Top 10 Best Criminal Minds Episodes
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best “Criminal Minds” Episodes.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most memorable episodes from the show’s run. Since some of the big reveals and major twists will be discussed, a spoiler warning is now in effect.
What do YOU think is the best episode? Let us know in the comments!
#10: “Mr. Scratch”
Three seemingly unrelated “killers” all recount the same hallucination — a dark figure with talons for hands, called Mr. Scratch. They claim he attacked them and committed the crimes, even though it’s them who have literal blood on their hands. But the real unsub, Peter Lewis, used a hallucinogen to manipulate them into killing their loved ones. The incredible creepiness of this episode is owed to its director, Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays Spencer Reid on the show. We don’t fully see the Nosferatu-like Mr. Scratch, which makes it all the more unsettling. Murder and mind control are scary on their own, but throw in a growling shadow monster and it becomes pure horror.
Speaking of Matthew Gray Gluber, he was also behind the lens for this one - though it’s upsetting for different reasons. We learn more about Emily Prentiss’ past at Interpol, where she grew close to criminal Ian Doyle - aka Valhalla - while working undercover as Lauren Reynolds. He later uncovered her real identity, and has been hellbent on revenge since escaping prison. Protecting her BAU family from Doyle’s wrath, Prentiss faces him alone. He stabs her in the stomach, leaving her bleeding on the ground for her team to find. At the hospital, JJ tells everyone that she died during surgery. She and Hotch know that Prentiss is alive, but in hiding. Still, seeing the team mourn her, even carrying her casket at the funeral, is heartbreaking.
#8: “Profiler, Profiled”
A trip to his hometown of Chicago turns ugly when Derek is falsely accused of multiple murders. His team comes to vouch for him, but things are more complicated that they realized. The “profile” points toward him, even though they know it can’t be true. To clear his name, Derek has to confront Carl Buford, the man who repeatedly mistreated him when he was a child grieving his father’s passing. He never told anyone about it - until this episode, that is. Shemar Moore’s emotional performance is powerful, and easily makes this one of the character’s best moments in the series.
#7: “To Hell…” & “And Back”
If you’ve heard of Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton, then this episode will probably seem a bit familiar. Since becoming paralyzed from the neck down, Mason Turner has desperately sought out a cure. He sends his brother Lucas to kidnap vagrants and bring them home for horrific experiments. When the team searches the siblings’ rural Ontario farm, they find evidence pointing to a staggering number of murders. The fact that their bodies are “disposed of” using pigs makes it even more sickening. This two-parter is easily one of the most disturbing cases the BAU’s ever seen.
#6: “Sex, Birth, Death”
It’s rare that we sympathize with an unsub, but Nathan Harris is an exception. After seeing one of Reid’s lectures, the high schooler seeks him out. It’s then revealed that he desperately wants to understand - and stop - his homicidal urges. It’s clear how tortured he is by his own mind, afraid of acting out his dark fantasies. In the end, he attempts to take his own life. He believes that by doing so, he’s saving others from himself. It goes without saying, but Anton Yelchin’s devastating portrayal of Nathan is a huge part of what makes this episode so memorable.
In Bridgewater, Florida, half of a young Abby Kelton’s body is found branded with an inverted pentagram. Then, another girl named Tracey Lambert also goes missing. They finally find the formerly institutionalized unsub sitting at a Satanic altar. He has bodies in his walk-in freezer, a live victim, and a book of human recipes. What’s worse is that he runs a restaurant — “Feylinn’s (failin) Fine Bar-B-Q.” He even served food to the search party volunteers, with the main ingredient being Lambert. Jamie Kennedy has so few lines, but his creepy presence is palpable. This storyline never fails to give us the creeps.
#4: “The Replicator”
In Season 8, Dr. Alex Blake joins the BAU. Around the same time, an unsub starts recreating past crimes. Only a person with access to case files would know the intricate details of these events. This “Replicator” ends up being Agent John Curtis, a man who worked with Blake and Section Chief Erin Strauss on the Amerithrax case. After the wrong person was apprehended, Curtis and Blake were blamed. She ultimately made it through okay, but he never quite got over the demotion. He first kills Strauss in New York, since she’s the one who ruined his life, before going after Blake. Mark Hamill is expertly cast as the agent with a genius-level IQ out for revenge, which makes for a thrilling ride.
After a retired Boston detective reveals a secret on his deathbed, Hotch returns to his first case as lead profiler with the BAU — “The Reaper.” When the Zodiac-inspired unsub returns, the team visits George Foyet, the only person to survive a Reaper attack. He’s a sickly man living in fear, using multiple aliases just to stay off the grid. But in a major twist, the team realizes Foyet is the criminal. Years ago, he repeatedly stabbed himself to appear as a victim. Anyone willing to do that will do anything. After he’s arrested and put in jail, he enacts an escape plan years in the making. This is only the beginning for the ruthless killer, and the episode certainly piqued our interests.
#2: “Mosley Lane”
The first “Criminal Minds” episode Gubler directed, this one takes us into a house of horrors. It begins with the abduction of a little girl, but goes back to another boy taken 8 years prior. The case leads the BAU to two of the scariest unsubs they’ve ever dealt with. Anita and Roger Roycewood are villains straight out of a Brothers Grimm story. They’ve been kidnapping children, keeping them locked up in the basement. And if they misbehave, they’re taken to the couple’s crematorium. Watching the devastated parents gather to learn their kids’ fate is chilling. One particular interaction still haunts us today. It’s an emotionally exhausting episode that some don’t care to watch more than once, but that’s what precisely makes it so striking.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Spencer Reid’s Girlfriend Is Killed Right in Front of Him, Leaving Him Broken
“The Big Game” & “Revelations”
Spencer Reid’s Encounter With Tobias Hankel Is Nothing if Not Traumatic
A Budding Serial Killer Copies Famous Murders in a Bid to Figure Out His Own M.O.
Matthew Gray Gubler’s Direction Makes This Tale of Human Puppets Truly Horrific
Spencer Reid & Emily Prentiss Get Caught in a Waco-Like Siege at a Cult’s Compound
No matter how many times we watch this one, we still find ourselves crying. Though he appears in flashbacks and visions later on in the series, this is Reaper George Foyet’s grand finale. Since the events of “Omnivore,” he’s made Hotch his nemesis. But instead of physically hurting him, The Reaper goes for his heart and mind. He threatens the lives of his ex-wife Haley and their son Jack, provoking him in the process. The entire team listens as Hotch and Haley say their final words to each other. What’s more, they all hear the gunshots that end her life. When Hotch finally arrives at the house, he beats the killer to death. Luckily, his boy survives. But this episode breaks Hotch, and our hearts.