie King himself, George A. Romero. Coming along directly after the success of Romero's classic Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside was designed as being a sort of TV spinoff to that film; only without the trappings of being restricted to only a comic book style of storytelling (it would be the series Tales from the Crypt, five years later, that would delve into that territory).

Like both Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside took its inspiration from the classic EC comic books of the '50's. Unlike them, though, Tales from the Darkside made a point of taking itself a lot more seriously (most of the time) by taking it easy on comic-relief and putting the focus on bone-chilling scares.

4.) Thriller (1960 - 1962)

While Thriller may have slipped through the cracks of the public's memory, this spine-tingling horror series, hosted by none other than Frankenstein's monster himself, Boris Karloff, left us with some of the most chilling and bloodcurdling tales ever to be put on TV.

While the earliest episodes were more on par with the down-to-earth thrills and suspensefulness that Alfred Hitchcock did so well (with stories often revolving around revenge, crime, murder, and the like), it wasn't until the show began to dive into the world of ghosts, ghoulies, and the supernatural that it really began to find it's stride.

Like the Universal horror films from the 20's to the early 60's (where Karloff gained his legendary status from) the episodes of Thriller were straightforward with their intentions; and those intentions were simple: to scare the everloving pants off from the viewer. And at that, it was a success.

3.) Black Mirror (2017 -)

In this TV fanatics opinion, Black Mirror isn't only one of the greatest anthology series to hit the airwaves (or the streamwaves?), but one of the greatest television series to ever exist in general. It's just that great. And the truest thing you could ever get to a modern-day equivalent to Rod Serling's, The Twilight Zone (nevermind that 2019 Jordan Peele trash; I couldn't even bring myself to add that to the list).

Like the Twilight Zone, each Black Mirror episode not only comes with a unique and surprising story with jaw-dropping twist endings, but it often has a message to tell as well. Typically in regards to the dangers of social media, technology, and morality. It's a deep show with some deep things to say. And an innovative one, as well, as they showed in their 2018 Black Mirror special, Bandersnatch (in which not only do you watch the episode, but you participate in it as well, in the form of helping the protagonist make adventure game-esque decisions, via your remote control). Granted, it wasn't my favorite Black Mirror endeavor, but ya gotta respect the out-of-the-box thinking.

Also like The Twilight Zone, the only reason this series doesn't have a better spot on this list is that it's not quite as much of a "horror" as what actually nabbed the number one spot (although I do believe both 2nd and 3rd place are better shows in general). Although with Black Mirror containing some of the bleakest episodes you'd ever find on TV, your opinion may differ.

2.) The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1964)

Without question the most influential and groundbreaking show mentioned on this list, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone managed to fit into its episodes a lot more than just scares -- although, believe you me, there were plenty of those as well.

Serling, the shows host, creator, and writer of over 90 episodes, found that he could get away with saying a whole heck of a lot about society as long as he just cloaked his deep and controversial messages under the guise of "it's just make believe". Or, as Serling himself once stated, "I have no interest in a series which is purely and uniquely suspenseful, but makes no comments about anything." Among such themes, The Twilight Zones parables and morality tales typically addressed such things as totalitarianism, war, dealing with death, racial issues, fear of the unknown, and the fears that you can't share with others.

Luckily for us, Serling's messages about society never distracted from The Twilight Zones entertainment though. Whether it was through science fiction, fantasy, or horror tales, the majority of the series episodes were a galore of creepiness.

(Among its plethora of spooky stories, some of the scariest of the bunch included "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", about neighbors on a quiet suburban street that suddenly turn against each other after strange and mysterious happenings stroke their paranoia; "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", where a man on an airplane believe he sees a monster on the wing; and "The Hitch-hiker", where a girl driving across country keeps passing the same mysterious man on the side of the road, no matter how far she drives or where she goes.)

1.) The Outer Limits (1963 - 1965)

Often compared with the sometimes-similar The Twilight Zone, these two scary and philosophical series' actually had a lot of differences. While The Twilight Zone episodes were typically a mixed bag of nuts, as far as moods and genres were concerned, The Outer Limits took a more straight forward approach in its intentions, and had more of a clarity of concept. Unlike Zone, you'd never come across the occasional comical or upbeat episode. Each of The Outer Limits episodes were just as dark, moody, and frightening as the last -- They were designed to scare every single time.

