The world is a scary place. More often than not, real life manages to be a lot scarier than even the most terrifying fairy tales and horrific myths we hear throughout our lives. However, in a way, those fairy tales and myths may be the key to dealing with the real horrors of the world. Between that and the visceral thrill of confronting the unthinkable from the safety of your own home, watching the most chilling series that TV has to offer can be a surprisingly productive use of your time.
One aspect of real life that is chilling — or at least, slightly inconvenient — is the sheer number of television shows available for viewing. Unless someone is able to forgo sleep and not have to work ever, it's very unlikely that they would be able to watch every single episode of every television show out there. Even then, digging through the past and present for the perfect show to inspire goosebumps can be a daunting challenge. And so, to aide in any search to find a show that chills for the purpose of watching while one Netflix and chills, here are the 13 most chilling TV series of all time.
1. 'The Twilight Zone'
The most important horror show that ever aired, there's a very good reason that people haven't stopped talking about The Twilight Zone. Why? The Twilight Zone is a very good show. Although dated, it manages to address everything from demons to the dangers of prejudice, and everything in between.
Especially chilling episode: Season 3, Episode 8, "It's A Good Life," in which a young boy has the power to read minds, and if you don't like him, he just may banish you to a lonely cornfield in another dimension.
2. 'The Walking Dead'
The long-running zombie series understands the fundamental truth about scary stories — there is nothing scarier than other human beings. A perfect case-in-point is the arrival of the villainous Negan to the series and the spine-chilling execution scene that introduced him. Yes, the endless armies of the living dead are scary, but are they as scary as a heartless man with a baseball bat?
Especially chilling episode: Season 4, Episode 14, "The Grove", which forces the survivors to make a difficult choice when they discover that one of the children in the group might be more dangerous than the walkers.
3. 'Channel Zero'
There are a lot of scary shows on television, but how many of them have monsters that are literally made out of teeth? The Creepypasta-inspired anthology series is only one season in, but it's already managed to introduce some of the most disturbing television imagery of the decade so far.
Especially chilling episode: Season 1, Episode 5, "Guest Of Honor," where the central mystery of the season is answered through a shocking twist.
4. 'Twin Peaks'
Bob. The Log Lady. That Gum You Like. The Man From Another Place. There's a reason that Twin Peaks has left a permanent mark on the television landscape. As Dale Cooper might say, it's a damn good show. It's also a damn weird show that challenged viewers' ideas of what scary television could look like.
Especially Chilling Episode: Season 1, Episode 3, "Episode 2," especially the introduction of the Red Room that turns the entire series on its head.
5. 'Are You Afraid Of The Dark?'
The Nickelodeon series may not go to the lengths of other chilling shows, but if you were a '90s kid, there's no doubt that it kept you up at night. Over 10 seasons, The Midnight Society turned in family-friendly spooky stories that were equal parts delightful and demented.
Especially chilling episode: Season 5, Episode 1, "The Tale of The Dead Man’s Float," which features a ragged, gory beast of a monster that is way too horrifying for a kids show.
6. 'Black Mirror'
The scariest thing about Black Mirror is that its seemingly-outlandish premises aren't very far off from the world as it is today. The British anthology series that's often been considered a more modern, technology-focused version of The Twilight Zone lives up to the comparison by delivering horrifying visions of what technology is capable of.
Especially chilling episode: Season 3, Episode 3, "Shut Up And Dance" is a tale of people caught up in a horrifying game they never asked to play a part in — until the brutal final twist makes you reconsider everything you had felt during the episode.
7. 'The Jinx'
What is it it like to stare evil in the eyes? This is one of many questions Andrew Jarecki asks in the docuseries The Jinx, during many sit-down interviews with Robert Durst. The Jinx explores the crimes that Durst has been accused of, and asks Durst, who has maintained his innocence, to try and explain himself.
Especially chilling episode: Season 1, Episode 6, "What The Hell Did I Do?," when Durst didn't realize he still had his mic on and said something shocking.
8. 'American Horror Story'
Ryan Murphy's horror series helped introduce the television anthology as something that could tell new stories each season instead of switching it up episode-to-episode. It also unleashed an endless fountain of blood, gore, and camp onto the television landscape. Its over-the-top approach to everything makes for some cheesy dialogue and confusing plots, but the horrifying imagery makes it all worth it.
Especially chilling episode: Just about any episode from the exceptional second season, American Horror Story: Asylum.
9. 'Doctor Who'
More often than not, Doctor Who is a fun science-fiction romp that manages to combine action and adventure with humor and wit. But when Doctor Who does decide to veer into the realm of the terrifying, it does so better than almost any other show on television. The show especially has an interest in making viewers terrified of monsters that can't be seen.
Especially chilling episode: Season 3, Episode 10, "Blink," the episode that introduced the world to the Weeping Angels and gave its entire audience a fear of statues.
10. 'The Wire'
What is a critically acclaimed and hyper-realistic police procedural doing on a list like this? Making viewers completely distrust the institutions that are intended to protect them, that's what. The beloved crime drama starts with a look at the drug trade in Baltimore, but by the end of the series, shines a light on the very real flaws of American government, journalism, and especially the public school system. The failures of the institutions we rely on prove to be much scarier than any boogeyman.
Especially chilling episode: Season 4, Episode 12, "That's Got His Own," especially the final moments where a police officer tries to console a boy whose mother has been attacked because he cooperated with the police, culminating in a line that won't soon be forgotten by any viewer.
11. 'The X-Files'
Every science-fiction procedural show airing today has The X-Files to thank for its existence. The show mixed monster-of-the-week storytelling with a series-long arc that always kept the action moving forward. It combined romance, comedy, and mystery into a nice package that was never short on being genuinely horrifying.
Especially chilling episode: Season 4, Episode 2, "Home," which is the best argument for never leaving the city ever put on screen.
12. 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'
The popularity of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is still strong, even though it ended over a decade ago. While vampires quickly became a non-threatening presence in the show, Buffy still managed to throw some especially creepy creations on the screen throughout its seven-season run.
Especially chilling episode: Any real Buffy fan will tell you that the two scariest episodes of the series are Season 4, Episode 10, "Hush" and Season 5, Episode 16, "The Body." The former has the most terrifying monsters the show has ever created, and the latter features no monsters at all. Both will chill you to the core for very different reasons.
The question that one is forced to ask while watching Hannibal is "how?" How did this show get made? How did some of the most artistic and horrific displays of gore and viscera ever filmed for a camera end up on network television? How is it so good? You'll never look at food the same way again.
Especially chilling episode: Season 2, Episode 2, "Sakizuki", which features the show's most bone-rattling murder site: a human mural.
Needless to say, if you decide to brave one of these TV series, you may want to keep the lights on.