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The breakout show that began all the way back in 2005 still continues to excite us by drawing audiences into the literal skulls of their fictionalized villains. They aren't always based on real life criminals, but boy when they are it's an episode of insanity like never before seen. That's not to say the best Criminal Minds episodes are all ones that depict real-life serial killers, it's just to point out that the real, heart-stopping eps are the ones that showcase the best terror, thrills, and villainy ever depicted by the show in their attempt to profile a predator.
Criminal Minds isn't always about catching the villain, or even experiencing the villain's darkest agendas. It's more about the uncovering of that villain's mind, hence the show's very title. The BAU team, as they're called, systematically use a variety of investigatory elements in uncovering not just their villain's identity or whereabouts, but the reasoning for their criminal activity in the first place. In this regard, the best Criminal Minds episodes would have to be the ones who dug the deepest into their on-screen criminal, not just simply gazing into his or her eyes, but even allowing the audience to peer through them, in a sense. Whatever the case may be, the following titles are only but a few of the greatest Criminal Minds episodes, and will prove to you just how realistic and powerful this show truly is when given a chance.
Bringing George Foyet to the screen and pulling each character down into the recesses of their worst selves, the 18th episode of Criminal Minds season 4 took us all by the throats and throttled us with one of their most evil characters: The Reaper.
Being that it's one of few Criminal Minds episodes based on real life serial killers, there shouldn't be any wonder in this addition within the best criminal minds episodes. Not only is the BAU splintered from within, but their very lives may be in danger. Only Hotch can get them out of trouble.
"The Big Game/Revelations"
The fourteenth and fifteenth episodes from the second season of Criminal Minds were heart-pounding, to say the least. Reid might be in his worst spot yet at the end of "The Big Game," wherein the BAU is called to Atlanta in order to stop a ruthless cultist group of "webcam murderers."
It's the most intriguing story in the series, easily among the best Criminal Minds episodes, mainly because one team member gets kidnapped, but also due to the fact that it aired right after the Super Bowl! At least, "Revelations" did one even better by adding in a number memories from the past of Spencer Reid in flashbacks, giving us a deeper look at one of the BAU's most fundamental characters.
"Demons" is the season finale for the ninth season of Criminal Minds, picking up from the end of "Angles," wherein the BAU team were subject to a shootout and their villain's escape in Bristol County, Texas. It's among the best Criminal Minds episodes ever filmed for showcasing the BAU team at their most difficult quest yet: stopping a corrupt police force at the same time as they try to catch Owen McGregor.
It's a polarizing episode that forks the entire BAU team on a two-track minded investigation, one dealing with a member's life, which hangs in the balance, while the other spans the secret past of one BAU investigator. It may not involve one of the many real life serial killers from history, but it does put the BAU team into a swirl of unknown disaster.
"The Fisher King"
Separated into two distinct parts, "The Fisher King" showcases the BAU team on the hunt for a ruthless and mindless murderer who challenges the team directly with clues and various prodding, all of which is to egg them on and save his next victim.
These two episodes, though more so in the first, bring out the brilliance of the show and unearth one of the best Criminal Minds episodes for driving the team onto two separate paths in order to catch a ruthless and psychotic murderer. Similar to the Zodiac Killer, "The Fisher King" brings to life one of the darkest villains from the Criminal Minds pathos.
"Our Darkest Hour"
Among both the most fan favorited and most disturbing episodes of Criminal Minds, "Our Darkest Hour" depicts the real life serial killer, Richard Ramirez. If you don't already know the name, he's more widely considered "The Night Stalker," the rapist and burglar from LA who killed 14 people and tortured nearly two dozen more. The episode is followed by "The Longest Night," another one of the most prominent Criminal Minds episodes in showcasing one of their most ruthless criminals.
On the show, most notably one of the best Criminal Minds episodes, Ramirez is Billy Flynn, or the "Prince of Darkness." He's not only a ruthless psychopathic killer, he's also used to abducting children and makes for one of the BAU's most terrifying killers.
Investigating the release of a new deadly strain of bacteria, the BAU team is hastened to Annapolis, where the public is threatened by this homegrown terrorist. It's a quintessential Criminal Minds episode for bringing out the most complex of themes and blending them with the show's powerful display of villainy, character development and fear itself.
Called "Amplification," this new addition among the best Criminal Minds episodes is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It's got all your favorite Criminal Minds drama, pitting one of their members in serious danger while also bringing to life a villain whose sole purpose isn't necessarily to kill, but to show how killing is so easily maintained. It's both exciting and deep, which makes "Amplification" an instant must-see.
"Riding the Lightning"
Another episode that depicts a somewhat real-life escapade similar to that of Gerald Ford's attempted assassination in 1975 by Sara Jane Moore, which is almost identical to the character's name Sarah Jean. In one of the best Criminal Minds episodes, Sarah Jean doesn't exactly attempt to assassinate the president, but is in jail with her husband for being among the most ruthless husband and wife serial killers.
While "Riding the Lightning" may not exactly be what every Criminal Minds ep seems to convey, it's probably one of the best first season episodes and is for that reason a fan favorite. There's also a sweet song by Bach at the end, following Sarah's lethal injection.
One of the best Criminal Minds episodes, and probably the most intriguing from season 3, "Seven Seconds" involved the profile of a closet pedophile named Richard Jacobs. Although he had been living a perfect suburban lifestyle, it becomes clear to the BAU team that something is amiss in the family.
Digging deep into the case, the BAU discovers, shortly after she goes missing, that the husband has been mistreating and sexually abusing his niece, Katie. In recompense for his sins, or to pressure her into silence, Jacob awarded Katie with a necklace and other various items, but he was eventually caught by the BAU after her she was found alive.
The 20th episode from season 3 is one of the BAU team's toughest cases, involving a series of random shootings reportedly bred by one or several serial killers in New York City. It's among the best Criminal Minds episodes not solely for its sending the team into a world of the unknown, it also showcases one of the most difficult villains they've ever faced.
Drawing on similar strings as the serial killer deep dive: Edmund Kemper, "Lo-Fi" also depicts one of the most ruthless villains from the show: the New York Terrorist Cell, which reappears in the fourth season. Despite the cell's past history remaining limited, the complexity of their actions and the role of their villainy are only but a taste of what they're willing to achieve.
Probably one of the most beloved and fan favorited episodes, "100" obviously is the Criminal Minds 100th episode, their 9th in 5th season. It's among the best Criminal Minds episodes not only for serving as their 100th, but also because it brings alive one of the BAU's most hunted serial killers: The Reaper.
It's an unbelievable ride through not only a myriad of Criminal Minds history, but also showcases an interesting profile of an evil-doer so intellectually powerful and willing to go beyond extremes to get his way that even the BAU might have met their match. If you want to catch one of the most evil villains from Criminal Minds, I suggest you see "100" immediately.
"To Hell... And Back"
Another two-part episode originating with "To Hell..." and finishing with "...And Back" draws on various real life occurrences in this season finale unlike any other of the best Criminal Minds episodes. This is exactly why I've saved this one for last.
In order to investigate a number of connected disappearances that are suspiciously connected, the BAU team is tasked with finding a serial killer in Canada. They are routinely stumped, which is something of an unnatural occurrence for the profiling team, up until a rather serious piece of evidence is revealed to them, which may uncovering the killer's motives, and his latest victims' missing bodies? The BAU team also have an intriguing theory for that, as well.