The show was nominally (and understandably) classified as being science fiction, but, really, most episodes seemed more like straight horror tales; complete with a cornucopia of monstrous creatures, mad scientists, and dark, foreboding atmospheres that always made you jump. Meaning that while The Twilight Zone may have been the better series as a whole (although they're both great), it was The Outer Limits that took the cake when it came to straight scares in general.

Questions & Answers

  • There was an episode of an anthology series (I can't remember which one) where a girl was caught in a zombie apocalypse and ran to look for her boyfriend, avoiding many "zombies" along the way. In the end, it turned out she was a zombie and those she avoided were humans. Do you know which series that was from and which episode?

    I believe this was the 6th episode of the series Fear Itself, entitled "New Year's Day".

  • I can’t remember the name of the show, but it’s about 2 men in space taking a crazy prisoner to earth to be exiled there. And in the end, the prisoner turns out to be hitler. Do you remember the show and/or the episode?

    I believe you're referring to the fourth episode of the short-lived HBO series, Perversions of Science. The episode is entitled The Exile. You can actually find the complete episode on YouTube at the time I write this.

  • There is one Outer Limits episode that veers toward comedy. I can't, at the moment, recall its title, but it stars Barry Morse (of The Fugitive fame) and Carol O'Connor (Archer Bunker) as two aliens investigating the practice of murder on earth. Do you know this one?

    This was the 16th episode of the first season of The Outer Limits, entitled, "Controlled Experiment."

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    • TheGutterMonkey profile imageAUTHOR

      The Gutter Monkey 

      12 months ago

      It's been a great few years for horror anthology shows! Thus, I've updated this list. Hope everyone enjoys!

    • profile image


      19 months ago

      No mention of the 1990s series 'The Hunger', produced by the Scott Brothers (Tony and Ridley), hosted by Terence Stamp and David Bowie. Not a bad series.

    • TheGutterMonkey profile imageAUTHOR

      The Gutter Monkey 

      2 years ago

      @ Bruce Donners

      I actually had considered X-Files, but I decided against it due to it usually having an overarching story about Mulder and Scully along with its "monster of the week" anthology aspect. Allowing that as a candidate seemed to open up a whole can of worms, including the likes of Fringe and Supernatural, that I figured I'd avoid haha.

      Thanks for reading!

    • whereyouwatch profile image

      Bruce Donners 

      2 years ago from France

      No mention of X-files, or am I missing something

    • profile image

      archimedes rex 

      2 years ago

      the aussie 'the evil touch' tv series; 'night visions' with henry rollins; 'the dark house' with james coburn; 'ghost story' with sebastian cabot.

    • profile image

      Rob Nimmo 

      2 years ago

      As mentioned by others, you clearly overlooked "The Ray Bradbury Theater". You've also(perhaps intentionally & deservedly so, since this IS supposed to be a "best of" list)neglected to include "A Nightmare On Elm Street: The Series - Freddy's Nightmares"

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      what about black mirror?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Great list! And double thumbs up for using the Crypt Keeper as your title pic.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I remember all of these but good ole Alfred ...his name was a blank but I was humming his song....The others had silly characters not a famous director....So very nice to think of his pout. The fat lower lip and fat gut waddling around. He was the best. Who wanted to feed a Canary after the birds!

    • TheGutterMonkey profile imageAUTHOR

      The Gutter Monkey 

      3 years ago

      @ lindsay

      Hey, Lindsay. I have NOT seen Ghost Stories. I'm totally going to have to look into that. You're right that there's nothing new on par to the classic horror anthologies that we used to get. Maybe part of the problem is that the old shows actually took themselves and their out-there stories more seriously and today we're too cynical to just embrace the hokey qualities without making light of them, breaking the fourth wall, or generally being too self-aware by winking at the audience as if to say, "We know we're playing by the old formula, we're in on the joke."

      Then again, maybe it's just the crisp, clean video quality these days that make the shows seem less dark and mysterious. Or perhaps I'm just reading way too deep into things and the problem is just that not enough people are making the shows in the first place, haha. I dunno. Either way, hopefully we'll see a resurgence in the genre someday soon.

      Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I am a collector of horror/thriller anthology shows and have just about every show on this list on boxset. The ONLY show i didn't see mentioned is the Ray Bradbury Theater. The greats are unquestionably the classic black and white series, with the Twilite Zone being the golden standard and the one all others are compared to and measured against. Thriller, Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and One Step Beyond are in the same 'classic' league. Thriller, in my opinion, is a very close second to the Twilite Zone. Its a phenominal show, with MANY incredibly creepy stories. Stephen King himself proclaimed it "the greatest horror series ever put on tv" and I certainly can't argue with that. I do like alot of the 80's and 90's shows as well, with Tales from the Darkside and Tales from the Crypt being my favorites., but I feel that shows from the 2000's and beyond just don't cut it. The newer they are, the less inventive and more ridiculous they become. However, there is a little known horror anthology from the late 90's called "Ghost Stories" that is narrated by Rip Taylor that, despite it's low budget and no-name actors, was really quite good.

    • TheGutterMonkey profile imageAUTHOR

      The Gutter Monkey 

      5 years ago

      @ Earl Lewis

      It's definitely the only game in town these days. Although, my thankfully un-diseased heart will always belong to the classics; no matter how many times I watch them.

    • Earl Lewis profile image

      Earl Lewis 

      5 years ago from San Rafael, Heredia, Costa Rica

      American horror story is the best. Make sure you don’t have any heart disease problem before jump into it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I used to watch the hitchhiker and I love Tales from the crypt. Cool Lense

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      In my opinion, Alfred Hitchcock Presents / The Alfred Hitchcock Hour - Twilight Zone and Outer Limits are by far the best. Pinned to my board "TV I Love."

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 

      7 years ago from Ozun

      i am a horror fun too, here are some movies what i did not saw, thanks for adding horror to my life...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens a lot and I remember the show The hitchhiker and I haven't seen it in years! I am a big fan of are you afraid of the dark and tales from the crypt. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens a lot and I remember the show The hitchhiker and I haven't seen it in years! I am a big fan of are you afraid of the dark and tales from the crypt. Thanks for sharing

    • Jogalog profile image


      7 years ago

      Some of these look too scary for me!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow I never know there are so many horror tv serial like in this list. Tales from the darkside was my favourite.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow I never know there are so many horror tv serial like in this list. Tales from the darkside was my favourite.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      very good list nevets, i think tales from the crypt should be higher, but u of course are the master here!

    • yayas profile image


      7 years ago

      Remarkable page for chasing down horror. Very well done.

      Happy Halloween! Congratulations on being n the Front Page!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Although I haven't seen all of these.. this is an amazing list of horror shows, and I, when I was a child, was totally into horror! Wow! Blessed!

    • bdwilliams lm profile image

      bdwilliams lm 

      7 years ago

      You must be Canadian to remember Who's Afraid of The Dark. lol. Nice lens.

    • Dickstucki1 profile image


      7 years ago

      nice job. Thankjs

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Night Gallery was always scary but I just had to watch it.

    • OakenShield LM profile image

      OakenShield LM 

      7 years ago

      Thank you very much for the list, I knew hardly half of them!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      It's the best!I had a project on TV shows,and didn't know what to do.I prefer Squidoo as my first resource for almost everything,so I decided to check.Thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i've watched American Horror Story and I'm hooked with it

    • loveanime22 profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice collection I like it

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      fantastic lens! love the twilight zone...! do dee do da, do dee do da...

    • IslandsTropicalM profile image


      7 years ago

      those are indeed scary tv dramas, thanks for sharing

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome selections - I really do love the Twilight Zone, especially.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This be a great lens! I love the opening: "boils and ghouls". Fascinating!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent choices. We're been watching "Thriller" on the ME Channel. I'll have to look for "The Veil" on DVD. Boris Karloff is always fun to watch. Boo-lessed ... Happy Halloween!

    • Mawkjump profile image


      7 years ago

      Freakin' awesome! For horror buffs, this is a real walk down memory lane. And it's nice to know what's available and what's not (I'm looking at you, Monsters).

    • theallin1writer profile image


      7 years ago

      Brilliant lens! *Blessed

    • lienadla profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm only familiar with the Twilight Zones and Tales From The Crypt. I didn't know there were that many horror anthology series

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Tales from the crypt and tales from the darkside are my favorites. I am a major horror fan especially of the ol school stuff and I have to say this is one excellent list. No joke, you reminded me of a few oldies but goodies. Thanks

    • StoveM profile image


      7 years ago

      Great list. Seen only a few of those

    • treehousebrando1 profile image


      7 years ago

      "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" is a classic!

    • sweetstickyrainbo profile image


      7 years ago

      there are some there I did not recognize. good list.

    • KateH2 profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow, a lot of research must have gone into this lens. Half of these anthology series I had never heard of and I will definitely be checking out some of the DVD's.

