The Ultimate Ranking of ‘Black Mirror’

Bandersnatch is life!

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Pictured: Fionn Whitehead, Will Poulter, Asim Chaudhry

Black Mirror is one of the most iconic anthologies of my lifetime. It’s disturbing, captivating, and questions our dependency on technology. As someone who grew up watching reruns on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, I thought my best anthology days were behind me. Luckily, I was introduced to Charlie Brooker’s weird little show that seemed geared towards me specifically. I have gotten serotonin from each season and special. I’ve led so many friends down the Bandersnatch rabbit hole that I feel like a tour guide. So of course I used the news of the upcoming sixth series to revisit my old friend.

23. The Waldo Moment (Series 2, Episode 3)

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A vulgar computer-animated bear runs for election against the wishes of the man that controls it. Things get twisty pretty early on in this episode. It also serves as a thought experiment about the kinds of characters some people will vote for. Even when it’s clearly against the interest of society. Because I came to Black Mirror in 2016 this was too soon. That’s why I have a hard time rewatching it even though it’s a fairly solid episode.

22. Shut Up And Dance (Series 3, Episode 3)

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A hacker records a young man masturbating and then uses it to blackmail him into doing illegal deeds. This episode kept me guessing as I learned more about the network of people being blackmailed by the same entity. Because you know there’s more to this masturbating video if this kid is willing to do some of these wild feats, it makes it hard to trust him but you find yourself rooting for him anyway. At least until you get the full story. This is another fine episode that has the misfortune of being in a series that’s usually great.

21. Be Right Back (Series 2, Episode 1)

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A pregnant woman’s boyfriend dies unexpectedly. In her grief, she creates an artificial version of him but soon realizes that it’s not the same. One of the things Black Mirror excels at is reminding us that just because we can do something it doesn’t mean we should. This episode is especially timely in an era where we have hologram tours and use dead peoples’ likenesses in film. It’s a good episode that unfortunately gets overshadowed by later episodes that pose similar questions.

20. Men Against Fire (Series 3, Episode 5)

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An implant makes soldiers see a group of people as mutants so that they won’t know they’re committing racial genocide. When one soldier figures this out he finds himself between his colleagues and the “Roaches” they’re supposed to be killing. This episode is a lot and comments on so many specific conversations. I sometimes think it has so much going on that it doesn’t get to give everything the weight it deserves. Still worth the watch though.

19. Metalhead (Series 4, Episode 5)

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A woman finds herself in a battle with robotic guard dogs in this very quick and very stylish episode. This is by far one of the most confusing episodes of Black Mirror. We all had theories about the box of teddy bears but it’s literally anybody’s guess how they play into this. We were all collectively at a loss. However, it’s a very welcome detour from what we’ve come to expect from this anthology. It also just looks cool as hell even if we don’t feel like we’re getting a full story.

18. Smithereens (Series 5, Episode 2)

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A guy kidnaps an intern from a social media company because he blames the company for killing his fiancée. Both reasons we’re given to hate this company are a little flimsy, but social media dependency is a real thing. Andrew Scott and Damson Idris make this episode memorable and every day they’re not working together is a waste. They keep this episode from being the weakest of the bunch.

17. Hated In The Nation (Series 3, Episode 6)

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Robotic bees are being used to kill people as part of an online game. The idea of people being assassinated by bees because of a hashtag shouldn’t be as interesting as it is. However, here we are, tense and waiting to see if they can figure out who is behind these murders. I love that these robotic bees were originally created to counteract the extinction of real bees. As someone with a severe bee phobia, I would not want any part of this and I do get a little twitchy when I watch it.

16. Fifteen Million Merits (Series 1, Episode 2)

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Society makes people ride stationary bikes to earn the currency needed to buy essentials. Two people fall in love despite the sinister system in place. Daniel Kaluuya anchors this episode and keeps us invested in the rollercoaster his character is on. Like most episodes of Black Mirror, this episode has a couple of conversations simultaneously. Those conversations only become more relatable the older we get.

15. Striking Vipers (Series 5, Episode 1)

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Two friends play a video game in which they find themselves attracted to each other’s character. They begin having an affair within the game as they try to figure out what it means in the real world. This episode is messy but Anthony Mackie and THE Yahya Abdul-Mateen II get every moment they can out of it. Unlike most episodes, it doesn’t stick the landing in the grand scheme of things. However, it surprised us all and gave us a lot to talk about in our friend circles.

14. The National Anthem (Series 1, Episode 1)

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A kidnapper makes a very unusual demand of a prime minister. This was a strong first episode and definitely told us what kind of show this was going to be. Anyone that opens a series with making a man screw a pig on national television is bold. The fact that we watched it and came back says a lot about us. This wouldn’t be the last time Charlie Brooker gave a character an impossible choice. However, it’s one of the most memorable even after all these years.

13. Arkangel (Series 4, Episode 2)

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A woman gets her daughter implanted with the Arkangel system, which is designed to track children’s vision, hearing, and health. Because it’s immoral and this is Black Mirror we see some pretty cringy moments like a mom being present for her teen having sex. We also get to watch the system backfire and become a weapon when the daughter figures out what’s going on. This episode was directed by Jodie Foster and showed us that her aesthetic works well in this morbid world that Charlie Brooker has built.

