On September 10, 1993, paranormal activity, conspiracy, and alien enthusiasts rejoiced: The X-Files had arrived. The premiere of the science fiction series introduced Fox “Spooky” Mulder and Dana Scully as agents assigned to a fringe department in the FBI investigating unexplained phenomena. Gillian Anderson in the role of Scully, provided skepticism and logic, while Mulder, played by David Duchovny, viewed Close Encounters of the Third Kind through a non-fiction lens.



Scully and Mulder, equally critical to the show’s success, came bearing gifts: Mulder’s were accessibility and vulnerability. Propelled by his dogged forage for clues surrounding his sister’s disappearance in 1973, Mulder’s character could’ve quickly become tedious. Instead, Duchovny’s portrayal was equal parts goofball and relentless seeker — a combination befitting an icon.

10 “Pilot” Episode

Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI, played by David Duchovny from the Pilot episode of The X-Files
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The series’ pilot succinctly informed audiences by establishing principal characters and archetypes, providing a glimpse of the greater mythology in the show. Remarkably, writers of the episode managed to include the Mulder trifecta: his affinity for sunflower seeds, his sister Samantha’s (Vanessa Morley) abduction, and the alliance forming with Scully. Kicking the series off with aliens and grave exhumation was just a bonus.

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Though the pilot was designed to acquaint viewers with Mulder and Scully, Mulder’s insatiable enthusiasm and inquisition garnered attention. The passionate appeal to his new partner, attempting to illustrate the importance and danger of their work, nearly broke the fourth wall. On the other side of the screen, fans understood the assignment. They learned that The Truth Is Out There.

9 “Little Green Men”, Season 2, Episode 1

Fox Mulder played by David Duchovny from X-Files episode, 'Little Green Men'
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Season 1 ended with the closing of The X-Files Department and the death of friend and informant Deep Throat (Jerry Hardin). The Second season began with a morose Mulder, dejected by the current situation: the agents have been reassigned. Having little use for rules, he goes rogue, ditching the desk work in an attempt to “make contact.”

Mulder’s excitement and urgency to acquire this evidence is contagious, like a child anticipating presents during the holiday season. In this defunct government base, the audience realizes the impossibility of Mulder achieving this goal — it’s only the first episode of the Second season. Despite this inevitable outcome, Mulder isn’t deterred.

8 “Chinga” Season 5, Episode 10

David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, bored without Scully from The X-Files episode, Chinga
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Hype preceded this episode because of its co-writer, Stephen King. Reception, however, wasn’t favorable for fans of the show. It begins with a classic tableau: carnage in a supermarket. On vacation in Maine, Scully unexpectedly drives up to this grisly scene. In classic King fashion, the inanimate evil object is revealed to be something historically synonymous with joy: a doll (see clowns.)

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The redeeming moments of this episode have nothing to do with the plot. Mulder (with limited screen time) hilariously fields inquiring calls from Scully. He offers nothing to the case, but his ridiculous intercuts buoy the sinking episode. Each call revealing: Mulder sans pants, sharpening endless pencils, or watching TV (which sounds suspiciously like an adult film.) In one call, he directs Scully to look for a string on the doll’s back — she hangs up. It’s not a great episode, but Mulder makes it fun.

7 “Arcadia” Season 6, Episode 15

David Duchovny as Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Scully in the episode Arcadia from the series The X-Files
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In another celebrated episode of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully go undercover as Rob and Laura Petrie in a suburb with disappearing homeowners. Coming in hot with a minivan and sweater vests, the agents observe erratic behavior and curiously restrictive HOA guidelines. While playing house, Scully investigates — Mulder breaks code rules.

As one of television’s most charming detectives, Mulder’s exaggerated parody of a suburbanite and heavy-handed PDA with Laura/Scully were some of the more memorable moments in the episode. His one-liners and cosplay wardrobe made the reveal of a “trash monster” boring by comparison. Shippers of Mulder and Scully love this episode despite its premise.

6 “Sein Und Zeit” Season 7, Episode 10

Mulder is distraught in episode Sein Und Zest from the series The X-Files
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In this Mulder-centric episode, he asks Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) for assignment to the Amber Lynn LaPierre (Megan Corletto) child abduction case. Given Mulder’s personal experience with child abduction (his sister), a familiar fruitless hunt is almost guaranteed. Adding to the despair of the episode, Mulder’s mother (Rebecca Toolan) inexplicably takes her own life.

