The best Black Mirror episodes, ranked

Credit: Netflix

Black Mirror season 5 is nearly upon us and, after the surprise Christmas gift of Bandersnatch, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of excitement, even as Charlie Brooker’s latest anthology of technophobic stories only adds a mere three episodes to Netflix’s growing collection. As one of the best shows on Netflix, the very best Black Mirror episodes of the bunch represent some of the finest science-fiction telly you could hope for, rife with jet black humour, stellar talent both behind and in front of the camera, and – you guessed it – endless philosophical chin scratching. 

That makes ranking the best Black Mirror episodes from worst to best a difficult challenge to say the least, riddled with staunch opinion and the potential for controversy, as everyone has their own favourites from the show so far. Still, through the power of a collective vote (because we all know how much Black Mirror loves democracy), we think we’ve honed down a definitive hierarchy. But first, two disclaimers: this list contains major spoilers for every episode of Black Mirror so far (obviously), and – despite its acclaim – we won’t be including Bandersnatch in the rankings, as it’s technically a standalone movie, and not an episode in a series. Sorry, perhaps in a branching path, we’d have made a different choice. 

19. Hated in the Nation

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 3, episode 6

The one where: Robot bees massacre a lot of people

The bottom of the Black Mirror barrel may not be a downright terrible piece of television, but it’s not something you’ll think of fondly or even want to re-watch anytime soon. Hated in the Nation sees Kelly Macdonald’s DCI Parke on the hunt for a hacker who’s conducting a public hashtag vote to see who should be killed next. It sounds like it’s a cookie-cutter Black Mirror premise – and that’s because it is.

Then the robot bees turns up. Oh god, the bees. What was a fairly engaging Black Mirror episode rapidly turns into the sort of sub-standard, genuinely laugh-out-loud fare that you’re more likely to see buzzing around in an average Doctor Who episode. It’s not scary, it’s not thought-provoking, and you can suddenly feel every second the 89-minute runtime. Bradley Russell

18. Arkangel

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 4, episode 2

The one where: Mum puts creepy stalker tech in her daughter's head

Sometimes Black Mirror feels like a startlingly clear warning from the future, other times it feels like somebody repeating "what if technology but too much" in an increasingly loud stage whisper. Arkangel settles comfortably in the latter camp because none of its weird technology is even necessary for the episode's premise. Parents already spy on their kids while feeling conflicted about it, and they already isolate them from their peers (for better or worse) by limiting their exposure to certain parts of culture. The only true terrifying part of this episode is the idea of a brain implant being deprecated after a few years like a body-horror Google product. Connor Sheridan

17. The Waldo Moment

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 2, episode 3

The one where: A cartoon character runs for parliament and wins

As far as subliminal messaging goes, The Waldo Moment’s subtext is about as subtle as Brian Blessed shouting it from the rooftops in squeaky clown shoes. We get it; modern politics is a joke, and democracy is its court jester... What else is new? Black Mirror has always been better as a sharp-edged thought experiment than a straight played comedy, so this episode’s whole-hearted pivot to the latter genre instantly makes it one of the less memorable and least impressive of the bunch. What's more, this being early Black Mirror, the CG makeup of Waldo himself looks pretty tacky too, which doesn’t help. We get that the masses might protest vote for a cartoon character, but surely not one that looks like a knock off mascot that pops up every time you get a spare at the bowling alley? Alex Avard

16. Be Right Back

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 2, episode 1

The one where: Domhnall Gleeson dies and comes back as an AI clone

Before they made a name for themselves in the US through Star Wars and Marvel respectively, Domhnall Gleeson and Hayley Atwell’s natural chemistry allowed Black Mirror’s season 2 premiere to flourish as a bittersweet tale of love, loss, and robots. Sadly, it’s central questions about the line between artificial intelligence and human consciousness is a topic that’s seen more than its fair share of coverage in the sci-fi genre, making Be Right Back a more prosaic and platitudinal affair compared to subsequent episodes in the season. Gleeson and Atwell are both terrific, though, and if there’s any reason to watch this episode, it’s them. Alex Avard

