This article is purposely free of major spoilers.
Black Mirror is an anthology series, meaning each episode is its own self-contained story with its own unique cast, setting, plotlines, and themes. It’s one reason why the show is such a pop culture success; because, as Forrest Gump once said, you never know what you’re gonna get.
The other reason why so many tune in to Black Mirror? Because its punchlines are so devastating. Every episode takes a different angle, but the general gist of the show is an exploration of how humans abuse technology and become enslaved to media.
It’s the kind of show that leaves you stewing in your own thoughts and wrestling with what you’ve just seen every time the credits roll. If you haven’t watched Black Mirror yet, here are some of the most thought-provoking episodes you should make sure not to miss.
1. White Christmas (Special)
“White Christmas” is the most intricate, compelling, and mind-crippling episode of the entire series. There’s no contest. Perhaps the extended runtime of 74 minutes is why it’s so good, allowing the story enough time to build and get us invested in the characters before slamming us with twist after twist after soul-shattering twist.
Released as a Christmas special episode between seasons 2 and 3, it’s fitting that “White Christmas” takes place in a snowed-in remote cabin. It centers on two men who take turns telling stories from their past lives, culminating in a whopping climax that will leave you in stunned silence. It’s been three years since I saw “White Christmas” and I still think about it to this day.
2. The Entire History of You (Season 1, Episode 3)
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could replay every single one of your memories with perfect recall at any time whenever you want? Well, it’s possible with the small neuro-implant that makes up the core of “The Entire History of You” — and while perfect recall sounds great, this episode explores just how badly it can backfire.
Resulting in one of the most emotionally ruinous climaxes in the entire series, “The Entire History of You” is the kind of episode you shouldn’t watch when you’re sad or angry.
3. Shut Up and Dance (Season 3, Episode 3)
“Shut Up and Dance” is arguably the most frightening episode of Black Mirror, if only because it doesn’t involve any high-tech gadgets and could plausibly happen to any of us right now. What if you woke up one day and found yourself blackmailed by an unknown, unseen entity? How far would you go to keep your secrets hidden?
If nothing else, “Shut Up and Dance” will make you think twice about the technology you already use today and how it could be weaponized against you.
4. Nosedive (Season 3, Episode 1)
Do you remember all of the hype and buzz around Klout Scores back in 2008? “Nosedive” pushes that idea to the limit, exploring what kind of world we’d live in (and the resulting problems) if every aspect of life was held hostage by a universal personal rating system based on upvotes and downvotes from the people you encounter every day.
If this sounds far-fetched, don’t forget that China is seriously considering a Social Credit System where every citizen receives a score based on mass surveillance and big data.
5. Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1)
Imagine if you could bring someone back from the dead by analyzing all of their internet and social media activity, then implanting all of their behaviors into an AI-operated robot. Would you do it? Would you even be able to tell the difference?
While “Be Right Back” isn’t as malicious or cynical as other Black Mirror episodes, it still packs a heavy punch — and it really makes you think about all kinds of things, including what exactly separates humans from AI and what you’d do if this became possible in your lifetime.
6. Fifteen Million Merits (Season 1, Episode 2)
The most dystopian episode of the series, “Fifteen Million Merits” takes place in a future society where lower-caste people ride power-generating bikes to earn credits that are spent whenever they want to do anything. The only way out of this mindless grind? To buy your way onto a reality show called Hot Shot and win by impressing the judges (and the world).
Black Mirror loves to do social commentary, but whereas sometimes that commentary falls short or ends up feeling too heavy-handed, “Fifteen Million Merits” is a good example of when Black Mirror gets it right. It’s thought-provoking and may cause you to rethink the path we’ve taken as a society that worships celebrity and fame.
7. Playtest (Season 3, Episode 2)
“Playtest” is a fun but terrifying examination of one way in which augmented reality can go wrong. When you’re scared by a nightmare, you’re actually scared even though the nightmare itself is just a figment of your mind. In “Playtest,” augmented reality is the nightmare.
Despite how you feel about this polarizing episode’s ending, the real thinking point revolves around the implications of augmented reality and virtual reality. If something isn’t “real” but you still experience it in your brain, can we really say it isn’t real? What happens when we lose the ability to differentiate between reality and fake reality?
8. Arkangel (Season 4, Episode 2)
“Arkangel” may be one of the more predictable (but still entertaining) episodes of Black Mirror, but it still brings up some interesting questions. The premise involves an unremovable brain implant that lets parents see and hear everything their child sees and hears, track their location at all times, and even filter out disturbing sights and sounds.
It’s all done voluntarily, and the tech itself isn’t even the most compelling part of the episode, but it’s easy to imagine how far this idea could be pushed. Governments forcing such implants in babies at birth? Yikes. It doesn’t get more dystopian than that.
9. Crocodile (Season 4, Episode 3)
The interesting bit of technology in “Crocodile” takes a back seat to the main plot and characters, but makes enough of a showing to make you wonder how terrible the world would be if it actually existed. Describing the tech would spoil one of the plotlines, so you’ll just have to take our word for it and watch.
This episode featured another interesting idea — knowing this won’t spoil anything — in what appeared to be a self-driving pizza delivery van. Imagine a world where you never have to go anywhere because everything is brought straight to you. Hmm…
10. Black Museum (Season 4, Episode 6)
Half anthology-within-an-anthology and half self-referential, “Black Museum” is a strange mixture of Black Mirror making fun of itself while being completely serious. It tells three separate stories, each involving a different piece of tech, and brings them all together in an explosive finale that’s downright harrowing.
There’s a lot to think about in this one. A device that lets you feel someone else’s pain? The transferral of consciousness into a stuffed monkey? The immortalization of humankind using holograms? “Black Museum” explores the risks and ethical dilemmas that come with these strange inventions, then drops a bomb on it all.
What to Watch After Black Mirror
Black Mirror truly is a one-of-a-kind show, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find an exact replacement to tide you over until the next season is released on Netflix. However, we’ve previously rounded up other shows like Black Mirror that share some of the same traits, and you may find them likable enough to watch.
We also recommend checking out these shows like The X-Files, which is probably the most similar show you’ll find, as well as our favorite shows to binge-watch on Netflix. And since Black Mirror episodes are like short films, how about the best movies to watch on Netflix?
What were your first impressions of Black Mirror? Can you think of any similar shows you love? What’s your favorite episode of Black Mirror to date? Do you like watching shows that leave you thinking long after they have finished? The comments are open below!