Black Mirror Episodes Ranked from Worst to Best

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If you do not wish to read the entire post, here is the ranking as a tier list (made using TierMaker).

A+ (THE BEST): “San Junipero”, “Be Right Back”

A/A- (EXCELLENT): “White Bear”, “White Christmas”, “The Entire History of You”, “Hated in the Nation”, “USS Callister”, “Fifteen Million Merits”

B+/B (SOLID): “The National Anthem”, “Arkangel”, “Hang the DJ”, “Nosedive”

B-/C+ (FAIRLY DECENT): “Shut Up and Dance”, “Striking Vipers”, “Bandersnatch”, “Metalhead”, “Crocodile”

C/C- (MEDIOCRE): “Men Against Fire”, “Black Museum”, “The Waldo Moment”, “Playtest”

D+/D (BAD): “Smithereens”, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”

Recommended Episodes to Watch First: “White Christmas”, “Nosedive”, “The Entire History of You”, “Be Right Back”, “San Junipero”

And here is a tier list for the earliest possible years in which these episodes could have taken place…

22nd Century and Beyond (2100-): “San Junipero”, “White Christmas”, “USS Callister”, “Black Museum”

Late 21st Century (2070-2099): “Striking Vipers”, “Playtest”, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”, “Nosedive”, “White Bear”

Mid 21st Century (2045-2069): “The Entire History of You”, “Metalhead”

Present and Near Future (2020-2044): “Be Right Back”, “Men Against Fire”, “Fifteen Million Merits”, “Arkangel”, “Crocodile”, “Hated in the Nation”

Before 2020: “Hang the DJ”, “The Waldo Moment”, “Smithereens”, “Shut Up and Dance”, “The National Anthem”, “Bandersnatch”

“This Is the Future…”

Browsing the Internet in mid-2020, I came across some statements on the Internet along the lines of “we are living in the sixth season of Black Mirror.”  For those of you familiar with this British, Channel 4-turned-Netflix Original, dystopian, science-fiction anthology series, it is very easy to see where such opinions would come from.

As of when I’m writing this, we are in the midst of a disruptive, global environment and are relying on technology more than ever before in order to work, socialize, educate ourselves, etc. (at least for those of us with access to these technologies and stable internet connection, which, unfortunately, leaves behind so many people), and I strongly believe that this dependency was already growing strongly before and will continue be normalized after the COVID-19 pandemic. Think of the current situation as a “speed boost”, if you may, of what’s already been happening. Anyways, while I have been actively avoiding mainstream television’s discussions of the pandemic (except for when I mistakenly watched Death to 2020), I thought it would be interesting to see if some of the hypothetical realities of Black Mirror actually mirror (no pun intended) our current predicaments.

Created by English broadcaster and writer Charlie Brooker in 2011, Black Mirror is a series of standalone episodes that showcases how human societies are or can be impacted by new technology.  These episodes, largely taking place in the future, are usually quite dark, but there are a couple that do stand out as being quite positive.  It’s become one of the most popular television series of the 2010s, and while we may be far away from newer episodes in this decade, I thought it would be fun to go through the series and share my thoughts, as there are already countless rankings of Black Mirror episodes on the Internet.

I’ve already seen each episode of this series at least once before this marathon, and if you have ever watched or discussed Black Mirror with me before, you might be surprised to see that some of my opinions have changed.  This definitely shows that sometimes, the viewpoints of media critics should not be taken as stagnant, as they have likely only consumed the media once before sharing their thoughts. Nonetheless, I’m still happy to add my contribution to the plethora of Black Mirror reviews.

Also, as many of these episodes are thrillers with twist endings, watching them a second time can make for a completely different experience (i.e. – “White Bear” and “Shut Up and Dance”), so I’d highly recommend re-visiting the series if you’ve already gone through it once before.

Does that mean, though, each episode is good? Uh, no, of course, not – you’ve already seen the tier list.

As an originally British television series airing on Channel 4, Black Mirror‘s first two seasons comprised only 3 episodes each, and with the exception of “The Waldo Moment”, they were all fairly well-written and represented the best the show could offer. However, upon being purchased by Netflix in 2015, there were some obvious creative shifts that led to the fairly mixed reception of the latter 3 seasons by audiences.

