Charlie Brooker's dystopian sci-fi anthology series, which started life on Channel 4 before transferring over to Netflix for season 3, has been remarkably consistent thus far, with only a few minor bumps in the road.
Each episode brings something new and fresh to the table, and given the wealth of variety on display it's no wonder that no one fan's ranking is ever the same as another's.
The show featured stars including Daniel Kaluuya and Hayley Atwell while on Channel 4, while Jesse Plemons and Anthony Mackie featured in the Netflix years, as the series has snapped up talent others could barely dream of due to its anthology format.
Black Mirror has explored concepts around social media, augmented reality, virtual world and even high-tech bees to name just a few, with each one building a new world, only to, oftentimes, bring it all crumbling down by the end.
But whose episode came out on top in our list? Here's RadioTimes.com's definitive ranking of all 23 episodes of Black Mirror.
Every Black Mirror episode ranked, from bloodcurdling to bizarre
23. Arkangel (Season 4, Episode 2)
When looking back at the past five seasons of Black Mirror, it became clear that there are no truly dreadful episodes. It therefore falls to Arkangel to fall on its sword and rank lowest on this list, not as a terrible episode of television, but just as a surprisingly dull one.
Having Jodie Foster direct an episode was a big coup for the series when details of the fourth season were announced, yet the episode underdelivered, with a bland, unsaturated aesthetic and a story about helicopter parenting that never truly ramped up. Throughout Black Mirror we've become used to some seriously bleak yet dramatic storytelling, but this episode refused to go the whole hog in a way very few have thus far. This concept felt like such a slam dunk for the series - it's a shame the team never seemed to realise quite what to do with it.
22. Men Against Fire (Season 3, Episode 5)
One of the clunkier episodes in the Black Mirror canon, Men Against Fire takes an interesting concept and hammers it into the ground with exposition. Not only does this war-time tale drag out its mysteries long past its audience having guessed the twist, but it then has Michael Kelly explain it to us in painstaking detail for 10 minutes.
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As expected from Black Mirror the cast is packed with strong actors, but Malachi Kirby seems oddly stilted in the role, never really convincing in his inner turmoil. Coming near the end of an excellent third season, the first on Netflix, Men Against Fire felt like a bit of damp squib in comparison to what had come before.
21. Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too (Season 5, Episode 3)
Black Mirror's most recent episode is also, sadly, one of its worst. It seems evident that towards the end of the show's run so far Brooker decided to experiment with tone and land more on the lighter side. Where this works in episodes like Hang the DJ, here it falls flat, with a mish-mash of tones colliding together to make one of the show's least memorable stories.
Guest star Miley Cyrus puts in strong work and is perfectly cast in her central role, but it's not enough to shore up the unremarkable plot. That's not to say the episode is without entertainment value, and it benefits from a longer runtime which allows its story to have a complete narrative journey. It's just not necessarily one that you'll be rushing to revisit.
20. The Waldo Moment (Season 2, Episode 3)
Ever since it debuted The Waldo Moment has been considered one of the lesser lights in Black Mirror's back catalogue. However, on a rewatch, there really is a lot to like. It's not just that the episode takes on an eerie level of prescience given the current state of global politics, and its inspiration, Boris Johnson becoming (and then resigning as) Prime Minister. Daniel Rigby also makes for an empathetic and engaging lead, while Tobias Menzies works wonders as the Conservative candidate.
It's in the final third that this episode falls down. A lot has been said about the final mid-credits scene, but in truth that (semi) outlandish minute or so isn't the issue. It's the 10 minutes or so before that, when everything winds to a relatively neat close and nothing is either fully resolved or really even shaken up. Brooker himself has said "the stakes weren't right" in the episode and when it comes to the episode's conclusion, he's definitely right.
19. Metalhead (Season 4, Episode 5)
One of the more divisive episodes, Metalhead switches things up more than the vast majority, in that it is dialogue-light, shot entirely in black and white and plays out mostly as an action thriller. It delivers on the concept, and it's to the show's testament that it makes these departures and takes these risks, but the episode still falls down in comparison to Black Mirror's greatest outings.
