Horror On TV: Twilight Zone Ep. 123 “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”

When I first decided to feature old, horror-themed television episodes this month, I knew that I had to include Nightmare At 20,000 Feet.

This is perhaps the most famous episode of Twilight Zone. William Shatner plays a man on an airplane who is both terrified of flying and who has spotted a gremlin out on the wing. As Shatner desperately tries to convince his fellow passengers that he’s not crazy, the gremlin cheerfully goes about his destructive business.

This is one of the few episodes of The Twilight Zone not to have been downloaded onto YouTube and, at first, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to share it. Fortunately, site subscriber and frequent commenter KO tracked it down on Hulu for me and, as a result, we are very happy to present the classic fright fest Nightmare At 20,000 Feet!

This episode was written by Richard Matheson and directed by Richard Donner, who would later direct such films as The Omen, Superman, and Lethal Weapon. It originally aired on October 11th, 1963.


(Incidentally, originally an episode of Goosebumps was scheduled to be featured tonight. However, the YouTube account that was hosting that video has been suspended. The episode in question was The House of No Return, which many people believe features an early performance from Ryan Gosling. Having seen the episode before it was taken off YouTube, I can assure you that Ryan was nowhere to be seen.)

3 responses to “Horror On TV: Twilight Zone Ep. 123 “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”

  1. I think this may have been the first Twilight Zone episode I ever watched. I know it really freaked me out since I was around 7 at the time and was flying around quite a bit. To say that I started imagining that there was a monster on the plane’s wing after I saw this episode just spoke to how good this episode was.

    I also like the fact that this was Shatner before he became Capt. Kirk. This episode may have just had a hand in getting him that gig.


  2. Even though I know it’s coming, I still get shivers when he opens up the curtain and the gremlin is staring in the window. To me that speaks volumes as to how effective this episode is. Even though I know it’s coming, it still freaks me out. I do wish that it was on Youtube though, because I can’t handle having to deal with all the commercials.


  3. It’s worth noting that all five seasons of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” are available to purchase on DVD. The only commercials you’ll get are things like Mister Serling trying to sell you cigarette brands that are probably extinct. Also, some episodes are followed by a short promotional spot for some ancient television show such as “Gunsmoke” or “My Sister Eileen”. One time, I saw an episode that was followed by some stern looking fellow warning me about the perils of communism. They really are great DVDs full of wonderful extras.

    William Shatner also appeared in the episode “Nick of Time”. Interestingly, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is one of the few “Twilight Zone” episodes where someone other than Rod Serling breaks the fourth wall.

    Considering all the classic episodes from season five, it makes one wonder how anybody could consider it to be the weak link in the series.


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