The Top Ten Black Mirror Episodes
Black Mirror is a crazy show and it has gone to some crazy places. From virtual reality to futuristic warfare and beyond, the series is known for taking concepts related to technology and human nature to the absolute weirdest extremes in order to comment on the ways that people live their lives now and the directions they may be headed if they remain on the path of unchecked advancement. It has received acclaim for its bizarre yet somehow grounded plots, and here at ComingSoon.net, we believe that it’s about time somebody ranked the top ten Black Mirror episodes. Before taking a look at this list though, remember that since Black Mirror is such a twisty show, it’s near impossible to avoid talking about any of the episodes at all without spoiling anything about them. Because of this, we’ll be trying to keep end-of-episode major spoilers to a minimum, but beware that reading beyond this point is done at the reader’s own risk – and know that you’ll probably get more enjoyment out of the list if you watch the episodes first yourself, anyways. There’s only a grand total of 13 at the moment and they’re all on Netflix, so it shouldn’t take too long to binge on them.
Without further ado, here is the best that Black Mirror’s dark world has to offer:
10. Be Right Back
Have you ever lost a loved one? If not, have you thought about how it might feel? How you might be tempted to bring them back, and to have them with you always? Pet Sematary taught us that this might be a bad idea if it involves cursed ground, but what if you could do it through technology?
This episode of Black Mirror asks exactly that question, and the response is unsettling, to say the least. When a woman’s husband dies, she turns to a new program that downloads all of the information on his social media profile to a copy of his body and then sends him back to her home to live out the rest of his factory-prepared life with her. At first she’s overjoyed, but soon she begins to notice that something is wrong with the artificial man trying to be the real man she once loved and lost.
As a meditation on mortality, “Be Right Back” is a warning in the tradition of sci-fi horror and it does its job disturbingly well.
What would you do for social approval? That’s what “Nosedive” asks its audiences, and its method is extremely clever. The world of the episode is much like our own, except people regularly use an app on their phones to rate each other after interacting. People with high ratings become social elites with access to the best healthcare and other privileges, while social outcasts are left to rot on their own.
The protagonist of the episode is a woman who slowly becomes obsessed with the ratings in question as she treks across the country to go to an old (popular) friend’s wedding in the hopes of gaining social status. Along the way, she runs into trouble and so do her ratings, and so she becomes increasingly dependent on the big speech she plans to make at the wedding to save her social standing from complete ruins. The question is, by the time she gets there, will she even be able to deliver her speech with dignity?
Though this episode’s overall arc is a bit predictable, it still builds to a satisfying climax and it is one of the exceedingly rare episodes of Black Mirror to end on a sweet (if a bit ironic) note of hope. The protagonist does find herself in the world of ratings, but not quite how you might expect, and not quite where either. In a real world where people judge each other harshly for even the slightest of social faux pas or differences, this episode is important and timely.
8. The Waldo Moment
Waldo is a cartoon bear from a dumb comedy show that makes crude comments about people and events. He goes live once to mock out a politician and boom, history is made. Suddenly, he’s in the running for a government position and the guy who voices him is tasked with bringing him to life for publicity and profits. He becomes concerned about the ethical implications of crashing an election as a fictional animal person, but there are those who are willing to do anything it takes to benefit from the bear, including stealing the voice actor’s role and leaving him in the dust.
This is the story of “The Waldo Moment,” and when this episode was originally aired people found it to be a bit too outlandish to take seriously. Until the reality television host and real estate mogul Donald Trump was elected as the president of the United States, that is. Then suddenly the episode was revealed to be shockingly predictive, and anyone who said that something like Waldo could never happen found themselves eating their words. In just one moment, Waldo had become real and the whole world was forced to face that fact.
This episode is great because not only does it go to show just how pressing the dangers presented in Black Mirror actually are in spite of their sci-fi dystopian twists, it also does a great job exploring more general political and moral themes. Is it really admirable to run as a candidate solely to ruin another party even if you have no platform of your own? When do farcical parodies go too far, and who is responsible for allowing them to? What matters more, safety or political statement? All this contemplation and more, brought to you by a blue CG bear with a penchant for making silly fart noises.
7. White Christmas
Black Mirror’s “White Christmas” is notable for not actually taking place during any main season of the show. Instead it was aired between seasons 1 and 2 in 2014 as a bonus, and instead of being a single episode, it was more like three episodes tied together by a single overarching narrative, sort of like a “Treehouse of Horrors”-styled anthology as described by the show’s creator, Charlie Brooker. Each part had its own twist at the end, and each part built upon the last until the final revelation was made at the very end.
In the first segment, one self-professed “alpha male” talks a man through a date via hidden headset in exchange for the right to sell the visuals of his sexual experience to paying viewers as taboo pornography. Things only get stranger from there as the concepts of recursive realities, tiny servant clones, and blocking people out as you might do on a web forum but in real life are all explored, then tied together at the end with a pretty, terrifying bow. Each individual segment is good in “White Christmas,” but it’s the effect that all of them have in conjunction with each other that makes the whole thing such an interesting watch.
6. The Entire History of You
Imagine being able to remember everything. Rather, imagine having a device that did it for you so that you could play your memories back on repeat like a DVD in first person. How would you use that? How would that impact human society? Presumably you could remember people’s names without worrying about it, do better on tests, review events to confirm that you’re remembering them properly, and so on. It could even be used for security purposes, to catch criminals by using the recorded memories as evidence. It’d be great, right?