Maxine Peake is, of course, phenomenal in the central role, and one can imagine Metalhead being something of a slog without such an accomplished lead. The Boston Dyanmics-inspired dogs are well realised and effectively creepy, but there's only so much milage you can get out of such a simple story, in a series known for its tricksy, intricately-crafted plots.
18. Crocodile (Season 4, Episode 3)
Crocodile is one of the darkest episodes of Black Mirror to date, a gruelling riff on the Sandi-Noir which delves into the idea of spiralling escalation and how far someone would go to protect the life they have built. It's a visually beautiful, if still murky episode and the tension laced throughout is palpable.
The ending is undoubtedly a divisive one - it's almost gleefully morose, and there is some sense that Brooker is actually crafting a dark comedy, finding the whole affair to be a hilarious comedy of errors on his end. This does give the conclusion a winking sense of fun, but the rest of the episode is all just too grim and melancholic for its own good.
17. The Entire History of You (Season 1, Episode 3)
Often considered a favourite from the Channel 4 years by fans, The Entire History of You is currently the only episode not to give Brooker a writing credit, with this instead coming from Succession and Peep Show creator Jesse Armstrong. This perhaps explains why it, at times, feels somewhat distant from the other episodes.
The story, of memories being recorded by contact lenses, is classic Black Mirror, but in comparison with the other two season 1 episodes the action is all smaller scale. It makes for a compelling kitchen sink drama, and Toby Kebbell and Jodie Whittaker are both outstanding, but the ending doesn't feel as impactful as it could have been.
16. Nosedive (Season 3, Episode 1)
The first of the Netflix era, Nosedive explores social media and insecurities in a likeable, often excruciating road trip movie styling, which is fun if slightly unremarkable. It also doesn't help that Nosedive's plot is so close to the App Development and Condiments episode of Community - in fact, the similarities are often quite distracting.
But the world feels utterly lived in and the social anxiety palpable, while Bryce Dallas Howard is wholly convincing as Lacie. The pastel colourings give it a unique feel in comparison to others, while the somewhat optimistic episode, at the time, marked a unique and somewhat welcome departure for the series.
15. Playtest (Season 3, Episode 2)
Black Mirror has always lived on the darker edges of storytelling yet it has never leant into horror tropes quite like this. Playtest is an exhilarating haunted house thrill-ride as we watch Wyatt Russell's stunning descent into madness as Cooper. Some of the visuals are slightly janky but given the augmented reality set-up, it works perfectly to help sell the concept.
The episode's structure is what lets it down slightly. It's a choppy watch, never quite settling on a pace, while the final twist adds one layer too far, delivering a nice little punchline but somewhat diminishing the shocking events we've seen transpire. It's an ambitious and fun episode that just stumbles slightly at the final hurdle.
14. Smithereens (Season 5, Episode 2)
Andrew Scott had a lot on his shoulders when he took on Smithereens. His character Chris absolutely defines the episode, and had his performance not sold you on the anguish and internal turmoil he feels the episode would fall apart. Thankfully, it's Andrew Scott, so of course it works. In an episode where there's no future tech, only realistic views of social media and ride-share apps, Scott becomes the dominant feature and carries it off with aplomb.
Smithereens often feels like a narrative exercise rather than a traditional exploration of future tech. It feels like Brooker is asking himself, how can you make a globetrotting adventure is which the protagonist is, for the majority of it, stuck inside a stationary car? The answer is multiple phone calls and a hugely charismatic turn from Topher Grace, making this a tense, narratively satisfying episode, even if its lack of flash and sci-fi intrigue brings it down the list slightly.
13. Black Museum (Season 4, Episode 6)
The ultimate mixed-bag episode, Black Museum has some high-highs and an eerie sense of dread throughout, yet stumbles somewhat with its internal anthology. The first story, as told by Douglas Hodges' delicious, campy villain, is one of the most gruesome and unsettling stories Black Mirror has ever told, while story two strays into ridiculous territory and story three feels like a less nuanced version of the excellent White Bear episode.