12. Nosedive (Series 3, Episode 1)

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Social media ratings impact socioeconomic status in this episode. This episode walks that line between dark and whimsical which is what co-writers of the script, Rashida Jones and Michael Schur excel at. What starts out as an interesting premise about social climbing ends up being a bigger commentary on social media dependency. Seeing the lengths the characters go to in order to get higher ratings makes you want to delete Facebook again. This episode has one of the most cathartic endings of the entire show and I live every time.

11. Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too (Series 5, Episode 3)

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A comatose pop star’s only hope is a doll with a part of her consciousness and the fan that owns it. Definitely recommend rewatching now that we know the fuller story behind the Free Britney Movement. This one also stands out because of Miley Cyrus’ cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole”. As someone who is usually indifferent to Miley, I have to admit it’s a bop and I seek it out on Youtube more than I should. It’s not the strongest episode but it definitely gave us a lot to chew on regarding how popstars are treated.

10. USS Callister (Series 4, Episode 1)

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A CEO creates a world within his game where he can trap a version of his employees and force them to live out his fantasies. This hits all of our Star Trek nostalgia buttons while also coloring how we view Ian on Mythic Quest (which is a show that came much later). First off, this stacked cast includes Queen Michaela Coel and everyone’s favorite nice guy, Jesse Plemons, as the ultimate corporate villain. You assume Plemons is going to be a lovable lead and within 15 minutes you want his character to catch hands. He’s too good at this.

9. Crocodile (Series 4, Episode 3)

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Fifteen years after getting rid of a body, the two people at fault have a deadly fight about coming forward. Because technology has advanced to a point where memories can be viewed, this leads to a slippery murderous slope of keeping this secret. I loved this episode a lot more than most people who claimed it was too dark. We’ve seen similar narratives with male leads since the invention of stories and I lived to see a woman driving this one. We need more women villains whose motives make sense. This episode gives us that and lets her go DARK.

8. Hang The DJ (Series 4, Episode 4)

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Two single people use a device called “Coach” that will choose their partners and how long they’re together. I love the commentary on dating in the digital age almost as much as I love the moral of the episode that we don’t get until the twist. This episode was cute, fun, and a refreshing palate cleanser in a very dark season. This episode also definitely has our second favorite Black Mirror couple. They just had the misfortune of being introduced after the favorite.

7. Playtest (Series 3, Episode 2)

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A man avoiding his mother finds himself testing a reality version of Whac-A-Mole. This all sounds above board if this is your first episode of Black Mirror, right? As this gets increasingly more sinister it gets harder to know if we can even trust what we think we know as an audience. Aside from making something seemingly innocent a horrific and deadly trap, this episode was also my introduction to Wunmi Mosaku. I’m forever indebted to this episode for alerting me that I had another favorite actor out there the whole time.

6. White Bear (Series 2, Episode 2)

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An amnesiac wakes up to a world where people record her but won’t speak to her. I spent the bulk of this episode trying to figure out what was going on and I lived! We were empathizing with a woman that helped with an awful crime and we didn’t know it. The idea of wiping someone’s memory every day to punish them again for entertainment purposes feels very American. Brooker definitely fired a reminder shot that there ain’t no party like a Black Mirror Party because it’s so bleak.

5. The Entire History Of You (Series 1, Episode 3)

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A device called “Grain” allows people to replay memories on screen. It causes problems for a couple when the husband realizes his wife had an affair with their friend and that his child might not be his. This episode is chaotic. It also introduced a lot of us to the powerhouse that is Jodie Whittaker in one of her sketchiest roles. This is one of the best episodes when it comes to marrying drama with sci-fi in a series that does that almost every episode.

4. San Junipero (Series 3, Episode 4)

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Two young women meet in 1987 and then have a romance that defies time in their simulated reality. This episode has a happy ending and we love to see it for these two. Having a queer couple live their best virtual life (and possibly afterlife) in a sci-fi show filled with unhappy endings is the kind of twist we needed. This episode’s soundtrack is a lot of feels but the way Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is a Place on Earth was used is where most of us cynics started crying.

3. White Christmas (2014 Special)

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Two men in a cabin share stories of the monstrous deeds they’ve done. Black Mirror holiday specials are the only holiday specials that matter. Not only is this episode compelling but they also added Jon Hamm. The Hammster is a special seasoning that elevates whatever show he lands in. We love to see him even though we have trust issues with almost every character on his resume. As a Gemini, I also love the idea of Z-Eyes letting me block people in a way that social media never could. This was one of the episodes that let me know I was in love with this show.

2. Black Museum (Series 4, Episode 6)

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A woman visits a museum filled with technological artifacts used in various crimes. I love this episode because I’m a nerd and love seeking out easter eggs from other episodes when I rewatch. This feels like a best-of episode, and a separate anthology, all rolled into one. The performances were top-notch and I didn’t hate the ending the way most people did. It’s one of the episodes that gets better every time I go back in.

1. Bandersnatch (2018 Interactive Special)

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Charlie Brooker gave us an interactive choose your own adventure film on Netflix. This Black Mirror event is my favorite because I got to control the narrative. The only thing cooler than watching this show is choosing what awful outcome the protagonist is going to get. It’s super meta, super dark, and is the kind of social experiment we watch this show for. We were entertained while also being part of the problem. We also immediately turned to Brooker and asked for more.

Let me know your favorite episode of Black Mirror at @misssharai.

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