The cult classic television series Twin Peaks hit screens in 1990, fusing tense, psychological horror with surreal comedy. A creation from the iconically odd David Lynch, the show was cancelled after its second season, but was fortunate enough to have a prequel film and limited return more than two decades later.
The story follows FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as he's brought to the seemingly quiet town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). Though Laura was beloved in town, it soon comes to light that she was hiding a number of dark struggles, from the sordid to the supernatural. And it's very clear that no one in town is as innocent as they may seem.
As viewers are taken through this small town of big horrors, there's no shortage of squirming and screams. Episodes are available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video, or you can watch for free with a Paramount+ subscription! But if you're on the prowl for the heart-pounding moments, here are 8 of the creepiest episodes of Twin Peaks.
"Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" (Season 1, Episode 3)
This early episode of the show cracks open a major part of this eerie world for the first time: the red room. In this room of disjointed answers, audiences—and Cooper—are introduced to the one-armed man, Mike (Al Strobel), the sinister BOB (Frank Silva), and the Man from Another Place (Michael J. Anderson). Cooper also finds Laura Palmer here, who, while speaking in a perplexing manner, leans over to whisper the truth of her killer in his ear.
Leland Palmer's (Ray Wise) unsettling dance of grief and bloody meltdown will put you on edge, too.
"May the Giant Be With You" (Season 2, Episode 1)
Laura Palmer's death might have been the catalyst of Cooper's investigation, but she's not the only girl who was attacked that night. Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine) was able to survive BOB's torment, but was put into a coma as a result. However, in this episode, she writhes in bed as she recalls the horrifying ordeal she and her friend experienced. As the light pulses around her in the hospital, she is tormented by jarring flashes of BOB's violent grunting and Laura's pained screaming. Right before the episode cuts to the credits, viewers are left with BOB's inhuman howl.
"Lonely Souls" (Season 2, Episode 7)
The death of Laura Palmer's cousin, Maddy Ferguson (also portrayed by Sheryl Lee) is perhaps the most disturbing sequence across the whole series. Visiting her aunt and uncle after Laura's death, she is soon marked for the same fate. As omens appear to others—Laura's mother, Sarah (Grace Zabriskie) sees a white horse, while the Giant warns Cooper that "It's happening again"—innocent Maddy is brutally murdered by Leland, who is possessed by BOB.
Leland beats Maddy half to death before forcing her into an agonizing dance. The drawn own horror of this moment is all the more haunting for the sick, incestuous abuse this twist implies. And though Cooper was given a warning, it is ultimately hopeless. Leland ends Maddy's life by bashing her head into the wall.
"The Condemned Woman" (Season 2, Episode 16)
One of the most bizarre character deaths in, well, anything, Josie Packard's (Joan Chen) is undeniably unsettling. Cooper and Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) find Josie on the run, staying at the Great Northern. A man is dead in her bed, and as she holds Cooper and Truman at gunpoint, she seems to suffer a heart attack out of nowhere. As she dies in Truman's arms, viewers see BOB crawling across her bed. The Man from Another Place also makes an appearance, performing a dance in contrast to the tension of the scene. In a cruel twist of fate, the episode closes on the implication that Josie's soul is forever trapped in a drawer knob at the Great Northern.
"Beyond Life and Death" (Season 2, Episode 22)
In the final episode of the original series, viewers are given one hell of a disturbing cliffhanger. The always chipper Cooper is shaken and solemn after his experience at the Black Lodge. A screeching doppelganger of Laura Palmer promised him that this is the last he'd see of her for 25 years, and left the audience with a display of unrestrained rage. When Cooper later slips away to the bathroom, he cracks his head in the mirror, revealing that BOB has possessed a Cooper doppelganger. Breaking the fourth wall, he addresses the viewers to ask, "How's Annie?" This, of course, references Cooper's love interest who ended up institutionalized after her own traumatic Black Lodge experience.
Though a movie was released in the interim as a prequel, the hanging threads of the plot would not be addressed, as Laura said, for 25 years, with the return of the series on Showtime.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Okay, so this isn't technically an episode, but this prequel film is an essential piece of the chilling Twin Peaks puzzle. The movie is centered on the murder of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley), and the disturbing last week of Laura Palmer's life. Though the series displays an offbeat humor, this film weaves a tale with a much darker tone.
"The Return: Part 1" (Season 3, Episode 1)
The first episode of the shows limited return gets off to a chilling start. Sam Colby (Benjamin Rosenfield) is tasked with keeping an eye on a large glass box. When Tracey Barberato (Madeline Zima) joins him, the two get caught up in passion. While they're distracted, a figure materializes within the box. Breaking out of the glass, the figure ripped the lovers to pieces.
"The Return: Part 8" (Season 3, Episode 8)
As divisive as the third season is, most can agree that this was its best episode. This episode unravels the core of the evil inhabiting the world of the series, using the Trinity Nuclear Test as a catalyst. What unfolds is a series of monochromatic, abstract horror concepts. Bearded woodsmen descend from the sky to slaughter anyone in their path. In a radio station, these men broadcast a cryptic message: "This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within." Anyone listening to the broadcast faints, allowing a toad/insect hybrid to crawl into the mouth of an unconscious young girl (said to be Laura Palmer in later published follow-up books).