It doesn't help that the first two stories both play on ideas put forward by Karl Pilkington in The Ricky Gervais Show, but the whole thing does have a zany, b-movie feel which plays well given the setting, and the extended run-time (and numerous call-backs) still make it a fun house thrill which is worth revisiting.
12. The National Anthem (Season 1, Episode 1)
The one that started them all, The National Anthem comes at you like a bolt from a blue, a true statement of intent from Brooker and his team. Like Smithereens it contains no heightened reality tech, and instead tells a taut political thriller which also doubles as a deadpan dark comedy. It tells you what's going to happen right out of the gate, and manages to play on audience expectations and tropes to give you one almighty misdirect away from that.
Rory Kinnear is marvellous as the Prime Minister, selling everything he's going through no matter how outlandish the situation gets. The story's culmination is still one of the most grotesque and chilling sequences to have been realised in the show's history, leaving an impression which stays long after the credits roll. Brooker called this "the most divisive one" back in 2016 and it's easy to see why. But if you're willing to go with it (and your stomach's made of strong stuff) it's still up there with the best of the series.
11. Striking Vipers (Season 5, Episode 1)
On its surface Striking Vipers appears to be delving into similar themes as before, as like Playtest it looks once again at augmented/virtual reality gaming. However, when the first twist of the episode arrives, it takes a big left turn which enables the episode to become one of the most thematically rich in the show's history, exploring gender, sexuality, monogamy and male friendship.
Every twist and turn deepens the fascinating relationship between the two leads, as played by Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. The series has featured more thrilling episodes, more mind-bending episodes, more emotional resonant episodes - yet this is perhaps Black Mirror at its most thoughtful and incisive.
10. Bandersnatch (Interactive Film)
Ranking Bandersnatch amongst the other episodes of Black Mirror is tricky - after all, it doesn't have one set story. It's a choose-your-own-adventure interactive film, one which threatened to bring on a raft of copycats which thankfully have yet to appear. The reason Bandersnatch works so well is because it tears apart of the whole concept of an interactive film with mindbending meta-commentary, which not only feels like something this series can do, but also something which can only be done once to full effect.
Bandersnatch reveals its hand carefully and slowly, in a move which makes the outright bonkers, maddening multiple endings all more memorable and impactful. It wants you to get lost and confounded and frustrated with it, allowing you to appreciate and empathise with the protagonist's descent into madness. Now that's how to make an interactive film.
9. White Christmas (Season 2, Christmas Special)
This typically bleak Christmas outing for the series makes for the ultimate antidote to standard holiday fare, and also does the anthology structure justice in a way that Black Museum couldn't quite crack. Every segment is as strong and as important as one another, making the conclusion both narratively satisfying and ultimately horrifying.
This episode also featured the first appearance from a major American star in Jon Hamm, before the Netflix switch. Brooker has explained that Hamm approached him and producer Annabel Jones as he was a fan of the series, and it shows on screen - he's clearly having a ball, while Rafe Spall takes on the Black Mirror grunt work of having a full-blown breakdown. It's terrific stuff, and will make you never want to never hear I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday ever again.
8. Hated in the Nation (Season 3, Episode 6)
Black Mirror's first feature length episode and a proper sci-fi thriller, Hated in the Nation feels like it could be the first episode in a whole new spin-off show. Kelly Macdonald and Faye Marsay make for a delightful double-act pairing, while the ticking clock set over the episode means its runtime clips along at a pace.
The combined concepts, of social media hate campaigns and robot bees, feels totally believable throughout, and the chilling musical score makes a third act reveal particularly effective. The episode's filmic length may make it less of an immediate gut-punch than certain others, but it's overall an intriguing puzzle box with satisfying, if horrifying, answers which is well worth delving into.
7. USS Callister (Season 4, Episode 1)
When this episode was first announced, viewers knew there would be a twist - Black Mirror had never delved into high sci-fi, preferring to keep things grounded to planet Earth. Thankfully, therefore, we're let in on this twist early on, with the rest of the episode playing out as part romp, part dark exploration of weaponised tech, tyrannical leaders and petulant egos.