While these fundamental changes for the series between its Channel 4 and Netflix iterations (i.e. – larger budgets, more American writers and actors, genre experimentation, differing episode lenghts, etc.) are not necessarily bad in their own rights, we are unfortunately now guaranteed, for each season, some of the best and most of the worst episdoes of Black Mirror (except for Season 5, where we just have one mostly decent episode and the two absolute worst episodes; so much for a “back to basics”, 3-episode season).

Even at its worst, though, the greatest appeal to Black Mirror is its ability to make its audience think more critically about the increasing influence of technology and how it mediates our productive and social functions as human beings. The series isn’t as thought-provoking as The Society of the Spectacle, (which, if anyone is interested, is a 1967 book that offers a much denser and theoretical commentary on many of the themes discussed in the show), but some episodes, particularly “Nosedive” and “The Entire History of You”, have made me a bit concerned about the future…but just a bit.

Anyways, look – watch Black Mirror, but just know that the show overall gets a bit worse after Season 2 (or, rather, after “White Christmas”). However, though, you are welcome to skip Season 5.

A Second Tier List?

As you’ve seen above, I’ve ranked the episodes by (1) quality and (2) the earliest possible years in which they can take or could have taken place.  These year estimates, of course, are my opinion, and they are heavily formed by the following:

(1) Doing quick Google searches for technology featured in the episodes,

(2) Considering differences in similar technology among episodes (i.e. – personal memory storage in “The Entire History of You” vs. “Crocodile”),

(3) Assuming sufficient commercial or private interest in the technology (i.e. – “Fifteen Million Merits” relies on strong motion sensing technology whose development might be stunted due to current lack of consumer interest in motion sensing video games such as Kinect),

and most importantly,

(4) Wild guesses

Clearly, I am much more confident in my reviews of the episodes than I am in my estimates for the years in which they take place, so I would love to hear other people’s takes.

Also, I am not factoring in Easter Eggs, as that would further complicate these estimates by decades.

Are We Ready?

19. “Black Museum”5. “The Entire History of You”
20. “The Waldo Moment”4. “White Christmas”
21. “Playtest”3. “White Bear”
22. “Smithereens”2. “Be Right Back”
23. (THE WORST) “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”1. (THE BEST) “San Junipero”

23. (THE WORST) “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” (2019; Season 5, Episode 3)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2080 – AI technology has become so advanced that humanity is able to transfer entire minds into robots.

TL;DR Review: This is a bottom-tier Disney Channel Original Movie but with swearing. Kinda reminds me of Mean Girls 2.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 5.45/10

My Grade: D

22. “Smithereens” (2019; Season 5, Episode 2)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2014 – Smartphones, at this point, are widely used, and ride-sharing apps are prevalent. Easily the most “modern” episode. 2014 is my best guess as to how early this episode could have taken place.

TL;DR Review: 

Audio transcription of the “e-mail”

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 7.24/10

My Grade: D+

21. “Playtest” (2016; Season 3, Episode 2)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2080 – At this point, there is testing on neural implants that are able to simulate all physical senses. This technology is not as developed as it is in future Black Mirror societies such as the one in “San Junipero”.

TL;DR Review: Dude, you really should have just called your mom.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 6.8/10

My Grade: C-

20. “The Waldo Moment” (2013; Season 2, Episode 3)

Image via Zeppotron, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2017 – The “Waldo App” is, more or less, the Animoji feature that debuted in 2017 on the iPhone X. This episode cannot take place much later because there is now technology that can simulate actual voices, so the voice of Waldo could have been automated if the episode took place in 2020 and beyond, where this voice-simulating technology is more prevalent.

TL;DR Review: Look, having obvious parallels to the presidency of Donald Trump and the premiership of Boris Johnson does not make up for the fact that this episode just sucks.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 6/10

My Grade: C-

19. “Black Museum” (2017; Season 4, Episode 6)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2100 – The technology, which largely involves empathetic technology and the transfer of human consciousness that would become more mainstream in episodes such as “White Christmas,” is in early development here.

TL;DR Review: I can see that “Black Museum,” as Charlie Brooker intended, is about “punishment and racism,” but this “White Christmas”-type epsiode is so bizarre that it really comes across as a PARODY of Black Mirror – a bad, unfunny parody! What saves this episode from being outright garbage is a strong ending led by a powerful performance from Letitia Wright.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 6.54/10

My Grade: C-

18. “Men Against Fire” (2016; Season 3, Episode 5)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2040 – This episode includes language translation devices and neural implants that can alter visions and create artificial memories.