15. The Entire History of You 

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 1, episode 3

The one where: A surveillance biochip records everyone's memories

Yes, yes, I know, this is the episode that everyone points to when talking about Black Mirror, so why is it at number 15?! To be honest, as time has passed, and a whole load of better, more interesting Black Mirror episodes have been released, hindsight has naturally slid The Entire History of You down towards the bottom of the rankings. Don’t get me wrong, this is about as personal and dramatic as Black Mirror gets, using its technology not to ruminate on socio-political subject matter, but to accentuate the pathos of a failing marriage when it finally reaches its breakpoint. In most scenarios like this, a couple fights, spends some time apart, then makes up. Black Mirror, on the other hand, explores what happens when surveillance technology gets thrown into the mix. Bonus points awarded for future Time Lord Jodie Whittaker on reliably award-winning form as Toby Kebbell’s beleaguered spouse.  Alex Avard

14. White Christmas

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Christmas special

The one where: Jon Hamm uses "eye-link" technology for bad things and "blocking" someone takes on a whole new meaning

My sweet mother has never forgiven me for making her watch this one family Christmas. It's actually three stories in one, stories set in a world where we have little digital clones to run our lives, special implants to let us see through other people's eyes, and social media blocking to ghost anyone we want IRL. It's one of the darkest episodes ever made, and could well be subtitled "toxic masculinity ruins the party again." The clever use of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday and the interweaving narratives play on all your festive feelings, making the ending even more depressing than your 17th pair of novelty socks from under the tree. Rachel Weber

13. White Bear 

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 2, episode 2

The one where: A criminal who filmed her boyfriend killing a little girl wakes up with no memory and is chased by psychos while onlookers films from the sidelines

White Bear has made such a primordial impact on Black Mirror’s audience, that its iconic logo has appeared in multiple episodes of the show since, reminding us that – not only is the Black Mirrorverse real – this horrifying parody of a Derren Brown-style reality TV show is apparently in it, and still going strong. White Bear’s apocalyptic trial by fire is harrowing from start to finish, but it’s last minute stinger is where the episode really comes into its own, not least because Brooker turns his ire squarely towards the audience. Technology isn’t the real monster of this story, we are, and that devastating twist is exactly why White Bear still holds up as a jet black piece of social satire today. Alex Avard

12. Fifteen Million Merits

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 1, episode 2

The one where: The X Factor is capitalism and porn is unavoidable

Fifteen Million Merits is Black Mirror at its most cynical. It posits a world where people are consummately commoditised: their working hours are spent pumping away at stationary bikes to earn Merits while their resting hours are spent watching their fellow citizens in reality television. Any possibility of change is eroded when the main character's budding romance is cut short by his sweet, pure girlfriend jumping straight from future X Factor to hardcore porn (and he's even forced to watch ads for her new career). Then he gets his own spotlight by threatening to slit his throat on public television, turning that act of rebellion into a new regular broadcast. Black Mirror's almost always dark, but the brief flash of optimism being snuffed out by suffocating cynicism can make Fifteen Million Merits a tough re-watch. Connor Sheridan

11. USS Callister 

Credit: Netflix

Credit: Netflix

The episode: Season 4, episode 1

The one where: Geek builds his own Enterprise and populates it with people he knows IRL

From Playtest to Bandersnatch, Black Mirror has always demonstrated an affinity for video games. Charlie Brooker was once a games journalist himself, after all, and his love-hate relationship with the medium remains as zealous as ever. Nowhere is that more evident than in USS Callister, in which Brooker exemplifies both the soaring heights and damaging depravities of the digital medium, where a social outcast can fetishise his own tyrannical fantasies just by logging online. For all its subtext, USS Callister is also hugely entertaining as a straight send-up of Star Trek, with some of the funniest moments seen in Black Mirror to date. And, in a rare moment for the show, we get an ending that’s for once more hopeful than po-faced, and one which is completely earned thanks to the episode's terrific cast, smart structure, and perceptive themes. Alex Avard

Head to page two for a run down of the top ten best Black Mirror episodes so far!