With the arrival of “Striking Vipers,” “Smithereens” and “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” it’s time to re-rank every episode of “Black Mirror,” going back to the first episode, “National Anthem.” There are no bad “Black Mirror” episodes, so we ranked them from good to mind-blowing.
23. Season 2, Episode 3: “The Waldo Moment”
Many have made the now-trite observation that this episode, about a cartoon bear who insults his way into higher office, predicted the rise of Donald Trump. OK. This episode does a good job of again showing that we bend too easily before the loud and obnoxious. But “Black Mirror” usually has more novel things to say.
22. Season 3, Episode 6: “Hated in the Nation”
It’s disappointing that “Black Mirror” Season 3 — one of the best TV seasons ever — ended with a story that feels a little like “Sharknado.” Great acting, though, and it can be taken as a friendly reminder not to cancel people over tweets.
21. Season 5, Episode 2: “Smithereens”
Topher Grace’s lovely performance as a tech guru who hates beeps, bloops and push notifications as much as you do saves this from being a pretty run-of-the-mill hostage drama. But it is a “Black Mirror” episode that could happen right now, in the present day, and we always like when the show pulls that off.
20. Season 2, Episode 2: “White Bear”
Sure, this one’s scary, but it’s just scary. There’s some “Purge”-quality social commentary here, and that’s nice. But “Black Mirror” is usually smarter. (“Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker seems pleased with this episode, though: “Bandersnatch” calls back to it aggressively.)
19. Season 3, Episode 2: “Playtest”
This episode relies too much on typical scares to be among our favorites. The sudden turn into real-life horror is more affecting than the haunted house scenes.
18. Season 5, Episode 3: “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”
This feels like the umpteenth episode of “Black Mirror” in which someone’s digital soul becomes trapped outside his or her body. This time the victim is pop star Ashley (Miley Cyrus! We like her), who ends up inside a robot toy owned by one of her adoring fans. A caper to reunite mind and body ensues, making this one of the funniest episodes of “Black Mirror.” It feels deliberately light, and it’s charming, but nothing about it will haunt you except Ashley’s cheery take on a Nine Inch Nails classic.
17. Season 2, Episode 1: “Be Right Back”
16. Season 4, Episode 2: “Arkangel”
This episode has the best setup of any “Black Mirror,” and seems poised to launch a savage critique of over-parenting. But it doesn’t escalate as much as we expected it to, and can’t quite live up to its brilliant concept.
15. Season 1, Episode 2: “Fifteen Million Merits”
This twist on “American Idol”-style mobs is gorgeously acted by Jessica Brown Findlay and a pre-“Get Out” Daniel Kaluuya, and their chemistry helps sell familiar lessons about literal cycles of exploitation. We think about this episode every time we ride an exercise bike, which probably isn’t often enough.
14. Season 1, Episode 1: “National Anthem”
This mean little story feels all the meaner because it’s so easy to imagine it happening in real life. It’s a perfect first episode, because there’s no better test of whether “Black Mirror” is for you.
13. Season 4, Episode 6: “Black Museum”
“Black Museum” references every past episode in the anthology, but the ruthlessness with which it merges three vignettes into one nasty story. Letitia Wright and Douglas Hodge counter the ugliness with some beautiful acting.
12. Season 4, Episode 5: Metalhead
Hey, Alexa: Is this episode just a stripped-down survival story? Or a grim warning that our reliance on Amazon is a slippery slope into Terminator dogs chasing us down across a hellscape Earth? Just asking.
11. Season 4, Episode 3: “Crocodile”
If Alfred Hitchcock had done a “Black Mirror” episode, it would go pretty much like this. A frosty blonde antihero (Andrea Riseborough) tries to outsmart a relentless insurance adjuster. A rodent gets involved.
10. Season 2, Episode 4: “White Christmas”
If you’re dreaming of a black Christmas, this showcase for madman Jon Hamm combines two imaginary technologies — one of which allows you to “block” people in real life — to tell one of grayest stories ever told. Sentiment-free, it’s the most “Black Mirror” episode of “Black Mirror.”
9. Season 4, Episode 4: “Hang the DJ”
Boy and girl meet cute in The System, which is designed to find “true matches.” If you and your better half are fighting over complicated wedding plans and too-high expectations, stop and watch this episode and remember you don’t owe anything to anyone but each other.
“Hang the DJ” is probably the sweetest episode of “Black Mirror,” and is therefore not our favorite.
8. Season 3, Episode 3: “Shut Up and Dance”
No episode of “Black Mirror” will leave you feeling worse about humanity than this one. The ultimate prank is on you. Oh, also? It could happen. Similar things have already happened.
7. Season 4, Episode 1: USS Callister
This one makes the Top 5 on sweep and ambition alone. And it’s one of many episodes that remind us to never let anyone make a digital copy of your soul. Stars Jesse Plemons and Cristin Milioti should be in everything.
6. Standalone movie: “Bandersnatch”
By far the most ambitious “Black Mirror,” “Bandersnatch” does something never before attempted in serious drama, using the “Choose Your Own Adventure” format to ask provocative questions about free will and power. Part film, part video game, it’s incredibly impressive, and builds a complicated, stunning alternate-reality 1984 that we’re still navigating. The one flaw is that the lack of a consistent narrative makes it hard to completely engage with the characters.
5. Season 3, Episode 1: “Nosedive”
This is the episode that probably hits closest to home: We think about it every time we get in a Lyft or consider writing a negative Yelp review. The Bryce Dallas Howard story is a perfect sendup of our obsession with social-media approval. As soon as it ended we tweeted how much we loved it, then waited to see if anyone would retweet us, and… why didn’t they? What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with us?
4. Season 5, Episode 1: “Striking Vipers”
One of the best written and acted episodes, with an especially good turn by Nicole Beharie as a woman trying to figure out what’s wrong in her marriage. What’s wrong is very hard to explain, but it revolves around a video game obsession shared by her husband (Anthony Mackie) and his former roommate (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). This is one of the scariest episodes of “Black Mirror,” because the fear of a relationship disintegrating is so well-grounded. But there’s also a beautiful resolution.
3. Episode 3, Season 5: “Men Against Fire”
We don’t say this lightly: This episodes stands alongside “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Full Metal Jacket” as one of the best stories about how war really works. (Even though the speech about how most soldiers don’t fire their weapons might be totally wrong.)
2. Season 3, Episode 4: “San Junipero”
No other story better captures the 1980s’ pulsing mix of hope, heartache, cruelty and perfect pop music. It’s another episode that could have been a Best Picture, and it may be the best single episode of television at capturing raw emotion. (It also feels joyously defiant that this story of colorblind LGBT love was filmed in South Africa, a former bastion of government-mandated bigotry.)
1. Season 1, Episode 3: “The Entire History of You”
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with anyone who’s been in another relationship, this one will crush you. Should life be lived, or remembered? And can you separate the living from the remembering? We think of this episode every time our memories fail us — or serve us much too well.