TL;DR Review: This is decent commentary on “othering,” clearly written in response to modern xenophobia in Western countries, but this episode is not all that original. (Also, the clearly British lead doesn’t really have a good American accent. Is this what British folks feel whenever American actors attempt British accents?)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 7.4/10

My Grade: C

17. “Crocodile” (2017; Season 4, Episode 3)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2030 – Self-driving cars are prevalent, and neural memory storage devices are in development here.

TL;DR Review: “Crocodile” is fine, but along with “Arkangel,” it’s thematically too similar to the superior “The Entire History of You.” At this point, it’s become evident that Black Mirror lost much of its creative energy from its early years.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 53%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 6.39/10

My Grade: C+

16. “Metalhead” (2017; Season 4, Episode 5)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2050 – This episode takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that appears to be dominated by advanced AI dog-robots.

TL;DR Review: “Metalhead” is the most stylistically distinct episode of Black Mirror, and Maxine Peake gives an excellent performance. Unfortunately, despite its short runtime, the “robots taking the over world” cliché runs its course far too early, and we are left with a generic, bleak, post-apocalyptic horror picture.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 6.87/10

My Grade: C+

15. Bandersnatch (2018; Film)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Netflix

Year: 1984 – The film takes place in 1984.

TL;DR Review: The innovative aspects of this film cannot make up for the fact that the plot(s) is/are too bland and self-aware.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 7.51/10

My Grade: C+

14. “Striking Vipers” (2019; Season 5, Episode 1)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2090 – The complex virtual reality (VR) gaming is mainstream and simulates all physical senses, which makes it more advanced than what was only being tested in “Playtest.”

TL;DR Review: While the technological concept could have used some more work, “Striking Vipers” at least provides some interesting insight into monogamy and male friendships.

Alternate TL;DR Review: Super Smash Bros.? Ha! More like Super SMA- oh, wait, I see…uhhh never mind (…and he said with a polar bear, right?).

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 7.29/10

My Grade: B-

13. “Shut Up and Dance” (2016; Season 3, Episode 3)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2013 – Smartphones are prevalent, and the user interface looks a bit dated compared to that of modern smartphones. Camfecting (webcam hacking) has been possible for several years before a 2013 Washington Post article that helped start conversations on this topic.

TL;DR Review: “Shut Up and Dance” is a well-paced thriller with strong acting performances, but the plot twist, while shocking (and making a particular scene in the beginning of the episode very uncomfortable to re-watch), isn’t partcularly necessary for this exploration of shame.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 8.53/10

My Grade: B-

12. “Nosedive” (2016; Season 3, Episode 1)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2080 – All cars in production are electric, and everyone has a neural implant with advanced facial-recognition and the ability to get personal data on anyone. In this episode, this technology has existed for decades, as an elderly character in the episode recalls using the implant when she was younger.

(Not so) TL;DR Review: 

Despite its beautiful, pastel visuals. “Nosedive” has one of the most frightening societies depicted in Black Mirror – a world where social interactions and social media presence affect socioeconomic status, which, as indicated in the episode’s smaller details, would exacerbate current social inequities. The seeds of such a society are sowing, with Uber ratings, AirBnB ratings, and the Peeple app, so the commentary made in this episode is quite relevant. Unfortunately, “Nosedive” itself suffers tremendously from predictability, an excessive length, and a character that blatantly states the overall point of the epsiode pretty early.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 7.33/10

My Grade: B

11. “Hang the DJ” (2017; Season 4, Episode 4)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2018 – The final twist makes it clear that the plot of this episode is just a simulation of a dating app algorithm. This is basically a more-advanced version of Hinge’s “Most Compatible” algorithm, which was introduced in 2018. This epiosde might just be about a more advanced, rival dating app. (Had it not been for the final twist, I would have guessed at least 2040 due to the presence of self-driving cars and the complex AI of “Coach”.)

TL;DR Review: This is excellent insight into a plausible future where online dating dominates romance…even though the ending, while clarifying some areas of confusion, is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 8.89/10

My Grade: B

10. “Arkangel” (2017; Season 4, Episode 2)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2035 – Currently, there is development into homing chips that are capable of tracking locations, vital signs, and vision, even though it is not as advanced as the similar technology of “Nosedive”.