Even when things go to their most ridiculous levels, stars Jesse Plemons and Cristin Milioti manage to sell us on the stakes, essentially exploring one segment of White Christmas in far greater detail and re-jigging out understanding of consciousness. It's Black Mirror at its most adventurous in the literal sense and is a blockbuster scale fun time.
6. Shut Up and Dance (Season 3, Episode 3)
Surely one of the most seedy and gleefully dark episodes, Shut Up and Dance succeeds where Crocodile fell down. Where that episode started grim and got grimmer, Shut Up and Dance starts out as a thriller, a race against time with absolutely ridiculous stakes that you will have you shouting at the screen, telling the protagonist to come to his senses.
It's only after the big twist has been delivered that his actions make sense, as the episode delivers one of the most shocking endings from across the whole series. Although it explores similar themes to season 2's White Bear, it does it in such a distinctive way that Brooker and the team can be well and truly forgiven for going back to that well. You may just need to watch something light and breezy to get the taste of this one out of your mouth at the end.
5. Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1)
Probably the biggest emotional gut-punch from across the entire series, Be Right Back remains a true standout, largely thanks to the stellar performances from Hayley Atwell and Domnhall Gleeson. They take what could be a ridiculous concept and make it wholly believable, making the whole thing a combination of unsettling and heartbreaking.
The ending may play a little like a straight-laced Shaun of the Dead, but the final scene won't be what you remember - it will be Atwell's piercing scream in the penultimate scene, one which tells you all you need to know about this dazzling exploration of grief in the modern world.
4. Hang the DJ (Season 4, Episode 4)
One of the most lighthearted episodes in Black Mirror's run, Hang the DJ came at the perfect time, a pure palette cleanser after Crocodile. It was only a matter of time before the show took on Tinder, and it does so in a charming, non-judgmental fashion, relying on its two leads to sell a sci-fi rom-com which really works.
The final twist is silly but endearingly so, and that's partly because we've been sold so well on Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole's seemingly doomed relationship. It's one of the only episodes to leave you with a purely warm feeling, free of any niggling doubts or concerns, and that it still fits so well in the Black Mirror mould despite this makes it a real stand-out.
3. Fifteen Million Merits (Season 1, Episode 2)
The show's second ever episode still remains one of its very best, delivering one of the show's most other-worldy concepts which still manages to hit home. What could feel dated (the X-Factor style reality show) actually manages to feel timeless and quaint, while the other elements, such as a final, social media style broadcast feel well ahead of their time.
But of course, the real reason this episode is as strong as it is is simple - Daniel Kaluuya. The young star absolutely tears up the screen here, marking himself out as a leading man long before Get Out and delivering a monologue which had the potential to feel on the nose and expository, but instead feels heartbreakingly real and is made all the more devastating by the final, deliciously dark twist.
2. White Bear (Season 2, Episode 2)
This one is all about the twist - and what a twist it is. White Bear lands at number two because it wrong-foots you at every turn. What at first feels like a Black Mirror parody (everyone's been corrupted by their phones), gets turned on its head in such extraordinary fashion, revealing an exploration of justice, punishment and cruelty.
It's a truly bleak view of humanity, made all the more bleak by a final, uncomfortably upbeat sequence of events told from a flipped perspective. Lenora Crichlow and Michael Smiley both sell us on the horror of the situation, which will be turning over and over in your mind for days after all is said and done.
1. San Junipero (Season 3, Episode 4)
Here it is, the best of the best. It may be the obvious answer but it's also the correct one - San Junipero is the best of Black Mirror, one which balances character development, emotional engagement and a thrilling sci-fi concept perfectly. The pacing is perfect, allowing the illusive concept to be revealed just at the right time and then playing with it just enough to feel narratively satisfying while still leaving plenty of questions.
In many ways it's the anti-White Bear - warm hearted and optimistic where that episode saw the worst in humanity. Yet both end up being flip-sides of what makes Black Mirror so compelling, with enormous unseeable twists which on re-watch feel obvious, and an empathetic centre which allows us to ask big questions about how we would react if placed in such scenarios. Also, the soundtrack is phenomenal.
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