    • nicks44 profile image


      7 years ago

      Amazing, you made me look through the old archive of movies in order to find some cool stuff to watch! Thanks!

    • sharecuzicare profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens! I remember most of these shows and watched a lot of them! I must admit that Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, and tales From the Crypt were my favorites, but I did watch some of the others and found them to be pretty scary!

    • morgaann profile image


      7 years ago

      Good postâ¦.thanks for sharing.. very useful for me i will bookmark this for my future needed. thanks for a great source..

    • Sara Dowling profile image

      Sara Dowling 

      7 years ago

      Great lens I had forgotten about most of these, I used to love staying up to watch the Twilight Zone, I don't know why cause then I couldn't sleep I was so scared!

    • kburns421 lm profile image

      kburns421 lm 

      7 years ago

      The only ones I've seen are The Twilight Zone, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and Beyond Belief, but they all used to freak me out! I think Beyond Belief freaked me out the most because it actually included true stories, and I used to watch it as a little kid (the perfect age to be traumatized for life haha).

    • TaraWojt profile image

      Tara Wojtaszek 

      7 years ago

      Great selection of scary tv anthology series. I've only seen a few but I'll have to check out some of the other ones I haven't seen.

    • ukprowriter profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens (i think)!! Some absolute classics there

    • nickybutler profile image


      7 years ago

      Absolutely fantastic lens - thank you SO much for sharing. I'd completely forgotten about half of these. I grew up watching Are You Afraid Of The Dark (I most definitely was after watching an episode haha) and got hooked! You have an amazing selection here, I have so many new TV shows to make my way through over winter! I'm waiting for the new series of AHS to come out to see if it lives up to the first series, I'm hoping it does as TV horror lacks something all the shows from years ago had. Thank you once again for making this awesome list :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cool list... I remember the Twilight Zone and it is indeed one of the best scary series I've seen. Although I am more of the "Tales from the Cryptkeeper" baby. I even remember its animated version...

      I missed these types of horror series because now all I see are vampires and zombies, and some werewolves...

      Thumbs up!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the Top 20 Scariest TV Anthology Series, I like it.

    • digitaltree profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice collection, i saw a few i never heard before.

    • Madonaa profile image


      7 years ago

      These are really a part of old but still they rocks

    • MostInteresting profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow, nice list. I suspect the choice of Outer Limits of Twilight Zone is controversial, but hey...

      Monsters! I'd forgotten that even happened.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great list of Horror Anthology Series - now this is what I call good television! Thank you for this.

    • CuAllaidh profile image

      Jeff Johnston 

      7 years ago from Alberta Canada

      The Outer LImits is definitely a classic :D

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I do love "Tales from the Crypt". Nice pick.

    • Rhidawn profile image


      7 years ago

      Some of these are before my time but the others I absolutely loved to watch! THanks for the trip down memory lane! Great lens

    • Violin-Student profile image


      7 years ago

      I might disagree here and there with the order in which you've placed them, but you've got the good ones listed. Nice job!

    • LabKittyDesign profile image


      7 years ago

      Remember the Outer Limits episode where the aliens had fried eggs for eyes? (they didn't have literal fried eggs for eyes, it was some low budget special effect). Prolly wouldn't hold up well today, but at the time... YEESH!

    • VspaBotanicals profile image


      7 years ago

      Enjoyed this lens so much.

    • Louidam1 LM profile image

      Lou Martin 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I love The Twilight Zone during the early years. Awesome lens!!!!!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      7 years ago from Ljubljana

      I am glad I have read this list in daytime...

    • OCDiscusFish profile image


      7 years ago

      I love tales from the Crypts

      Please visit my newest lens

    • peterb6001 profile image

      Peter Badham 

      7 years ago from England

      Great lens, you've put a lot of work into this

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Other than Hitchcock, I just avoid horror movies.

    • EEWorkouts profile image


      7 years ago

      These are great, awesome lens! I used to love Amazing Stories - one of my favorites was "The Greibble."

    • MelissaRodgz profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh wow this a great list of great TV Anthologies. I remember watching Fact or Fiction with my family. We used to guess which of the stories were fact or fiction and see who got the most answers right at the end of the show.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      the characters are in my dreams after reading your lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      the characters are in my dreams after reading your lens

    • Karli McClane profile image

      Karli McClane 

      7 years ago from USA

      Excellent list!


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