TL;DR Review: “Arkangel” has a decent plot and excellent direction from Jodie Foster, but it’s just too similar and pales in comparison to “The Entire History of You”.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 7.43/10

My Grade: B

9. “The National Anthem” (2011; Season 1, Episode 1)

Image via Zeppotron, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2011 – If deepfake and CGI technology were as advanced in this episode as it is now, the Prime Minister might have been able to avoid his…uh…task.

TL;DR Review: Black Mirror makes a shocking debut in one of its most plausible episodes, but for all that is good in this world, please do not make this your first episode of the series!

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 9/10

My Grade: B+

8. “Fifteen Million Merits” (2011; Season 1, Episode 2)

Image via Zeppotron, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2040 – This episode involves advanced motion sensing and touch screen technology, and exercise on stationary bikes have been made into a substantial replacement for nonrenewable energy sources.

TL;DR Review: “Fifteen Million Merits” presents a chilling world where most working-class people have been nealy stripped of their humanity. Its flaws, primarily attributed to underdeveloped world building, are mostly redeemed with a strong ending.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 9.5/10

My Grade: A-

7. “USS Callister” (2017; Season 4, Episode 1)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2100 – The protagonist (well, really, the antagonist) makes digital clones of people by using their DNA. This isn’t as advanced as the technology in “White Christmas” or “San Junipero”, which involve transferring or duplicating consciousness.

TL;DR Review: Season 4 of Black Mirror opens with a relevant, Star Trek-flavored exploration of toxic masculinity and abuses of power.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 9.28/10

My Grade: A

6. “Hated in the Nation” (2016; Season 3, Episode 6)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2030 – This episode involves advanced drone technology that is capable of replacing an entire species of animals (bees).

TL;DR Review: “Hated in the Nation” is an entertaining sci-fi thriller that gives an early light into the controversial phenomenon we now call “cancel culture.”

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 8.04/10

My Grade: A

5. “The Entire History of You” (2011; Season 1, Episode 3)

Image via Zeppotron, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2050 – In this society, humans have implants that allow them to store memories as video files. Also, this episode takes place in a cashless society, at least for the well-to-do.

TL;DR Review: Boasting strong acting performances, “The Entire History of You” presents a dark look at the potential aggravation of psychological issues brought upon by technological innovation.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 7/10

My Grade: A

4. “White Christmas” (2014; Special)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2120 – Yes, about 100 years from now – this is a world where we are able to extract human consciousness and fully realize the idea of “mind uploading.”

TL;DR Review: This well-written and cohesive string of stories makes for quite a dark Christmas special.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 8.88/10

My Grade: A

3. “White Bear” (2013; Season 2, Episode 2)

Image via Zeppotron, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2070 – This society has access to selective memory-erasing technology, which is currently being researched to help people affected by PTSD.

TL;DR Review: “White Bear” effectively gives light to a popular ethical scenario in the form of a realy good psychological thriller.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 8.2/10

My Grade: A

2. “Be Right Back” (2013; Season 2, Episode 1)

Image via Zeppotron, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2040 – This episode involves the evolution of ongoing data-tracking technology that is already used for personalized advertising. Perhaps in 20 years, that data can be used to make robotic “clones”, depending, of course, on people’s social media usage.

TL;DR Review: “Be Right Back” deals with loss and the grieving process in an era of advanced digital immortality. You may be dead, but through AI and personalized data tracking, you are able to “live” forever to everyone else in the world. This is probably the most essential Black Mirror episode in its juxtaposition of human experiences and technological advancement.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 8.25/10

My Grade: A+

1. (THE BEST) “San Junipero” (2016; Season 3, Episode 4)

Image via House of Tomorrow, Endemol Shine UK

Year: 2200 – This is digital immortality fully realized. At this point, the human consciousness can be transferred to a simulated world, essentially sparing us from the permanence of death. Should this ever become popular, though, the process of creating a real-life “San Junipero” will likely be stunted by opposition from several religious and political communities.

TL;DR Review: This is the strongest and most comprehensive episode of Black Mirror. There are depictions of advanced technology, explorations of how such technology impacts human experiences, and numerous ethical and philosophcial questions raised from a single watch. The series usually contains these elements, but what makes “San Junipero” stand out is that these elements and more are neatly tied together in an unusually uplifting story.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Rotten Tomatoes Average Rating: 8.04/10

My Grade: A+

Published by Miles N

Some guy with glasses.

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