Well… unless you happen to be paranoid, like the man of the hour in this episode of Black Mirror. After going to a small gathering of old friends, he notices something unusual about his wife’s behavior and he begins reviewing his memories of the night over and over again, trying to spot the thread. After some rematches, he begins to suspect that his wife may not be as faithful to him as he may have believed, and this suspicion rapidly becomes drunken obsession. He begins to search for clues throughout his memories to prove that his suspicions are appropriate, but the truth may be worse than not knowing.
This is one of those Black Mirror episodes with an ending so painful for the main character that it can be difficult to watch. The conclusion is one that comments on what it means to be human, and though it is exceptionally dark there is a small ray of hope hinted at as well.
5. National Anthem
The princess has been kidnapped and held for ransom, and it’s up to the Prime Minister to save her. How can he do this? Well, by… “doing it” with a pig according to terrorist demands. At first almost nobody expects him to actually go through with this sick act of bestiality, but as tension builds and public demand for the princess to be saved strengthens, the Prime Minister is forced to make a decision that will either make or break him for the rest of his life.
Yep, this was the first ever episode of Black Mirror, and it sure made one heck of an entrance. In spite of its bizarre premise, it remains tense throughout and manages to use the insanity of its concept to comment on personal responsibility, pride and shame, and social pressures caused by the twisting of Internet news media. Without saying what happens, the climax is both heartbreaking and surprising, and it left viewers feeling like Black Mirror really was something different than what they were used to watching on television.
4. Shut Up And Dance
In “Shut Up And Dance,” a mysterious hacker uses the camera on a boy’s computer to blackmail him into playing an increasingly dangerous game using footage of the young man watching pornography as his bargaining chip. If the boy can follow the bizarre commands given to him for 24 hours, he’ll win the footage back and all will be well. If not? Well then he’ll just be faced with the absolute most humiliating moment in his life when the footage goes live on his social media friends list for everyone he cares about to see in full detail. Shortly into this sick, social “Saw-esque” game, the boy finds himself forced to work with a grown man in the same situation, except he is being held captive by footage of him cheating on his wife. Can the two work together, or will they both go down in flames?
The thing that makes this episode compelling is actually not the hacker’s game itself. Though it is certainly compelling to watch as it slowly builds to a sickening crescendo, the real value of the episode comes more from the reveal at the end which completely changes the implications of the boy’s actions. Safe to say, he may not be as innocent as he first appears, and yet his portrayal is still so sympathetic that even when the curtain drops it’s hard not to feel for him. The usual schadenfreude associated with watching someone get busted is absent, and so the audience is only left with a tough moral dilemma and emotional pain.
3. San Junipero
This episode is tricky to describe without spoiling it completely because its entire nature as a premise is the main twist. That said, suffice to say that it features an uncommon television romance, a variety of decade nostalgia references, a concept that might just blow your mind, and the only unquestionably happy ending in the entire Black Mirror series.
Strap in and head to San Junipero, where everyone is happy and yet nothing is what it seems.
2. Fifteen Million Merits
We’ve all partaken in the daily grind. We go to work, we run on the treadmill of our dull day jobs, and then we use our hard-earned money to buy things in the hopes that even one of these things might actually make us happy, all the while consuming more media than we can fully process without extensive effort and time that we don’t have. The only difference is, in this episode of Black Mirror, the treadmill is more literally a stationary bike.
This episode stars a man who is sick of spinning his life away for artificial rewards and wants to experience something real, just once. When he meets a woman and falls in love, he thinks it might be his chance, and so he saves up the titular fifteen million merits (which are a kind of virtue currency, like a dystopian bitcoin) to put the lady he likes on an American Idol-esque reality TV show to showcase her singing talents. When this goes disastrously wrong, as things are prone to going in this series, the hero of the story takes it upon himself to dedicate his life to rebellion – but at what cost?
The episode has a truly heart-wrenching confrontation near the end that asks viewers to question what is real to them and to ponder the nature of rebellion in a world that seems intent on commodifying everything. This one will stick with you like the final montage of Requiem for a Dream and it’ll stay burned into your mind for a long, long time.
1. Hated in the Nation
This is the longest episode of Black Mirror yet and the latest to be released, coming in at nearly an hour and a half – that’s about the length of a full movie. The film-length episode follows the exploits of two detectives in different fields coming together to investigate a chain of social media-related killings in an effort to stop the next one before it happens. As the truth is peeled back layer by layer, it becomes clear that the scope of the killings is on a much grander scale than anyone could’ve predicted, and the episode becomes a race against time that doesn’t let up until the very end.
As a special season finale, “Hated in the Nation’s” strength comes not from its advanced runtime but from its ability to remain engaging in spite of it. The twists and turns come quickly, but with solid pacing that prevents the whole thing from feeling like an exercise in audience exploitation. The nature of culpability is held under a microscope for the duration of the episode, and ultimately it is left to the viewer to think about their own lives and decide where the line of responsibility can be drawn between spectator and participant.
And there you have it, the top ten Black Mirror episodes, ranked. Of course, with the fourth season on its way on December 29 with six episodes incoming, this list may change sooner than later. Only time will tell, just as we might be headed towards a future that resembles this show even as you read this article. Spooky, right?