With season 4 of Black Mirror arriving on Netflix on December 29, we thought we’d celebrate seasons 1-3 of the dystopian sci-fi anthology series by ranking our favourite episodes.

For those that are excited for the upcoming new Black Mirror season, you can also check out our spoiler-free review of season 4 in the meantime. You can also watch a video version of this ranking list here.

Men Against Fire (Season 3, Episode 5)

Laurie Sparham/Netflix

Image: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

We kick off our list with the military dystopia of ‘Men Against Fire.’ In a post-apocalyptic Denmark, an unnamed military organisation is hunting and killing a mutated human population unaffectionately nicknamed ‘roaches.’ This being Black Mirror though, things aren’t quite as simple as that, and the episode dives head first into the arena of hi-tech warfare and its philosophical consequences on the world.

While it’s not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination, it’s place on this list is largely down to the heavy-handed way in which it treats its central theme and the fact that it reveals its hand way too early.

The Waldo Moment (Season 2, Episode 3)

Image: Channel 4

The murky world of British politics is sent up in ‘The Waldo Moment,’ our number 12 entry. This slice of election madness tells the tale of Jamie, a failed comedian who is also the voice and digital puppeteer of a cartoon bear named, you guessed it, Waldo. Coerced by his producer into running for parliament as Waldo, Jamie finds himself way in over his head as his election campaign takes an unexpected turn.

The episode is totally fine, but doesn’t stand up to the high quality of the rest of Black Mirror as it descends into hammy parody towards the end. But its defining virtue is that series creator, Charlie Brooker, compared it to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign with the Black Mirror twitter account tweeting out: ‘This isn’t an episode. This isn’t marketing. This is reality.’

Hated In The Nation (Season 3, Episode 6)

Image: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

People tend to forget that when they write mean things about others on the internet, they’re often talking about a real person. Brooker and co. took this idea one step further in ‘Hated In The Nation,’ where mean tweets and social media hashtags could be weaponised to kill those who fall foul to the public’s ire. If you watch this episode and read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, you may never want to use social media ever again…

Be Right Back (Season 2, Episode 1)

Image: Channel 4

In ‘Be Right Back’, Martha’s boyfriend Ash dies in an accident. Unable to move past her grief, and discovering that she’s pregnant, Martha uploads Ash’s information, including photos, videos, and his social media profiles to create a virtual Ash. She goes one step further and downloads him onto a blank robot body, just like that episode of Futurama, but discovers that the new, fake Ash isn’t the same as the old, real one. I guess technology just isn’t a patch on the real deal.

Playtest (Season 3, Episode 2)

Image: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

You might not know that series creator Charlie Brooker and Dan Trachtenberg, who directed this episode, were former game journalists. But that explains why ‘Playtest’ is all about video games, specifically horror games that really get under your skin.

If you thought Resident Evil 7 was bad in VR, how’s about a game that scans your brain to find out what terrifies you most? ‘Playtest’ is one of Black Mirror’s freakiest episodes, but it is peppered with some hot video game Easter Eggs.

Shut Up And Dance (Season 3, Episode 3)

Image: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

‘Shut Up And Dance’ is one of the tensest episodes in Black Mirror, with the character of Kenny being blackmailed into doing a string of unusual and illegal things to prevent a video of him being released onto the internet. If you didn’t cover your webcam before seeing this episode, then you definitely will after.

Fifteen Million Merits (Season 1, Episode 2)

Image: Giles Keyte/Channel 4

In ‘Fifteen Million Merits,’ the vast majority of the population are stuck in the rat race, endlessly cycling in order to earn “merits” to buy goods and services. The only way to escape is to enter a reality TV show called ‘Hot Shot,’ where winners are able to escape the grind and live in a nicer place. But the path to fame isn’t straightforward, and not everyone can make it.

‘Fifteen Million Merits’ really cuts quite close to home, a is a biting commentary on our obsession with using reality shows as a measure of a person’s success in life.

Nosedive (Season 3, Episode 1)

Images: David Dettmann/Netflix

We live our lives online, posting our thoughts and photos so they can be rated by other people. But imagine if those ratings and opinions affected your real life. What if you had a rating that everyone could see, and immediately judge you on? What if that rating affected things like jobs, things you could buy, or even medical treatment? That’s the reality in ‘Nosedive,’ one of Black Mirror’s more thought-provoking episodes.

White Bear (Season 2, Episode 2)

Image: Channel 4

A woman wakes up in a house with amnesia. People hunt her down and try to kill her, but the bystanders do nothing to help, instead just filming her on their phones. It turns out that the woman was complicit in the murder of a small girl, filming her death on her mobile phone, so her punishment is to live this day over and over again, forgetting her crime while running away, in fear of her life.

‘White Bear’ features one of the biggest twists in Black Mirror, and its shock ending was allegedly inspired by a fence Charlie Brooker saw at the filming location, making him frantically rewrite the episode in just two days.

White Christmas (Special)

Image: Channel 4

Two men are stuck in a snowy outpost and tell each other stories of their past lives to pass the time. How did they end up at that outpost? What secrets will be uncovered? ‘White Christmas’ is perhaps one of the most ambitious episodes of Black Mirror, with three separate threads coming together to make one devastating storyline.

The National Anthem (Season 1, Episode 1)

Image: Channel 4

In its first episode, ‘The National Anthem,’ a beloved Princess is kidnapped, and the only way to secure her release is for the Prime Minister to, ahem, copulate with a pig live on TV. Part political satire, part a devastating commentary on how social media and technology have changed the news cycle has to work, Black Mirror came out with a bang.

Or should that be a squeal?

The Entire History Of You (Season 1, Episode 3)

Image: Giles Keyte/Channel 4

If you ever feel like you tend to over-analyse situations or replay conversations in your head, then just be glad you don’t have a Grain, because it will probably drive you mad. In ‘The Entire History Of You,’ this piece of tech allows its users to record everything they see and hear and replay these memories at will. Unfortunately for Liam, he kind of gets a bit obsessed with his Grain when he suspects that his wife is having an affair.

San Junipero (Season 3, Episode 4)

Image: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

This episode is so different to the usual Black Mirror fare in that it’s got a happy ending. The town of San Junipero is a simulated reality in which you can upload your consciousness to live in, and even if you die in real life, you can live there forever. It’s an uplifting tale, complete with an 80s backdrop, in which technology manages to bring two people together who otherwise wouldn’t have met.

Come on, you knew Yorkie and Kelly’s love story would be number one in this list.

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