The vacillating gauntlet of emotions Duchovny navigates as Mulder in this episode is impressive in its nuanced containment. Visible doubt sets in while hearing accounts of missing children returning as spirits, where Mulder of yore would pull up a chair and take notes. The shocking departure of the Mulder audiences knew, replacing him instead with a despondent non-believer, was challenging to witness.

5 “Dreamland” Season 6, Episode 4

David Duchovny as Mulder and Michael McKean as Morris switch bodies in episode Dreamland Part 1 from the series The X-Files
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Another funny episode of The X-Files enlisted the comedic prowess of Best In Show‘s Michael McKean. In this two-part body-swapping episode in the tradition of Freaky Friday, an exchange occurs between Mulder and McKean’s Morris. A secret military testing gone wrong turns into comedy gold. Mulder repeatedly forgets that he is physically no longer Mulder, while McKean, in Mulder’s body, makes sexual ovations in Scully’s direction.

McKean is always funny, but Mulder’s bewildered experience as a hated husband and father trapped in McKean’s (Morris’) body made this episode re-watchable. ​​​​​Scenes involving Area 51 and synchronized mirror dancing guaranteed a good time. However, ​​Part Two of “Dreamland” wasn’t as fun — Mulder’s tomfoolery was over.

4 “War Of The Coprophages” Season 3, Episode 12

Mulder and Scientist Bambi from the USDA work together to solve a case involving attack roaches in the episode War of the Coprophages from the series The X-Files
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The title of this episode refers to an organism that feeds on feces. Given this information, it wasn’t surprising to find this episode uncomfortably gross. Mulder travels to a town with an accelerating body count allegedly committed by cockroaches. Repelled by the insects, he finds renewed interest when confronted with an attractive scientist — Dr. Bambi (Bobbie Phillips), resplendent in a pair of shorts, naturally researching roaches.

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Mulder exercises zero restraint here, overtly flirting with Bambi. The comedic sexual innuendo manages to overshadow the episode despite the presence of innumerate roaches. Mulder periodically calls Scully to discredit the causes of death by insect, humorously igniting jealousy at the mention of Dr. Bambi. Albeit nasty, Mulder navigates scores of cockroaches and poop jokes.

3 “Paper Hearts” Season 4, Episode 10

Mulder questions the Paper Hearts Killer from the episode Paper Hearts from the series The X-Files
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In a harrowing episode in the series, Mulder discovers the body of a young girl, initially appearing in a dream. She is revealed as an unaccounted victim of convicted murderer John Lee Roche, The Paper Hearts Killer. When Mulder confronts Roche, he infers that one of the remaining bodies is Mulder’s sister.

The unnerving, insidious way Roche manipulates Mulder into believing this possibility is heart-wrenching. Mulder becomes wrought with frenzied paranoia, desperate to disprove Roche’s statements. The juxtaposition of Roche’s extreme calm and Mulder’s unhinged fear created an air of unease and tension that viewers would not soon forget.

2 “Closure” Season 7, Episode 11

Mulder says goodbye to his sister Samantha in episode Closure from the series The X-Files
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Exhausted by the weight of loss, the episode opens with an unmoored Mulder — his grief and apathy total. Despite atypical reluctance to open himself up to a clairvoyant stranger, Mulder acquiesces. In the continuation of Part One, “Sein Und Zeit,” the second episode, aptly named “Closure,” leads Mulder down a meandering breadcrumb trail of uncertainty.

In its devastating, oft unbelievable yet redemptive plot, the episode exhibits some of Duchovny’s best work as Mulder. His depiction of the long-suffering agent’s journey from resignation to peace (set to the haunting Moby track, “My Weakness”) was masterful. Fans of the show could rest alongside Mulder — the truth of Samantha’s ultimate fate, unearthed.

1 “Bad Blood” Season 5, Episode 12

Mulder and Scully remember events differently in episode Bad Blood from the series The X-Files
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Fans of The X-Files continue to sink their teeth into this episode, often placing it in the series’ top 10. Due to the effects of being drugged, the agents can’t attest to the facts of their report in a case involving vampires. Mulder and Scully agree to deliver their sides of the story before committing it to the case file, leading to an unforgettably playful episode.

Scully and Mulder’s versions of the incidents in this blood-sucking investigation are some of the funniest in the show’s history. To Duchovny’s credit, his physical caricature-like reenactments in Scully’s retelling (guest star Luke Wilson‘s Sheriff is HOT) belong on the highlight reel. Mulder’s wildly inflated account of events from his perspective (he remembersWillson’s Sheriff having “hillbilly” teeth and vampires flying through the air) will live in infamy.

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